FLORENCE — With a population of nearly 1,000, Florence is often the blur outside commuters’ windows as they speed to Killeen or Georgetown on State Highway 195.
But the view will change in July when the new 195 “loop” around Florence opens, diverting traffic to the east side of town.
The multicounty project will widen State Highway 195 to a divided, four-lane road from Killeen to Interstate 35, north of Georgetown.
Once open, the 7-mile stretch around Florence will divert commuters from the town’s two traffic signals and lower speed limits.
The city’s revenue from sales tax and traffic tickets could shrink as a result of the decline in traffic.
Warren Earp, owner of the Florence Hair Emporium along Main Street, said he is not too worried about his business, but could see ones along the current highway losing money.
“D Boones (Country Store), which used to be off 195, has already moved next to the Dollar General,” said Lexi Farrar, referring to a local business that moved from its original location closer to the new highway.
Last year, Florence made about $187,000 in sales tax revenue, and the yearly, bottom-line figure has been steadily increasing since 2009.
But another concern could be a loss in traffic citation revenue from the more than 11,000 daily travelers whizzing through town.
Commuters pass through two school zones along the road, and often Police Chief Julie Elliot-Abshire patrols the area.
“We give about 200 to 300 tickets out per month,” she said.
According to city documents, the police department issued 591 speeding tickets between October and April. Speeding ticket revenue alone generated about $40,000 for the city in the past seven months.
During that time, the police department issued 1,299 total violations, meaning speeding tickets accounted for roughly half of the citations.
A portion of the new highway will be in the city’s jurisdiction, so Florence police will be able to patrol it, Elliot-Abshire said.
She said her department is not concerned about the potential loss in revenue, but rather the safety of residents.
“The majority of people that we write tickets for in our school zones are doing 10 miles over,” Elliot-Abshire said, explaining she believes the new road will make the street safer for children in the area.
“I prefer compliance over punishment any day. I would rather them just slow down in school zones than write a ticket.”