SH 31 Planning, SL 323 to FM 1639

Location Smith and Gregg Counties, Texas

Owner Texas Department of Transportation

Client Texas Department of Transportation

  • Project Development and Environment (PD&E) Study
  • Highway/Roadway Design
  • NEPA Documentation
  • Hydrologic Analysis/Design
  • Alternatives Development and Analysis
  • Corridor Study
  • Surveying
  • Intersection Analysis/Design
  • Traffic Simulation
  • Visualization
  • Traffic/Transportation Analysis
  • Stakeholder Committee Group Coordination
  • Public Outreach/Involvement
  • Utility Coordination
  • Cost Estimate Development

State Highway (SH) 31 from State Loop (SL) 323 in Tyler, Texas, east to Farm to Market (FM) 1639 in Kilgore, Texas, is a high‐speed, 20‐mile stretch of two‐lane road with numerous fatal head‐on collisions. Concerned for the welfare of the road’s users, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) initiated a project to improve the safety of this primary connector. Lochner was hired to provide planning and environmental services.

After evaluating the accident data for SH 31 and mapping project constraints, the project team proposed widening the corridor from two lanes to a divided four lanes. Separating the corridor’s east and west traffic with a median would reduce the potential for head‐on collisions. Because numerous residences line both sides of the corridor, the project team evaluated widening the roadway on both sides but ultimately chose to widen on one side only to reduce potential displacements. Lochner also evaluated a variety of median designs and selected a narrow, depressed median as the preferred alternative. This median design provided a wider separation between opposing traffic and safer access to and from side roads and adjacent properties. Lochner used a restrictive crossing U‐turn (R‐cut) design at higher volume intersections to further enhance safety for side road traffic accessing SH 31. Both the preferred widening and median design balanced safety, community impacts, and cost, resulting in an acceptable local solution and an optimal project design.

Lochner was also tasked with evaluating the project’s environmental assessment and refining design plans accordingly. To eliminate costly permitting and mitigate impacts to adjacent wetlands, the project team designed retaining walls and span bridges as opposed to embankment or fill. Lochner also used these design solutions to avoid adjacent standing water and ponds within the project area, reducing project environmental impacts and cost.

Lochner’s participation in the project’s public involvement was key to getting public buy‐in. In addition to developing a database of adjacent property owners for TxDOT to use for public meeting notification, Lochner created an interactive project map and an animation of the proposed improvement concepts, including an animated drive‐through of the proposed R‐cut intersections. These exhibits were presented at public meetings to help stakeholders visualize the proposed changes and solicit design feedback. The visualizations were also used during steering committee meetings, which were attended by various members of local leadership.

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