349-158 overpass off for now, officials say

5/28/09 The Permian Basin's ever shifting transportation priorities have resulted in an overpass at state Highway 349 Reliever Route and state Highway 158 northwest of Midland being put into abeyance, spokesmen for the Midland-Odessa Transportation Alliance and Texas Department of Transportation said Wednesday.

The Midland-Odessa Metropolitan Planning Organization has voted to take $700,000 in federal stimulus money from the $5 million overpass to help widen Farm to Market 307 from Greenwood to County Road 1150 and add a turning lane to Faudree Road northeast of Odessa, said MOTRAN President James Beauchamp and TxDOT spokesman Glen Larum.

They said lifting the reliever route over 158 is still on the engineer's board, but it now hangs on the outcome of the state legislative session Monday in Austin. "We're in limbo," Beauchamp said.

"While we play these games, we will have a high traffic intersection and a stop sign. We really have concerns about the danger of that."

Larum noted Midland-Odessa Metropolitan Planning Organization's May 18 reallocation "was not enough to do the overpass" and said the remaining $4.3 million TxDOT had appropriated is no longer available, owing to amorphous politics. "The $4.3 million might fund it, but we have to wait and see what shakes out from the session," he said.

Running from Farm to Market 1788 north of Highway 191, 16 miles east to 349 north of Midland, the two-lane reliever route is slated to open in August 2010. The Midland-Odessa Metropolitan Planning Organization consists of City Councilmen Jerry Morales of Midland and Dr. James Goates of Odessa, Ector County Judge Susan Redford, Midland County Commissioner Robin Donnelly and TxDOT District Engineer Mike McAnally of Odessa.

Having briefed the Midland and Odessa city councils on the reliever route and other such issues Tuesday at the CEED building at 1788 and 191, Beauchamp said MOTRAN's La Entrada al Pacifico trade corridor is also being advanced by Mexico's construction of a highway through Copper Canyon north of the western Mexico port of Topolobampo.

He said the widening from two to four lanes of both 349 between Midland and Lamesa and U.S. 385 from Crane to McCamey have passed environmental reviews and are on the cusp of rights of way acquisitions.

Larum said his department's other priorities include widening and upgrading the northern two miles of 1788 in Andrews County and making it a farm to market road from Midland International Airport to Seminole. "It's a popular shortcut from Hobbs, N.M., to the airport with 1,200 vehicles a day," he said.

He said there is "some push for consideration of signal lights or moving the exit ramps farther east and west at West Loop 250 and Interstate 20.

"The east and westbound traffic, mostly westbound, has backed up on the interstate, trying to get onto the Loop," Larum said. "We put new exit ramps at Cotton Flat Road to serve the Horseshoe and there may be a full diamond interchange with the interstate going over Midkiff Road.

"We're looking at additional work on the I-20 corridor through Midland to convert it from a rural to an urban corridor with different exits and approaches."

Campbell, Bob. "349-158 overpass off for now, officials say." Midland Reporter-Telegram, May 28, 2009.