Skip to comments.County official presents wish list for U.S. 281 upgrades
Posted on 11/02/2008 5:40:04 PM PST by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
U.S. Highway 281 Presentation
>> Priority 1: Spend $75 million to build five overpasses in Falfurrias.
>> Priority 2: A $13 million Ben Bolt overpass at Farm-to-Market Road 2508 is proposed to create a safer school zone and eliminate another traffic barrier.
>> Priority 3: Dedicate anywhere from $40 million to $104 million to build tolled relief route around Premont or upgrade the existing route with tolled freeway lanes.
>> Priority 4: A $50 million project in George West to build connectors to U.S. Highway 59 and Interstate 37.
McALLEN -- Whether the route is eventually called Interstate 69 or the Trans-Texas Corridor, four county judges from along U.S. Highway 281 are intent on seeing a few projects get done.
Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas traveled to Corpus Christi last week with his counterparts from Brooks, Jim Wells and Live Oak counties to present at a public hearing of the Texas 2030 Committee, which is tasked with determining state transportation needs through the year 2030.
Salinas, who publicly presented four needed U.S. 281 projects to the 12-member committee and privately did the same to Gov. Rick Perry earlier in the week, said getting funding for those projects - either from the state or federal level - is a top priority for him.
"We're working hard on finding support for those four projects," Salinas said. "Whatever it eventually gets called, we don't care. We just want it done."
The Trans-Texas Corridor plan includes an I-69 extension that would link north and south Texas as part of a federal project to connect Canada and Mexico.
The plan's advocates say it would connect burgeoning manufacturers on both sides of the Texas-Mexico border to other markets, enhancing economic development along its routes.
U.S. 281 is considered a future route for the proposed interstate, but transportation officials have thus far focused on improving Cameron County's U.S. 77.
With more overpasses and fewer homeowners located along U.S. 77, that route is considered cheaper and quicker to upgrade than U.S. 281, especially as the Texas Department of Transportation faces a massive budget shortfall.
But Salinas said during the presentation to the 2030 Committee that four improvements are quickly needed for the trucks that carry about 6 percent of the U.S. 281 traffic associated with the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The projects would reduce bottlenecks in cities along the route, expedite traffic to other markets and improve the lone South Texas hurricane-central/">hurricane evacuation route, Salinas said. All told, the four projects - which include bypasses and overpasses through Falfurrias, Ben Bolt, Premont and George West - would cost between $193 million and $242 million.
The proposal dictates a priority for each of the four projects in an attempt to get them done piece-by-piece, Salinas said. The project to build five overpasses in Brooks County's Falfurrias, for example, was designated as the top priority because it is already designed and ready for bid.
The Falfurrias overpasses were halted last year when TxDOT stopped road projects across the state because of federal funding cutbacks.
Brooks County Judge Raul Ramirez, who traveled to Corpus Christi for the presentation, said some economic development projects in Falfurrias have stalled as developers wait to see when or if the overpasses will spring up.
He said he thought their presentation was well-received by members of the 2030 Committee at what was its last public hearing. The committee will release a report in December outlining needed infrastructure improvements over the next 20 years.
Ramirez said he hopes their proposed projects come sooner rather than later.
"We have to be looking at the future," Ramirez said. "If not, we're going to be in a crunch - transportation is what moves everything."
Trans-Texas Corridor PING!
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