• August 18, 2019

Basin’s roads at crisis point - Odessa American: Local News

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Basin’s roads at crisis point

Projected state appropriations will be inadequate

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  • Roadwork ahead

    View of Loop 338 west of US 385 where the road is still in two lanes.

Posted: Monday, August 12, 2019 10:13 am

Outdated and worn out, many of the Permian Basin’s roads and highways are being beaten to bits by the weighty oil boom traffic and need repairing forthwith.

So State Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, and Midland-Odessa Transportation Alliance President James Beauchamp hope the state’s projected $600-million allocation for the area comes through late this month.

Landgraf, vice chairman of the Texas House of Representatives’ Transportation Committee in Austin, said the roads “all need significant maintenance or added capacity” and the $300 million in annual appropriations being considered for 2020 and ’21 would by no means solve all the problems.

“Some projects are underway right now in Andrews and Winkler counties and we have a focus on adding capacity to I-20 in Ector and Midland counties,” Landgraf said. “We also have big plans to add capacity on Loop 338 and eliminate some of the conflict points by building overpasses where we have dangerous surface intersections.”

He said the east-west-running State Highway 176 between FM 1788 and U.S. 385 in Andrews County has become increasingly dangerous and should be widened. “The Texas Department of Transportation will build a flyover (overpass) at 1788-176 to get rid of the at-grade intersection,” Landgraf said.

“State 302 runs 60 miles from Odessa through Kermit and Mentone to U.S. 285 north of Pecos in Reeves County and it bottlenecks down from a four-lane to a two-lane as it drops off the Caprock west of Notrees. We need to widen it to at least a four-lane all the way because of the sand trucks and other oilfield traffic.”

During a recent appearance in Austin before the Texas Transportation Commission, which oversees TxDOT, the legislator said the Basin’s oil and gas production and severance tax revenues to the state could decrease if the region’s transportation woes aren’t adequately dealt with. The commission is scheduled to act on the $600-million plan Aug. 28.

Beauchamp said the region’s unfunded priorities are overwhelming.

Along with the heavily traveled, often perilous 302, Beauchamp said, one of the more urgent needs is the four-lane divided widening of State Highway 349 south of Midland (the Rankin Highway) to match the similar upgrade that’s been completed north of Midland (the Lamesa Highway).

“The interchanges on State 158 (the Garden City Highway) are really dangerous,” he said. “Finishing a four-lane divided on 302 from Odessa to Kermit would be pretty easy, I think. Passing lanes don’t impact safety. They are simply about mobility, maintaining a better flow of traffic. Nearly 50 percent of the traffic on 302 is truck traffic.”

Beauchamp said TxDOT is wasting $250 million on U.S. 285 passing lanes. He said the money would be better spent on a four-lane divided thoroughfare over the 53 miles between Pecos and Fort Stockton.

“Completing Loop 338 in Odessa is just as much of a safety concern as the interstate,” he said, adding that an overpass is going up at 338 and Yukon Road on the northwest side of town.

TxDOT Public Information Officer Gene Powell said the department has $400 million in projects underway in the 12-county Odessa District and will start another $400 million in improvements next year, adding, “We have a couple billion dollars worth of needs out here.”

Powell said the department’s $800 million in I-20 plans for Ector and Midland counties include adding a lane in each direction to make three-lane highways along with building new interchanges, making the frontage roads one-way and taking out bridges and rebuilding them so that the I-20 traffic goes over the local road.

He said TxDOT is studying Loop 338. Part of the study includes whether to turn existing two-lane sections on the northwest and south sides into divided four-lane sections like the rest of the loop, as some have advocated.

Powell said an overpass will be constructed at 302 and State 115 outside Kermit.

Asked why the department is building passing lanes on 285 instead of a four-lane divided highway over the 118 miles from Pecos to Sanderson, he said the proximity of pipelines would make the acquisition of right-of-way too problematic and slow.

“We need to do something now,” Powell said. “We’ll have alternating passing lanes with 10-foot shoulders all the way through.”

He said a $14.3-million contract for the 1788-176 interchange was awarded in July and that the Yukon-338 overpass will be contracted for in October next year.

TxDOT’s Odessa District encompasses Andrews, Crane, Ector, Loving, Martin, Midland, Pecos, Reeves, Terrell, Upton, Ward and Winkler counties.

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