Work began this week on a long awaited $86.1 million flyover from U.S. 59 at Spradley Street to Loop 224 near state Hwy. 7 West.

Longview Bridge and Road is general contractor for the project that is expected to be completed in four years, weather permitting. During construction, motorists can expect work near the lanes of traffic, lane closures and traffic pattern changes, Texas Department of Transportation officials said.

“We are excited to be starting this long anticipated project in Nacogdoches County,” said Rhonda Oaks, public information officer for TxDOT’s Lufkin District. “As we begin, motorists can expect that for the next few weeks crews will be off the roadway clearing and moving utilities. This initial work should not interrupt traffic patterns.”

The project is part of an overall plan to transform U.S. 59 into Interstate 69, which local leaders expect will give the East Texas economy a healthy boost. I-69 is expected to travel along with city’s western edge and continue north.

Once compete, I-69 will stretch 2,680 miles from Mexico to Canada.

A long-range statewide plan scheduled for approval next month by the Texas Transportation Commission includes some key building blocks for what will eventually the interstate traversing East Texas.

The Unified Transportation Plan, or UTP as it is known in the transportation industry, is a 10-year guide to projects to be developed in each of TxDOT’s districts.

As development of Interstate 69 continues along the U.S. 59 corridor, projects on the proposed UTP in Nacogdoches County include upgrading the highway north of the city to four lanes and adding frontage roads between 2024 and 2029.

“The work will include removing the old horseshoe style intersection where we have seen several crashes and replacing it with a direct connector from US 259 to US 59, much like what we are about to build in south Nacogdoches at Loop 224 and 59 South,” Rhonda Oaks said.

Other U.S. 59 projects in the plan include converting the highway to four lanes with frontage roads north of Shepherd in San Jacinto County and building a four-lane relief freeway on the west side of Corrigan in Polk County.

Elsewhere in Nacogdoches County, the plan calls for construction of a continuous left-turn lane on U.S. 259 from the Rusk County line to state Hwy. 204.

“These construction projects are likely to be approved for construction sometime between 2024 and 2029,” Oaks said. “There are no schematics on the projects yet, but they are currently in the study phase. The UTP, once approved later this month, will solidify the priority and time frame for these projects to move forward.”

If approved, the UTP will serve as a guide, but neither the projects listed or the money to complete them is guaranteed, Oaks says.

“The funding levels in the UTP are based on a forecast of transportation revenues anticipated over the next 10 years,” she says. “Because funding levels may change in the future, the UTP does not serve as a budget or a guarantee that certain projects will be built.”

Instead, it authorizes TxDOT and its local partner agencies to prepare projects for construction based on “a reasonable expectation of future cash flow,” she says.

Preparation includes activities like preliminary design, environmental analysis and right of way acquisition.

TxDOT’s Lufkin District encompasses nine counties covering 7,000 square miles.

“Upgrading U.S. 59 is an opportunity for the district to address local transportation challenges while also advancing a project of national significance,” the draft UTP reads. “Maintenance, safety and traffic concerns require urgent attention, so whenever possible, Lufkin uses the U.S. 59 (future I-69) improvements to address those issues.”

Such is the case in the Loop 224 interchange in Nacogdoches, which is slated to begin construction before the end of the year.

That project is on a list of projects to be addressed within the next four years, along with a Diboll relief route, upgrades to U.S. 59 in Angelina County and a relief route around Corrigan in Polk County.

Public comment on the plan ended Aug. 12, and transportation commissioners are slated to vote on approval in September.

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