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Waco getting new traffic signals, anti-glare backing, sidewalk work with TxDOT grants

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Squinting to see traffic signals, not really knowing when they become green, red or yellow, has driven more than one motorist to distraction.

With a $260,473 grant getting warm in its pocket, the city of Waco hopes to correct this potential hazard citywide. Crews will install “back-plates with reflective borders to improve visibility of signals during morning and evening hours when glare makes signals difficult to see,” according to a city press release announcing the grant and three others.

James Bailey, who manages Waco’s traffic engineering department, said traffic signals numbering in the hundreds put drivers through their paces locally, and a high percentage will receive the visual enhancements.

Bailey said the Texas Department of Transportation, via its Highway Safety Improvement Program, agreed to fund four projects Waco submitted in October. The projects “are focused on safety and will decrease accidents and improve mobility for pedestrians and the motoring public,” according to the press release.

TxDOT in January will solicit bids on installing signal back-plates.

Elsewhere, crews will install a traffic signal at La Salle Avenue and Third Street, near Baylor University’s Ferrell Center and several apartment complexes. This area can become congested on Baylor University basketball game days. A contract for the $353,760 project will be awarded in January 2024.

A new traffic signal also is planned at the intersection where Bishop Drive and Hilltop Drive meet Valley Mills Drive, at a projected cost of $279,912. A contract is scheduled to be awarded in February 2024.

Signal and sidewalk improvements also are planned at the 17th and 18th street intersections with Franklin Avenue. That contract is expected to be awarded in January 2025, and carries the highest price among the four projects, at $729,752. The city will pay 10%, while the TxDOT grant will cover the balance. Except for miscellaneous expenses, TxDOT will pay all costs related to the other three projects.

Bailey said new traffic signals do not appear simply because of crash counts at a given intersection. Traffic volume also comes into play.

“It’s more about prioritizing. We’re not waiting for traffic accidents to happen,” Bailey said. “You can’t put in a signal based simply on crashes.”

He said the state’s Highway Safety Improvement Program is beneficial to midsize communities such as Waco because they do not have to compete against larger metropolitan areas for TxDOT money. Money is allocated to the Waco TxDOT district, then disbursed. The district includes Bell, Bosque, Coryell, Falls, Hamilton, Hill, Limestone and McLennan counties.

Work near 17th and 18th streets will proceed on the heels of an almost $1.3 million overhaul of the 17th Street Bridge, which was damaged by fire that destroyed a warehouse beneath it in 2019. Built in 1961, the bridge already had been deemed in need of work before the fire.

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