Help is officially on the way for one of Bell County’s most congested roadways, after local, state and federal officials broke ground Tuesday for the U.S. Highway 190 Project.
The ceremony, held in a grass shoulder of the highway near Fort Hood’s main gate, began a project that will expand a four-mile stretch of U.S. 190 from Fort Hood’s main gate to W.S. Young Drive.
“If you’ve ever been on the inbound lanes in the morning or on the outbound lanes in the afternoon, this is a big day for you,” said Fort Hood garrison commander Col. Matt Elledge.
Elledge said the main gate can see 51,000 vehicles during a busy rush hour.
The Texas Department of Transportation said much of the construction will take place at night and crews will work to keep the roadways open during morning and evening rush hours.
The project will add one lane in each direction to the roadway and enhance culverts and bridges, including adding lanes to access roads.
The estimated completion date for the project is fall 2015.
Although the ceremonial shovels of dirt were moved Tuesday, construction on the $55 million project will begin in earnest Friday.
The project is funded through Proposition 12 general obligation bond funding, which was approved by Texas voters in 2007.
TxDOT districts and area metropolitan planning organizations across the state competed for a piece of the more than $2 billion in Proposition 12 transportation funds.
“We are fortunate to have access to the funding to make this project possible,” Bell County Judge Jon Burrows said. “This project will help us keep up with the population growth we know is coming.”
The Killeen-Temple metropolitan area, which includes Copperas Cove, Belton and Harker Heights, is one of the fastest-growing areas in the state, expected to add 200,000 new residents and 70,000 jobs by 2040.
Elected officials from Killeen, Copperas Cove and Harker Heights attended the ceremony.
Scott Cosper, a former Killeen councilman and chairman of the Killeen-Temple Metropolitan Planning Organization policy board, helped lobby the state for the project funding.
“We worked hard to see that (state officials) recognized the need to invest in Central Texas,” Cosper said. “This project is going to be of great significance, not only to Fort Hood, but to the Central Texas region.”
Along with increased mobility, safety along the U.S. 190 corridor was an issue that officials felt made the project a state priority.
John Obr, TxDOT state construction engineer, wore a red ribbon on his lapel to draw attention to a need for increased safety in the construction zones throughout the project.
“There will be hundreds of workers employed out there to make your roadways safer,” Obr said.
“That’s our office, so please obey your traffic laws when you’re in construction zones.”