HOUSTON COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - After the death of two adults and an unborn baby last Friday evening, East Texas's State Highway 7 is receiving special attention.
A construction project to widen a portion of SH 7 in Houston County is now underway. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) says the rehabilitation project includes adding passing lanes in the Kennard area.
The contractor, Pinto Construction of Nacogdoches, has set barricades and is working to clear right of way. According to TxDOT, the job will add shoulders and passing lanes on a seven-mile stretch of SH 7 from Kennard to FM 232. This final stretch completes a string of SH 7 enhancement projects in Nacogdoches, Angelina and Houston Counties. Motorists are advised to use caution and be prepared to stop as a pilot car is in place to lead traffic through the work zone. Remember, traffic fines double when workers are present.
The $10.3 million project is expected to be completed in the summer of 2017.
Project Superintendent James Vardeman has been able to survey the highway, area for the last several weeks and sees many of the obvious issues.
"It's a real bad area to pass," said Vardeman. "There is no passing for the entire section and limited sight distance."
The project will include 12-foot-wide driving lanes, 10-foot shoulders, and three different sections for passing.
Kennard ISD Superintendent, Richard Cooper sees the benefits of updating Highway 7.
"It's going to be more convenient," Cooper said. "It's going to make the drive from Lufkin to Crockett more convenient eventually and safer. That's the most important thing."
As for now, traffic in the Kennard area is being managed by a shuttling system. One lane at a time, drivers are allowed through the area.
"We're going to be constructing detours in three different sections of the highway and during the time period the traffic will be going around us, so we won't be doing as much pilot car," Vardeman said
Locals also seemed optimistic about the temporary road changes.
"An inconvenience for two years?" said Cooper. "We'll be inconvenienced to be safer in the long run."
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