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US 80 widening project to begin Monday

By Richard Yeakley
Feb. 16, 2013 at 11 p.m.

Construction on a $3.5 million project to widen U.S. 80 between Texas 42 in White Oak and Fisher Road in Longview starts Monday.

Speed limits through the work zone will be reduced to 45 mph.

"It's a project that's long overdue," said TxDOT spokesman Larry Krantz. "We're thinking this project will make travel along that stretch safer and more efficient once it's complete."

Data from the Texas Department of Transportation show five deadly wrecks on that stretch of road during the past five years - many occurring when motorists were stopped to make a left turn.

That's one of the targeted goals of the construction project: to widen U.S. 80 by 16 feet to accommodate a continuous left-turn lane.

The plans also call for adding curbs and gutters throughout the area, which will mean an end to the rounded curb that acts as one big driveway entrance to the businesses throughout the corridor.

"It will be a pretty dramatic upgrade," Krantz said. "Most of the driveways that are already established will simply be tied into the new roadway, but a few that cross the entire frontage of businesses will have to be established according to access-management policy."

Krantz added the purpose of establishing specific driveway access to businesses helps make the turning actions onto and off of U.S. 80 more predictable, which, in conjunction with the new continuous left-turn lane, would vastly improve safety along the corridor.

"Right now, there are no cues to help drivers know where they should turn," Krantz said.

"So you could conceivably have one car trying to turn right and a car to his right trying to turn left while a third car tries to split the difference. It's asking for trouble."

White Oak City Manager Charlie Smith welcomed the work.

"We recently had a double fatality - this would help to eliminate things like that," Smith said. TxDOT's most recent traffic counts for this area, taken in 2011, indicate about 16,000 vehicles pass through the area each day.

"With all the explosive growth in Gregg County, those numbers are only going to go up," Krantz added. "That's a good sign for our economy, but it also has an effect on traffic safety. The bottom line is this project is overdue, not from a lack of planning, but from a lack of funding."

But in the short-term, construction will affect travel through the area.

The first phase will require long-term lane closures while the roadbed is widened, storm drains reworked and curbs and gutters added.

Motorists are encouraged to be prepared to reduce speed and merge in and around the work zone.

The project is scheduled for completion in spring 2014.



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