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Friday, December 8, 2000

Crosstown extension in works

Funding still not approved to expand freeway to Saratoga Boulevard

By Jason Ma
Caller-Times

Everything but funding is in place to extend Crosstown Expressway to Saratoga Boulevard, local transportation officials said.
   Frontage roads for the Saratoga Boulevard extension are already in place and construction on an interchange at South Padre Island Drive is set to begin in the summer.
   The missing piece is funding approval from the Texas Transportation Commission, said Amin Ulkarim, transportation planning director for the Corpus Christi Metropolitan Planning Organization, which coordinates state and federal funding for regional transportation improvements.
   "It may be the next few years, but we don't know yet," he said.
   But Ulkarim is confident enough that he has started planning for another extension beyond Saratoga Boulevard. He recently added an extension to Farm-to-Market Road 43 to the organization's 20-year plans.
   Such long-range plans to extend the expressway are a sign that the highway's extension to Saratoga Boulevard is more imminent, he said.
   "We believe that," Ulkarim said. "We have lots of support for this."
   The additional extension is part of an overall plan to connect the expressway with Farm-to-Market Road 70, which connects with U.S. Highway 77, he said.
   Becky Kureska, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Transportation, said she expects the money to come as construction on the $35 million interchange at South Padre Island Drive nears an end within four years.
   "We anticipate that we won't have any problem getting it," she said. "The traffic is what justifies it."
   She said it is more likely that money for the extension will come in because frontage roads are already there and construction on the interchange will start soon.
   By the time the interchange is near completion, "the need will be there," she said.
   She added that motorists will experience major disruptions while construction on the interchange proceeds.
   "It's going to require lots of patience," she said. "Lots of patience."
   During construction, the Crosstown Expressway and Padre Island Drive will still be linked, but ramps and overpasses will be torn down, she said. Detour lanes, two in each direction, will be built to compensate.
   The planning organization is also amending its short-term roadwork plan to include Corn Products Road between Interstate 37 and Up River Road.
   "That section carries a lot of heavy truck traffic," said Glen Sullivan, county engineer. "It needs a complete rehabilitation."
   Also, the planning organization decided to delay construction of wheelchair ramps at crosswalks until 2002.
  




Staff writer Jason Ma can be reached at 886-3778 or by e-mail at maj@caller.com

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