Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Four tolled lanes planned for I-10: "The toll roads are the only way"

Community looks over TxDOT plans for I-10


By TRACY DANG, Managing Editor
The Sealy News
Copyright 2007

With a room-length map depicting the proposed future of Interstate 10 as a backdrop, about 100 area residents quizzed Texas Department of Transportation representatives last week during a public meeting on pending changes to the highway.

The informational meeting gave residents an opportunity to gather more information on the proposed addition of four toll lanes to the interstate, as well as expanded, one-way frontage roads and a new interchange at I-10 and Highway 36.

"It seemed to me a lot of people were interested in finding out how the plan effected them and their piece of property," said Sealy City Councilman Nick Tirey. "But I hope they understand the importance of this project overall."

Adrian Blakey, who owns Blakey's Welding and Machine Service on the I-10 frontage road, understands growth but is skeptical of some of the proposal.

"It appears it doesn't affect me in losing any property and I was concerned about that because I have a narrow strip of land," he said. "I'm concerned about how wide some of the right of way has become. If they could just condense that it would not affect people as much."

Paul Frerich with TxDOT said most of the right of way was coming from the south side of I-10 because the railroad created a restraint on the north side.

Blakey is also concerned about the impact of the new one-way frontage roads on his business. Once completed, he and his customers will be forced to make a loop to get to his business or to travel east and he knows that will cost him time and money in fuel.

"Sealy Concrete and myself have fought the one-way frontage roads," he said. "There is really no way to recuperate expenses from a situation like that. I really think it will impact traffic to and from businesses along there."

The proposed frontage roads end at Highway 36 and will not continue west to FM 3538 based on the current plans.

"We're not saying in the In the future that could not change," Frerich said. "We have talked with the city and county about changing that. In this first set of meeting frontage roads are not planned in this area."

The city and county have talked to TxDOT about acquiring the right of way now so when the need arises for the additional frontage roads west, the project can move forward.

"The end of the project is really Highway 36, but what were trying to say is lets plan for it to go to 3538," Tirey said. "Extend this project a little further with right of way so that in the future when we as a community and county want to help with these projects we can get them done."

Funding remains the primary roadblock for this project as a whole said Frerich.

"At this point and time funding is an issue because we have not identified funding for the project," he said. "Often we have to move forward with planning for a project to be ready when funding is available."

He said adding toll roads to the interstate is one way to help find the funds for all projects, including the expanded frontage roads and new interchange.

"If we're able to put in the two additional toll lanes in each direction then we would also be able to do the other," he said. "It is really only one project and there is no way to break pieces out of it."

Tirey said the community needs to understand where TxDOT is coming from on the funding issue.

"The toll roads are the only way," he said. "Don't confuse the toll roads with the Trans Texas Corridor situation. Don't let the rumors get you. It is important to go to these hearings and be informed. Ask the questions and find out what is going on.

"The problems have to be fixed, they have to be fixed right and prior to the growth."

© 2007 Sealy Publications, Inc: www.sealynews.com

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