Thursday, August 10, 2006

More West Texans Pork Courtesy of Speaker Tom Craddick

Reliever route construction close


Burr Williams
Midland Reporter-Telegram
Copyright 2006

Texas Department of Transportation officials said Wednesday that the $34-million Highway 349 reliever route west and north of Midland remains on track despite the low bid for Odessa's JBS Parkway overpass having come in $8. 2 million over budget.

District Engineer Lauren Garduño said at a Midland-Odessa Transportation Alliance appreciation reception for TxDOT that the Texas Transportation Commission's $10-million appropriation for the reliever route last Dec. 16 provided the last of the necessary funding.

Reporting at Midland International Airport that right-of-way purchases will be finished this fall and bids taken next spring for the 16-mile road, Garduño said, "We believe $34 million will get the first phase of the project completed."

He said two lanes of the La Entrada al Pacifico trade corridor-related road will be laid across virgin land from Highway 191 and Farm to Market 1788 west of Midland to 349 north of town, connecting Interstate 20 to Lubbock. Garduño said right-of-way acquisiton has also begun for Highway 349's widening to four lanes from Midland to Lamesa.

The engineer said his office is reconsidering the Odessa overpass and might be able to trim the cost by $6 million by reconfiguring steel work and a steel plate where the overpass will span Business I-20. Projected at $16.4 million, Tuesday's low bid by the local Reece Albert Co. was $24.6 million.

The overpass is considered a crucial link to the southeast Odessa industrial area and from the interstate to Ector County's Schlemeyer Field airport, where TxDOT is financing a runway extension.

TxDOT Executive Director Mike Behrens of Austin and Congressman Mike Conaway of Midland addressed 50 area city and county leaders in place of Texas Transportation Commissioner Esperanza "Hope" Andrade of San Antonio, who had reportedly been delayed at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

MOTRAN Chairman Drew Crutcher said Andrade still planned to attend Wednesday night's baseball game between the Midland Rockhounds and Springfield Cardinals, where 300 TxDOT employees got in free and were offered hotdogs and softdrinks.

Behrens said the overpass came in over budget in part because his agency's construction costs have ballooned by 20-30 percent in 18 months. He said Texas' 23 million population will double and its traffic quadruple in 35-40 years and necessitate toll roads.

Behrens said such roads might not be as objectionable as some motorists expect because they can take other routes if they want and tolls will allow the construction of many more highways than the state could otherwise afford.

Conaway said the JBS Parkway overpass problem points up the urgency of transportation improvements. "The sooner we can get these projects done, the less they are going to cost," he said.

© 2006 :