City transportation officials expect crews preparing for the widening of University Boulevard to demolish the final property next month to prepare for actual roadwork beginning this fall.
The city expects to start soliciting bids from construction for the widening work in July and hire a contractor around late August. That would mean the widening project starting around October, but Traffic Operations Superintendant Hal Feldman said city officials still expect to finish it by summer of 2020, if not sooner.
“If we start in October we are sliding a little bit, but what we are really hoping is that by doing this project we are doing right now, clearing the right of way, that will make roadway construction go faster,” Feldman said.
The project, expected to cost more than $15 million and funded through a 2013 public works bond, will widen the thoroughfare to five lanes and straighten a curve near the YMCA in order to make the road safer.
The clearance work, which included moving fences, began in March. The Odessa City Council awarded a more than $2.1 million contract with Onyx General Contractors for that work. Utility companies have been relocating gas and electric infrastructure in the meantime.
The first phase of the project will widen the area of the thoroughfare from Andrews Highway to Maple Avenue. The second phase, focused on the area from Maple Avenue to Grandview Avenue, is expected to start about a year later but might begin sooner.
“Hopefully it won’t take a year for each phase and maybe we can bring final roadway completion this side of summer of 2020,” Feldman said.
To make way for the project, the city bought properties for a total of $1.47 million, reaching deals with property owners that avoided the use of eminent domain.
Many of the properties were slivers of land, but the city acquired some properties outright, such as the Fellowship Lodge No. 1385 at 3041 E. University Blvd. The city bought a new building for Masons in exchange for that property.
The lodge, which is the final property to be demolished, will be torn down next month.
Plans call for keeping University Boulevard open during construction with traffic controls such as fewer open lanes and a lower speed limit, Public Works Director Tom Kerr said.