As the Killeen-Temple area plans for major growth over the next few years, the need for freight will also greatly increase.
The Killeen-Temple Metropolitan Planning Organization, or KTMPO, is one of the first metropolitan planning organizations in Texas, to form a freight advisory committee. Federal and state laws require that a metropolitan planning organization is created where a population exceeds 50,000. Such organizations provide planning for all forms of transportation. However, since the Killeen-Temple area contains a population over 200,000, the area is designated as a transit management area, one of nine in Texas. The designation recognizes there is a greater need for freight and therefore a greater need for careful planning. The designation provides more opportunities for funding and pushes freight to the top of the list of priorities.
Moving freight is much more involved than simply loading a truck and heading out on the highway to deliver the goods.
Trucking companies have planning departments that find the best routes for trucks according to the load’s weight, size and type, and then they obtain a permit to allow transport on that specific route. Truckers are not allowed to decide to turn right when their approved and permitted route has them going straight. Any changes to a route would have to be approved and repermitted.
According to a recent newsletter from KTMPO, Texas is ranked as the No. 1 importer and exporter of goods and services to and from Mexico. In 2011, trucks moved more than 46 percent of all freight in the state. By 2040, trucks are expected to account for 56 percent of freight being moved.
With the projected growth there are benefits of more jobs and an increase to the economy of the Killeen area, but there are also barriers within the transportation system that add to congestion on highways and an increase in air pollution due to an increase in emissions from idling trucks.
KTMPO’s freight advisory committee is made up of individual and business experts from the freight industry, from school bus drivers to companies such as Fikes Wholesale, McLane’s and Wilsonart.
“They can be a voice for freight. They can pinpoint which areas, which freight is affected that can improve the flow of freight up and down our highways more safely and more efficiently,” said Kendra Coufal, senior planner for KTMPO.
The KTMPO region, spanning all of Bell County, parts of Lampasas and Coryell counties and portions of Fort Hood, had about 365,000 residents in the 2010 Census. By 2040, the expected population will be about 575,000. The increase in population will require an increase in freight.
Tackling the freight issues now will prepare the region to handle the increase in traffic without the added congestion and air pollution, according to KTMPO.
A few priority projects on the advisory committee’s list are improving turning radiuses, increasing signage, widening roads, addressing specific bottleneck areas, and many more identified issues that impede current flow of freight.
The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act has a grant program that will invest $4.5 billion over five years. One project, approved by Congress in December 2015 was the expansion of U.S. Highway 190 in the Killeen area, which earlier this year also received an Interstate 14 designation.
The improvements brought it to interstate standards and entered it into the federal highway system, said Hilary Shine, spokeswoman for the city of Killeen.
John Crutchfield, executive director of the Killeen Economic Development Corporation, said freight issues surround the Killeen area.
“The movement of freight north-south and east-west is extremely important to us,” he said. “North-south travels via I-35. The challenge there is congestion. Lots of projects, lots of funding to fix it and keep it fixed. The challenge east-west is infrastructure. Roads must be improved especially when Fort Hood deploys east to Beaumont and Corpus Christi. That is where I-14 comes in.”
The 25-mile stretch of highway from Copperas Cove to Interstate 35 in Belton was designated Interstate 14 in January by the Texas Department of Education.
There is a long-range plan to stretch the interstate from El Paso to Savannah, Ga., linking several military bases.
Coufal said KTMPO is preparing for the future and it is important to receive feedback from the communities in the area to help facilitate growth for the next 20 years.
“Putting the infrastructure in place now, so when growth happens, we are ready for it. Any pre-planning we can do to offset any failure as a system down the road, is all the better to do now,” Coufal said.
By the Numbers
4,011: Average daily trucks on U.S. Highway 190/Interstate 14 between Killeen and Belton in 2015.
26,000: Workers in manufacturing, retail, construction, transportation and warehouseing combined in Bell Cunty in 2014.
365,000: Number of people living in the Killeen-Temple Metropolitan Planning Organization, according to 2010 Census.
575,000: Estimated number of people living in the Killeen-Temple Metropolitan Planning Organization by 2040.