The Killeen Independent School District plans to open a new high school in 2022, but plans to widen the road that serves it are still in flux.
Chaparral Road may look drastically different in the near future. Currently, the road is a narrow, bumpy, two-lane street with an increasing amount of traffic from development.
As part of its 2018 bond program, KISD plans to build the new high school along Chaparral Road in southern Bell County near the border of Killeen and Harker Heights. The voter-approved bond program, costing a total of $426 million in taxpayer money, will pay for construction of new schools and renovations to existing schools, including ADA compliance and security upgrades.
The high school, which the district said will house more than 2,000 students and cost about $171 million, is a result of the bond program voters approved in May, and will be built near Chaparral and Featherline roads.
The new school will feed onto Chaparral Road, a two-lane thoroughfare primarily owned by Bell County that has been the focus of concern by city of Killeen officials.
Representatives from four involved parties, which include the school district, Bell County, the city of Killeen and the city of Harker Heights, have been discussing potential modifications to the Chaparral neighborhood to improve safety until funding has been allocated for the Chaparral expansion.
Potential KTMPO makeover
In December, a project to reconstruct and widen Chaparral Road from two lanes to four lanes with a center turn lane and bicycle and pedestrian facilities between State Highway 195 and Farm-to-Market 3481 was submitted by the City of Killeen to the Killeen-Temple Metropolitan Planning Organization as part of the group’s call for projects up to 2045.
The estimated cost of the three-phase project is $23 million, according to Uryan Nelson, KTMPO’s Planning and Regional Services Division director. In total, $18 million has been temporarily allocated to the Chaparral overhaul, with an anticipated dispersal of 2028. Right now, the final phase does not have any funding allocated.
Still, according to Nelson, nothing is certain.
“It is important to note that these funds are temporarily assigned and will not be permanently assigned to the project until KTMPO’s short-range planning window aligns with the letting dates of the projects, assuming no changes are made in the overall priority listing and funding order of regional transportation projects,” Nelson said. “Currently, the project is in project development phase, an effort that is managed by (Killeen).”
In the meantime
While waiting for that potential redesign, KISD has discussed potential willingness to participate in the Chaparral expansion project by providing right of way for Chaparral within the new high school’s property boundaries, according to Superintendent John Craft.
That would include potentially funding a small portion of the roadway that is on KISD property, “if it appears the district will be ahead of the city and county, to ensure the safety of our students and community, and to potentially avoid having to deconstruct the frontage after the campus has opened,” Craft said.
According to Bell County Judge David Blackburn, talks between all entities are on a “conceptual level” and those talks have not yet produced any commitments or decisions about participation in the project by any entity.
That is, except for the fact that KISD is going to build a high school in the Chaparral Road neighborhood. Construction vehicles were moving dirt at the future school’s location this week.
“If I had to categorize the ‘phase’ that the road project is currently in, I would say ‘conceptual,’” Blackburn said. “Our hope is that we can move toward memorandum of understanding that outlines the respective entities contributions toward the project within the next 90 days or so.
“We are continuing in the discussions, and I believe all are committed to working toward a cooperative and collaborative approach toward getting the project done.”
Early last year, the Killeen City Council briefly flirted with the idea of a $30 million bond election that would have paid for the expansion of Chaparral to accommodate new residential and school growth, alongside a package of nearby road projects.
The council reached a consensus not to pursue that bond as it sought a mutual funding arrangement between the city, county and school district in the future.
The council decided to “strategically defer” a $30 million bond election originally proposed for last May.
At the time, City Manager Ron Olson said he was hopeful the Chaparral improvements would qualify for KTMPO funding.
State taking notice
While Chaparral Road is not a state-maintained highway, the Texas Department of Transportation has taken notice to development in south Bell County.
A project will install traffic signals at the intersection of Highway 195 and Chaparral Road.
Beyond preliminary talks, no official work on the potential project has begun, according to TxDOT spokesman Ken Roberts.
“Increased traffic and expansion of 195 itself really demands we put something in there that will increase the efficiency and safety along 195 in the area,” Roberts said. “The school, subdivisions and the veterans cemetery ... all that growth out there, we have to accommodate.”