by Tashun Chism
The Highway 59 Expansion Project has been a hassle for many East Texas drivers, but it's also affecting many businesses. For 14 years, Brazos Cattle Company was famous for serving East Texans its down home country cooking. Forced to close in January due to the Highway 59 Expanison Project, a parking lot that was once routinely full of cars now sits empty.
"Various businesses have to be acquired for this project - several hotels and restaurants - approximately 60 parcels of land. We've acquired all but about eight of them," said the Texas Department of Transportation's Steve Evans.
TxDOT officials say the land aquisition will be complete in May and construction will begin this summer. The whole project will take at least three years to complete and cost about 30 million dollars.
Casa Olé employees say they've already seen a 6% drop in sales due to the expansion project.
"I've heard many complaints from people not wanting to get out on this highway, and it definitely has affected our business in that way," said Casa Olé CEO Debi Shanks.
The Discount Tire Company closed its original building, but is renovating its parking lot and building a second building that will be at least 100 feet away from the construction area. In the meantime, they're forced to work outside under tents and store their supplies in trailers. Discount Tire employees say they haven't noticed a drop in customers yet, but they do have to reassure many that they're still open.
"Well, when they come in, they're not really sure because they see our empty show room right there, and I just reassure them that we are open for business. All they have to do is pull right here into our parking lot. We're in the same parking lot, just working out of a trailer right now. So, once I explain exactly what's happening - it's not our choice, it's just something that we're dealing with - they're assured," said assistant manager Jeremy Woodall.
The expanison project starts at Tulane Dr. on Loop 287 and ends just south of Cavender's. The plan is to widen the lanes and build an overpass that separates trucks from regular traffic.