Work begins on two new Loop 463 overpasses, funding may be available for third at Airline Road
By By Brian M. Cuaron - BCUARON@VICAD.COM
Sept. 14, 2011 at 4:14 a.m.
Updated Sept. 15, 2011 at 4:15 a.m.
CITY ASKS CATERPILLAR TO HELP FUND JOHN STOCKBAUER PROJECT
Victoria officials have discussed with Caterpillar about the company paying for part of the John Stockbauer Drive project.
The city has looked into rehabilitating the road from U.S. 59 to Business U.S. 59. The entire project would cost $8.8 million, including about $300,000 for engineering work, said Lynn Short, director of public works.
The proposal would turn John Stockbauer into a concrete road able to handle 100,000-pound loads coming from the Caterpillar plant once it is operational next year.
City Manager Charmelle Garrett spoke to Caterpillar about it paying the difference between the cost to build an 80,000-pound road and a 100,000-pound road, Short said. Caterpillar expressed interest in partnering with the city on the project.
That cost difference and the project's timeline would be known once its design is complete, Short said. The city hopes to have the engineering work done by spring and begin construction in summer 2012.
In July, the city council looked at having to postpone two downtown projects to fund the John Stockbauer one. However, increased property tax revenues has negated that concern.
Andrew Jacob, assistant finance director, said the additional revenue allows the city to afford more debt if the city chooses to do so.
CRASHES AT THE INTERSECTIONS
Below are records gathered from Texas Department of Transportation on crashes at the three intersections along Loop 463, also known as Zac Lentz Parkway. The records go from 2006 to 2011.
Loop 463 and Salem Road
Incapacitating injuries: 0
Non-incapacitating injuries: 7
Loop 463 and Mockingbird Lane
Incapacitating injuries: 1
Non-incapacitating injuries: 7
Loop 463 and Airline Road
Incapacitating injuries: 1
Non-incapacitating injuries: 9
Travis Balfanz has witnessed death along Loop 463.
In May 2007, the McCoy's Building Supply Centers worker was looking toward the highway's Salem Road intersection when he saw a driver turn onto Loop 463, but veer off the merger lane and onto Loop 463, before getting hit.
The driver died.
"It was a pretty rough scene," said Balfanz, 23.
Overpass projects at the Salem Road and Mockingbird Lane intersections are under construction to improve safety at those intersections, said Randy Bena, area engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation.
The state transportation department may receive funding for another overpass on the loop at the Airline Road intersection, which also has a history of crashes.
The Salem Road intersection is a busy one that features high-speed traffic, Bena said. Add the width of Loop 463, and drivers have a hard time crossing the intersection from Salem Road.
"People take too many chances darting out across the highway," said Dane Puckett, 28, who lives near the intersection.
The Mockingbird Lane intersection has become more congested with the 2010 opening of Victoria East High School, Bena explained.
Hunter Industries started building frontage roads in April at the two sites for drivers to use as the overpasses are built, Bena said. The frontage roads should be completed by the end of the year. The overpass projects should be completed in early 2013.
Bena said the department should know by the beginning of the year if the district will receive funding to build a third overpass at the Airline Road intersection. The project is estimated to cost $13 million, and would go from the Mockingbird Lane overpass to Business U.S. 59.
The state transportation agency would fund the project with $11 million to $12 million from Proposition 12, Bena said. The statewide proposition, which passed in 2007, pays for highway improvement projects via bonds.
Other sources of funding could make up the rest of the cost, Bena added.
Had the other two overpass projects not already been funded, the potential Proposition 12 money would have been used to construct those overpasses, Bena said.
Overpass projects' funding
Completion of the Salem Road and Mockingbird Lane overpasses would cap a long saga in which Victoria struggled to find funding for the projects.
The city has entered into a funding agreement with the state for the $18.6 million projects, said Andrew Jacob, the city's assistant director of finance. Transportation agency's Yoakum district put $2 million toward the projects, and the city and Victoria Sales Tax Development Corps. put $6.7 million toward it.
The city issued $9.9 million in bonds in April to pay the rest of the projects' costs, Jacob said. The city planned to to pay off the bonds in about 12 years and would pay about $4.1 million in interest costs.
The length of the bond payback was based on expected reimbursements from Victoria County and Texas Department of Transportation, Jacob said.
Victoria County would pay $3.3 million over 11 years to the city, Jacob said. The payments start in January 2014 and would help pay the bond's principal and interest payments.
The transportation department has agreed to reimburse the city for up to $19.31 million, Jacob said. Starting in October 2013, the state would pay the city 12 cents for each vehicle mile travelled on the project area the previous year, Jacob said.
The state's reimbursement will cover the projects' costs and interest payments for the bonds, Jacob said.
Victoria expected to have all its $4.1 million in interest costs reimbursed, Jacob added.
Bryan Harrison, 46, manager of McCoy's Building Supply Centers, said employees are familiar with the sound of crashes outside the store. The future overpass may quiet down some of that.
"I think it's going to save a lot of lives," Harrison said.