Project begins to eliminate dip at Hawkins-Eastman intersection in Longview
Feb. 13, 2017 at 10:44 p.m.
They hope it'll be great when it's done, but Northeast Longview motorists Monday were beginning to confront what it'll be like until then.
Drivers were weighing in as the city of Longview and Texas Department of Transportation got started on a six-month project to smooth long-troublesome dips on East Hawkins Parkway at North Eastman Road and make other improvements to the intersection, which is one of the city's busiest — in the midst of one of the city's most congested areas.
An immediate impact: East-west traffic on Hawkins Parkway is reduced to one lane in each direction from Eastman Road to the driveways to the retail centers north and south of the parkway.
"I think it's good, but ... hmmm," said Beatriz Romero, who has worked at Cheddar's restaurant on the southeast corner of the intersection for the past three years. Her experience driving in the area led her to call Hawkins at Eastman one of the worst intersections in the city and in need of work.
That was echoed by Melanie Lyons, who works at PetSmart in the shopping center north of Hawkins Parkway.
"I think it's great that they're fixing it, because I've seen several near accidents and a couple of accidents," she said.
The construction slowdowns won't affect her much because she takes Eastman Road north to FM 1844 to get home from work quickly and feed her family's pets.
"With construction, now that I know it's there, I'm probably going to keep going that way," Lyons said. "As far as the commute goes, that's going to slow everything down because that's a major artery intersection."
The long-sought project is getting started after the Northeast Texas Regional Mobility Authority in December issued a $400,000 grant to the city through Gregg County, according to the city.
Apart from the auto frame-jarring dips that have been a hazard to east-west traffic for years, more pressure has been put on the intersection as growth has boomed in the area.
The Hawkins-Eastman intersection already is surrounded by traffic generators, from big box and other retailers to new residential developments farther east on Hawkins Parkway and movie theaters, hotels and restaurants throughout the area.
As plans move forward to develop a major retail center on the current site of Hinsley Park and with other development on a new Fourth Street extension, traffic counts promise to continue increasing.
The grant from the mobility authority will pay for concrete pavement along Hawkins Parkway plus realignment and replacement of storm drains, inlets and sidewalks.
For the first two months of construction, project contractor East Texas Bridge Co. of Longview will repair the two southernmost lanes of Hawkins Parkway with east-west traffic reduced to one lane in either direction, according to the city.
Then, construction will be moved to the north side of Hawkins Parkway, and the city expects closures to remain effective until August.
"Drivers are encouraged to drive safely and patiently," the city said in a statement. Anyone with questions about construction is asked to call Project Manager Alton Bradley at (903) 237-1067.
Farther east on Hawkins Parkway, meanwhile, crews Monday continued a $1.3 million Gregg County project to add lanes and safety enhancements at Tryon Road. The project is less than a mile east of the Hawkins-Eastman intersection.
Pct. 1 Commissioner Ronnie McKinney said Monday the Tryon Road project remains on target for completion March 11.
Each day, as many as 27,000 motorists roll down Eastman Road through the Hawkins Parkway intersection, according to the city's most recent traffic study in late 2015. More than 8,000 motorists cross daily through the dips at Hawkins, and another 13,000 motorists travel Fourth Street near Hawkins Parkway.
Fourth Street traffic might swell during construction, as motorists seek to avoid delays on Eastman and Tryon roads. District 4 Councilwoman Kristen Ishihara suggested drivers avoid roadwork by using Fourth Street, which was extended to Eastman Road north of Hawkins in the past year.
"If you're driving down Fourth Street and hit Hawkins, you can take Fourth all the way to (U.S.) 259, so hopefully that will help you avoid some congestion if you need to," she told attendees at a town hall meeting last month.
Sandra Sadler said Monday she might take the advice. Watching birds Monday in the Longview Town Centre parking lot while waiting for an opthamologist appointment, she said she takes her child to the center for movies sometimes, so at least she doesn't have to deal with the traffic and construction every day.
"We go to the movies a lot up here, and you can wait a while to get in here on a good day, so I can imagine heavy weekend traffic. And when they start this, it's going to really slow it down," she said. "If it's a movie that my child wants to see, I'll make the extra time and the extra route. But if it were just for a trip to Target, I might decide to go to Wal-Mart instead just to avoid the headache and traffic."
Longview's busiest intersections
Here's a look at daily vehicle counts at the 20 busiest intersections across Longview:
- W. Loop 281 at Judson Road — 57,623
- W. Loop 281 at McCann Road — 57,622
- W. Marshall Ave. at Spur 63/Texas 31 — 56,993
- N. Eastman Road at E. Loop 281 — 53,560
- E. Loop 281 at Fourth Street — 53,051
- W. Loop 281 at Gilmer Road — 50,304
- Texas 31 at W. Loop 281 — 48,048
- E. Marshall Ave. at N. Eastman Road — 46,717
- E. Marshall Ave. at GSMC Plaza — 45,341
- W. Marshall Ave. at W. Loop 281 — 45,334
- N. Eastman Road at E. Hawkins Parkway — 42,197
- W. Loop 281 at Bill Owens Parkway — 41,873
- Judson Road at H.G. Mosley Parkway — 38,471
- E. Loop 281 at Airline Road — 38,290
- McCann Road at H.G. Mosley Parkway — 36,961
- Estes Parkway at Loop 281 — 35,127
- Judson Road at Hollybrook/Magnolia — 33,668
- E. Loop 281 at Tryon Road — 31,966
- McCann Road at W. Hawkins Parkway — 29,418
- Dundee/Hawkins at Gilmer Road — 28,762
Source: City of Longview online interactive map