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AUSTIN — The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Commission voted unanimously Thursday to approve spending an additional $2 billion on transportation projects around the state, including funding for a partial loop around Corsicana.
Navarro County Judge H.M. Davenport spoke at the meeting, along with Corsicana Mayor Chuck McClanahan.
Davenport said that anyone driving through Corsicana would instantly recognize the need for a relief route, particularly now that there’s construction on Highway 31, adding to the congestion.
Even under normal circumstances, large trucks are coming through “downtown Corsicana,” often carrying hazardous materials, he said.
Davenport also argued that it would improve regional connectivity, by relieving traffic between Tyler and Waco.
TxDOT Commissioner Jeff Austin III called the Corsicana relief route “a great demonstration of partnerships,” Austin said. “You’re setting a great example.”
McClanahan said a relief route would benefit the “entire state of Texas” pointing to the regional traffic bottleneck at Corsicana.
“The proposed project is of critical importance to the State of Texas, Navarro County, the City of Corsicana and our neighboring communities located to the east and west along the Texas Highway 31 corridor,” McClanahan said.
In addition to providing some relief on Texas 31, it could also provide relief for Interstate 35, he argued.
“Moreover, the relief route would decrease the volume of in-town travel from vehicles carrying hazardous materials through our city which will make our community and our citizens much safer from potentially harmful events,” McClanahan said.
Navarro County was not the only community asking for approval of the item. There were also representatives from Bexar County and San Antonio, which is set to get more than $300 million of that funding; and Cameron County, but Navarro representatives spoke last and when the Corsicana mayor sat down, Commission Chairman Ted Houghton Jr., laughingly asked: “Marc, what is your recommendation?”
Marc Williams, director of planning administration for TxDOT, recommended approval, and the affirmative vote was quickly taken.
“This is a great day for Texas,” Houghton added, and the audience broke into applause.
Taking a bus to Austin to show support for the project were Davenport and county commissioners James Olsen and Butch Warren, McClanahan and city councilman John McClung, Economic Development director Lee McCleary, Chamber of Commerce executive director Paul Hooper, incoming Chamber chairman Frank Steed and several chamber members.
“I think it showed the support Navarro County has for the project,” Davenport said.
The entire loop project is expected to cost about $51 million. Thursday’s decision will dedicate $41 million to the project from the Unified Transportation Program. An additional $5.3 million will come from the local TxDOT office, and local entities will need to come up with about $3.7 million, according to Marc Williams with TxDOT.
A meeting to discuss the local funding will be held in the next two weeks, Davenport said.
The Unified Transportation Program is a 10-year statewide plan for transportation project development. The 2012 version was approved in May 2011, and revised in September, December and April. The June 28 revision updates the funding and authorizes projects for both state and federal funding.
One of the top complaints from both visitors and residents is how difficult it can be to drive from one end of Corsicana to the other, Frank Steed said Thursday following the commission’s vote.
“(The relief route) will alleviate problems with trucks going through, which is the biggest safety issue, and lead to development around the bypass which will help the business community,” he said.
TxDOT partnered with Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), regional transportation organizations, and districts to identify projects that focus on safety, congestion, maintenance, and statewide connectivity in the coming months.
Communities selected projects that meet important local needs, while leveraging the state's limited resources with other available funds or opportunities to achieve the greatest benefit possible for each community.
“This is a unique position for the state to be in with these funds becoming available,” Houghton said. “We want to make the best use of them by partnering with local communities to insure this funding is applied where they feel it is most needed.”
Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to “sound off” to this article? E-mail: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com