Texas Department of Transporation Area Engineer Ralph Condra confirmed Monday that traffic along East Houston Street and both North St. Mary’s and North Washington Streets will be affected by drainage and pavement improvement projects for weeks to come.
Although the contract for the work was a single agreement, Condra said the project will involve two different elements.
“Three roadways will be affected,” Condra said this week. Workers with Hunter Industries, Ltd. of Hunter, near San Marcos, started rerouting traffic on East Houston on about Dec. 9 or 10, Condra said. The company originally had intended to begin that portion of the East Houston work on Dec. 8.
“The work on U.S. Highway 59 is primarily a pavement restoration and widening,” from Hillside Drive to the intersection of U.S. Highway 181, Condra said.
The street will be widened where possible and new sidewalks will be built along the entire route.
“We’re trying to put sidewalks everywhere we can,” Condra said of current TxDOT projects.
City Manager Ford Patton said TxDOT funded similar work on West Corpus Christi Street, U.S. 59 west of the downtown area, in about 1996.
One half of the Houston Street roadway will be replaced at a time, Condra said. The contractor will limit traffic to one 11-foot lane in each direction as work is done, beginning on the north side of the street and eventually moving to the south side.
Currently, traffic is limited to the south side of East Houston Street in both directions.
The contractor moved in heavy equipment and began ripping up the existing pavement Tuesday morning.
The drainage work actually started on South St. Mary’s Street last week as a ditching machine set up just north of the Poesta Creek Bridge.
Concrete culvert was stacked along the street just west of the H-E-B Food Store parking lot for installation.
Work is intended to progress north along St. Mary’s Street through the downtown area and eventually move to Washington Street.
Condra said that portion of the project is intended to improve drainage in the downtown Beeville area. During periods of heavy rain, flooding in some downtown businesses has been common.
Although TxDOT intended to improve the situation on North Washington Street first, Patton and city staff members convinced TxDOT planners that drainage improvements on North St. Mary’s Street were just as important if the problem is to be corrected.
TxDOT officials eventually included improvements for both downtown streets in the project.
“The drainage issue is a problem that everybody has wanted to address for years and years, especially the downtown businesses,” Patton said.
“It will be a nuisance but the end result should certainly make it all worth the trouble.”
Patton said the city has encouraged TxDOT to limit the work in the downtown area to one block at a time, as much as possible, to keep from having two or three blocks of the commercial area blocked to traffic. He said the contractor also has been encouraged to allow pedestrians access to downtown businesses.
Fortunately, many businesses on the west side of North Washington Street have plenty of parking behind them and entrances to their buildings from those parking lots. Patton encouraged people to use those parking lots and rear entrances as much as possible.
Patton said the bulk of the work will involve replacing storm drain culverts from pipes as small as 15-24 inches in diameter to 30 inches in diameter culverts at the north end of the downtown area.
The culverts will increase in size until they are 36 and 44 inches at the south end of the downtown area.
Storm drains on North Washington Street will join those on North St. Mary’s Street at West Houston Street and a 48-inch culvert will carry water to Poesta Creek just west of the bridge on South St. Mary’s.
Patton said the plans also call for increasing the number of storm water inlets on both North Washington and North St. Mary’s streets and along the 100 blocks of West Cleveland, Hefferman, Bowie, Corpus Christi and Houston streets.
Although the downtown work is mainly designed to improve drainage, Condra said that part of the project also will involve repaving streets after the drainage structures have been installed.
Condra said TxDOT will be spending about $5,750,000 on the project.
Patton said the city will be required to move one water line on Houston Street in the downtown area at its expense.
However, the city convinced TxDOT that moving water lines underneath East Houston Street would not be advisable.
The state had wanted those lines relocated when it originally drew up its project plans for East Houston Street.
Patton said that leaving the water lines where they are will save the city about $150,000.