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Officials postpone taking bids for George Richey Road project

By Richard Yeakley
Aug. 3, 2013 at 10 p.m.

Most of the right of way for Phase One of the George Richey Road expansion has been purchased, but transportation officials said this week they will wait to call for bids until November, hoping to save money.

The delay, Texas Department of Transportation officials said this week, is all about timing.

"Statewide, we are seeing a rise in construction bids, and August is a high letting month for TxDOT. I think this is a smart business decision on the part of TxDOT. Moving the letting will increase likelihood of getting lower construction bids," said Transportation Planning Manager Karen Owen with the Longview Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Owen said it's a matter of supply and demand. An uptick in the economy -and summer being a prime time for road construction projects-has resulted in companies charging a premium.

But winter is slower, so by letting bids in November, they hope, work will have slowed down and prices will drop.

Vernon Webb, TxDOT Director of Transportation Planning and Development in Tyler told members of the Metropolitan Planning Organization policy board this week that July saw the highest price for work in two years as the economy continued to strengthen.

Still, he cautioned, there is no way to be certain prices will drop. "It won't hurt, and I don't know how much we will gain, but we think it is certainly worth a shot," Webb said while giving an overview to the board.

The delay in bidding was not expected to postpone construction of phase one connecting U.S. 259 to McCann Road north of Longview.

The $34.3 million east-west corridor through Longview is expected to open up hundreds of acres for development.

In the planning stages for many years, efforts were stepped up in 2011 when local entities committed $34 million to fund the long-time project.

Gregg County has committed $5 million, the city of Longview, $3 million; LEDCO, $3 million, the MPO, $3.5 million and TxDOT the remainder.

This year most of the right of way for the four-lane thoroughfare has been acquired.

The thoroughfare will feature shoulders and a flush median curb and gutter system for 4.3 miles linking Texas 300 and U.S. 259.

The proposed road would include four 12-foot travel lanes and a 16-foot continuous left turn lane with outside lanes that will be compatible for cycling.

While the project is a collaborative effort, TxDOT will oversee the construction of the road way.

TxDOT spokeswoman Becky Ozuna said that assuming the time frame holds, portions of the roads could be completed in about 2.5 years.

"We do anticipate beginning work in April of 2014 and expect the contract to last approximately two and a half years. We expect construction to be completed by the end of Summer 2016," Ozuna said.

Staff told members of the Longview MPO Policy Board on Wednesday they were nearing the completion of acquiring all the right of way and did not foresee any major difficulties.

City staff declined Friday to speak about the details, saying any disclosure could jeopardize negotiations.



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