State transportation officials have found funding for much-needed improvements to U.S. Highway 380 west of Denton.
Officials are using leftover funds from other projects that came in under budget to pay for roadwork improvements including a stretch of West U.S. 380 that has been the site of numerous serious traffic accidents.
"We're delighted that this money is coming to Denton County. It's something we have been pushing for a long, long time," said County Judge Mary Horn, who noted the county's fortune to be on the short list for funds.
"You save a little bit here, a little there - pretty soon you have enough to spend on another project," she said.
County officials were frustrated late last year when $74 million that had been allotted to U.S. 380 construction work was diverted by Texas Department of Transportation officials in Austin to other projects. One of the improvements was a planned widening of U.S. 380 to a four-lane divided highway.
TxDOT spokeswoman Cynthia White said at that time that state officials recognized that the roadway needed to be improved and its capacity expanded. Work had been under way for several years on the project, she said, but funding wouldn't be in place until 2015.
Since learning last year of the funding loss, the county has been working with local TxDOT officials to get money back on the project, Horn said.
"It's a dangerous stretch of highway with the accidents, injuries and deaths that have taken place out there in the last few years," she said. "That broke my heart and made us work harder to make it clear to them this is imperative. I wish it would have come years ago, but I'm glad it is there now."
According to a recent TxDOT news release, the development of U.S. 380 from the Wise County line to Interstate 35 in Denton will occur in two phases.
The western section, Phase I, extends from the Wise County line to approximately a half-mile west of FM156. Phase I - which will be paid for through local and rehabilitation funds, as well as $20.5 million in state transportation bonds - is scheduled be under construction by Thanksgiving.
The eastern section, Phase II, extends from just west of FM156 to I-35. Construction of Phase II could begin in spring 2012.
"This is a result of combined efforts of the county, TxDOT officials and family members of people who lost their lives on 380," Denton County Commissioner Andy Eads said. "We're eager to see construction start this fall."
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .