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Gary Bushell
Attorney & Government Consultant

Texas Update

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) completed a feasibility study evaluating transportation improvements along US 190 and Interstate 10 from El Paso to the Texas-Louisiana border.  The study team was led by Wilbur Smith Associates, a firm with broad experience evaluating project options, traffic and feasibility of alternatives.

The study looked at a backbone east-west route that would follow killeenInterstate 10 from El Paso eastward and then follow US 190 from a point in Pecos County to Killeen and Fort Hood in Central Texas.  From Killeen the route would follow US 190 and Interstate 35 to Temple.  From there it would follow US 190 and other existing routes eastward to Bryan and Madisonville where it would run concurrently with Interstate 45 to Huntsville.  At that point it would follow US 190 through East Texas, going through Livingston, Woodville and Jasper. From Jasper it would follow the existing route of Texas Hwy 63 to Burkeville and then across the Sabine River.  This is a total east-west corridor in Texas of approximately 860 miles.

The study looked at transportation improvements that would enhance the connection between cape raymajor U.S Army installations and the Port of Corpus Christi and the Port of Beaumont -- both designated as strategic military ports.  These two ports handled more than 50 percent of the equipment and material deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003.

The US 190/I-10 study assessed the feasibility of various transportation improvements including the widening of the existing highway to provide additional travel lanes and upgrading sections to meet interstate highway standards.  It also looked at potential rail and other dedicated freight components like the Universal Freight Shuttle for some portions of the route.

Troop levels at both Fort Hood and Fort Bliss were increased substantially as part of a realignment program.  The Wilbur Smith consultants evaluated the impact of these increases as well as other military deployment issues associated with connecting military bases to one another and to Texas ports.  They also identified economic development and institutional issues related to development and construction of transportation improvements along the identified routes.  The analysis includes evaluating funding alternatives.

The study team has conducted meetings with community leaders and with representatives of military installations.

Texas Bridges
The Texas Department of Transportation has begun design work and environmental clearance activities on two bridges on the proposed Gulf Coast Strategic Highway route.  

The first will be a new bridge over the Sabine River.  It will add capacity to a two-lane steel through truss bridge that currently serves traffic on the connection of SH 63 in Newton County, Texas, and LA 8 near the Vernon Parish community of Burr Ferry.  The existing bridge was built in 1937, replacing a ferry that served the area.  This spot is about 8 milesnr bg downstream of the dam at Toledo Bend Reservoir. 

TxDOT has also started design work on improvements to the US 190 bridge over the Neches River between Woodville and Jasper.  This is a through truss bridge built in 1943 (both bridges are listed on National Register of Historic Places).

US 190 in Bell County, Texas
Work is now complete on an interchange project where US 190/Loop 363 connects to Interstate 35 on the south side of Temple. Work in this area includedUS190 Temple major bridge replacements, freeway lanes, frontage roads and widening of a depressed section of I-35.

TxDOT awarded a $45 million contract in late 2008 for expansion of US 190 from two lanes to four-lane divided  for a 5 mile rural stretch in southeastern Bell County starting at SH 95 and heading east through the Heidenheimer community and toward the town of Rogers. This will include two overpasses at FM 93 and FM436, and a new relief route at Heidenheimer.

Texas Port Connector
The proposed improved connection between Fort Hood in Central Texas and the Port of Corpus Christi is already taking shape.  US 190 has been improved to interstate highway standard from Fort Hood to Interstate 35 at Belton.  The Gulf Coast route will eventually follow US 190 to a point east ofsh130 air Belton where it will join a future extension of Texas SH 130 running parallel to I-35.  In the meantime the route follows I-35 south 30 miles to near Georgetown where it follows the newly completed 49-mile section of SH 130 that bends around the east side of Georgetown, Round Rock and Austin.  Work is nearing completion on the next 40 miles of SH 130, a $1.35 billion project through Caldwell and Guadalupe Counties.  That will connect to Interstate 10 at a point just east of Seguin. 

130 signThe Gulf Coast Strategic Highway port connector follows the entire length of SH 130 then runs toward San Antonio on I-10 for approximately 10 miles.  Then it will follow a new section of freeway proposed to connect Interstate 10 to Interstate 37 south of San Antonio.  This will be the new 26-mile Southeast Loop and is a critical element in the Gulf Coast Strategic Highway.  This project is included in an ongoing environmental clearance process for a highway that would run parallel to Interstate 35 across Texas.
Once on Interstate 37 the route runs down the existing freeway to the docks on the south side of the Port of Corpus Christi Inner Harbor or on the Joe Fulton Corridor to the docks on the north side of the harbor. TxDOT has completed a $23 million direct connection interchange at I-37 and the Fulton Corridor. This provides more seamless acess to the north side of the Inner Harbor. An additional contract is near completion to upgrade the last two-mile section of the Fulton Corridor.

i37 Fulton

The Coalition is proposing that the freight shuttle route between Corpus Christi and Fort Hood follow US 181 from the Port of Corpus Christi through San Patricio, Bee, Karnes and Wilson counties to connect to the San Antonio area near I-10.  It could follow I-35 and SH 130.