Board votes to support I-20 corridor study

Published on Tuesday, 17 June 2014 22:57 - Written by Casey Murphy, cmurphy@tylerpaper.com

The Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors voted unanimously Tuesday to support an Interstate 20 East Texas Corridor Study being conducted by the Texas Department of Transportation.

City officials gave a presentation on the 18-month study being done to identify and address safety and capacity needs and plan for the future.

The project was launched by Texas Transportation Commissioner Jeff Austin and includes working with public and private stakeholders through an advisory committee, made up of officials from Dallas, Kaufman, Van Zandt, Smith, Gregg and Harrison counties.

Tyler City Manager Mark McDaniel said Tyler and Smith County have been heavily involved in the study, which is a subject the entire region is interested in.

Heather Nick, executive director of the Tyler Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, said they are assisting TxDOT with the public outreach segment of the study, which focuses on capacity and safety concerns along a 155-mile stretch of the I-20 corridor.

She said the segment of highway had a population of 1.6 million in 1970 – around the time it was constructed – and has since grown by 80 percent, to 2.9 million.

They are looking at population and trade along the corridor and have identified safety issues, including crash hot spots and median barriers, Ms. Nick said. Priorities ranked in the Smith County area include ramps and interchanges at No. 1, followed by frontage roads.

The study, which began in July 2013, is ahead of schedule and should be completed by December, she said. City and county officials plan to hold open houses in August and September to discuss the plan with the public.

Ms. Nick said Smith County did a good job getting public input on the study, which is a way to prioritize the needs along the corridor and plan monies to spend on those projects as funding becomes available.

Smith County Judge Joel Baker believes good public input shows community interest.

“I think the more interaction we have from the public, the better,” he said.

Ms. Nick said the input will allow TxDOT to know what is important from the community’s perspective.

Although it won’t necessarily mean the area will get more funding for local projects, community input is critical, Gary Halbrooks, vice chairman of the North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority’s board and Chamber board member, said.

“The more coordinated and together you are, the more likely you are to get your resources,” he said, adding that it needs to be a cohesive effort among communities.

After the presentation, board members voted to pass a resolution supporting the I-20 East Texas Corridor Study.

Project updates can be viewed and comments made atwww.txdot.gov .