KILGORE — A project to widen Texas 42 is at least four years away, but property owners along the road already are concerned how it will impact their homes and businesses.
“We’re going to have to build another building probably,” D&D Industrial Welding Supply President Heather Logston said.
Earlier this month, the Texas Department of Transportation released details about its plan to widen almost 6 miles of Texas 42 from two lanes to four lanes with a continuous left-turn lane between U.S. 80 in White Oak and Interstate 20 in Kilgore.
The project could encroach as much as 40 feet onto the property where D&D has been the past eight years, owner Dennis McFadin said. That would affect customer parking and driveway access, but the relocation of several of its propane and gas tanks would be costly.
“According to what I looked at on that map, I have to move these propane tanks, and this building has got to go,” McFadin said, pointing to an auxiliary structure that is closer to the highway than his main store and offices.
“There ain’t no way that propane can be that close to that road, so that’s got to be moved and that building right there,” he said, “so if you measure from there to here, 40 feet from the center is a pretty good ways.”
D&D also has large tanks behind its main building in which tractor-trailers pull up and load up on oxygen, nitrogen, argon, carbon dioxide and other gases. Those tractor-trailer drivers must have ample room to maneuver, so the company might have to acquire adjoining lots, Logston said.
And as for the main building, there will be even more costs since the business was annexed into the city of Kilgore several years ago.
“Well, the state is supposed to compensate us, but it’s going to be a major remodel,” Logston said, “and then on top of that, we were grandfathered in. We weren’t in the city limits until about three or four years ago, so when they annexed us in, we were grandfathered in for fire suppression, so now we’ll have to go through and do all of the fire sprinklers and everything that is required by the city, so it’s going to be a major overhaul for us.”
Six homes and five businesses will be displaced by the project, according to TxDOT, but relocation assistance from the state is available for those property owners.
While public hearings have been held about the project, anyone wanting to comment or request a hearing about the social, economic and environmental effects of the Texas 42 project must do so in writing by Feb. 4 to the TxDOT-Tyler District Office’s Advanced Project Development division or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
“The expansion will help ease congestion along a corridor that experiences a high percentage of large truck traffic,” according to TxDOT.
Mark Thompson, whose pre-owned car sales business is about 100 yards or so from D&D, said widening Texas 42 will push the road close to his front door.
“The ditch right now will have cars driving in it in about five years, and then their right of way will come up to the trees,” Thompson said. “The effect that it’s going to have on me is that I’ll basically have to build back a little bit.”
The bright side for Thompson is that, “As far as I know, all I’m going to lose is lot. I’m not going to lose buildings or anything,” he said.
Still, he’s skeptical that Texas 42 needs to be widened. Most of the stretch of road is in a floodplain, and Thompson said the only real benefactors of a four-lane Texas 42 are White Oak and Longview but not Kilgore.
“The thing that you have to keep in mind is that, you’ve heard of the expression ‘highway to nowhere?’ Why do we need this?” Thompson said.
According to the most recent TxDOT traffic count from 2018, almost 10,000 motorists drive Texas 42 between I-20 and FM 1252 each day, and about 8,700 motorists travel the road just south of the Sabine River bridge.
McFadin and Logston say widening is needed because of the heavy traffic seen in the area, particularly at peak times.
“I think it will be a good thing,” Logston said. “I mean, when you try to get out of here at 5 o’clock, if you want to try to go towards White Oak (by turning left), you’re not getting out. You might as well turn right, hit Cargill Road and go around.”
McFadin remembers talk of widening Texas 42 for decades.
“I remember it was $15 million to build this highway to four lanes, but that was back in the 1960s,” McFadin said.
TxDOT and Gregg County have set aside more than $40 million to widen Texas 42.
State engineers plan to finalize and get environmental clearances for the project by this fall. Right-of-way acquisitions will begin in 2021 and should take until summer 2023, according to TxDOT. Financial forecasts show funds to be available in 2024 to start construction.
Property owners remember the last widening project on Texas 42 almost five years ago, when a left-turn lane and curbs were nearer to the Kilgore side of the road. Temporary traffic lights were installed at I-20 entrance ramps, which backed up Texas 42 traffic for several blocks and made exiting businesses almost impossible, Logston said.
“You couldn’t get out of the driveway either way,” she said.
Still, they’re optimistic of the end result.
“I’m sure they’ll work with us,” McFadin said, “but Texas 42, it’s going to have to be dealt with.”