Herald/TJ MAXWELL - Workers excavate where State Highway 201 will go under a State Highway 195 overpass and prepare culverts for the widening of Stagecoach Road.

By Sean Wardwell

Killeen Daily Herald

Construction work continues to progress on expanding several road improvement projects near the intersection of Stagecoach Road, and State Highways 195 and 201.

Yet, the $15 million projects are still subject to the whims of Mother Nature.

"As you can see, the rain is an issue. We slowed up because it's limited what you can do in wet weather," said George Lueck, director of transportation for Killeen.

The road project will raise State Highway 195 over the intersection at State Highway 201, while also widening the latter highway to four lanes from State Highway 195 to the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport.

But muddy conditions cause the ground to shift at the construction site, making it difficult to position materials.

"You have to let it dry out and then compact (the ground)," said Paul Hopkins, senior construction engineer.

Even with the rain and mud, Lueck said the project, which has been planned for the past decade, is on schedule. He hoped to have most of the work on the State Highway 201 section completed by late April, with the overpass taking an additional year and a half.

Killeen was able to move forward on these projects because of an innovative method of financing the work.

City officials took advantage of the state's pass-through financing program, which allows the city to oversee the project, while receiving reimbursements from the Texas Department of Transportation, which normally manages such road work.

"We're all city employees. We run it now," said Lueck. "Normally, you'd be sitting here (with officials from) the Texas Department of Transportation."

"Once the project is open for traffic and is complete, the state will start paying back the city for the construction costs of the project," he continued. "The city bears the cost of the contract administration, testing and oversight of the project."

The process of being a de-facto surrogate for the state transportation department has been a learning experience for Lueck and his staff.

"What we had to do is incorporate all our city rules with state rules and federal rules," said Leah Garrett, construction record keeper. "We had to utilize our legal department and coordinate with TxDOT, even to the degree of us all taking courses provided by TxDOT."

Despite the increased workload, city officials said the work at the intersection and overpass is badly-needed. "There's been several fatalities at this intersection," said Lueck. "TxDOT put up a temporary traffic signal until we could get this project bid."

The project was started in mid-October and work is expected to continue in various phases during the next two years.

Contact Sean Wardwell at seanw@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7552. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcity.

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