By Joshua Winata
The Cove Herald
Texas Department of Transportation officials painted a grim picture in the fight for transportation funding, increasing the need for the city to throw its support behind major projects, including two proposed bypasses along the northeast and southeast ends of town.
The council did just that by passing a resolution Tuesday supporting the TxDOT’s northeast bypass project, which will widen and extend Tank Destroyer Boulevard and connect it with Farm-to-Market 116 and U.S. Highway 190 in Copperas Cove. The improvements will primarily benefit soldiers accessing Fort Hood by creating a new military access control point and residents in the northern subdivisions of Copperas Cove.
The city showed similar support for the proposed $90 million southeast bypass project at the May 6 council meeting. Together, the two projects will form a loop linking U.S. Highway 190 with FM 116 that will ease traffic congestion through Copperas Cove’s central business district.
Gardner said both transportation projects are critical as the city continues to grow, but she is more optimistic about the northeast portion being completed first.
“They’re both important to the city,” Gardner said. “The northeast bypass is a little more doable from a financial perspective for the city as well as for TxDOT, in my opinion, simply because a greater amount of funding is available for the project.”
The price tag for the northeast bypass was estimated at about $33.75 million, but a value engineering study in October revealed opportunities to cut costs down to about $14.9 million.
“If all those scope changes are implemented by TxDOT, you’re looking at a pretty good reduction in the project costs,” Gardner said.
In addition, TxDOT has about $5.5 million set aside for the project, and the city passed a resolution in 2006 earmarking $400,000 for the northeast bypass.
The city has also submitted a federal appropriations request for 2009 in the amount of $5 million for both projects.
TxDOT officials explained the troubles they faced in getting projects off the ground with growing demand from an expanding population, rising construction costs and less money coming in from state and federal sources.
“One of the thing driving the issues if funding. It always has been, and it always will be,” said TxDOT Waco District Engineer Richard Skopik. “That’s pretty much any business.”
Skopik said that the anticipated dollar amounts that the local Metropolitan Planning Organization, which set regional transportation priorities, has been using to plan projects is not matching up with actual allocations being handed out by the Texas Transportation Commission. As a result, MPOs are being forced to re-prioritize their projects to accommodate the new funding levels.
Skopik confirmed that the first phase of the southeast bypass, originally scheduled to go out for bid by 2009, will be delayed due to tight funding.
Meanwhile, TxDOT Gatesville Area Engineer Richard Brown gave good news on ongoing projects in Copperas Cove. According to Brown the $42 million expansion of Highway 190 between Killeen and Copperas Cove from four lanes to six divided lanes is more than halfway done and is on schedule to be completed by summer 2009.
The sidewalk enhancement project along Farm-to-Market 1113 is expected to be done by this summer.
Contact Joshua Winata at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7476