By CRISTIN REECE
PALESTINE — Texas Department of Transportation's U.S. Highway 79/84 west expansion project is progressing steadily thanks to the summer's dry weather.
This week's rains didn't adversely affect the four-year road construction project either, which is currently in it's first year, according to TxDOT officials.
“Droughts aren't good for much except building roads,” TxDOT spokesman Larry Krantz said Thursday. “We've taken full advantage of recent dry conditions and have made good progress.”
Crews are expanding the highway from two lanes to a four-lane divided highway, from FM 294 through Westwood — about nine miles, project officials said.
The $41 million project has been on TxDOT's improvement list for some time.
“There's a lot of traffic coming through that corridor, with the Walmart Distribution Center and several oil field businesses in the area, in addition to the traffic that's passing through,” Krantz said. “Volume of traffic clearly outgrew the roadway a long time ago. But it finally got funding and thanks to the excellent local support we received, we're able to move ahead.”
Krantz said local businesses and residents located along the construction project have been more than patient with disruptions the project has caused. At least one business in the area, a manufactured home sales lot, has had to reroute trucks bringing new homes in and out of the lot.
Krantz said the speed limit through the construction zone is 45 miles an hour when workers are present.
“We appreciate everyone's continued patience as they drive through the area,” he said.
Fines for moving violations in work zones can be as high as $400, according to TxDOT's website, www.txdot.gov.
“The two leading causes of work zone crashes are excessive speed and the failure to remain alert while driving. As a result, two in five work zone crashes is a rear-end collision,” the site states, and posts these tips to help keep workers and motorists safe.
• Slow down and always follow posted work zone speed limits. Speeding is one of the major causes of work zone crashes. Remember, traffic fines double in work zones.
• Pay attention. Workers and heavy equipment may only be a few feet from passing vehicles.
• Be patient. Delays from highway construction can be frustrating, but it only takes a few extra minutes to slow down for a work zone.
• Plan ahead. Leave a few minutes early when traveling through a work zone in order to reach your destination on time.
Cristin Reece may be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org