HEDC approves traffic light funds for Spur 54

HARLINGEN — What is likely to become one of the busiest roadways in the city will be studied to determine whether traffic lights will be placed at intersections near the new convention center.

The Harlingen Economic Development Corp. this week voted to fund a $24,000 traffic warrant study to find out if lights should be placed at the intersections of Spur 54 and Chester Park Road, Brazil Road and Bass Pro Drive.

“The traffic light warrant study is necessary to help finish that project off,” Raudel Garza, the agency’s chief executive, told the HEDC board. “Basically the city is asking us to cover $24,000 for that study.

“I think that kind of expenditure is good for us because it benefits the businesses around that area,” he added. “Aside from that, I also wanted to raise some questions about the design of Spur 54 and how it can interact between, say, for example, the convention center and Bass Pro Shops.”

The Spur 54 Reconstruction project covers 1.2 miles and is part of the Harlingen-San Benito Metropolitan Planning Organization’s 2019-2022 Transportation Improvement Program. Funding is $7.3 million for fiscal year 2019, although adding lights and intersections could add at least another $400,000.

Spur 54 runs from the frontage road of I-69E/U.S. 77 to Chester Park Road where the spur merges into the frontage road of I-2/U.S. Expressway 83 west.

The reconstruction project will widen Spur 54 from four to six lanes and add a raised median.

City officials said TxDOT requested Harlingen help out by funding the traffic light study.

“We’ve identified three places where we want to have signal light intersections,” Carlos Sanchez, assistant city manager, told the HEDC board. “We’re talking about three drive lanes in each direction with 10-foot shoulders on each side, a 10-foot sidewalk on the south side which is part of our hike-and-bike trail system and a six-foot-wide sidewalk on the north side, again bringing some sort of connectivity.”

Sanchez said when a project in a congested area mixes pedestrian and vehicular traffic, for safety reasons TxDOT prefers signal lights at the cross points on the median.

“In order for TxDOT to authorize those signal lights and intersections to be placed, there’s an engineering study which we call a traffic warrant study that will assess the current conditions and also future conditions of the growth of that area,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez said TxDOT has already designed the Spur 54 Reconstruction and the project should go out for bid in November or December.

Garza told the HEDC board the funding for the study is in the agency’s budget under a category authorizing payment for economic studies.

The board approved the request for the funding by a unanimous vote.