Trade corridor questions remain after TxDOT ends feasibility study

1/13/10 Citing tightened finances and increasing statewide demands, the Texas Department of Transportation has ended a feasibility study of widening La Entrada al Pacifico trade corridor, which was recently boosted by the opening of the 16-mile Highway 349 Reliever Route north and northwest of Midland.

However, the Midland-Odessa Transportation Alliance considers its goals still in play to make four lane divided highways of Texas 349 from Midland to Lamesa and U.S. 385 from Crane to McCamey.

TxDOT spokesman Glen Larum of Odessa said Wednesday that TxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz' Dec. 15 letter to state Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, about the study was definitive. "It means we don't have the funding to devote to a four-lane highway, even if the study suggested it was merited, from Presidio to Lamesa," Larum said.

"La Entrada was always an idea for a trade route and time will be the best judge of that. It still exists as a designated state highway, but any corridor has to be predicated on its use. We may be able to build up segments as funding is available over time. There will be some safety improvements on 349 and 385."

Larum said passing lanes have been added to create "Super Two" roads on U.S. 67 from Interstate 10 to Alpine and U.S. 90 between Alpine and Marfa.

MOTRAN President James Beauchamp said the completed dividing of U.S. 385 from Odessa to Crane leaves its 38 miles from Crane to McCamey the next logical step.

He said MOTRAN and the Lubbock-based Ports to Plains Trade Corridor Alliance have applied for federal Tiger Grants to proceed with that and the 50-mile long Highway 349 from Midland to Lamesa, which has become so dangerous that a four-lane divided road is urgent.

Beauchamp said his organization never wanted the study by HDR consulting engineers because it didn't consider a divided highway justified on the 62 miles of U.S. 67 from Marfa to Presidio-Ciudad Ojinaga, although that two-lane blacktop has had so many fatalities that it should be a Super Two. "The study wasn't anything we had asked them to do," said Beauchamp.

"It was stupid and wasted a lot of money. La Entrada has been designated by the state and federal governments and is already pretty much here in its entirety. We know the upsides and downsides, so spending $1.5 million to have a firm out of Dallas tell us what we already knew was sort of silly."

Campbell, Bob. "Trade corridor questions remain after TxDOT ends feasibility study." Midland Reporter-Telegram, January 13, 2010.