Monday, February 19, 2018




On the road: Input sought on Texas 31

By Jimmy Daniell Isaac
Nov. 12, 2017 at 11:26 p.m.
Updated Nov. 13, 2017 at 6:54 a.m.

Cars travel Texas 31 at the Gregg/Smith County line Thursday. On Tuesday, the Texas Department of Transportation will present to the public three alternatives for widening Texas 31 west of Kilgore all the way to Loop 323 in Tyler.

Kilgore and state highway leaders want to hear from the public about widening Texas 31.

Meanwhile, Gregg County looks to continue leveraging its resources to start construction on certain road projects sooner than even state engineers anticipate.

The Texas Department of Transportation has scheduled a public hearing about widening Texas 31 at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Highland Park Baptist Church, 2424 S. Henderson Blvd. in Kilgore.

Kilgore City Manager Josh Selleck and others say they're supporting the project ideas. The Kilgore City Council has delayed its regularly scheduled meeting by 30 minutes Tuesday to allow residents time to attend both meetings. Council members will meet at 6 p.m. at City Hall. The TxDOT meeting ends at 7 p.m.

"It helps to continue to open up Kilgore for even more business," Selleck said, echoing a sentiment he first heard from Longview Mayor Andy Mack that what is good for Kilgore is good for surrounding cities and vice versa.

"I know that the other cities will benefit," Selleck said. "All of these projects are very exciting. Texas 31 carries a lot of traffic both industrial and commuters to and from work, Longview and Tyler."

On the other end of Gregg County, a long-anticipated expansion of George Richey Road is almost completed four years before state engineers thought they would break ground, County Judge Bill Stoudt said.

The roadway crosses through Longview North Business Park, which Stoudt and other leaders say was a factor in Dollar General Corp. recently naming the park as a lone finalist for a distribution center that could employ 400 people.

The Longview City Council and the Gregg County Commissioners Court might consider tax abatement deals for the 1 million-square-foot Dollar General facility in the next month.

Stoudt recalled the county's support and later pullback from building an events center several years ago. The county could have spent the total construction cost for such a facility and committed itself to more than $1 million a year in maintenance before it ever opened.

Instead, commissioners supplied $5 million to the George Richey Road expansion project, which TxDOT said wouldn't begin until 2022, Stoudt said.

Yet, the county's contribution joined with $3 million from the city of Longview, $3 million from Longview Economic Development Corp. and $3.5 million from TxDOT got the work started eight years sooner.

"George Richey is a prime example. … We're driving on it in 2018," Stoudt said. "I think what the (commissioners) court realized is we can leverage our money with other people's money."

State transportation engineers held a public meeting Nov. 2 in White Oak to discuss a $46 million plan to widen Texas 42 between White Oak and Kilgore from two lanes to four lanes with a flush median.

On Tuesday, the Texas Department of Transportation will present to the public three alternatives for widening Texas 31 west of Kilgore all the way to Loop 323 in Tyler.

Enhancements to be considered for Texas 31 include widening from a two-lane road to a four-lane divided roadway with curb and gutter in more urban areas to accommodate expected growth in traffic. The job is estimated to cost about $85 million.

Texas 31 handles as many as 9,100 motorists daily about 1 mile west of Kilgore to more than 14,000 motorists immediately east of Tyler, according to state traffic counts.

Engineers say they also are considering redesigning Texas 31's alignment to improve its grading and curves, and they want to incorporate sidewalks and bicycle lanes wherever they determine them to be appropriate.

It is one of nearly 20 long-term projects that state engineers have under development in Gregg County that total at least $637 million in estimated design and construction costs.

TxDOT engineers say that each idea is backed by project future funding, which is little more than a promise and is not designated cash.

Interstate 20 accounts for the most expensive projects including $303 million to widen the freeway from four lanes to six lanes throughout the county. Engineers estimate that it will cost another $50 million to improve the county's busiest intersection — the I-20 left-exit interchange with Texas 31, where 60,200 motorists cross each day, according to TxDOT. (Interstate 20 at Eastman Road is Gregg County's second-busiest intersection with 56,000 motorists daily.)

Stoudt said the county must be careful in picking and choosing which projects to give matching funds, as some projects are too expensive.

With more than $30 million in unrestricted reserves — plus $21 million in reserves set aside for such projects as widening Harrison Road — Gregg County is in an enviable position compared with surrounding counties that don't enter such financial partnerships, he said.

"That's the difference when you have the ability to leverage with state money," Stoudt said.

Projects with plans finalizing for construction

Texas 300: Repair and resurface FM 2275 south to U.S. 80 $4.4M

Interstate 20: Plane and resurface roadway one-half mile west of Texas 135 east to one-half mile west of Texas 31 $3.8M

Texas 135: Plane and repave roadway, improve drainage at RR overpass one-half mile north of Texas 31 south to traffic circle $3M

Interstate 20: Plane and resurface roadway one-half mile west of Texas 135 east to one-half mile west of Texas 31 $3M

FM 1844: Widen to 28 feet, repair and resurface Texas 300 east to Spur 502 $2.8M

Texas 135: Concrete pavement and reconstruction Traffic circle to Rusk Co. line $2.8M

FM 3272: Repair and resurface FM 2275 south to U.S. 80 $2.7M

FM 2204: Improve drainage and guard rail U.S. 259 to Texas 322 $1.7M

FM 1249: Repair and repave road Texas 42 east to Higginbotham Road $1.4M

Source:txdot.gov

Projects under construction or scheduled

Loop 281: Widen from 4 to 6 lanes with raised median Shofner Dr. south to U.S. 80 $4.5M

Texas 31: Widen to a 3-lane road Smith Co. line to FM 1639 $2.1M

Various roads: install flashing yellow left-turn arrows on traffic signals Throughout the City of Longview $1.2M

Source:txdot.gov

Projects under development

Highway

Description

Location

Cost estimate

Interstate 20

Widen from 4 to 6 lanes

Mile marker 590 east to Harrison Co. line

$167.33M

Interstate 20

Widen from 4 to 6 lanes

Smith Co. line east to Texas 42

$136.91M

Interstate 20

Improve left exit interchange

Mile marker 590 west to mile marker 588

$50M

Texas 42

Widen from 2 to 4 lanes with flush median

U.S. 80 south to Interstate 20

$46.1M

Texas 31

Widen from 2 to 4 lane divided highway

Smith Co. line east to FM 1639

$41M

Texas 135

Widen from 2 to 4 lane divided highway

1.8 miles north of FM 1252north to U.S. 271

$41M

U.S. 259

Widen from 2 to 4 lane highway with depressed median

Texas 31 south to Rusk Co. line

$31.3M

U.S. 271

Widen from 2 to 4 lanes with varied medians

Smith Co. line north to Loop 485

$22.7M

Loop 485

Widen from 2 to 4 lanes with center turn lane

U.S. 271 north to U.S. 80

$16.5M

FM 2275

Widen from 2 to 4 lane divided highway

FM 1854 east to Texas 300

$13.5M

FM 2206

Widen from 2 to 4 lane divided highway

Texas 42 east to Fisher Road

$13.5M

FM 2275

Widen from 2 to 4 lane divided highway

FM 3272 to FM 1845

$13.5M

FM 2206

Widen from 2 to 4 lane divided highway

Fisher Road to Loop 281

$13.2M

Texas 31

Widen from 4 to 6 lanes with raised median

South St. north to U.S. 80

$13M

Loop 485

Widen from 2 to 4 lanes with flush median

U.S. 80 north to U.S. 271

$5M

U.S. 271

Widen from 2 to 4 lanes withflush median

Upshur Co. line south to Loop 485

$5M

Interstate 20

Improve vertical clearance by replacing bridge

MLK Blvd. bridge

$4M

FM 1252

Construct continuous center turn lane and right turn lane

Rice Road to Texas 135

$2M

FM 2204

Repair and repave road

Kilgore Bypass to FM 2011

$2M

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