Many would consider Odessa’s roadways to be a critical issue for the city, and for the city, one of those roadways happens to belong to the Texas Department of Transportation.
Grant Avenue is the main thoroughfare through downtown Odessa, but it’s more than just a small main street, it’s a part of U.S. Highway 385, a 1,206 mile-long road running from Big Bend to South Dakota. So while the city may be interested in fixing or reworking that road as part of their downtown revitalization efforts.
There are two major projects the city is looking at for Grant Avenue, running from 10th Street to Second Street, and Second Street to I-20, that would cost the city about $22 million together. But why would the city look at spending so much money on a road they don’t actually own? City Manager Michael Marrero said that may not be the way they go about it.
“I think our intent is to find some way that we can enhance that section of the road, but I think from our conversation on Friday that perhaps the better way to approach that is to see if we can do that in conjunction with TxDOT,” Marrero said.
There’s also the alternative option of the city taking that piece of Grant Avenue from TxDOT, leaving the city responsible for its maintenance and upkeep. But Odessa District of TxDOT Spokesman Gene Powell said the city hasn’t shown interest in this option in the past. Part of the issue, Marrero said, is that TxDOT may require the city to take a larger part of Grant Avenue than they may want, all the way from Second Street to Kermit Highway.
“What the discussion has always centered around is whether or not that was the right option,” Marrero said about taking the road from TxDOT. “There was always a question as to whether or not it is better to do something on our own or is it a better idea to work with them at some point to improve that road to help enhance what they are doing.”
As far as what they’re doing now, Powell said they had a rehabilitation project coming up in the next couple of years, but nothing like what the city has discussed, like the possibility of narrowing the roadway to two lanes for a more pedestrian-friendly downtown. Something like that as it stands would require TxDOT approval, but Powell said there’s no way to predict right now what the outcome would be.
Marrero said that decision would require much more discussion in the city before a decision like narrowing Grant Avenue was made as well, not just with TxDOT, but with people who work and own businesses downtown, and said it was just an idea at this point, much like the Marriott Hotel and Convention Center was at one point just an idea.
District 4 City Council Member Tom Sprawls said he would like to see figures before the city voted on something like taking Grant Avenue from TxDOT, and said if he were asked at this moment he would say no. He also added he thought TxDOT would never let the city do something like narrow Grant Avenue due to its status as a major highway.
At-Large Council Member Peggy Dean said improvements or updates to Grant Avenue could certainly be a project to look at in the future, but said she would rather spend money right now on roads more critical, like Faudree Road. The city is currently looking at a possible project for a widening and full depth reconstruction of Faudree Road that could cost about $19.7 million. She also said she wouldn’t want to take Grant Avenue from the state while there are so many other projects the city is looking at.
“It is not a priority in my mind yet,” Dean said. “But long term for this town, definitely.”