TxDOT is continuing to widen US Highway 69 through the rural counties of Northeast Texas as part of the Highway Trunk System program, even as plans march forward for the Trans-Texas Corridor TTC-69 to link Rio Grande Valley and Gulf Coast ports of entry to the Arkansas/Louisiana state line via East Texas. The Texas Trunk System is a plan designed in the late 1980s to improve state and U.S. highways to connect rural communities and major activity centers to each other and the Interstate system. To date, US 69 has been improved from Beaumont all the way through East Texas to Lindale, just north of Interstate 20.
Longview Bridge and Road is easily on schedule for Spring 2010 completion of a $43-million contract to widen US 69 to a divided four-lane roadway for the 10-mile distance between the outskirts of Mineola and Lindale.
Work began in April 2006 at McDaniel Street in southern Mineola and proceeded southward. One of the first sections to come under construction was also the largest structurally — Wood County's second-ever highway overpass. It will take US 69 over the new section of the Mineola Loop/FM 564, which is yet to be built to the east and southeast of Mineola. Reinforced Earth is supplying the highly decorative precast panels for the MSE (mechanically stabilized earth) embankment walls. The relief design will show scenes of trees, ducks and deer.
The new US 69 lanes will parallel the existing roadway along its east side. "A lot of the new roadway is having to be raised to meet the profile of the existing roadway," said John Clemens, project manager for Longview Bridge and Road. "In other areas, the roadway was engineered to change the existing profile of current highway as well."
About 830,000 cubic yards of fill will be used on the project for embankment and to raise the profile of the roadway, according to Michal Turner, TxDOT inspector. "Balancing the project as much as possible, 710,000 cubic yards of mostly East Texas sand must be excavated in various areas along the right-of-way, leaving approximately 120,000 cubic yards to be brought in from other local sources."
"We're hauling dirt in three different places, building our small structures, and working on the MSE walls of the overpass," Clemens said. The company's six dump trucks and four off-road Caterpillar haulers keep the red sand moving.
"The small structures include a lot of culverts and even an underground cattle-crossing tunnel. This was a pretty unusual request," Clemens continued. "Seven of the culverts are larger than the rest, being triple-barrel, 9-foot by 10-foot and 10- by 10-foot in size and about 300 feet long."
There will be five bridges built on this project: two relief bridges over the Sabine River and a bridge over Duck Creek in addition to the highway overpass at the Loop/FM 564.
Not too far south of Mineola, the turn-off to Faulkner Park intersects US 69 just below the rise of a hill. This is not a problem for southbound traffic turning right into the park road, but it is a dangerous situation for traffic leaving the park and turning northbound back toward Mineola. TxDOT engineers decided to use the reconstruction as an opportunity to make this location safer for drivers.
The hill will be lowered by 10 feet, allowing the Faulkner Park Road intersection to be visible for US 69 traffic traveling in both directions. TxDOT engineers' calculations showed that 51,000 cubic yards of material would have to be removed from this one area. Since this would provide much of the 80,000 cubic yards needed for the embankments of the FM 564 overpass, it was an excellent reason to commence work simultaneously in these two areas.
The roadway itself will be constructed with 15 inches of flexbase and 6 inches of Type C hot mix asphalt, and topped with a 2-inch course surface treatment with seal coat.
The next section of US 69 planned for improvement will be northward from Mineola to Alba. TxDOT hopes to let that contract in 2010. The southeast portion of the Mineola Loop/FM 564 also has not been let. Hopes are to see that project bid in 2009.
As for TTC-69, TxDOT will evaluate the comments gathered over the past few months in order to prepare a final environmental impact statement. The report will then be sent to the Federal Highway Administration for approval. According a TxDOT website, this work could be completed in early 2009.