Jones|Carter Project Manager, Tim Newton, PE, sat down to discuss the recent FM 70 project win, how he will lead the J|C team, and how he will incorporate the input from the public to make sure those who live in the area will stay informed.
Congratulations on winning the FM 70 project with TxDOT. Could you tell us a little about what the project will entail?
The FM 70 project is a 24.9-mile project in southern Nueces County. The project limits include two sections of roadway: FM 70 from US 77 to SH 286 and SH 286 from FM 70 to FM 2444. Both roads are two-lane. There has been a rise in accidents and fatalities on these roadways, partially due to an increase in volume over the last several years. TxDOT has asked us to look at what improvements are necessary to improve safety in the area.
Our job will encompass every aspect of the project including, preliminary design, schematic layouts, environmental assessments and studies, public involvement, and anything else that may arise through final design and construction. It will take approximately five years to complete the process.
Why is this project significant to local residents?
These roads are critical links for local farmers, industry and commuters. These roads flood fairly frequently and there are safety concerns as accidents and fatalities have increased. TxDOT is looking for a long-term solution, which we will gladly provide.
What potential impact will this have on the surrounding communities?
The impact on the community will be positive for both commuters and adjacent property owners. The road will be safer for those who drive from Corpus Christi to Kingsville and for those who live on the adjacent properties. It will also be beneficial as the road will be less likely to close during an inclement weather event once the project is complete.
Public Involvement is a crucial part of this project. How do you intend to keep the local stakeholders engaged throughout the process?
Our team will follow the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), an established prescribed process, to make sure TxDOT and federal standards are met. The NEPA process includes a comprehensive public involvement plan.
From the start, we will meet with stakeholders, politicians, and adjacent property owners to hear their concerns and try to address them. We will then publicize and hold Public Meeting No. 1, an open house. The primary purpose of this first meeting is to show what the project is, discuss the issues, and to listen to the concerns of those who could be affected. We will not take any predetermined solutions to the first meeting.
The next meeting, Public Meeting No. 2, is also in open house format. The J|C team and TxDOT will present alternative roadway types and alignments that will accomplish project goals. The public will come in to discuss and our team will listen. Those who attend will be able to comment on their preferences and their reasoning. We understand and respect that the local community knows a lot about the project and the area. We will encourage the public to ask questions and to voice their opinions. We want to make sure everyone is heard.
The final public meeting is a formal Public Hearing, which is part of the prescribed process. The project will be presented and individuals can come to speak about the project. We will continue to listen to what the public has to say.
Once the project has been through three public meetings, the final recommended alternative will be selected. We will have listened and heard those who wish to speak, and at this point, the public should be on board.
The process is complex, sometimes lengthy but very important. You need the support of the public and the stakeholders and we will do what it takes to make sure the project has that support.
The project limits are a part of the Texas Historical Commission’s Texas Tropical Trail. What special considerations may need to be made for these areas?
TxDOT wants travelers to discover the natural, cultural, and historical treasures that are unique to Nueces County and other areas in the southern tip of Texas. We will implement proper signage to encourage the public to visit any historical sites within the project limits and to continue through the rest of the Tropical Trail.
How will you help alleviate safety concerns in the area?
Before we were selected for this project, while we were familiarizing ourselves, our team looked at a variety of alternatives. We will look at those again through the NEPA process and the final alternative will alleviate safety issues. We recognize that there are several ways to improve safety. As we move through the NEPA process, we will look at those options so that when we reach the final hearing we will have a good solution that the public will accept.
What can be expected once the project is complete?
You can expect a much safer roadway that was supported by area property owners, commuters, and other stakeholders.
What is unique to the approach the J|C team will take on this project?
We will look, with TxDOT’s guidance, at all the alternatives to make the roadway better and safer. With the experience our team has in the area, we will also be able to make sure the process is as efficient as possible.
What do you hope the takeaway for TxDOT will be after partnering with J|C on this project?
I would like for them to have an excellent experience with a team who is always responsive to their needs and the needs of the public. Our goal is to design a project that is beneficial to the community.
What are you most excited about when it comes to the FM 70 project?
Working with the TxDOT Corpus Christi District, they are a great District to work with. When you think of Texas you think of thousands and thousands of miles of roadway, most of which are rural. I am excited to manage the planning and design of a significant rural highway project in Texas.
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