By Devin Corbitt-Garcia, The Belton Journal
In a special called meeting of the Belton City Council on Tuesday, council members approved two items: the first was a change order to the MLK Bridge and Expansion Project, which connects Martin Luther King, Jr Avenue to Loop 121. The second was a change in the speed limit on a portion of Loop 121.
The first item before the council was the first change order to the project and will allow for some additional safety features to be added to the expansion.
“What we’re looking at for this change order is a traffic signal at Loop 121 and W. MLK; turning and acceleration lanes on Loop 121 for safe ingress and egress onto MLK; pedestrian crosswalks and signals; and a driveway relocation,” Public Works Director Mike Huber said.
The cost of the project is an estimated $780,552 and will add 81 days to the project. However, city staff still anticipate the project will be compete in July 2016.
“In our previous discussion, we looked at getting a traffic signal at MLK and Loop 121 in anticipation of opening the bridge and the additional traffic that will come onto the loop,” Huber said. “At the time we did the project, we did not know if we’d have enough funds for this. We got fairly fortunate with James Construction in the bids and had enough excess grant and matching funds to look at this (traffic light) project in concurrence with the bridge and the expansion project.”
The item was approved 5-0, with Mayor pro tem David K. Leigh and council member Paul Sanderford absent from the meeting. The bridge will not open to the public until the entire project is complete, including the traffic signal and turn lanes.
The speed limit change is only a slight reduction, but the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) hopes it will have a large impact on traffic in the area, making the roadway safer for drivers making a left turn and for pedestrians traveling on foot or by bicycle along the shoulder.
“In late 2014, TxDOT did a traffic and engineering study on the Loop and found that a portion of the loop’s speed limits were higher than they needed to be for existing conditions,” Huber said. “The section just south of Sparta (Road) down almost to Avenue D is 60 miles per hour now and needs to be lowered to 55 miles per hour based on that engineering study.”
Because that portion of the road is in city limits, the city is responsible for changing the speed with an ordinance.
Also included in the ordinance encompasses the anticipated construction due to the above change order.
“The second part of the ordinance is a temporary change in speed limits to protect workers as we’re building turns lanes and the traffic signal (for MLK Avenue),” Huber said. “That would be a speed limit zone of 45 miles per hour to protect both those construction workers and the traveling public just for the time of construction.”
The ordinance was approved 5-0.
While the speed limit will reduce to 55 as soon as possible, the temporary construction reduction will not take place until construction on the traffic signals and turn lanes begins.
The Belton City Council will reconvene Oct. 27 at 5:30 p.m. in the Harris Community Center, 401 N. Alexander in Belton.