July 25, 2008

Interstate 27 Improvement Project Gains Speed

By Karen Smith Welch, Amarillo Globe-News, Texas

Jul. 25--A $44.2 million Interstate 27 improvement project delayed by state funding woes could be back on the books for the 2012 fiscal year.

The project would widen I-27 to three lanes in each direction from Western Street south to Loop 335/Hollywood Road, David Miller, a planner with the Texas Department of Transportation's Amarillo District, said Thursday.

The stretch of I-27 carries an estimated 44,000 vehicles a day, Miller told members of an intergovernmental panel charged with planning for the long-term transportation needs of the Amarillo area.

TxDOT has set aside $41.1 million in state and federal funds for the Amarillo District to use for projects that will add capacity on major highway corridors, Miller told the Policy Advisory Committee of the Amarillo Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The status of I-27's corridor is helped by its inclusion as a segment of the Ports-to-Plains Trade Corridor. Ports-to-Plains is part of a system of highways linking the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada.

The mobility funds will be supplemented by $4.8 million earmarked in 2005 by Congress specifically for the I-27 project, Miller said.

The funding allocations are part of a 2009-2019 TxDOT plan that must be approved by the Texas Transportation Commission. It is expected that the commission will forward the plan to the Federal Highway Administration for approval in August, he said.

Once approvals are in place, construction could begin in the 2012 fiscal year, as long as the state and federal funding allocations remain solid in the interim, Miller said.

The project will include bridge upgrades, ramps, a raised center median and illumination to the southern city limits, he said.

At Thursday's meeting, the MPO committee also approved a housekeeping change to a 2008-2011 transportation improvement plan to reflect that a project to extend North Coulter Street from Willow Oak Place north to Loop 335 will be a multiyear project. The first leg of the project currently is set to begin in the 2010 fiscal year, MPO Director Gary Holwick said.


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