LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Motorists experienced some slow-downs Monday as Texas Department of Transportation crews started construction on a $52 million expansion project at the intersections of U.S. Highways 59 and 69 and Loop 287.
The near term project is expected to be completed in three years, and it is designed to improve the traffic flow in that area.
"Lufkin is growing and we just need to make the infrastructure meet the needs of the travel," said Kathi White, a TxDoT spokesperson.
Lufkin resident Kevin McGee makes the drive from Highway 59 to Loop 287 twice a day and is already seeing the impact of the new construction.
McGee said the construction "slows down my commute a lot."
White said the landscape in that area will look completely different when the first phase of the construction project is completed. In addition to a new overpass, a director connector from Loop 287 to Highway 59, two traffic signals, and two U-turn bridges.
"From this point on there is going to be a lot going on, and everyday will be different." White said. "They'll be working clearing the right of way by removing some trees."
TxDOT crews were busy today. The first order of business was restriping the East Loop to make room for the construction project. However, even with the project still in its earliest stages, some drivers weren't too pleased with the changes.
"Traffic backed up sometimes and the diesels merging onto the loop are crazy and the construction makes them more crazy," McGee said.
Right now, the detours are minor, but drivers should prepare for an increase in upcoming months. TxDoT officials hope to make the transition a smooth one and hope to minimize traffic delays during the expansion.
"As things pick up there is certainly going to be a lot of delays and change and shifting of traffic," White said.
The Big Picture of Phase I:
* The project includes building a northbound direct connector from Loop 287 to U.S. 59, exiting right off the U.S. 59 NB main lanes near FM 3521.
* A southbound direct connector will be built from U.S. 59 to Loop 287 merging with the eastbound main lanes. This bridge will eliminate the need for the existing cloverleaf (circular exit).
* The main lanes of Loop 287 will be lowered at Business 59 (BU59) and the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) overpass.
* A new overpass will be constructed to the west of the existing U.S. 59 / UPRR underpass, and will ultimately replace the underpass.
* The proposed paving materials include asphalt frontage roadways along Loop 287 and concrete main lanes for The Loop and U.S. 59.
* There will be two interconnected traffic signals at BU59 and The Loop.
* Two new one-way U-turn bridges will allow U-turn movements at the intersections.
* Eight large retaining walls will be built to accommodate new ramps and U-turns around the bridges.
A look at the work planned over the next few months by roadway:
U.S. 59/U.S. 69/Loop 287 Main lanes:
* Construction begins Monday, September 10, on a portion of the new Loop 287 westbound main lanes (east side of existing roadway).
* Traffic will be shifted onto the eastbound outside shoulder of Loop 287.
* The center barrier will be removed and replaced with temporary concrete barrier for this lane shift.
* Crews will also be preparing the right-of-row along the north side of Loop 287 within the project limits.
* Night-time work placing drainage structures on U.S. 59 will begin in October.
* Foundation work for the north- and south-bound fly-overs is slated to begin in October.
* Construction will also start Monday, September 10 on a portion of the eastbound and westbound frontage roads from the Moffett Overpass west to BU59.
* The old truck stop parking lot will be removed, crushed and recycled into the base for the frontage roads in the coming weeks.
* Temporary detour pavement will be placed adjacent to the BU59 southbound main lanes beginning in November to start work on the direct connector bridge abutments.
FM 2021/Davisville Road:
* Construction equipment traffic will be in full swing this month. Use caution when traveling in the work zone.
* Night-time work will begin in October placing and removing drainage structures on FM 2021. Temporary pavement will be placed to accommodate the new tie-in to the frontage road and mainline.
FM 3439/Spence Street:
* Beginning in October, the following are expected to occur.
* Right turns onto southbound U.S. 59 will be discontinued for approximately one year.
* Left turns onto FM 3439/Spence Street will not be allowed for northbound U.S. 59 traffic for two years.
* Northbound left turns from FM 3439 onto U.S. 59 will be permanently closed. FM 3439 traffic is advised to access U.S. 59 from Loop 287 until further notice.
* The U.S. 59 crossover at this intersection will be permanently closed in early November. All traffic wanting to head into Lufkin from FM 3521 is advised to travel south on Davisville Road to Loop 287.
The contractor for this $52 million-plus project is Webber, LLC of Houston. According to TxDOT, the work is expected to take 36 months to complete. As construction progresses, TxDOT encourages motorists to plan ahead allowing extra time or using alternate routes to reach their destinations. Caution is advised when traveling through this and all work zones. Motorists are also reminded to obey all traffic control devices and to remember that traffic fines double when workers are present.