Motorists should plan to continue to dodge orange road construction barrels in Abilene's city boundaries in the coming months.
Abilene has about $2.5 million of street and sidewalk construction under contract, while anticipating having another $5 million of work under contract by "spring of next year," City Engineer Cody Marshall said.
"Next year is shaping up to be a busy year for street construction," Marshall said, starting in the winter months.
While it doesn't have as much money for local projects as in the past, the Texas Department of Transportation's Abilene district is continuing with roadwork, including moving toward completion of a $22.7 million interchange on South 1st Street at Arnold Boulevard and a $4.6 million project to reconstruct Military Drive from Dyess Air Force Base to FM Road 3438.
Upcoming city projects total $3.12 million and include curb ramp improvements around the city, Pine Street resurfacing and rehabilitation, paved alley repair and pavement rehabilitation on North 2nd Street from Graham to Merchant.
Also included is up to $2.8 million in "stimulus funds" from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for four city street projects.
Blair Haynie, director of transportation, planning and development for TxDOT's Abilene district, said even though a considerable amount of work is going on in the Key City, the funding level for TxDOT's 13-county Abilene district has dropped considerably in recent years.
While it amounted to more than $100 million a year in fiscal 2007, Haynie said Abilene TxDOT district funding was $40 million in fiscal 2009 and is about $20 million to $25 million in "regular funding" for the current fiscal year - not including $12 million for areas in the district outside Abilene and $5 million inside the city limits through "stimulus funding."
There is, however, a good possibility of some additional stimulus funding for $10 million of improvement to Interstate 20 frontage roads between Loop 322 and Pine Street, but "that's not a guaranteed thing right now," Haynie said.
"We are feverishly putting together the plan," Haynie said, adding money might become available if a project elsewhere falls through.
Bottom line, Haynie said, is more money is needed to meet TxDOT infrastructure needs.
Options being pondered, Haynie said, are increasing the gas tax, instituting toll roads, doing more bond projects or bringing in private investors.
"That's a big discussion both at the state level as well as the national level in trying to figure out how we fund our transportation system," Haynie said. "The infrastructure across the United States is being impacted right now, and ... all this infrastructure has to be maintained, and a lot of people are trying to find out the best way to go about it."
Reduced funding hasn't stopped TxDOT from putting projects in the pipeline.
One such project is improving access and traffic flow on State Highway 36 in front of Shotwell Stadium, Taylor County Expo Center and the Abilene Zoo, Haynie said.
The project is the result of discussions TxDOT has had with police, AISD, Taylor County commissioners and city and zoo officials concerning access through that area during major events, Haynie said.
Meanwhile, with all the work currently being done and planned for the future, Abilene City Council members appear pleased.
"I'm quite pleased to see it happening, and I look forward to it all being completed," City Councilman Stormy Higgins said.
"I am very impressed with the amount of street and sidewalk repairs completed and the future projects," Councilman Joe Spano said, adding they were made possible with a 2006 bond package, the city's Capital Improvement Program, grants for Safe Routes to Schools and stimulus funds.