Harker Heights residents can expect a smoother commute into Killeen as the $795,000 project to resurface Farm-to-Market 2410 was completed July 18.

The project, which stretched from FM 2410/MLK at Business 190/Veterans Memorial Blvd to FM 3470/Stan Schlueter Loop was designed to increase overall traction and safety for motorists and increase the overall life of the roadway, a Texas Department of Transportation official said at a community briefing on Aug. 2.

Harker Heights residents can also expect temporary delays in commutes as the project to add a new lane in both directions of Interstate 14/U.S. Highway 190 from Harker Heights to Belton is underway.

The three-phase project, estimated at more than $81 million, will be going on for the next few years, highway officials said at last week’s luncheon Aug. 2 at the Central Texas Homebuilders Association in Harker Heights.

Solomon Thomas, xDOT’s project engineer for Bell County, briefed the 90-member audience about the Interstate 14/U.S. Highway 190 widening.

“The project will expand the interstate from two lanes on each side to three lanes on each side for a total of six lanes,” Thomas said of the Interstate 14 project. “It will also improve ramp alignments.”

The project to widen Interstate 14 to six lanes from Harker Heights to Interstate 35 in Belton will take years, and TxDOT has divided it into three phases.

Phase 1

Now underway and expected to be completed by spring 2019, the two-mile section of I-14, from just west of Farm-to-Market 2410 in Harker Heights to FM 3423 (Indian Trail) will be expanded to three lanes in each direction. The project is costing $7.2 million.

Phase 2

With construction set to start in summer 2019, the section of I-14 east from FM 3423 in Harker Heights to FM 2410/Simmons Road in Belton will be opened for bids in April 2019. The projected cost for that work is estimated at $39 million.

Phase 3

The last phase of the I-14 expansion, from Simmons Road to I-35, could go to construction within the next five years, once it is funded. As of Friday, it has not been funded, a TxDOT official confirmed. The estimated cost is $35 million, according to TxDOT.

Culvert and bridge work

Also part of the widening project is new culverts along the highway between Belton and Harker Heights. That work is being done now, according to TxDOT.

Another work crew is currently preparing the I-14/Main Street overpass in Nolanville for the upcoming widening.

“The work under the I-14 overpass in Nolanville is an asbestos abatement project in preparation for subsequent expansion of the interstate,” said Ken Roberts, a TxDOT spokesman. “The work will progress east and include the other bridge structures along the roadway, to I-35 at Belton. It is tentatively scheduled for completion in the summer of 2019.”

Two travel lanes will remain open for the duration of the project as the new lanes are constructed within the center median.TxDOT advises the traveling public to expect delays, temporary congestion and periodic temporary single lane closures within the work zone, for the duration of the project.

Motorists are urged to observe all warning signs, work zone speed reductions and exercise caution when passing near construction personnel and equipment in the project area.

Current roadway conditions will be available at www.DriveTexas.org.

Texting and driving

In addition to talking about projects within the community, Solomon stressed the importance of keeping Texas roadways safe by not driving while distracted.

One major distraction that causes motor vehicle accidents and fatalities is texting while driving.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation’s website, the total number of reportable motor vehicle traffic crashes on Texas roads was 537,475 in 2017.

Of those, 100,687 or 19 percent involved distracted driving — driver distraction, inattention or cellphone use. Those 100,687 crashes in Texas resulted in 444 deaths and 2,889 serious injuries.

As of Sept. 1, 2017, a new statewide law makes it illegal for all drivers to read, write or send a text and drive in Texas. Law enforcement officers are looking for drivers with their heads down distracted by their phones, leading TxDOT to launch its new “Heads up, Texas” campaign.

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