By Mason W. Canales
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE — The U.S. Highway 190 south bypass relief route could be anywhere from 30 to 90 days from breaking ground, and the project should streamline traffic around Copperas Cove.
The bypass will take the name U.S. Highway 190 and the current U.S. Highway 190 through Copperas Cove will be dubbed Business 190.
According to the last traffic count performed by the Texas Department of Transportation in 2009, there are between 40,000 and 46,000 vehicles traveling every day on U.S. 190 on the east side of Copperas Cove and between 10,000 and 17,000 vehicles on the west side.
“It is a pretty safe assumption that is about a 50/50 split … with half that traffic going east and half that traffic going west,” TxDOT-Waco District Engineer Richard Skopik said.
According to the Copperas Cove Police Department, about a third of all traffic accidents in the city happen along U.S. 190.
In 2010, there were 349 reported crashes on or adjacent to U.S. 190 and a total of 905 reported throughout the city, said CCPD Cpt. Eddie Wilson. In 2009, a total of 804 collisions were reported in the city and 294 of them occurred on or adjacent to U.S. 190.
As of Thursday, there were 407 total crashes reported in the city this year, with 153 of them on or adjacent to U.S. 190.
The most severe accidents probably occur near the intersection of U.S. 190 and Farm-to-Market 116 because of the speed of vehicles coming down the hill and the visibility in the intersection, Wilson said. But accidents are common at almost every major intersection.
“(CCPD) is hoping that (the bypass construction) will reduce that number as well as the congestion that we are experiencing during the busy hours in the afternoon and the morning when people are commuting to work,” Wilson said.
While TxDOT doesn’t know how much the south bypass will reduce traffic on U.S. 190, traffic models are estimating there will be between 13,000 to 15,000 vehicles using the south bypass per day at some point during its first year, Skopik said.
“You are going to carve off at least 10,000 cars on that 46,000,” he said. “I don’t see it any higher than 15,000 cars that will be diverted.”
The projected start date of the project is late summer or fall of this year, Skopik said.
The 5.21-mile project should take about 28 months to complete and should be finished sometime in the fall of 2013.
The south bypass has a footprint for a four-lane — two lanes in each direction — controlled access highway, but what is being constructed is two lanes — one lane going each direction.
As the south bypass will take the U.S. 190 name, there will be a seamless interchange on the west side of the project for U.S. 190 and the south bypass for both east and west bound traffic just west of the newly completed Railhead overpass, Skopik said.
“It will be a direct uninterrupted connection,” he said. “If you are on the bypass coming from Lampasas you just watch the signs and blend in with 190.”
Traffic heading east will have the option to head into Copperas Cove on what is now U.S. 190 — the future Business 190 — or take the bypass. The transition from U.S. 190 to the south bypass will be seamless.
Similarly, traffic from Killeen/Fort Hood heading east will have a seamless connection to State Highway 9 (the north bypass) at the same location as the south bypass connection.
The connection to the current U.S. 190 in Copperas Cove going west will be realigned to make room for the pillars for the bypass project and a new stop light will be introduced before Constitution Drive, Skopik said. The intersection will serve as one of the main entrances for the Shops at Five Hills, a development the city and the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation have been working on.
On the other end of the south bypass project, the direct connection to U.S. 190 has been delayed as a cost saving measure, Skopik said.
The south bypass will merge with the current 190 at FM 2657, he said. A series of turn lanes and traffic signals will be installed to keep traffic moving smoothly, and signs at the intersection will direct drivers to either the bypass or to Copperas Cove using the current U.S. 190.
“I am very confident that it will work very well,” Skopik said. “It is going to have right turn lanes and left turn lanes and through lanes.”
The south bypass will also have flyovers for FM 3046 and FM 116 as well as Old Copperas Cove Road. The roadways will have exits for people to feed on and off the bypass.
The flyovers are being constructed wide enough for the expansion of the roadways below as the area south of the city continues to develop, Skopik said.
“It should be easier and quicker to take the bypass,” Skopik said. “The whole planning of this is a fully controlled-access facility. That is our highest level design of a highway that we have.”