A contingent of Salado business and property owners met with officials from the Governor’s office this month to discuss the progress, or lack thereof, of construction on I-35 through Salado.
According to TXDOT’s Project Tracker, the 3.33 miles under construction is now at the 119.89 percent of time used. The project was initially planned for 940 days of construction, beginning in June 2012. As of March 22, the project is 71.26 percent complete. Since late September 2015, James Construction has completed just over 10 percent of the total project. At that time, James Construction had completed only 60 percent of the project.
James Construction missed Milestone #7 to “open Salado Plaza Dr. East/West on temporary lanes.” The milestone date was March 11. James Construction crews are still working on the I-35 overpass lanes at the Salado Plaza intersection. When those are complete, the east/west connection of Salado Plaza drive can be completed. Traffic will be routed off of the detour lanes between the overpass and the east side access road and onto the overpass lanes. The mainlanes traffic will be routed onto the shared Southbound mainlanes.
The next milestone in May will be switching the northbound lanes off of the shared lanes to open all of the lanes on the overpass at Salado Plaza Dr.
When the milestones were announced by TXDOT and James Construction at a town hall meeting in February, a deadline of May 2016 was announced for substantial completion of the total project.
Since that town hall meeting, the deadline for substantial completion has been pushed back to July 2016 with completion in September 2016.
This would bring a 36-month project to 52 months, or about 144 percent of the time of the original contract.
However, skeptics doubt if TXDOT and James Construction will be done in September. Based on completing 70 percent of the project in 46 months (June 2012-March 2016), then it may be 66 months for total completion of the project, bringing completion date to the end of November 2017 or 183 percent of the time allotted for the project.
The continual extension of deadlines and milestones on the project was one of the topics that the Salado contingent discussed earlier this month. The contingent included Mayor Skip Blancett, Salado Chamber of Commerce Chairman Melanie Kirchmeier, Chamber Vice-Chair Dave Swarthout, former Chamber Chairman Dave Hermann and Chamber board member Larry Wolfe.
They met with Governor Greg Abbott’s staff including these: Deputy Chief of Steef Reed Clay, Drew DeBerry, Director of Budget and Policy, Jerry Strickland, Director of the Office of State and Federal Relations and transportation advisors Chuy Gonzalez and Steven Albright.
With news clippings from state and local media, hotel occupancy tax and sales tax comparisons with other central Texas communities over a five year period and anecdotal and statistical information from local business owners, the group asked for $3 million in recovery funds.
The funds are divided into several local projects, including these:
• $1.5 million in Economic Development Infrasatructure for upgrades to Main Street, streetlights, sidewalks and walking paths.
• $1.0 million in Matching Funds grants to Business Owners for Economic Development matching grants to property and business owners for improving their properties, marketing, sewer tap fees and reconstruction.
• $300,000 for a marketing campaign for revitalizing Salado.
• $200,000 for sewer installation because the Village has had to invest significant funds in rerouting the proposed sewer due to TXDOT not allowing the sewer lines to be put under pavement and other requirements.
Meanwhile since the meeting with the Governor’s staff, Salado first responders have been called out to more than 15 accidents along the three mile stretch of I-35 through Salado.
Since January 2015, Salado Fire Department has been called out for 113 accidents on I-35 involving 202 vehicles. There have been 46 injuries requiring transportation to emergency rooms and three dead on arrival calls.