More than 50 persons, including about 10 TxDOT employees, attended at the Ore City High School cafeteria, said Marcus E. Sandifer, public information officer for TxDOT's Atlanta District.
The state will take no homes or businesses to construct the project, tentatively estimated to cost $20-22 million, and no firms will be forced out of business, Sandifer said. One woman expressed fear that widening the highway would take away much of her front yard, but none of it will be required, he said.
In fact, TxDOT must purchase "very little" right-of-way for the construction—a "minimum amount," the official said.
The current bridge, built in 1954, is being replaced with a wider, longer structure for "safety factors"—its age, and the increased volume of traffic, Sandifer said. While the current bridge is safe, "we just need one to handle more traffic. . .Right now, it's a very narrow bridge," he explained.
Meantime, a 1.3-mile stretch of Hwy. 155 will be improved, from one tenth of a mile east of the intersection with U.S. Hwy. 259 to the bridge, Sandifer said. (The popular David Beard's Catfish Village is on that stretch of the highway).
In addition to the widening, turn lanes will be added to the roadway, which now has two 12-ft. traffic lanes and will be widened to 70 feet. It will also have very limited ditches; curb, gutter and storm drain to improve drainage; and a 5-ft. sidewalk on the south side, according to TxDOT documents.
TxDOT plans to award a bid on the overall project in April 2016 and begin work that summer, he said. The project is expected to take about two years, three at most, he added.
Although two pieces of work are planned—replacing the bridge, and widening the highway—the bid will be awarded as one project to "help keep the cost down," Sandifer said.
The current bridge is 28 feet wide (two 12-ft. traffic lanes, and two 2-ft. shoulders on each side.) The new 78-ft.-wide one will consist of four 12-ft. traffic lanes (two on each side), a 10-ft. median in the middle with a concrete barrier to prevent collisions, and 10-ft. shoulders on each side, Sandifer said.
The current 1,166-ft. long bridge will be demolished after the first half of the new 2,880-ft. one is completed, and the existing one will not be closed down to detour traffic, TxDOT said.
The new structure, to be located about 50 feet south of the existing one, will also be higher, as a hill beside a marina at the current bridge's western end will be lowered to increase visibility as a safety factor, Sandifer said.
Plans call for widening the stretch of highway nearby from the current two 12-ft. traffic lanes to 70 feet overall, according to TxDOT documents. The site will also have "very limited ditches," curb, gutter and storm drainage to improve drainage, and a 5-ft. sidewalk on the south side, documents show.
Anyone who was unable to attend Thursday's hearing, and/or has questions about the project, may contact any of the following TxDOT personnel:
Design—John Baker at (903) 799-1340 or Katie Martin (903) 799-1342; Environmental Studies—John Callison (903) 799-1302; Right-of-Way--Michael Lightfoot (903) 799-1322
Positive or negative comments concerning the proposed project may be submitted to TxDOT's district office at 701 E. Main, Atlanta, TX 75551-2418.