• March 7, 2021

Kermit overpass to ease trucks’ way - Odessa American: Traffic & Transportation

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Kermit overpass to ease trucks’ way

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Posted: Tuesday, January 19, 2021 1:44 pm

KERMIT One of the Permian Basin’s most dangerous intersections will be a lot less risky in two years, when the Texas Department of Transportation inaugurates an overpass on the west side of town at State Highways 302 and 115.

The $55.5-million project will also be a boon to the energy business as the passage of heavy oilfield trucks is greatly facilitated, said Midland-Odessa Transportation Alliance Vice President Dustin Fawcett of Midland. Construction will start immediately.

Noting that over 30 serious accidents had taken place in the intersection during the past five years, Fawcett said Tuesday that MOTRAN worked for years to get a $25-million federal BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) grant for the job. The Permian Road Safety Coalition donated $40,000.

The overpass will entail a mile of access roads and run over 115 and the Union Pacific railroad tracks. The general contractor is Kiewit Infrastructure South Co. of Fort Worth. Kermit is 46 miles west of Odessa on 302.

“We sent letters and provided economic data to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in Washington,” Fawcett said. “We learned that 106,000 daily truck trips in Texas were not being accounted for in TxDOT freight models.

“More than a third of all Texas freight and over-sized truck trips are in the Permian Basin and we found that TxDOT was not counting frac sand trucks and water disposal trucks as freight.”

With Meridian Energy Group planning its $1-billion Permian Refinery north of town and other oil-fueled developments having boomed Winkler County in recent years, Fawcett said an unfortunate side effect has been the accidents that resulted from truck drivers waiting in long queues at 302-115. “We know that a lot of crashes happen because of drivers’ behavior,” he said.

“Sitting in their queues, a lot of the time they got impatient and ran the stop signs. We told Elaine Chao that this is a main corridor in the Permian Basin and a very important intersection.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Winkler County’s population grew from 7,110 in 2010 to 8,242 last year.

Kermit Mayor Jerry Phillips said Tuesday that drivers often had to wait for 30 to 40 minutes to get through the intersection before the pandemic-related oilfield slowdown but that the delays have been less vexatious lately.

“The overpass will help a lot with the bottlenecks of oilfield traffic,” Phillips said, adding that State Rep. Brooks Landgraf of Odessa, who represents Winkler County in Austin, also helped with the BUILD grant.

“They started work on it today.”

The mayor said work is nearly complete on the city’s third water tower on the east side of town, its main growth area, where the city has also seen the arrival of the Flying J Truck Stop with its McDonald’s and Chester’s Fried Chicken restaurants, the Ocean Front RV Park and Love’s Travel Center.

Another new feature in Kermit is the Cobblestone Inn motel, and Phillips said a Jack ‘N’ Jill Donuts shop is on the way.

TxDOT’s Odessa District engineer, John Speed, said traffic counts here have more than doubled since 2015.

“This intersection is a critical location for energy development and the current four-way stop condition is no longer viable,” Speed said. “The project will dramatically reduce the risk of vehicle crashes and decrease the current delays experienced while moving personnel, equipment and sand proppants between the Delaware Basin and the centers of mining and other resources to the east.”

Adding that the rest of the project’s cost is being covered by TxDOT’s energy sector funding, the engineer said other key players in obtaining the BUILD grant were the Permian Strategic Partnership and Permian Road Safety Coalition. “Restrictions on over-sized loads and a reduction in the speed limit will be used to improve safety in the project area,” Speed said.

“Motorists should pay close attention to the signage because changes could affect both Highway 302 and Highway 115. Delays are expected throughout the project and motorists are asked to find alternate routes if possible. They’re also reminded that state law requires them to obey any flaggers or warning signs encountered in the work zone.”

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