Waco: Engineers prepare public for construction projects on busy streets

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) Three major construction projects in high-traffic areas of Waco get underway early next month, and city officials are trying to prepare the public for the impact.

(Photo by Rissa Shaw)

The street improvement projects are for Bagby Ave., New Rd., and Old Hewitt Rd.

"These streets are at the basis of they're almost at complete failure," said Jim Reed, Capital Improvement Program Manager, City of Waco Public Works. "From a safety standpoint, we believed it needed to be done and we're glad that we can move it forward."

Waco Public Works officials in the engineering division were at Cottonwood Creek Golf Course Thursday evening going over the plans with the public and addressing concerns.

"These are comprehensive-type improvement projects, capacity-type projects, a lot of traffic, a lot of movement," said Reed. "All these are very important projects that we've heard about in the community."

As part of last year's budget, the Waco City Council approved a $17,000,000 pavement management program.

"When we look at peer cities, we're a little bit behind the curve ball," said Reed. "We finally found the funding to push some money into getting our street network back to where it needs to be."

"With the type of money we're receiving and what we project we may get in the future, we think we can definitely start making a difference, and projects like this are coming about because of this commitment by city council."

While they feel the projects will go "smoothly and efficiently," city officials admit, there will be some inconveniences but are hoping to limit them.

"We want to make sure we get out and let citizens know what they're going to be faced with," said Reed. "Communication is going to be a big player in all these projects."

Of the three projects, city officials intend to begin the construction with New Rd. from Franklin to the Railroad bridge.

Being such a busy road, city officials say most of the work will be done at night and will take four to five weeks to complete.

The biggest inconvenience, they say, will be limited left-hand turn lanes, however, they promised to communicate and coordinate with business owners and residents about the process.

The second project to go will be Bagby Ave. from Loop 340 to New Rd.

When that construction starts in July, city staff says "there will be delays and inconveniences, but our goal is to get it done as quick as possible."

Representatives from several businesses along the impacted route, like Ashley HomeStore, had concerns but were optimistic.

"I think it will affect us a little bit in the short-term," said Frank Burns, General Manager of Ashley HomeStore. "But in the long-term, I think it'll be a good thing because Bagby, in front of our business anyway, it really needs some improvements really badly, and so overall I think it'll be a good thing for us."

The final project will be Old Hewitt Rd. to Imperial Dr., which officials say is the most complicated because it's narrow.

To limit the impact on business owners there, city staff says construction, which should take between four and six weeks, will be done in short sections.

The contractor, Big Creek Construction, has until mid-October to finish all three projects, city officials say.

"What we're going to be doing here is going to be from curb and gutter to curb and gutter, full-width reconstruction," said Reed. "With this we're able to get these streets at a window that we think that they'll last for 30 to 50 years, something the community can be very proud of."

City staff used the meeting as a chance to discuss upcoming grant opportunities from TxDOT to help further improve streets and mobility around Waco.

Reed said, through the Safe Routes to School Program, they'll be competing for money for six projects involving local schools and student safety.

"Getting kids a chance to get mobile again," said Reed. "(With better streets and sidewalks) Kids get exercise, it makes them safer, and it betters neighborhoods."

To aide in the competitive grant process, Reed says they're looking for letters of support from people with related stories to include in the final grant application due in August.

"We have a chance to bring money back into the Waco community," said Reed.

He also talked about a Transportation Alternatives grant to do capacity improvement projects and improve pedestrian safety.

"We've had two deaths recently (of people killed while crossing streets)," said Reed. "We want them (the public) to be on sidewalks, not walking on streets."

For more information, contact the City of Waco Public Works Engineering Division at (254) 750-6627.