Tyler drivers will be getting some congestion relief after the Texas Department of Transportation adds an extra lane in each direction on a portion of Loop 323 underneath the Union Pacific train overpass there.
City Council members on Wednesday approved a $454,000 contract to re-locate utilities beginning in October before the expansion work can begin on the loop.
TxDOT will pay $10 million for the loop expansion project, which will add an extra lane to make three lanes in each direction from Bellwood Road to West Elm Street and will create an increased-size Union Pacific train overpass to accommodate the extra lanes, TxDOT spokesman Larry Krantz said Wednesday. There are two lanes in each direction on that portion of Loop 323, which go underneath that train overpass.
The construction project will go out for bids in November, and work could begin in February 2015, Krantz said. Completion would be finished in about 19 months.
"Two lanes of traffic will be open at all times, and there will be no lane closures during daylight hours or extended restrictions on lane closures during the holiday season," Krantz said.
City Council members awarded a contract to the Huntsville-based Doughtie Construction to perform the necessary utility relocation before the expansion work can begin. There will be no lane closures during the holiday season. Morgan said traffic at that location is often in a "terrible bottleneck" and Mayor Barbara Bass said the work has been long overdue.
In other news, the council approved the proposed $100 million city budget at Wednesday's meeting, which will raise municipal tax rates by 5.92 percent. The city still has the lowest tax rate of any city in the state with more than 16,000 residents, and Tyler's tax rate has fallen by 60 percent since 1994, city officials have said.
In August, city officials announced the possible 1.23-cent rate increase from 20.77 cents to 22 cents per $100 valuation to fund fire, police, parks and recreation and library services in the 2013-2014 fiscal year. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. Council members held two public comment meetings for residents to express their views.
District 4 Councilman Martin Heines commended city staff for all of their hard work on the budget and said, "no one wants to vote for a tax increase." But he added that the employees had gone without a pay raise for a year and he was proud of them.
"They all deserve a raise," he said.
Mayor Bass also thanked the staff for their work, calling the tax increase "a big one for Tyler."
"But it's still the lowest rate in the state for cities our size," she said.