Rarely does progress come without costs.
In the public realm, the costs most often are borne by taxpayers whose dollars pay for the improvements that are seen as progress. Sometimes, those in the path of progress also pay. Too often, those costs disrupt lives and business.
That will be the case for the owners of homes and businesses that would be displaced under plans to rebuild and widen Texas 42 from White Oak to Interstate 20.
According to a proposal issued last week by the Texas Department of Transportation, six homes and five businesses would be displaced. That property is required because the project would require more than 90 acres of new right of way and a bit more to facilitate construction.
There is little question the expansion to four lanes from the current two is needed. It will make travel safer and position the area for growth, and residents and others who rely on the highway have been calling for improvements for years. TxDOT has been working on the $40 million plan since 2017.
The project would add a continuous left-turn lane, a 16-foot median and curb and gutter to allow for future growth. It also would replace and widen bridges over the Sabine River and a Union Pacific Railroad bridge to accommodate the additional travel lanes.
“The expansion will help ease congestion along a corridor that experiences a high percentage of large truck traffic,” the transportation agency said in a report on the project.
Adding to the costs is the fact it also will shift the highway’s alignment to improve grades and curves to meet modern specifications. That will make the road safer.
Of course all that sounds great, but it takes land, both to change the highway’s path and to make it wider, and that’s where the disruptive costs come in.
We have heard the concerns of those who will bear those costs at meetings convened by TxDOT in the past two years to share plans and get feedback. The first was in November 2017, and another was conducted in July 2018.
More than 45 residents turned out for that meeting, and most seemed to understand the cost they would have to pay for progress. While all knew they would bear some of the burden, their questions included “will it be me?” and “how much will I lose?”
Now, at last, they’re finding out. TxDOT didn’t identify the businesses or residents who will be displaced, but said it would provide relocation assistance if the plan is finally approved.
Before that happens, though, the public will get another chance to weigh in, and that’s why the agency made last week’s announcement. Its goal was to give residents a chance to call for another public meeting. TxDOT said its current plans call for that sometime in the spring.
Next steps would be finalization of plans by this fall, property to be acquired from 2021 to 2023 and construction to begin in 2024.
We understand the costs being borne by the residents and businesses being displaced, but also realize why it is happening: Our metropolitan area is growing, and with that growth comes increasing need for capacity to move goods and people. That this expansion is required is good news for all of us who work and live in the Longview area.