A $52.3 million project to widen Old Jacksonville Highway inside the Tyler city limits is officially funded and likely moving forward.
The Texas Transportation Commission on Thursday approved funding to widen Old Jacksonville Highway from four lanes to six, and moved it into the state’s long-range road plan, Transportation Commissioner Jeff Austin III confirmed Friday.
The commission, which oversees the Texas Department of Transportation, ranks road projects and sets the schedule for road improvements in the state.
It isn’t a totally done deal, though. The state has signed off on the funding, but the local transportation planning organization, the Tyler Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, will need to also approve the measure before it could move forward. That MPO is scheduled to discuss the matter in January.
The project includes widening the Old Jacksonville Highway from four to six lanes, from Loop 323 in Tyler to Farm-to-Market Road 2813 in Gresham, according to Michael Howell, MPO manager.
Kathi White, TxDOT’s public information officer, said a news release with more details about the project was expected to go out Friday afternoon.
TxDOT is anticipating construction to begin in 2022 if the local MPO approves the project and its portion of funding.
Austin said the project is a big deal for Tyler, and a big win for the region.
"This recognized the overall growth and what is happening in Tyler and all around East Texas,” Austin said. “It’s a major north-south corridor for people coming to work, coming to schools and visiting downtown. I’m really excited to be a part of that.”
It was unlikely that the project would move forward without the state adding funds, Austin said.
He said the State Transportation Commission had a little over $13 billion in unallocated funding and roughly $2.5 billion was allocated by the board at its Thursday meeting, leaving another $10 billion to be considered in the spring. Austin said a majority of that money, however, would go to larger metropolitan areas.
Austin thanked Tyler leadership for banding together to help projects get pushed forward.
“We appreciate the local support,” he said. “This will keep Tyler relevant and an area where people want to come. Transportation issues across the board are being solved.”
Thursday's project approval is the latest improvement slated for the congested corridor. Two other projects are already moving forward, and this marks the final phase that ultimately will result in a widened roadway from Loop 323 in Tyler all the way to U.S. Highway 69 in Bullard.
The first phase is set to begin this summer between the four-way stop in Gresham down to the four-way stop in Flint, or from Farm-to-Market Road 2813 to Farm-to-Marker Road 346. .
Improvements include widening the road from two to four lanes, with a center turn lane. A large hill near the blinking light intersection of County Road 140, also known as Spruce Hill Road, will be flattened out.
That section will have a two- to a two-and-a-half-year construction time, putting completion in 2020. Construction on the nearly 2 miles of road is estimated at $14 million, excluding the cost of right of way acquisition.
The next phase would widen FM 2493 from two lanes to four and add a center turn lane from Flint to where the road connects with U.S. Highway 69 in Bullard.
That piece is still in the planning process. The agency has a preferred route, but is working on getting environmental clearances. Once the environmental approval is given, the agency would begin working on construction plans in anticipation of funding becoming available. The phase hasn't been guaranteed funding, but is forecast to be funded in 2021, according to TxDOT.
The section includes roughly 6 miles of road, plus realigning the intersection of FM 2493 and U.S. Highway 69.
Currently, 2493 is split in two — divided by Highway 69. The plans include connecting the two sections, and constructing an overpass to bring Highway 69 over FM 2493. The overpass would be identical to the one constructed about a mile away on Farm-to-Market Road 344.
FM 2493 also has a curve to it as it approaches the highway — that would be straightened out.
As of March, the section had an estimated construction cost of between $60 to $80 million, and would require the acquisition off about 75 acres.
The entire project also would affect two schools, Bullard High School and The Brook Hill School, as well as two fire departments — Flint-Gresham and Bullard.