COPPERAS COVE — More than shovels will be turning on the Farm-to-Market 2657 widening project this week after a ceremonial groundbreaking took place Tuesday.
The contractor, Hewitt-based Big Creek Construction, already has barricades to be placed along the roadway and hopes to begin the expansion project this week, said Wade Miller, an owner of the company.
“Right now there is not going to be a lot of changes (for traffic detours),” said Darah Waldrip, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Transportation. “But (drivers) will need to be on the lookout for heavy equipment coming off and on the roadway.”
The more than $6.2 million project will reconstruct the 28-foot-wide, two-lane surface by expanding it to a 75-foot-wide, five-lane street for 2.6 miles from U.S. Highway 190 to County Road 4744.
Construction, which is estimated to be finished in the summer of 2014, will include two five-foot, shared-use lanes, four lanes for traffic, a center lane, and curbs and gutters.
Expanding the market road will increase safety in the area and help spur development in the western portion of the city and the eastern portion of Lampasas County, said many officials who were present at the groundbreaking. The road is the western boundary between Coryell and Lampasas counties.
“The important thing I see happening here is the increased safety for the people using it,” said Lampasas County Commissioner Robert Vincent, who noted traffic accidents occur too regularly on the roadway. “I do look forward to this being a safer road.”
With increased traffic safety and easier maneuverability, new roads almost always bring new commercial and housing development, said Scott Cosper, chairman of the Killeen-Temple Metropolitan Planning Organization, which helps TxDOT prioritize projects in the area.
The widening of the two highway construction projects — State Highway 9 and the U.S. 190 south bypass — will no doubt help Copperas Cove prosper in the coming years.
“I can only imagine what will rise up out of these hills in the next decade because of these projects,” Cosper said.
Also during the groundbreaking, several TxDOT officials thanked local officials for helping the project get off the ground.
Richard Skopik, a recently retired engineer from TxDOT’s Waco District, said both Copperas Cove and Lampasas County worked long and hard to bring the construction to fruition.
The project has been in the works for more than 20 years, they said, but funding issues have always delayed it.
Lynn Passmore, a recently retired TxDOT district engineer out of Brownswood, noted preliminary planning was conducted in 1995, with discussions starting in years prior. “The only thing I regret is this wasn’t open 10 years ago.”