Congested traffic crawls along eastbound U.S. Highway 190 near Willow Springs Road in Killeen on Friday. The Texas Department of Transportation recently announced a $59 million project to expand U.S. Highway 190 from Fort Hoods main gate to W.S. Young Drive. Now, many business owners in affected areas wonder what the project will mean for their businesses.
By Sean Wardwell
Killeen Daily Herald

After the Texas Department of Transportation announced the $59 million expansion of U.S. Highway 190 from Fort Hood’s main gate to W.S. Young Drive last month, many in Killeen wondered what this would mean for businesses along the Central Texas Expressway, as well as simply getting around the city.

A clearer picture emerged when transportation officials addressed more than 100 Killeen residents and business owners last week at the Killeen Convention Center. Armed with several large maps, state staffers broke down the expansion plans for each intersection along the highway.

“Our proposed design will consist of a center concrete median barrier, a 10-foot inside shoulder, three 12-foot lanes (per side) and a 10-foot outside shoulder,” said Kevin Dickey, TxDOT project manager. “This will make a total of six main lanes — three eastbound and three westbound.”

One major part of the expansion will be reconfiguring the on and off ramps along the highway.

“What we typically do is existing entrance ramps will turn into exit ramps and exit ramps turn into entrance ramps,” said Dickey, adding some have already been reconfigured.

The transportation department plans to reconfigure the highway intersections for better traffic flow. For example, Dickey said that all four lanes that exit Fort Hood’s main gate will be able to tie directly into the main lanes of U.S. 190.

At the Willow Springs intersection, the current bridge over the highway will be replaced with a new five lane bridge with widened approaches to it.

State Highway 195, or Fort Hood Street, will still go underneath the highway, but the intersection will be widened to 10 lanes, with three through lanes and two left-turn lanes in each direction.

Jasper Road will have six lanes across the bridge and six lanes on its approaches. However, concerns about congestion at that intersection may require Killeen drivers to travel further out of their way.

“If you were on the frontage road and were heading westbound, right now you can come to the intersection, stop and come across on to Florence (Road),” said Dickey. “With the design we proposed, if you wanted to get to anything along Florence, you make a right turn on to Jasper, come up to Second Street, go left on Second Street, then left on Lydia to Florence.”

Dickey added the same procedure could be followed on the other side of U.S. 190 and Jasper Road. Previously, drivers could, if they were heading eastbound on the frontage road, turn left on to Florence Road.

Under the proposed redesign, drivers would be required to take a right on to Jasper Road, then turn left on Daisy Drive and another left on Marigold Drive to get to Florence Road.

These proposed plans were challenged at last week’s presentation by a parent with children at Nolan Middle School, which sits at the corner of Florence and Jasper roads.

“Has anybody been to Jasper, Lydia and 2nd Street at 4 p.m. when kids are being picked up?” asked Killeen resident Kim Barr. “There’s cars parked on both sides of those streets.”

State transportation officials could not answer any of the public comments, which mainly dealt with access to businesses and highway noise. Instead, the state agency will research topics of concern and include them in its findings. The agency will accept public comments through late October.

At Trimmer Road, the transportation department will build six main lanes under U.S. 190, with two through lanes and one left turn lane per side.

At W.S. Young Drive, there will be eight lanes, with two through lanes and two left turn lanes per side.

At this time, state transportation officials said they didn’t expect any need to greatly expand into private property to acquire additional right-of-way for the project.

“Some relocations are possible. They’re minimal and not very many, but it looks like we might have some,” said Andy Petter, TxDOT Waco district director. “I believe there is one (location) between Jasper and State Highway 195 on the westbound frontage road.”

Petter couldn’t go into detail on what that property specifically is because the transportation department still needs to conduct additional surveying on the land around the highway.

The transportation department will consider all citizen input before moving forward on the project, which is expected to break ground in summer 2012. Funds for the project comes from 2005’s Proposition 12, which appropriated $5 billion to address congested highways, rehabilitate bridges and improve connectivity between the state’s metropolitan areas.