The Texas Department of Transportation’s project to reconstruct Loop 363 in Temple began Sept. 21, 2005. The development extends from South 57th Street to South 5th Street.
The project consists of a two-mile widening of the existing four-lane divided roadway travel lanes, including shoulders and increasing frontage roads to a minimum of three lanes. The department will also add continuous turn lanes to the 31st Street bridge, as well as improve the north-south approaches to the bridge from 31st Street.
The project was predicted to be completed by spring of 2008. Today, months after the expected date, the citizens of Temple are still waiting for the day when the project will be finished.
Professor of social work, Dr. Jose Martinez, thinks the protection of citizens should have been the main priority of the city.
“Safety should be the uppermost, and I doubt that the greater safety was number one in planning this,” he said. “I feel (it) could have been done even better.”
Martinez described the danger of the arrangement.
“I-35 is now what is called a ‘dog run.’ It is so narrow that it makes the drivers nervous and can give them anxiety,” he said. “The 363 Loop construction is similar to the little narrow kennels that dogs are kept in, and they only run in or out. The same for the driver—if a person is a little off, they will either hit the wall or another car.”
Senior business administration and graphic design major Taryn Peither has experienced the danger of the roadways.
“In April of 2008, when the construction was supposed to be done, I experienced my first wreck due to it,” she said. “I was on the loop … and a person rear-ended me. There was so much congestion.”
Peither believes the city is not attending to the needs of drivers.
She said, “The light at the Chili’s intersection is better suited for the construction workers, not the people.”
TxDOT said the multi-phase project began with the construction of detours to change the one-way east bound lanes of Loop 363 to a single lane east-west two-way traffic movement. The west-bound lanes will then be closed as work begins to upgrade those lanes. As the project progresses, traffic will be moved to the west side as the east-bound lanes are upgraded.
James Construction Group, LLC., of Baton Rouge, La, is the contractor for the $27.5 million project. Company officials anticipated the project would be completed by now, but due to weather, it is not.
Besides construction, the city brought in new restaurants and stores including B.J’s, Taco Cabana, Olive Garden and Super Target. The idea of the new vendors may bring in more money for travelers due to their locations on I-35.
“I enjoy the new restaurants that are being brought to the area,” Peither said. “Students have more choices to eat out, but at the same time, they’re a bother because the city should have expanded the highway first. There are too many things going on at once in one little area.”
Sophomore Sarah Wagner appreciates the new businesses.
“There aren’t many places to eat in Belton,” she said, “so Temple helps give UMHB a variety.”
The city may expect a good outcome from the construction, but many students are looking for alternate routes.
“I know that it’s for the good cause of the highway, but if the highways are backed up, I have no way to get to the other side of town,” Peither said.
Martinez hopes that students at the university will exercise caution when driving through the hazardous area.
“They need to be careful when traveling,” he said. “They shouldn’t have to be anxious going to school or work. I just don’t feel that it is safe. I take 31st Street instead of I-35 as often as I can.”
For now, drivers will have to use alternate byways, but even with different routes, students are still anxious for completion of the project.
“I’m just ready for this to be over with,” Peither said. “I think we all are.”
If your destination is Scott & White Hospital, avoid traffic by taking the Midway exit. Follow it east until it eventually becomes Thornton Lane. Continue east to the 31st intersection. Turn Left on 31st street.
View Larger Map
If going to 57th street from I-35 north, exit at Loop 363. Continue on the access road. 57th street will intersect the access road.
Even with the alternate routes provided, students are still anxious for the day when the project will be complete.