By Rich Heiland
Free Press Publications, LLC
For Walker County News Today
WHILE THE I-45 WIDENING work in the Park Road and Goree Bridge areas in Huntsville is significant, it may not be the most significant. That honor might fall to the what will be the biggest and most visible improvement on I-45 currently under construction- the intersection with State Highway 19 and I-45.
The intersection of those two major highways has long been limited and problematic. Presently those coming southwest on 19 have a flyover to I-45 south but cannot directly connect with the access road and Veterans Memorial. Those wishing to enter 19 from northbound I-45 have to go down a long ramp and directly onto 19. Or, they make a slight left onto the access road.
Local drivers wishing to get on either 19 or the access road currently have to stop at an acute intersection with the I-45 exit ramp and try to look up the ramp to see oncoming, exiting traffic. And, that exiting traffic often is coming at high speed.
When work is done sometime in early 2021 the intersection will have an entire new look. Basically, what will happen is:
- The short road that currently runs from the Goree Bridge on the east side (between Smiley’s Gas Station and Huntsville United Pentecostal Church and I-45) to Southwood Drive will be eliminated. Traffic coming off the new Goree Bridge form the west will turn left onto Highway 75 then go north to Southwood Drive and turn left.
- Southwood Drive, from 75 to what is now the I-45 access road will become the new I-45 access road.
- Traffic coming north on I-45 now will have two exit options – directly onto Highway 19 or the access road via a new lane that peels off from the one taking them to 19.
- Traffic coming off Highway 19 to southbound I-45 will have a fly-over to be built next to the current fly-over. However, this fly-over, in addition to putting traffic onto I-45 south, will allow traffic to exit onto the access road. For Elkins Lake residents this means coming off 19 will allow them to directly connect to the access road, then either of two Elkins entrance.
- As noted in our previous story the current southbound entrance to I-45 off the access road below the Goree Bridge will be moved slightly north and elongated.
- When the new fly-over is complete the current one will be demolished.
SO, SUMMING UPthe massive project:
The Park Road 40 area will be improved by widening the I-45 bridge over the road to six lanes and making all entrance and exit ramps longer. The southbound exit ramp off I-45 to the Park Road will end close to where it does now but will be longer and it will curve into almost a T intersection, forcing exiting traffic to slow down. That also will improve line of sight for traffic on the access road. Park Road also will be improved.
The new Goree Bridge will begin where it currently does and will angle northeast to form an intersection with Veterans Memorial. The new intersection will allow for direct connection to Veterans with no turns or a left turn to go south on the access road to Elkins Lake. The northbound exit ramp off I-45 into the Goree area will be moved further south and form more of a T intersection, again slowing exiting traffic.
And, as detailed above, there will be a major rework of the I-45 and Highway 19 interchange.
But, once all that work is done in early 2021, the earthmovers, diversions and closures won’t go away. The Texas Department of Transportation has two more major widening projects that will impact I-45 and areas around it from I-45/Highway 19 to north of the city. You can get a first-hand look at that work on Aug. 9. Check out our next installment for details.
Next: Part 5: Looking Ahead to Future Work
Rich Heiland, former publisher of the Huntsville Item and owner of Free Press publications, LLC, a reporting/writing firm working with media, has been a reporter, editor and publisher at several daily papers. He was part of a Pulitzer Prize winning team. He taught journalism at Western Illinois University. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org or 936-293-0293.