LUFKIN, TX (News Release) - Vehicles will be allowed beginning Friday to travel on BU 59 (North Timberland Drive) beneath the A&NR railroad bridge that is still under construction.
This is certainly welcomed news, as several East Texas drivers have been taking alternate routes to get around.
"With all of the construction, it has been a hindrance to a lot of folks," said Lufkin resident Dr. Richard Hancock.
In fact, Hancock is a pastor at the Apostolic Temple on US 69 N and said it takes church members who live around the construction area extra time to get to and from services.
Two lanes will be open Friday for inbound and outbound traffic as work continues to replace the bridge and rehabilitate the roadway. The vertical clearance is 17 feet. As permanent beams are hung and the bridge completed, the clearance is expected to increase slightly.
No one is more excited for the opening than business owners along N. Timberland.
"All of us on the north end, which is probably 30 businesses, it must have been hurting us," said Timberland Nursery owner Melvin Walker.
However despite the hindrance and extra travel time, both Walker and Hancock agreed the construction needed to take place.
"There were potholes, broken parts and cracks along the highway," Hancock described. "It's always better to have a smoother highway."
"When they get through with the construction, it's going to be super nice," Walker said. "Getting in and out of the north end of town now is going to be so much better."
Despite losing a little business, Walker believes the updated construction will help Timberland Nursery.
"Business will boom, I mean how can it not," Walker said.
Motorists should be alert to the detour, watch for detour signs as lanes of travel will be marked with signage and orange barrels and cones.
"There will still be a lot of work going on in and near this project," said Rhonda Oaks, a public information officer with the Lufkin District. "Motorists who have been detouring around North Timberland Drive will welcome the two-lane limited traffic pattern again, but we are urging drivers to be cautious and reduce their speed as we continue to work toward completion."
Austin Bridge and Road Services, contractors for the $11.3 million Lufkin construction project, is replacing the railroad bridge that spans BU 59 near SL 287 and reconstructing BU 59 beneath. The project is expected to be completed late this year, weather permitting.
Motorists can expect nearby traffic signals to continue in a red flashing mode, signaling a four-way stop until the project nears completion. The posted speed limit is 45 miles per hour, but motorists could see advisory speed messages urging lower speed limits until work is completed. Remember, traffic fines double when workers are present.