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With its wide-open spaces, abundant natural resources, thriving urban sectors and productive rural communities, the High Plains region is well positioned to continue its economic growth and development.

The economic viability of any area is often defined by its basic infrastructure – its water sources, energy supplies and transportation systems. Adequate infrastructure can be the factor that determines whether businesses will locate in certain areas, attract talented workers and provide residents with a high quality of life. The High Plains region, like the rest of the state, faces several challenges in maintaining its infrastructure and expanding it to meet the area’s growing needs.

With its wide-open spaces, abundant natural resources, thriving urban sectors and productive rural communities, the High Plains region is well positioned to continue its economic growth and development. A robust infrastructure should continue to provide the High Plains with a solid basis for future economic growth.

Marsha Sharp Freeway in Lubbock, Texas
Photo Credit: Lubbock Metropolitan Planning Organization


Water is critical to the irrigated crops and livestock that play such an important part in the 41-county High Plains economy, as the people of the High Plains know well. The region has one major river, seven reservoirs for municipal water supplies and an immense underground water source, the Ogallala Aquifer, which lies below parts of eight states. Average annual rainfall in the High Plains region ranges from 15 to 25 inches, with most areas receiving an average of 19 inches per year. (Statewide rainfall averages range from 10 inches annually in far West Texas to 55 inches in the far Southeast.)3

In 2004 (most recent data available), irrigation accounted for 94.2 percent of all water use in the High Plains region (Exhibit 24). This water supports the region’s enormous agricultural output, including almost half of the state’s wheat and more than 60 percent of its cotton and corn. The region also uses water for municipal water systems, livestock, manufacturing, electricity and mining.4

Exhibit 24

High Plains Region Total Water Use, 2004

Total Water Use, 2004

(Total Water use, Text Alternative)

The High Plains region falls into two of the Texas Water Development Board’s (TWDB’s) regions, Panhandle and High Plains. Planning groups for these regions estimate that conservation and a greater use of dryland farming techniques will reduce its need for water in the coming years. TWDB expects the High Plains region’s population to increase by about 35.6 percent by 2060 and their municipal water use to increase by just 22.2 percent (Exhibit 25).5

Exhibit 25

High Plains Actual and Projected Total Water Use by Sector, 2000-2060 (acre-feet)

Sector 2000 2020 2040 2060
Irrigation 5,482,338 5,131,662 4,647,756 4,176,207
Livestock 75,343 138,793 148,332 159,105
Manufacturing 47,771 59,895 66,764 74,068
Mining 19,866 12,652 8,810 7,568
Municipal 166,444 180,597 193,640 203,398
Steam Electric 43,873 51,408 64,119 84,238
Total 5,835,635 5,575,007 5,129,421 4,704,584

Source: Texas Water Development Board

Surface Water

The High Plains region contains portions of four river basins – the Canadian, Red, Brazos and Colorado – but only the Canadian flows continuously within the region. The Canadian River, which bisects the upper Texas Panhandle, provides less than 3 percent of the upper Panhandle’s drinking water and almost none to residents of the lower Panhandle.6 Valuable rainfall in the region collects in thousands of small playas, or dry lakes, to supplement the water supplies for livestock and wildlife.

The 12 reservoirs and lakes have a total conservation storage capacity of more than one million acre-feet.

The region also contains 12 reservoirs and lakes (Exhibit 26). Five of these are not currently used as human water supplies because of their unreliable flow or because they were designed to supplement flows to another reservoir. TWDB expects the seven reservoirs and lakes that do serve as water supplies to yield more than 100,000 acre-feet of water in 2010. (One acre-foot of water equals 325,851 gallons, roughly the annual consumption of two suburban families.) In all, the 12 reservoirs and lakes have a total conservation storage capacity of more than one million acre-feet.7

Recent droughts have taken their toll on the region’s surface water sources, despite good rains in 2007. At this writing, Lake Meredith is at its all-time lowest depth of 49.05 feet, containing about 82,000 acre-feet of water, less than 10 percent of its total storage capacity.9

Exhibit 26

Major Lakes and Reservoirs in the High Plains Region

Reservoir/Lake Name River Basin Year 2010 projected yield (acre-feet) Conservation storage capacity (acre-feet)
Alan Henry Reservoir Brazos 22,500 94,808
Baylor, Lake Red 0 9,220
Bivins Lake Red No water supply function 5,120
Buffalo Lake Red No water supply function 18,150
Greenbelt Lake Red 8,854 59,500
Lower Running Water
Draw WS SCS Site 2 Dam
Brazos No water supply function 5,429
Lower Running Water
Draw WS SCS Site 3 Dam
Brazos No water supply function 8,213
Mackenzie Reservoir Red 0 46,429
Meredith, Lake Canadian 69,750 779,556
Palo Duro Reservoir Canadian 3,958 60,897
Rita Blanca, Lake Canadian No water supply function 12,100
White River Lake Brazos 2,431 29,880
Total 107,493 1,129,302

Note: WS SCS means “Watershed – Soil Conservation Service,” referring to the former U.S. Soil Conservation Service (now the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service) that built the dams.
Source: Texas Water Development Board.

Department of Energy Facility Driving Growth in Amarillo

North of Amarillo, the Canadian has been dammed to form Lake Meredith, whose waters are mixed with groundwater to supply drinking water to Amarillo, Brownfield, Borger, Lamesa, Levelland, Lubbock, O’Donnell, Pampa, Plainview, Slaton and Tahoka via a 322-mile aqueduct system operated by the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority.8

Several governmental entities manage the region’s surface water. River authorities for the Canadian, Brazos, Colorado and Red rivers have jurisdiction over their use and development. The Palo Duro River Authority in Hansford and Moore counties oversees water flowing from nearby creeks into the Palo Duro Reservoir in Hansford County. The Canadian River, which flows through New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma, is governed by an interstate agreement concerning water quality (particularly salinity) and quantities allowed to each state. The Canadian River Municipal Water Authority manages the portion of the river within Texas borders.

Exhibit 27

High Plains Water Sources, by Sector, 2004

Water Sources, by Sector, 2004

(Water Sources by Sector, Text Alternative)


Until late in the 19th century, the High Plains region’s relative scarcity of surface water slowed its development. Ranching and dryland farming gradually took hold, aided by the arrival of the railroads. Once groundwater wells came into use in the early 1900s, agriculture expanded rapidly; improved technology at mid-century prompted an explosion of irrigation wells throughout the area. Soon, High Plains fields were providing the nation with wheat, sorghum, cotton and corn, forming an economic base that continues (along with beef and oil) to support the region today.10

In 2004 (most recent data available), groundwater from aquifers supplied virtually all (99.8 percent) of the water the region used for irrigation (Exhibit 27), and 97.6 percent of its total water supplies.11

An aquifer is a water-bearing layer of permeable rock, sand or gravel within the earth. The High Plains region overlays portions of six aquifers, two major ones and four minor aquifers (Exhibits 28 and 29). TWDB projects that the largest and most important of these, the Ogallala, will yield almost 6 million acre-feet of water for Texas in 2010.12

Exhibit 28

Major Texas Aquifers

Major Texas Aquifers

(Major Texas Aquifers, Text Alternative)

The Ogallala Aquifer, which stretches from Texas to Wyoming and South Dakota, holds an enormous amount of water deposited millions of years ago, in layers of varying depth and thickness. Lying above much of the aquifer is a layer of “cap rock” caliche whose resistance to weathering is largely responsible for the height of the high plains. This cap rock adds another barrier to the limited rainfall recharging the aquifer. According to the U.S. Geological Service, the recharge rate – that is, the rate at which water moves from the surface into the aquifer – in the High Plains region ranges from about two inches down to only 0.024 inches per year.16 The Ogallala is not considered to be a recharging aquifer, as its rate of withdrawal (use) far exceeds its low recharge rate.

Laws approved by the Texas Legislature in 1999 and 2001 encourage the use of groundwater conservation districts (GCDs or GWCDs), led by locally elected or appointed officials, to manage groundwater sources. The High Plains region has nine groundwater conservation districts, including three of the state’s largest, as measured by land area – the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District No. 1 in the Lubbock area; the Panhandle Groundwater Conservation District (PGCD) in the Amarillo area; and the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District in the northern Panhandle. The High Plains district was the state’s first GCD, created in 1951 and covering 10,728 square miles.17

GCDs have some options to restrict groundwater pumping to maintain aquifer sustainability. Some, such as High Plains and PGCD, have ad valorem taxing authority, while others, such as the Garza County Underground and Fresh Water Conservation District and the Salt Fork Underground Water Conservation District in Kent County, do not. State law generally allows districts to receive revenue through bond proceeds, fees, investments, grants and loans, depending on the statute creating the district.

Exhibit 29

Aquifers in the High Plains Region

Aquifer Name Aquifer Type Availability
(acre-feet in 2010)
Ogallala major 5,968,260
Dockum minor 406,138
Blaine minor 315,183
Seymour major 242,226
Rita Blanca minor 5,419
Edwards-Trinity (High Plains) minor 4,160

Source: Texas Water Development Board.

State law requires TWDB to plan for water usage through the use of Regional Water Planning Groups (RWPGs), which are made up of local government officials and representatives of business, industry, agriculture, conservation groups and others. The groups estimate future water use for their areas over the next five decades covered in the State Water Plan. In the plan, water needs are defined as any amount of demand that is not met by the existing water supply. The planning groups develop water management strategies to meet their projected needs; these can include conservation (through more efficient use or cutbacks in usage) as well as new sources such as desalination, new reservoirs or the reuse of water.

The High Plains region has nine groundwater conservation districts, including three of the state’s largest, as measured by land area.

Two RWPGs, Llano Estacado in the Lubbock area and the Panhandle group in the Amarillo area, provide this service for most of the High Plains region. The most recent water plans by these two RWPGs both note that groundwater from the Ogallala Aquifer is the region’s primary source of water and is being used at a rate that exceeds recharge.

The Llano Estacado group calls this practice “managed depletion.” The Panhandle group in the Amarillo area capped the drawdown of the aquifer in their area at 1.25 percent per year of the “current saturated thickness” – the water-bearing underground strata. Because of this practice, both groups estimate that water supplies in the High Plains region will decline by nearly 50 percent by 2060.22

Scenic Beauty in the High Plains

Conservation efforts by area farmers are making a dramatic difference in High Plains water use. The groups’ projections show a combined 18 percent decrease in overall demand for water between 2010 and 2060, driven by reduced irrigation demand. If all of the proposed water management strategies for the region are implemented, however, the area still anticipates a shortfall by 2060, mostly in the region’s southern half.23

Trends indicate that agricultural water use inevitably will give way to lower-volume municipal demand, at least in part. Agricultural interests in the region, keenly aware that groundwater may no longer be available in the quantities used in the past, are planting more dryland crops and adopting water efficiency technologies.

Dryland farming techniques, combined with new technology, should sustain the region’s traditional economic base. New strategies and new priorities for water supply development and use will continue to challenge all residents of Texas, and particularly those in the High Plains.

National Monuments, Parks, Recreation Areas and Habitats

Recreational Lakes and Reservoirs High Plains Region

Name Location Size Average/ Maximum Depth
Alan Henry Reservoir 45 miles south of Lubbock 2,880 acres 40 feet/100 feet
Baylor Creek Reservoir/Lake Baylor 12 miles west of Childress 610 acres 15 feet/50 feet
Buffalo Springs Reservoir/Buffalo Lake 5 miles east of Lubbock 241 acres 15 feet/52 feet
Greenbelt Reservoir/Greenbelt Lake 60 miles east of Amarillo 1,500 acres 30 feet/84 feet
Mackenzie Reservoir 10 miles northwest of Silverton 896 acres 52 feet/150 feet
McClellan Reservoir 50 miles east of Amarillo 339.2 acres 4 feet/21 feet
Lake Meredith 45 miles northeast of Amarillo 16,411 acres 30 feet/127 feet
Palo Duro Reservoir 10 miles north of Spearman 2,413 acres 46 feet/77 feet
White River Reservoir/White River Lake 25 miles south of Crosbyton 1,418 acres 11 feet/65 feet

Source: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.



The Texas High Plains contains four river basins – the Canadian, Brazos, Red and Colorado.

As with the rest of Texas, oil and natural gas are still quite important to the High Plains economy. The region is home to two of the state’s top 25 oil fields, the Anton-Irish Field in Hale County and the Levelland Field in Hockley, Cochran and Terry counties, as well as two of the state’s top 25 natural gas fields, the Texas Hugoton Field in Sherman County and the Panhandle West Field in Hartley, Potter, Moore, Hutchinson, Carson, Gray, Wheeler and Collingsworth counties.24

The Comptroller’s office has determined that oil and natural gas production accounted for more than 7,000 jobs and over $126 million in earnings for people living in the High Plains in 2006.25

The High Plains region also has a high potential for wind energy, one of the world’s fastest-growing sources of energy. In 2007, for example, U.S. wind power capacity grew by 43 percent while Texas’ rose by 57 percent. Texas is the national leader in installed wind capacity.26

Air Quality

According to a 1986 assessment by the Pacific Northwest Laboratory (PNL), a federal research center, Texas ranks second among states for wind potential.27 More recently, the Alternative Energy Institute (AEI) at West Texas State University updated PNL’s wind resource data. They identified three areas in Texas with significant wind power potential: the Panhandle (including part of the High Plains region), the Gulf Coast and specific areas in the Trans-Pecos region. According to AEI, the Panhandle “contain[s] the state’s greatest expanse with high quality winds. Well-exposed locations atop the cap rock and hilltops experience particularly attractive wind speeds.”28

While the High Plains region is among the state’s most wind-rich areas, it lacks the transmission lines needed to fully exploit this resource. State legislation approved in 2005, however, may provide greater access to transmission lines and increase wind energy development in the region.

Some landowners, particularly those within the right of way of any prospective transmission lines, are concerned that power lines could cause them to lose some of their land or limit the use of some of their land. Landowners with transmission lines receive a one-time payment based on the value of the land used, while landowners with wind turbines receive ongoing payments.

At the end of 2007, Texas had 4,296 megawatts (MW) of installed wind capacity.30 In the High Plains region, wind farms currently operating or under construction have an installed capacity of more than 500 megawatts (Exhibit 30).31 The installed wind capacity in the High Plains region can power about 132,000 homes.

Exhibit 30

High Plains Region Wind Energy Generating Plants Operating or Under Construction, 2007

Facility Name Location Generation Capacity
Wildorado Oldham County 161 MW
John Deere Wind I, II, III, IV, V and VI Hansford County 130 MW
Red Canyon Wind Energy Borden, Scurry and Garza counties 84 MW
Llano Estacado at White Deer Carson County 80 MW
Whirlwind Energy Center Floyd County 60 MW
Aeolus Wind Energy Hansford County 3 MW
Indian Mesa Wind Farm Hansford County 3 MW
Llano Estacado at Lubbock Lubbock County 2 MW
American Windmill Museum Lubbock County 1 MW
Total 524 MW

Sources: American Wind Energy Association and Xcel Energy.

The region’s wind capacity may well increase in the near future, Shell WindEnergy Inc. and Luminant, a subsidiary of Energy Future Holdings Corporation, recently announced a joint development agreement for a 3,000-megawatt wind project in Briscoe County.32

Since 1999, Texas has had a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that requires electric utilities to obtain some of the state’s electricity from renewable sources including solar, wind, biomass, landfill gas, geothermal, hydroelectric, wave and tidal. The 2005 Legislature’s Senate Bill 20 significantly increased the state’s emphasis on renewable energy, increasing the RPS goal by an additional 5,000 MW of capacity, for a total of 5,880 MW by 2015. S.B. 20 also required the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) to designate Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZs), areas of the state with supplies of renewable energy resources that lack the transmission infrastructure needed to deliver that energy to the customer.

In August 2007, after evaluating about two dozen areas of the state, PUC selected six CREZs as the best sites to develop additional renewable energy capacity, with costs for construction of lines covered by all Texas consumers through a surcharge on their utility bills. Two of the six approved CREZs are in the High Plains region.

Several companies have formed partnerships to build transmission lines to the CREZs.33 One company has filed a proposal with PUC to build an 800-mile transmission loop in the Texas Panhandle to connect 8,000 MW of capacity, mostly from wind power, to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) electric grid.34 According to ERCOT, installing a single mile of transmission lines costs approximately $1.5 million; the 800-mile Panhandle Loop could cost in excess of $1 billion.35


The Texas High Plains region has 50 public airports.

Utility Rates and Services

Eight “reliability councils” in the U.S. manage the transfer of electricity across North America and make efforts to ensure reliable electricity transmission. ERCOT is Texas’ largest reliability council; it manages the flow of 85 percent of the state’s electric load and covers about 75 percent of its land area.36 Of the 41 counties in the High Plains region, all but six and a portion of a seventh (Childress County, Collingsworth County, Dickens County, Hall County, King County, Motley County and half of Donley County), are outside the ERCOT grid; the remaining counties are part of a separate reliability council, the Southwest Power Pool (SPP).

Exhibit 31

High Plains Region Municipally Owned and Cooperative Utilities

Municipal Utility City Cooperative County
Brownfield Power & Light Brownfield Rita Blanca Electric Cooperative Dallam, Hansford, Hartley, Hutchinson, Moore, Oldham, Potter, Sherman
City of Floydada Floydada Deaf Smith Electric Cooperative Castro, Deaf Smith, Oldham, Parmer
Lubbock Power & Light System Lubbock North Plains Electric Cooperative Hansford, Hemphill, Ochiltree, Roberts
West Texas Municipal Power Agency Lubbock Swisher Electric Cooperative Armstrong, Briscoe, Castro, Hale, Randall, Swisher
City of Plains Plains Greenbelt Electric Cooperative Armstrong, Childress, Donley, Gray, Hemphill, Randall, Roberts, Wheeler
Tulia Municipal Power & Light Tulia Lighthouse Electric Cooperative Briscoe, Childress, Collingsworth, Crosby, Dickens, Donley, Floyd, Hale, Hall, Motley, Swisher
- - Lamb County Electric Cooperative Bailey, Castro, Cochran, Hale, Hockley, Lamb
- - Bailey County Electric Cooperative Association Bailey, Castro, Cochran, Lamb, Parmer
- - Lyntegar Electric Cooperative Garza, Hockley, Lynn, Terry, Yoakum
- - South Plains Electric Coop/Dickens Childress, Crosby, Dickens, Floyd, Garza, Hale, Hall, Hockley, King, Lamb, Lubbock, Lynn, Motley
- - Tri-County Electric Cooperative King
- - Lea County Electric Cooperative Chochran, Yoakum


- Big Country Electric Cooperative Garza

Source: Public Utility Commission of Texas and Texas Electric Cooperatives.

Exhibit 32

Southwest Power Pool Generating Capacity

Southwest Power Pool Generating Capacity

(Power Pool Generating Capacity, Text Alternative)

The High Plains counties that fall within the SPP also are connected to a different electric grid than those in ERCOT. Three interconnected physical electric grids of transmission lines serve North America – the western grid, the eastern grid and ERCOT’s Texas-only grid. With the exception of its ERCOT counties, the High Plains region receives its electricity from the western grid. This means that most of the region falls outside the partially deregulated retail market most Texans participate in, and therefore their utility rates are subject to PUC approval.

Retail, commercial and industrial customers in the region purchase their electricity from an investor-owned utility, a municipally owned utility or a member-owned cooperative. The largest investor-owned utility in the region is Xcel Energy, which provides electricity in all but six High Plains counties. The region also has six municipally owned utilities and 13 cooperatives (Exhibit 31).

Residential electricity rates charged in the High Plains region vary little from county to county and are some of the lowest in the state. Southwestern Public Service, a subsidiary of Xcel Energy, which serves a large portion of the region, charged an average of 8.4 cents per kWh for residential electricity in January 2008. Lubbock Power and Light reported similar rates as Xcel Energy.39

The High Plains region uses a number of fuel sources to generate electricity. SPP reports that in 2007, the majority of its electricity was generated from coal and natural gas (Exhibit 32).40


Transportation is essential to the economic health of the High Plains region. The region’s roads are its primary way of moving its agricultural and energy products to urban markets. The region’s road network is vast, but roadway concerns and spending in the region center on a select few roads, including:

  • Interstate Highway 40, running east to west through the Panhandle;
  • Interstate Highway 27/U.S. Highway 87, running north to south through the Panhandle;
  • the intersection of Interstate Highways 40 and 27 in Potter and Randall counties; and
  • the Marsha Sharp Freeway/U.S. Highway 82, running east and west through the city of Lubbock.41

Hunting is Thriving in the High Plains

Bag Limits and Other Applicable Hunting Regulations, High Plains Region

Animal Season
White-tailed Deer Open season lasts from November 3 until January 6. The limit is three deer, with only one buck and no more than two antlerless. Antlerless deer may be hunted without a permit unless antlerless Managed Land Deer Permits (MLDP) are issued.

Archery season lasts from September 29 until November 2. The limit is three deer, no more than one buck and no more than two antlerless. Antlerless deer may be hunted without a permit unless antlerless Managed Land Deer Permits (MLDP) were issued.

A special youth-only season occurs twice a year on October 27 and 28, and January19 and 20.
Mule Deer The season lasts from November 17 until December 2. The limit is two deer with only one buck. Antlerless deer may be taken only by Antlerless Mule Deer Permit or MLDP.

Archery season for mule deer lasts from September 29 until November 2. The limit is one buck.
Squirrel Squirrel season is open year-round with no limit.
Rabbit Rabbit season is open year-round with no limit.
Turkey November 3 – January 6. The annual bag limit for Rio Grande and Eastern turkey, in the aggregate, is four, no more than one of which may be an Eastern turkey.

Archery only: September 29 – November 2.

Special youth-only season: March 22-23 and May 17-18.
Pheasant December 1 – December 30 with no limit.
Quail October 27 – February 24. Daily bag limit: 15; possession limit: 45.
Dove September 1 – October 30 with no limit.

Source: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.


TxDOT builds and maintains the Texas state highway system through local offices and contractors located around the state. The High Plains region is served by TxDOT district offices in Amarillo, Lubbock and Childress.

The High Plains region has 10,468 centerline miles (miles traveled in a single direction regardless of the number of lanes) and 23,880 total lane miles of state highways. The region has 758,073 registered vehicles that travel more than 19.8 million miles daily.42 The state as a whole contains 79,696 centerline miles, 190,764 total lane miles and over 20 million registered vehicles that travel nearly 477.8 million miles each day (Exhibit 33).

Road construction, maintenance and engineering for state, local and private entities accounted for over 5,000 jobs and over $184 million in earnings in 2006 for people in the High Plains region.43

Exhibit 33

Highway Miles, Vehicle Miles Driven and Registered Vehicles, High Plains Region, 2006

County Name Centerline Miles Lane Miles Daily Vehicle Miles Registered Vehicles
Armstrong 153 378 312,974 2,635
Bailey 225 490 226,893 6,708
Briscoe 162 326 58,433 2,153
Carson 314 776 817,864 6,835
Castro 261 534 285,056 7,688
Childress 210 477 331,992 6,128
Cochran 232 468 100,172 3,070
Collingsworth 218 446 99,636 3,238
Crosby 253 569 213,435 5,861
Dallam 297 609 297,860 6,146
Deaf Smith 273 603 380,834 18,011
Dickens 202 469 106,269 3,041
Donley 186 455 505,163 3,641
Floyd 324 703 196,855 7,203
Garza 184 460 410,575 4,637
Gray 338 773 696,619 24,411
Hale 460 1,057 868,538 29,239
Hall 210 460 226,301 3,338
Hansford 261 525 125,207 6,212
Hartley 253 540 300,480 5,360
Hemphill 183 386 171,677 5,621
Hockley 336 752 624,443 21,343
Hutchinson 207 474 338,140 25,828
King 93 199 77,966 521
Lamb 362 805 471,190 13,708
Lipscomb 197 411 94,619 3,353
Lubbock 636 1,713 3,580,033 223,699
Lynn 319 710 354,609 5,928
Moore 200 467 441,017 19,737
Motley 165 331 60,897 1,642
Ochiltree 212 430 238,925 12,035
Oldham 179 473 590,735 2,567
Parmer 254 614 411,777 9,777
Potter 301 886 2,615,362 101,842
Randall 360 901 1,296,178 116,793
Roberts 120 241 79,138 1,190
Sherman 195 429 207,696 2,788
Swisher 350 806 424,295 6,400
Terry 276 630 433,260 12,509
Wheeler 298 672 535,371 6,443
Yoakum 208 431 232,086 8,794
High Plains Total 10,468 23,880 19,840,570 758,073
Statewide Total 79,696 190,764 477,769,968 20,084,036

Source: Texas Department of Transportation.

Trade Corridor

To better connect the region with its markets, and encourage much-needed economic development, many area community leaders as well as the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) support the creation of a Ports-To-Plains Trade Corridor (Exhibit 34). The corridor is a multi-state effort to connect the inland “port” of Laredo, Texas, to Denver, Colorado, and other locations in the Great Plains. In the High Plains region, Interstate Highway 27/U.S. Highway 87 would form an integral part of the trade corridor.

Exhibit 34

Ports-To-Plains Trade Corridor

Ports-To-Plains Trade Corridor

(Ports-To-Plains Trade Corridor, Text Alternative)

Exhibit 35

Public Transportation Resources, High Plains Region

County Name Public Transit Authorities
Armstrong PTD
Briscoe PTD
Carson PTD
Castro PTD
Childress PTD
Collingsworth PTD
Crosby Captrans
Dallam PTD
Deaf Smith PTD
Dickens Captrans
Donley PTD
Floyd Captrans
Gray PTD
Hale Captrans
Hall PTD
Hansford PTD
Hartley PTD
Hemphill PTD
Hutchinson PTD
King Captrans
Lipscomb PTD
Lubbock SPARTAN and Citibus
Moore PTD
Motley Captrans
Ochiltree PTD
Oldham PTD
Parmer PTD
Potter ACTS and PTD
Randall ACTS and PTD
Roberts PTD
Sherman PTD
Swisher PTD
Wheeler PTD

Source: American Public Transportation Association

The Ports-To-Plains Trade Corridor is different from other trade corridors proposed in Texas and elsewhere in that it probably would not be tolled nor involve the construction of any new roads, but instead would improve and expand existing roads and rights of way.

Texas is supporting the corridor with $40 million worth of four-lane expansion projects now under construction. An additional $275 million has been earmarked for expansion projects through 2014. In addition, TxDOT has pledged another $458 million through 2014 to build reliever routes (routes around congested areas) along the corridor.44

According to a 2004 Corridor Development Management Plan prepared jointly by TxDOT and the transportation departments of Colorado, New Mexico and Oklahoma, the Ports-To-Plains Trade Corridor would generate 43,000 jobs with a total income of $4.5 billion in communities along the corridor from 2006 through 2030. The report also estimated that Texas could see about 17,000 new jobs in manufacturing and transportation/warehousing between 2006 and 2030 due to the corridor. These new jobs, along with increased tourism in the area, were estimated to generate just under $2.2 billion in positive economic impacts in Texas.46

Public Transportation

In the city of Amarillo, the Amarillo City Transit System (ACTS) provides public transportation and special transit services; Citibus provides these services in the city of Lubbock. Outside these urban areas, all transit services for the public in the region are provided by the Caprock Community Action Agency (Captrans), the Panhandle Transit District (PTD) and the South Plains Area Rural Transportation Assistance Network (SPARTAN) (Exhibit 35).47

Exhibit 36

Texas Rail Lines and Major Highways

Texas Rail Lines and Major Highways

(Texas Rail Lines and Major Highways, Text Alternative)


Seven companies, four local railroads and three switching and terminal railroads (small operations primarily involved in transferring goods between major railroads) are headquartered in the High Plains region, controlling 300 miles of railway track in the area.48 In addition, Union Pacific Railroad Company and Burlington Northern Santa Fe operate tracks in the High Plains, the majority of them around the cities of Lubbock and Amarillo (Exhibit 36).

Railways play an important role in transporting agricultural goods and are especially important in the High Plains region. Rail is typically the least-expensive mode of transporting agricultural products; if rail is not available, agricultural producers usually transport their goods by truck to the nearest rail terminal. An expanded rail system could greatly benefit the High Plains region. There are no current planned improvements to the rail system in the High Plains region, but state and local officials are currently studying the economic viability and need of these improvements.50


The High Plains region contains 50 public airports, including four in the Amarillo area and three in Lubbock County.51

Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport is the region’s busiest, with 564,799 passenger boardings in 2006, up 2.3 percent from 552,023 boardings in 2005.52 The airport had more than 87,000 takeoffs and landings in 2006, including air carriers, air taxis, civil flights and military flights.53 This airport is served by American Eagle, Continental Express and Southwest Airlines.54

Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport is the region’s second busiest, with 446,926 boardings in 2006, up by just 0.1 percent from 2005’s 446,395 boardings.55 This airport is served by American Eagle, Continental Express, Great Lakes Aviation and Southwest Airlines.56

Texas Prairie Rivers Region Bringing Tourism and Money to the High Plains

Top O’ Texas Rodeo


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