Highway reduction blindsides County
By LPR Staff
While most of Caldwell County is trying to make plans to cope with the growth and development promised by the impending construction of State Highway 130, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) made a decision recently that seems to place the department at cross purposes with the county.
Precinct 3 Commissioner
Neto Madrigal announced during the regular meeting of the Caldwell County Commissioners Court that he had received calls from several residents of the Tri-Community area complaining that Highway 80 had been reduced to two lanes between FM 20 in Fentress and Highway 142 in Martindale.
Early this year, Federal funds were allocated from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to restore the highway, and at that time, Madrigal said extensive work would be done to the roadway between FM 20 and Highway 21 near San Marcos. Although the road was repaved, Madrigal said he was not aware of plans to reduce Highway 80 to two lanes of traffic until his constituents told him it had happened.
“I don’t know why this wasn’t discussed with the County before it was done,” Madrigal said. “But I’ve received several calls from people that are concerned about it and wonder why it was done.”
Caldwell County Judge HT Wright said that he, too, was unaware of TxDOT plans to reduce the stretch to one lane in either direction, and said he intended to call TxDOT superintendent Carlos Lopez to discuss the situation.
A Monday afternoon call to John Jones in TxDOT’s Bastrop regional office yielded more information on the decision, but no clarity as to why the choice was made without community discussion or input.
“There were several reasons we made the decision,” Jones said. “We had the funds for resurfacing, but there wasn’t money to widen the road. There is no lateral support and the outside lanes had taken a beating.”
Jones suggested one of the concerns about Highway 80 was the narrow shoulders, and said research showed one of the commonplace problems was drivers losing control and straying off the roadway.
“This gets some lateral support for the shoulders, and moves the drivers back toward the center of the road,” he said.
Jones said the roadway itself had not been narrowed, but rather was restriped to allow for wider shoulders. He also said that passing would be possible on more than half the route between Fentress and Martindale, and traffic patterns in the area did not prove up the need for a four-lane road.
“In our study, we found there was about half the traffic in that area as there is between Highway 142 and San Marcos,” he said. “There are about 10,000 cars a day [between Martindale and San Marcos] and only about 5,000 between Highway 142 and FM 20. Those numbers are about equal to the traffic on Highway 142, which is also a two-lane road.”
Jones declined to address questions regarding safety concerns, instead suggesting the department’s media office be contacted. Those representatives were unavailable for contact before press time.
Because Madrigal and Wright were unaware of the changes prior to the meeting, no official action or discussion could take place during Monday’s meeting. However, all the Commissioners expressed concern about the lack of communication from TxDOT prior to and during the project.
In other county business, two representatives of the Maxwell Volunteer Fire Department approached the Court to submit a petition asking for the creation of an Emergency Service District in the Maxwell area.
“For 48 years, we have worked on donations, grants and the funding we receive from the County,” said Ronnie Duesterheft, who presented the petition on behalf of the MVFD. “If we could continue that, we would. But expenses have gone up, and our calls have increased, and we’re going to have to do this if we want to continue to provide the services we do.”
Creation of an emergency service district will create a taxing entity to help fund fire and rescue services through tax dollars in the area. If the signatures on the petition are validated, which Deusterheft said he expects they will be, the measure will be placed on a ballot for voter decision next year.
In brief news:
The Court heard reports from the Caldwell County AgriLife Extension Agents reviewing their activities over the last month.
They approved continuing education credits for some county employees.
Emergency Management Coordinator Jim Parker recommended the outdoor burning ban remain lifted as a result of the recent rains and the safe conditions in the county.
The County paid bills in the amount of $94,815.83, which included $8,818.30 in expenses for indigent legal defense.
The Caldwell County Commissioners meet on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in Room 100 of the Caldwell County Courthouse. The meetings are open to the public and concerned citizens are encouraged to attend.