By Kevin M. Smith
Killeen Daily Herald
Meetings in Killeen on Monday and in Salado on Tuesday will give the public a chance to learn more about a proposed project by the Texas Department of Transportation to extend State Highway 201.
Scoping meetings are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center, 3601 S. W.S. Young Drive, and at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Salado Intermediate School, 550 Thomas Arnold Road. Officials will outline the concept, purpose and need for the project, as well as take public comments.
"It's really the growth and expansion of the greater Fort Hood area," Ken Roberts said about the reason the project was proposed.
Roberts, public information officer for TxDOT's Waco office, said extending Highway 201 to connect with Interstate 35 will relieve the traffic congestion on U.S. Highway 190 – or Central Texas Expressway – that runs through Killeen. The proposal would make Highway 201 from State Highway 195, or Fort Hood Street, a four-lane divided roadway connecting Highway 195 to I-35.
He said that depending on the location, U.S. Highway 190 in Killeen tallies 45,000 to 109,000 vehicles daily. Compare that to 80,000 vehicles per day on I-35 in 94 miles of the Waco District, which runs from Hill County to Bell County. I-35 divides the district in half to also include Bosque, Coryell, Falls, Hamilton, Limestone and McLennan counties.
This week's scoping meetings are just the first step in the process.
"This is what we're looking at – a broad brush – how do you feel about that?" Roberts said about the scoping meetings. "We are really soliciting comments."
After the scoping meetings, TxDOT will consider the comments received at those meetings and pair the comments with TxDOT's research for an environmental impact statement.
"Then we either move forward or not," Roberts said.
If TxDOT decides it can move forward with the project, it will create alternatives to present at a public meeting and consider comments from that meeting.
"We take that input and review it and look at it from an engineering standpoint and environmental standpoint," Roberts said.
He said there could be a second public meeting, but ultimately, there would be a public hearing in which TxDOT would unveil its preferred alternative. If TxDOT receives enough reasons, based on the public hearing comments, to move forward, it will.
"Then we can lay out a timeline," Roberts said.
There is no projected cost or timeline for the project at this point.
"It really hinges on the public involvement and public input we receive along the way," Roberts said.
After this week's meetings, Roberts said the maps and documents about the proposed project should be on the state agency's Web site at http://www.dot.state.tx.us.
"That allows people to go online at their leisure," Roberts said.
People can then comment on the project via e-mail.
Roberts said that another benefit of the highway extension would be that drivers would have a direct route from I-35 to the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport.
"It can only be a good thing as far as we're concerned," said John Sutton, Killeen aviation director.
The airport has already seen steady growth since it opened. Sutton said that if it doesn't increase traffic to the airport, it will make it easier. He noted there are already several people who come from Salado to use the airport, but it's not an easy trip.
"It's almost out of their way," Sutton said.
The proposal is not straight from TxDOT.
"This is not something that just suddenly came up in the minds of TxDOT engineers," Roberts said.
The Killeen-Temple Urban Transportation Study, a regional metropolitan planning organization, put the Highway 201 extension in its long-range plans.
"This is a proposal that is part of that plan," Roberts said.
Contact Kevin M. Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7550