At the intersection of one of the busiest roads in the city, the deafening work of road resurfacing can be heard, seen and inhaled. Black and grey smoke spews skyward, peppered with an aroma of burning asphalt and hot oil.
Eight tractor-trailers strung together nose-to-end hold together growling machinery, the belly of which peels the road near Fort Hood Street and Stan Schlueter Loop. As it worms its way forward, visibility is reduced to less than a quarter-mile while the mixture billows.
The Texas Department of Transportation began Thursday evening a $3.4 million project to resurface portions of Stan Schlueter Loop — from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (Farm-to-Market 2410) to Clear Creek Road — stretching about seven miles.
The project was announced April 20 to begin May 8, but TxDOT spokesman Ken Roberts said Friday that Dallas-based contractor Old Castle Materials Texas, Inc., did not start as previously scheduled.
With crews hitting the pavement from sunrise to sunset, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and occasionally at night, Monday through Friday, work is anticipated to finish in the fall.
Occasional work on Saturdays will now be added, Roberts said, beginning tomorrow.
Heavy construction and roadwork along the corridor can be a pain for some residents, and for a local business owner, hard-earned treasure is on the line.
“It hurts me bad,” said Dylan Drews, 23, of Killeen, addressing the lone customer inside 7 Seas Vapor Company, 501 W. Stan Schlueter Loop, which he co-owns. It opened Aug. 16.
“They worked for about three hours and then they stopped for the night,” Drews said.
When he called the city to find out what the deal was, he was referred to TxDOT because Stan Schlueter is a state-owned thoroughfare.
“Now my shop is going to have to go with the stench of asphalt being laid,” Drews said.
The frustration did not begin with this project.
Drews has a front-row seat to recent development that includes a new Starbucks nearby and an H-E-B on the other side of Fort Hood Street.
The pirate-themed e-juice seller estimated a loss of up to $15,000 over the past six months during construction and road repair.
“The worst traffic that we had was when they were doing the H-E-B,” Drews said. “Both these lanes closed … people were having to stack up in one lane from here all the way down to W.S. Young.”
After sitting in traffic for so long, potential customers skipped his store, he said, and that is affecting his bottom line.
By 1 p.m. Friday, at least six people had asked Drews whether the road work reached 7 Seas, and at least two more called to let him know they were in a rush, but the traffic stopped them from coming in.
There are no alternate routes.
Another group of customers told Drews they detoured north on Fort Hood Street, drove east on U.S. 190/Interstate 14, and south on W.S. Young. A 7 Seas employee said it took the group 30-45 minutes to get to the store.
“I don’t know why they can’t do the work at night,” Drews said. “I feel like TxDOT doesn’t care about the businesses.”
As of Friday afternoon, the agency had not returned his call.