By Kim Steele

Harker Heights Herald

The Harker Heights City Council is considering the addition of a west-to-east bridge turnaround across U.S. Highway 190 east of Farm-to-Market 2410.

Members listened Tuesday as Richard Klatt, project manager for HDR Engineering Inc. in Round Rock, described the proposed turnaround and detailed its cost. Klatt said the Texas Department of Transportation could request funding applications for the project as soon as January.

If the application is accepted, construction costs could be reimbursed under TxDOT's pass-through program, which pays the city back based on traffic counts. Klatt said the program was set up about five years ago to help municipalities.

"As of right now, TxDOT hasn't set another call date for applications," said Klatt. "In years past, TxDOT has been mandated by the state Legislature to make the call. Not anymore. But the program has been very popular and we anticipate a call coming out soon."

The turnaround's cost is estimated at $2.3 million upfront, which would include $1.67 million for construction. Klatt said the construction amount would be reimbursed over a 10- to 20-year time frame based on traffic counts, at a rate of 20 cents per vehicle.

Design and construction of the west-to-east bridge turnaround could begin in June, said Klatt, with the turnaround opening to traffic in April 2014.

Reimbursements from TxDOT would begin in May 2015.

Harker Heights currently is using TxDOT pass-through financing for an east-to-west bridge turnaround across U.S. Highway 190 west of Farm-to-Market 2410.

Construction is slated to begin in 2012. After the project is completed, TxDOT will reimburse the city $1.7 million within a 10- to 20-year time frame.

As Klatt showed drawings of the west-to-east turnaround and how it would cross the highway, Place 2 Councilman Sam Murphey objected to its placement. The east-to-west turnaround will run next to the Farm-to-Market 2410 bridge, while the west-to-east bridge is farther away and at a different angle.

"Is it possible to get a design that's more aesthetically pleasing?" asked Murphey. "If it costs $1.6 million to do it this way or $1.8 million to do it the other way, I'd rather spend more."

City Manager Steve Carpenter said problems with design plans could be looked at later. Carpenter said the city first needs to come up with a resolution supporting the project so it can be submitted with the application, if the call from TxDOT comes through.

The council will consider the resolution at an upcoming meeting.

In other business, Public Works Director Mark Hyde presented a revised drought contingency plan. Hyde said the city in August entered Stage 1 of its plan, which requires residents to limit outdoor watering to once every five days.

If Central Texas fails to receive significant rainfall between now and January, said Hyde, Harker Heights would move into Stage 2 restrictions, which have the same outdoor watering limits. The five-day watering schedule is determined and distributed annually by the city.

"I'm here to ask the council to revise the watering schedule," said Hyde. "To me, it's difficult to remember the fifth day by number. I think the average citizen would remember better if we went with days of the week. People aren't going to do this if they can't remember it."

Currently, Killeen restricts outdoor watering days numerically, while Temple, Belton and Copperas Cove use days of the week to limit outdoor watering. Hyde said following the three cities' example would make it easier for code enforcement officers to remember, too.

The plan revision for Harker Heights would restrict outdoor watering to Sundays and Thursdays for customers with even-numbered street addresses. Those customers with street addresses ending in an odd number would have outdoor watering limited to Saturdays and Wednesdays.

The council will consider the revised drought contingency plan at a future meeting.

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