By Mason W. Canales
Killeen Daily Herald
Central Texas might get some money from the economic stimulus package to improve traffic conditions on Interstate 35 between Belton and Salado.
According to information released Wednesday by Texas Department of Transportation officials, one of five projects recommended by the North Region of TxDOT lands on the outskirts of Belton.
The project that TxDOT's Waco District has recommended to the TxDOT Commission is the widening of I-35 from four to six lanes from Farm-to-Market 2484 near Salado to U.S. Highway 190 in Belton, said Ken Roberts, TxDOT Waco district public relations manager.
While the project is only one of five in the northern TxDOT region on the list of recommendations, there are three other regions with five projects, competing for about $1.2 billion in stimulus money, according to the TxDOT document.
Several maintenance projects also are on the list in the Killeen-Temple Urban Transportation Study (K-TUTS) area, according to TxDOT documents. But they don't come near the cost of the $132 million widening project.
"The original list had two I-35 projects and the Copperas Cove bypass," Roberts said. "With what is on the current list, we only have that one." Two of those projects were suggestions made by K-TUTS.
TxDOT asked K-TUTS to list projects that met its requirements on a priority level, said Annette Shepherd, K-TUTS staff director.
The organization, which is made up of members from governing bodies in an area that spans from Troy to Salado and from Little River to Kempner, suggested two projects that are "shovel ready," ready enough to have dirt moved in six to 12 months, Shepherd said.
The I-35 widening project was one; the other was the Copperas Cove reliever route or bypass, Shepherd said.
"We don't know if we are going to get money for one, both or none," Shepherd said.
The reliever route is a loop project that is set to be built with two lanes that go from the east side of Copperas Cove at U.S. 190 and then meet U.S. 190 on the west side of Copperas Cove, Roberts said. That project could be expanded to four lanes.
The I-35 widening project also includes updating and widening the frontage roads, and upgrading and probably replacing the overpasses in that area, Roberts said.
Both projects have been high priority for K-TUTS, Shepherd said. And if one of them is started with stimulus money, it will make way for other large projects such as the widening of U.S. 190 from Belton to Killeen.
The widening project originally was scheduled to break ground in 2015, and the Copperas Cove reliever route could possibly start sometime between 2011 and 2015, depending on funding, Roberts said.
The TxDOT Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday on how to spend the stimulus money, but the date is subject to change.
Contact Mason W. Canales at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7554.