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Transportation talk: Delegates hear of progress on road projects

AUSTIN — There’s mostly good news on the transportation horizon as delegates for Golden Triangle Days in Austin recently learned.

Tucker Ferguson, Texas Department of Transportation-Beaumont district engineer, addressed the group during the biennial convention earlier this week while speaking on a list of transportation related issues.

A lot of the time the ‘wish lists’ of key issues are expensive and difficult to attain. In this case 11 issues were submitted and Ferguson said he was happy to say TxDOT is making progress.

Here’s a look at some of the issues:

  • Planning, design and construction of interchanges at U.S. 69 and Texas 73 — The cloverleaf at U.S. 69 and Texas 73 has been on the radar for several years and funding has been secured for the project.

“In May 2020 we will open bids,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said he is not sure what the new, updated cloverleaf will look like but the cost is around $65 million.

In the past he was asked if there are any other cloverleaf’s designed quite like this one and the answer is yes, there is one in San Antonio.

  • The expansion and improvement of I-10 through Orange County — Right now there is work being done on the roadway near Adams Bayou and this new project will expand the highway to six lanes. Ferguson said the project would take several years total.
  • The restoration of Texas 87 from Sabine Pass to High Island — “There’s not as good news with this,” he said.

Erosion, tides and several hurricanes have changed the alignment of the roadway, which is now in the water, thus halting any development on restoration of the Beach Road, as it is known locally.

A causeway would also be out of the question due to the many environmental issues. Plus, there would be the need for beach entrances.

  • The widening of I-10 from Beaumont to Winnie — Ferguson said there are three separate construction projects underway related to this project, some of which would wrap-up in four to five years.
  • Improve and/or reconstruct Texas 87 from Port Arthur to Sabine Pass, including new access to the Sabine Pass Port Authority — Ferguson said he did not have information on the new access to the SPPA as he had only seen the agenda item the previous day. Ferguson was not the originally scheduled speaker for this session. Randy C. Hopmann, director of district operations at TxDOT, was unable to attend.

As far as the road from Port Arthur to Sabine Pass is concerned, emergency construction work is underway to repair damage from Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey. Sheet piling and rock berm are being placed along the road and the project is 30 to 35 percent complete.

Port Arthur Mayor Derrick Freeman offered thanks for the upcoming work on the cloverleaf, calling it a “death trap.”

His concern is that the road needs to be prioritized in light of the multi-billion dollar work slated at area liquefied natural gas plants.

One of the facilities has a plan to move Texas 87 over, which could help.

Freeman also spoke of the importance of the roads which lead from Port Arthur on up north and how the U.S. 287 corridor could allow LNG to be trucked up toward Canada.

  • The proposed I-14 corridor study — TxDOT has been working with representatives of Newton, Tyler and Jasper counties on the topic, but at this time there is no funding for the project, which may align with U.S. 90.
  • The U.S. 287 corridor study — This roadway goes from Beaumont up through eastern and central Texas, he said. Some presentations have been made but there is no funding in sight.