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State, county tackle growing highway, roadway damage
by Jason Collins
Jul 13, 2013 | 1528 views | 0 0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BEEVILLE – The roadways of South Texas are taking a pounding from the 18-wheelers that are feeding the Eagle Ford Shale boom.

In some cases, the highways are literally collapsing under the weight of the trucks.

Rural roads, never designed nor constructed for this amount of traffic, are falling apart.

The state is doing what it can to tackle this ever-growing problem.

Most recently, an army of state Department of Transportation employees converged on the area of Bee and Karnes counties to repair and improve the state highways.

On that list of work is State Highway 72 and the passing lane over which so many residents in that area voiced concern recently.

Earlier this year, residents of Pawnee met at their volunteer fire department station to talk to the state’s regional engineer about their safety concerns.

Commissioner Dennis DeWitt, into whose precinct this falls, praised TxDOT for their help in getting the necessary repairs done.

“These activities were encouraged and bolstered with the resolutions passed by the Commissioner’s Court several months ago as well as the public meetings held at the local TxDOT office, which were attended by several commissioner’s court members and concerned Bee County residents,” DeWitt said. “A special thank you to all the local residents that helped organize the meetings, contacted other residents and attended the meetings sharing their ideas and concerns.

“TxDOT responded immediately to the many concerns voiced and has listened and acted immediately and decisively to protect the health and safety of all those traveling on the highways within Bee County.

“A major thank you to all the TxDOT administrators and staff for their excellent and continuing work.”

Safety, state officials say, is their top priority, and they are doing what they can, as fast as they can.

“It is for the safety for the oil and production companies. It is for safety for new residents coming in and the people who have lived in this area for a long time,” said Rickey Dailey, TxDOT public information officer.

Short of a natural disaster, this is one of the larger TxDOT forces deployed to an area.

“This is a significant project for TxDOT,” Dailey said. “You hear about us whenever there are snowstorms and they send us in to clear the roadways.

“This is TxDOT stepping up and addressing a similar challenge.

“This is a significant, aggressive effort on the part of TxDOT.”

For many motorists, the damage being done to the highways is akin to a natural disaster.

“We are bringing crews from other areas of the state to supplement Goliad and Karnes county workers.”

Another of their duties — $8.6 million worth of repair and construction of a new passing lane on U.S. 181 between Kenedy and Tuleta.

Couple this with the projects also going on here, in Karnes and Live Oak counties, and it’s easy to see why such a massive amount of manpower is needed.

And the work will continue as long as the trucks continue to roll down the roadways.

“As resources become available, we are doing all we can with those resources,” Dailey said.

“We are addressing the most immediate needs as quickly as we can.

“That includes us driving the roads. We also get reports from citizens and residents.”

Like the state, the county, too, is working to ensure the safety of motorists.

The culvert on West King Lane, which crosses the Medio Creek, will be replaced, thanks to donations from Texstar Midstream and TEAK Midstream.

SAWS construction, out of Nursery in Victoria County, was awarded this $180,456 contract.

DeWitt said, “This is the money received from the cryogenic plants near Pettus.”

DeWitt began working on the replacement of this narrow, low-water crossing earlier this year. For years, the county has been making repairs on this roadway, patching it as best they could.

But, with an expected increase in traffic, something had to be done.

That is when the cryogenic plants stepped up and offered to fund the necessary repairs.

DeWitt estimated that the replacement of the low-water crossing would take between three and four months and would benefit not only the employees who will travel this road to work but also the longtime residents of the area.

And there is still more money out there for counties, including Bee, to dip into.

Only about a month ago, Gov. Rick Perry signed a bill setting aside $225 million for a transportation infrastructure fund.

Before the county can take advantage of this money, they must do their part, and that means setting up a reinvestment zone.

The reinvestment zones are the only places in which the grants can be used.

Additionally, the bill says that each county must “create an advisory board to advise the county on the establishment, administration and expenditures of a county energy transportation reinvestment zone.”

The bill also stipulates who must make up the advisory board; “three oil and gas company representatives who perform company activities in the county and are local taxpayers” and two public members.

According to DeWitt, Bee County has 400 miles of paved roads in all, and the majority of oil field activity – approximately 80 to 90 percent – takes place in Precinct 2, the northern part of the county.

Thanks to help from the oil companies, the county has been able to keep up with many of the rural roads.

The bill does not go into effect until Sept. 1, so the commissioners court still has time to decide if Bee County would like to pursue any of the grant funds.

These are just samplings of the work being done to maintain the backbone of the state’s transportation system.

This county continues to partner with the drilling companies for road repair funding assistance.

And, while this concerted effort of TxDOT workers will ultimately come to a close, the local workers will continue on under the hot summer sun — patching the holes and repairing the shoulders a fast as they can.

Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.
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