• Planning Study Gets Input on US 281 Interstate Upgrades
The Texas Department of Transportation is conducting a planning and feasibility study to determine what upgrade improvements will be necessary to bring US 281 up to interstate highway standards along the Interstate 69 Central route.
The study area begins at the intersection of US 59 and Interstate 37 in Live Oak County. It extends west on US 59 to George West and then south on US 281 to the intersection with Interstate 2/US 83 in the Lower Rio Grande Valley as shown on the adjacent illustration.
A draft Interstate Development Plan will be compiled in the coming months and a final Feasibility Study Report is scheduled for completion by the end of the year.
The study area covers a five mile stretch on US 59 and 149 miles on US 281. All of the route is at four-lane divided standard and sections at Alice, Ben Bolt, Falfurrias, Edinburg and McAllen are at full interstate standard.
PREMONT - A separate US 281 study is underway to determine the routing and schematic designs for freeway lanes through the town of Premont in southern Jim Wells County. The study is expected to bring a final plan to a public hearing in the Spring of 2014. Numerous community meetings heave been held and the Premont community developed a consensus around a plan involving construction of a relief route on the east side of the town of 2,600 residents.
GEORGE WEST - Creating a route for two legs of the I-69 system at George West will be difficult and no clear option has yet been developed. US 59 and US 281 upgrades to interstate standard cannot run through the city without creating major community disruption. Relief routes are complicated by a rail line, a wide Nuece River floodplain, a cemetery and important community infrastructure.
The planning team held three open houses in July. They presented an interstate designation process outline noting that additional funding will be needed to complete the process. Future funding has been identified for the project in Premont.
A total of 13.5 miles of US 281 freeway in Edinburg and Pharr were designated at Interstate 69 Central in May. New signs are going up on that section as well as on Interstate 2, the new designation for US 83 from Harlingen to west of Mission.
Projects to upgrade sections of US 281 to freeway standard are currently underway at Alice, Falfurrias, Rachal and at the north edge of Edinburg. The Alice project includes an overpass at FM 1554, now approximately 50% complete. Work on an overpass at FM 755 in Rachal began earlier this year. The $20 million Edinburg project will deliver 2.4 miles of new freeway near the Edinburg Airport.
PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT MEETINGS
Public involvement activities for the feasibility study have been ongoing for the past two years. The study will:
>> Inventory and assess current roadway conditions relative to interstate standards.
>> Evaluate traffic patterns including origins and destinations.
>> Identify key environmental and planning features
>> Identify potential individual upgrade projects.
>> Assess potential funding sources.