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I-45 Construction: More Changes Happening in Walker County

Part 1 in a series explaining what to expect with upcoming construction of I-45 in Walker County

By Rich Heiland
Free Press Publications, LLC
For Walker County News Today

 

FOR HUNTSVILLE and Walker County residents who use I-45 on a regular basis the persistent question has been “what all is being done and when will it be done?”

The answers to those two questions are “A lot” and “No time soon.”

The work from the Walker County line north through New Waverly up toward Huntsville has been underway for two years and for that project, the end is somewhat in sight.

The portion from Park Road  40 to just north of the Texas State Highway 19 intersection is scheduled to be done by some time in 2021.

But, drivers expecting immediate relief won’t want to relax.

On Aug. 9, at 6. P.m., the Texas Department of Transportation will hold a public hearing at the Walker County Storm Shelter, preceded by a 4 :30 open house where project plans can be viewed for work that will continue on after 2021.

That hearing involves two projects that, combined, will reinvent the interstate through Huntsville to roughly a half-mile south of FM 1696.

The local work is a part of a massive upgrade of I- 45 with a goal of an ultimate six-lane interstate from Houston to Dallas. Bryan District Project manager for the local project, Delmy Reyes, P.E., told Walker County News Today the work is to “enhance mobility” along the interstate, parts of which have not been upgraded for 50 years.

“It is six lanes coming south out of Dallas County and north through Montgomery County,” Reyes said. With Navarro and Ellis counties widened south of Dallas, that leaves Walker, Madison, Leon and Freestone counties to be widened.

“We are down to four counties,” she said. The demands on the highway have increased markedly in recent years, driven by growth south out of Dallas and north out of Houston.

WITH MORE IMPORTS of everything from massive windmill parts, pre-fab housing and heavy equipment coming out of the growing Port of Houston, huge trucks hauling that gear have become common sights in Walker County.

A TXDOT descriptor of the projects to be shown at the Aug. 9 open house and hearing also notes “I-45 serves as the primary hurricane and disaster evacuation route for metro Houston and Galveston.” TXDOT has a formal process for turning outbound lanes on interstates out of Houston into one-way in the event of evacuation. The expansion would give I-45 six-lanes northbound in a disaster, not counting access roads.

“But,” stresses Bobby Colwell, public information officer for the Bryan District, “the primary focus of the project is on mobility.”

So, what does all this mean for Huntsville and Walker County drivers coming into contact with all the work?

Walker County News Today will be exploring that for the next few days, an attempt to create a “Surviving I-45 for Dummies” that will simplify and explain what is “coming down, or up, the road.”

Rich Heiland, a Huntsville resident, is a former publisher of the Huntsville Item and owner of Free Press publications, LLC, a reporting/writing firm working with media. He has been a reporter, editor and publisher at several dailies and as a reporter was part of a Pulitzer Prize winning team. He also has taught journalism at the university level. He can be reached at solutionsmap@msn.com or 936-293-0293.

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