ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – For those who frequent Southwest Drive, traversing the area has gotten a bit more stressful and a few minutes longer than usual. The Two-lane, two-way road has been reduced to one lane each as the city prepares for construction from South Clack Street all the way down to Barrow Street.
“[Southwest Drive] connects me to the whole town. I can get on they bypass, I can go to my kid’s house, I can get on 322 and go around to my daughter’s house. It’s everything. It has affected every aspect of my travel time,” said Jeff Barnett, who lives just off Southwest Drive.
Barnett, like many of his neighbors, says the impending construction has added a considerable amount of time to his daily commute; a task he’s been able to work around, though he said it’s not made any easier by the fact that South Abilene’s other main thoroughfare, Buffalo Gap Road, is also slowed down right now due to construction.
“What can you do? You’re at the mercy of the fathers of the city and their wisdom to block off Buffalo Gap and Southwest Drive at the same time,” Barnett voiced. “Why not finish Buffalo Gap before you start the construction here?”
After speaking with residents like Barnett, KTAB/KRBC reached out to the City of Abilene in search of answers to their pressing questions. As far as the dual project planning, city staff had this to say:
“The Buffalo Gap Road is a TxDOT roadway and their project – and while the City certainly works as best possible to coordinate with TxDOT throughout the city on roadwork, we ultimately have no control over their projects or timelines. Buffalo Gap in particular is a lengthy project with a multi-year completion date; it would not be feasible for the City to refrain from south side road work for the entirety of that project.”
Alternatively, some residents have complained that for all the traffic headaches and re-routing they’ve had to endure, there has been no sign of actual work going on anywhere on Southwest Drive since the cones have been placed. City staff say the cones were intentionally placed in advance as a construction safety measure.
“Barricades preparing drivers for the change of traffic flow were intentionally set up by the project contractor (Bontke) several days prior to work actually beginning. This is done as a safety measure to introduce everyone to the change in traffic before also having men and women in the work zone with heavy equipment,” the City of Abilene wrote in a statement to KTAB/KRBC.
This precaution has proven its worth as some motorists have already driven through the would-be work zones. Whether due to lack of attention or confusion, the city said it’s glad that these events transpired before crews were in place.
“People coming south will keep going straight and then they’ll finally say, ‘woah, gotta get over,’ and yeah, I have seen a few cones knocked over during that,” added Barnett.
Not including holidays, weekends, or weather and supply delays, the project on Southwest Drive has a working timeline of 140 days, or almost five months from the beginning of construction.