State engineer looks for solution to frontage road frustrations
A spark of hope exists for Victoria business owners along the future Interstate 69 corridor who could be impacted by construction they say is underfunded and underplanned.
As designed, the one-way frontage road construction along U.S. Highway 59 threatens to limit access and cripple business that depends on highway traffic.
The Victoria Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is the governing body that makes local transportation recommendations to the state, reached an agreement Tuesday that something needs to change with the $15.75 million project.
"We need to service the public that goes up and down that road; otherwise, why have it?" asked Victoria real estate agent John Crews during Tuesday's planning organization meeting.
Without two-way traffic or an overpass, motorists would end up driving about a 7-mile loop to access businesses along the future interstate corridor.
The 3.4-mile frontage road project that was designed in 2012 is funded as part of the state's $2.9 billion in Proposition 14 bonds issued in 2008.
Texas Department of Transportation engineer Paul Frerich said the funding came with stipulations that the highway would be brought up to interstate standards. Two-way frontage roads would not have been approved.
"If we would have determined at the time that as a group, we don't want one-way frontage roads, that money would have gone away," Frerich said.
Frerich said he would ask within the transportation department for answers.
"I want to confirm once again that it is not possible or let me know if it is a possibility," Frerich said. "If the answer is 'OK, yes it is a possibility,' then the next question is physically, how much land does it take, and how much money does it take?"
County Judge Don Pozzi, who serves on the Metropolitan Planning Organization, has been against the project.
"All they're asking is that we try," Pozzi said.
While a $10 million overpass is not in the budget, Frerich said, the state could look at purchasing right of way to expand the frontage roads to include two-way traffic.
Jeff Kyrish, general manager of Longhorn International Trucks, suggested business owners join together to purchase the property and donate it to the state.
"If the government doesn't have the funds (for right of way), as private citizens, let us come up with the money to buy it," he said.
Kyrish said his plan to build a $2.5 million Gulf International trucking business is on hold until the access debacle is settled.
Airport Manager Jason Milewski, who also serves on the planning organization, said he wants to see the frontage roads striped for two-way traffic to address immediate concerns. Once there is a time frame for getting an interstate designation, then look at getting an overpass and changing traffic to one-way.
The county judge said business owners in the area have invested millions more in their properties than the state will in the road.
"We have been told over and over again how much these individuals, groups and people are going to suffer," Pozzi said. "I believe that, and I think something needs to be done."