TxDOT in Houston: I-45 Improvement Project

The City of Houston is preparing for one of the biggest infrastructure projects in a generation. The project is called the North Houston Improvement Project (NHHIP) and it will reconstruct I-45 from Beltway 8 to Downtown. TxDOT’s goals for the project are to manage congestion, enhance safety and accommodate future growth.

NHHIP is 24 miles in length and will be separated into three segments. Segment 1 will include the widening of the freeway and additional new lanes from IH-610 N Loop and North Sam Houston Tollway. Segment 2 will widen and add new lanes of the portion of I-45 from IH-610 to downtown Houston. Segment 2 will also include a rebuild of the interchange between IH-45 and the IH-610 North Loop. Lastly, Segment 3 includes improvements to the segment of I-45 surrounding downtown Houston. Segment 3 includes the most expensive and all-encompassing improvements, as the entire 12 mile stretch of highway will be rebuilt (including four major interchanges).

The project in its entirety will take over ten years to complete. However, regional planning documents anticipate construction on Segment 3 beginning within the next two years. Segments 1 and 2 will begin construction in five to ten years. TxDOT is currently preparing the Final Environmental Impact Statement, which the public will have the chance to review for 30 days. Following the review period, TxDOT will reach a record of decision and start acquiring Right-of-Way before finally beginning construction.

TxDot in Williamson County: Updates on Expansion of SH 79 in Round Rock

TxDot is working on a new project to make improvements to US 79 between I-35 and east of FM 1460 (A.W. Grimes), with the goals of improving traffic flow and increasing safety for travelers in Round Rock. The proposed project includes installing a raised median for safety and widening the existing US 79 roadway by adding a third travel lane in each direction. Additional improvements could potentially include building new overpasses at US 79/Mays Street and US 79/FM 1460, and altering the existing US 79/I-35 intersection.

TXDot recently concluded the public comment phase on the Draft Environmental Assessment and the recommended build alternative. After taking those public comments into consideration, the next steps (according to the TxDot project fact sheet) will likely be right of way acquisitions before utility relocation and finally, road construction.

LCRA Mountain Home Transmission Project

The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) has proposed a 138 kV transmission line project aimed to bolster the transmission infrastructure of the Texas Hill Country. The Mountain Home Transmission Project will be approximately 20 miles long and will extend between Kerr county and Gillespie county.  The powerline will extend between the existing Hunt Substation and the existing Harper Substation but will require the construction of a new substation in the middle of the route in the community of Mountain Home. 

The Mountain Home project is moving along in the process to be constructed. The PUC has already approved a route for the transmission line and in July 2020, a final order was issued approving the Mountain Home project. A motion for reconsideration of the final route determination was filed at the PUC. After final PUC approval, the next steps for the project are right-of-way and land acquisition.

The PUC approved route with locations of potential Mountain Home Substations

Update: RM 620 Expansion near Lakeway

The RM 620 expansion project near Lakeway, Texas is still on track despite some funding shifts. In June, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) voted to move construction funding for the RM 620 expansion to I-35. However, funding for the initial right-of-way expansion still remains and TxDot is going forward with right-of-way acquisitions. TxDot appraisers will be inspecting impacted properties in Fall 2020. Before construction can begin, TxDot must still complete the final schematic and obtain approval of the final environmental study.

TxDot in Wise County: US 81/US 287 Intersection Improvements and Roadway Reconstruction Project

TxDot is working on a plan to improve roadways in Wise County, Texas near the city of Decatur. The entire plan consists of two smaller and distinct projects. The first is the US 81/US 287 Interim Crossover Project which will include crossover improvements and the addition of acceleration/deceleration lanes to enhance safety. The second is the US 81/US 287 Roadway Reconstruction and Intersection Improvement Project which includes the construction of new one-way frontage roads, ramps and U-turns as well as a grade-separated street crossing at the intersection of NRS Ranch Road.

The entire project is about 2.4 miles long and will cost approximately $39.5 million. The first of the two projects is projected to have a final design by the spring of 2021 and will start being constructed in winter of 2022. The second and final project recently underwent the public input phase and is anticipated to have a schematic by fall 2020. TxDot states that the project is on track to get environmental approval by spring of 2021. Once the project gets environmental approval, then the final design will be created, right-of-way will be acquired and construction will begin.

Ronald Reagan Extension in Williamson County

The city of Jarrell has mirrored the rest of Williamson County in its recent extraordinary population growth. Current population projections don’t show this growth slowing down anytime soon, which is why the County seeks to improve the region’s transportation infrastructure. One of the projects in the county’s long-range transportation plan is a connection between IH 35 and SH 95 near Jarrell, often referred to as the Ronald Regan extension.

The extension is in its initial stages and the county is currently conducting the “Ronald Reagan Extension Planning and Preservation Study” to look into possible routes. The study is being funded through the 2013 Williamson County Road Bond Program. The County has already reached out to potentially impacted property owners to gather feedback and provide opportunities for input. Based on these meetings with property owners, the County’s study team is planning different possible routes. Once these are completed, the study team will reach out to property owners to discuss the potential impacts. The County plans to have a route finalized in 2021.

According to a Williamson County fact sheet, the plan for the extension is for it to be built in phases. As the county continues to grow and as funding becomes available, the first frontage road will likely be a two to three lane road, with one lane in each direction, and potentially with a center turn lane. The second phase will be a second frontage road and lastly will be main lanes.

TxDOT Across Counties: SH 205

TxDOT is planning major expansions to SH 205 which are set to affect hundreds of landowner in Collin, Rockwall, and Kaufman Counties. The expansions to SH 205 will span from US 80 to SH 78, roughly 25 miles, and is split into 7 segments. To accommodate the increasing traffic in Rockwall County, the expansions include changing the part of the two-lane highway to a six-lane and replacing two bridges.

Numerous landowners will be affected by the Right of Way expanding from 80-100ft to 110ft, and the project expects this expanded ROW to take 6.10 additional acres. TxDOT has begun right-of-way acquisition for the southernmost expansion point of SH 205 in the city of Terrell.

TxDOT in Hays County: RM 150

TxDOT is planning to revamp the 21-mile long stretch of RM 150 between Kyle and Dripping Springs in Hays County within the next few years. The project will add lanes in both directions from two total lanes to four, realign RM 150 from Kyle to Old Kyle Road, and will construct a new road connecting RM 150 to I-35. The project is expected to cost at least $189 million and will affect numerous landowners in Hays County.

The aim of this project is to increase mobility between the cities in Hays County with its more rural areas. Right-of-way acquisition, including the government’s use of eminent domain power to condemn private land, along with corresponding construction of the new roadway is expected between now and 2024.

Beaumont, TX I-10 Interchanges Project

TxDOT plans to restructure I-10 and US 69 in Beaumont, Texas, aiming to add a lane to both directions of traffic along a five mile strip from Walden Road to Delaware Street, as well as interchanges stretching out to Fannett Road and N 7th Street. Additionally, TxDOT may relocate certain ramps along I-10. The goal is to make the roads safer for now and the future as TxDOT projections predict there will be over 50% more cars on the roads by 2040.

 Open Houses were held in April and September, with a public hearing to follow this winter. Construction is currently scheduled to begin winter of 2021. TxDOT will have to assert eminent domain laws to take the necessary land, affecting homeowners and business owners.

DART Silver Line

The Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) is partnering with the Federal Transit Administration to create a “Silver Line,” formerly known as the “Cotton Belt Rail Line” commuter rail that spans 26 miles from the DFW Airport all the way east to Plano with additional stations in Dallas, Richardson, Addison, Carrollton, Coppell, and Grapevine. Construction has already started, and DART plans to finish construction by the end of 2022.

The goal of the Silver Line is to increase mobility and accessibility, i.e. to give citizens more economic opportunities via quick travel between cities and counties. DART also hopes that citizens choosing the rail instead of cars will decrease traffic congestion and improve air quality.

The scope of the 26-mile rail already raised concerns regarding eminent domain, and those concerns will only increase as construction progresses and DART takes right-of-way from private properties. Chief among those concerns are safety and negative impact on property values.