Allen Butler Construction Inc. crews demo a portion of the existing northbound U.S. 87 mainlane utilizing a John Deere 892 LC hydraulic excavator. The roadway’s frontage roads will be constructed during Phase 1 of the project.
Texas’ oil and gas industry supports millions of jobs statewide while its thriving windfarm industry employs tens of thousands of Texans. In fact, it’s been reported that if Texas were a country, it would rank number 5 in the world in total wind energy generation. Then there’s the state’s leading cash crop: cotton, a $5.2 billion industry that represents 40 percent of total cotton production in the United States.
These three industries have a huge presence throughout the South Plains and Permian Basin areas in western Texas. So much so that traffic safety and mobility issues along heavily trafficked thoroughfares and at busy intersections are being aggressively addressed by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). One example: the U.S. 87/Farm to Market (FM) 41 intersection, where a 3-year construction project began in October.
“Over the past few years, as more folks moved into southern Lubbock County and northern Lynn County, both U.S. 87 and FM 41 have seen an increase in traffic and, unfortunately, a rise in crashes at the intersection,” Steve Sisneros, TxDOT’s Brownfield area engineer, said. “The new bridge, a grade separation structure — always an improvement to any intersection — will eliminate the conflict point between the U.S. 87 mainlane traffic and FM 41 traffic. Also, the slower minor road FM 41 traffic will no longer have to travel across the high-speed U.S. 87 mainlanes, eliminating any stop-and-enter traffic and the related queuing issues.”
Allen Butler Construction (ABC) Inc., a mid-sized heavy highway civil construction company in Lubbock founded in 1978 and known for its road and bridge infrastructure construction, is serving as the general contractor. ABC equipment being used for the U.S. 87 bridge project includes milling machines, scrapers, motor graders/maintainers, cranes, drill shafts, belly-dumps and laydown paving machines.
When finished, motorists will benefit from a new bridge that will take them over FM 41 as well as new entrance and exit ramps, turn-arounds and safety lighting, said Sisneros.How the three-phase project is approached has much to do with safety issues, Sisneros said.
“The safety of the traveling public and construction crews is always our top priority, so for about eight months during Phase 1 of the project, FM 41 traffic will not have direct access to U.S. 87 and will be detoured around the work zone. The FM 41 closure is the safest and most efficient way for crews to build the bridge entrance and exit ramps, and the frontage roads.”
Once the Phase 1 frontage roads are completed in mid-summer 2022, U.S. 87 traffic will be shifted onto the new lanes and FM 41 will reopen with access to U.S. 87. Crews will then begin building the Phase 2 bridge structure, targeted for an October 2023 completion date. Phase 3 final surfacing and striping will be completed in October 2024.
“Keeping traffic disruptions to a minimum as the project progresses continues to be TxDOT’s biggest challenge,” Sisneros said. “Determining the need and then executing such projects requires a team effort that involves our maintenance crews, area engineers, district staff and district engineer working together to maintain roadways and improve safety, mobility and connectivity.”
DPS Sergeant Johnny Bures said in an interview with KCBD, “This is a very busy intersection. It has U.S. 87 that runs through here, and of course that’s a major corridor, which connects the Permian Basin to the South Plains. With 41 running east and west, sometimes early in the morning or when the sun is setting, you have impaired visibility, also. Not to mention, with the way the road is angled, we have a lot of bad crashes out here.
“[The improvements are] going to cut down on a lot of the traffic that is travelling north and south that is going to have to interact with the traffic that is on 41,” Bures added. “They will be able to utilize that flyover, where they are not actually coming through this intersection unless they are needing to turn.”
The U.S. 87 bridge project is 100 percent in-state funded, said Dianah Ascencio, TxDOT public information officer. “The state funds are a combination of Category 4 [connectivity corridors] funding,” she explained. “That is, $8 million from the Lubbock District for rural connectivity, $8 million from the Lubbock Metropolitan Planning Organization for urban connectivity, and $5.6 million from the Lubbock District’s preventive maintenance funds.” CEG