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TxDOT seeks public comments on project

By Dawn Burleigh

Only four residents commented at the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Beaumont District Public Hearing on Thursday night at the West Orange Elementary School on MLK in Pinehurst.

TxDOT Beaumont District is proposing to widen Interstate 10 from 0.54 miles east of Farm to Market (FM) 3247 to the Sabine River Bridge in Orange County, Texas. The proposed project would widen IH 10 from four lanes to six 12-foot wide lanes with 10-foot wide inside and outside shoulders. The project would widen the existing IH 10 Adams Bayou main lane bridge to include an additional 12-foot lane in each direction. The entrance ramp west of Adams Bayou for eastbound traffic would be relocated to the east and the entrance ramp east of Adams Bayou for westbound traffic would be relocated to the west. The Sabine River Relief bridge would be replaced with a new bridge consisting of six 12-foot wide lanes and an acceleration lane in the westbound direction.

Based on public feedback received at the previous public meeting on Feb. 7, 2019, the Adams Bayou frontage road bridges would be removed; however, the turnarounds would remain. All work is proposed to occur within the existing right-of-way (ROW); therefore, no displacements or relocations of residences and businesses would occur. The total project length is approximately 4.84 miles, according to a press release announcing the public hearing.

Director of Transportation TxDOT Beaumont District Adam Jack said the public hearing was part of the process for the project.

“This is a legal proceeding,” Jack said. “Public comments will have a three minute limit.”

According to comments gathered at a previous public meeting for the project, the turnarounds at Adam’s Bayou would remain but the bridges on the feeder roads would be removed.

“The upgrades include replacing the existing Sabine River Relief Bridge with a modern structure meeting current design standard,” Jack said.

“There is no environmental impacts from this project,” Specialist TxDOT Beaumont District Julia Ragsdale said.

The need for the project includes improved roadway for increased population and traffic volumes. Improved mobility, increased safety and improved hurricane evacuation route, according to the presentation given during the hearing.

Orange Council member Brad Childs was the first to make a comment during the hearing and stressed he was not representing the city of Orange but was representing the people in his district.

“I disagree with the design of Adam’s Bayou bridge,” Childs said. “I wish TxDOT would reconsider. If the bridges were rebuilt properly instead of added onto, it would make a difference.”

Childs provided TxDOT representatives with pictures of a newer bridge constructed over Cow Bayou in Vidor which did not have columns in the bayou.

“The bridge has 28 columns in the bayou now,” Childs said. “We are having snags when it rains.”

Another citizen also spoke against the project as it was currently presented.

“I want to see something done with the bridges,” the man said. “I am worried about the safety at turnaround and someone ending up in the bayou. Replacing and raising the bridges is a better option, smoother than trying to get on the highway.”

He also added he did not have access to his property when that section of the roadway flooded.

A woman voiced her agreement with Childs.

“The frontage bridges need to be raised. I know the roads are important to the community,” she said. “The proposed adds another slope. Some of us prefer toodling down the frontage road.”

She also pointed out an acceleration ramp at the Texas Visitors Center was in need of being extending.

“On paper it may sound good,” she continued. “But in reality, it is not.”

She said the entry ramp was hazardous due to the 18-wheelers not having enough time to accelerate as they merge onto the interstate.

Another man pointed out the proposed design only actually added one lane to the roadway.

“The low bridges with the pilings need to go,” he said. “I am concerned with not having a feeder road. In an emergency situation getting on and off Interstate 10 sounds dicey to me.”

He also stated he would prefer to see a bridge similar to the one at Cow Bayou.

“Orange is the first taste of Texas and I want it to look good,” he said.

A completed final design is expected in Spring 2020 with construction possibly starting in June of this year.

Construction could take 42-48 months.

Comments must be received on or before Friday, March 6, 2020, to be part of the official public hearing record.

Comments may be submitted at the public hearing, or by mail, email, or online to: Larry Sheppard, P.E. 8350 Eastex Freeway Beaumont, Texas 77708  or email to bmtprojects@txdot.gov

For more information, visit www.txdot.gov and Search: IH 10 Orange County.