People who drive past or anywhere around FM 646 in League City, and owners of businesses along Interstate 45 in that area, got a rare bit of good traffic news this week from the Texas Department of Transportation.
The news was that a project to reroute FM 646 under the interstate, rather than over it as had been the case, might be completed in a few weeks — maybe in as few as two weeks.
The state had estimated the project, which has caused exceptional consternation for a lot of people, would take until the fall to complete.
In a world where government projects nearly always take longer and cost more than expected, hearing that one would be completed that much sooner was unexpected and more than welcome.
Business operators, some of whom had suffered substantial financial strain because of the project, greeted the news with excitement.
“If that’s the case, we’ll have to have a little celebration,” said Manish Maheshwari, who, with business partners, owns franchises Little Bella Mia and Coco Crepes, Waffles & Coffee in Pinnacle Park. “That’s definitely good news. Some of the better news I’ve heard.”
Businesses in the area could weather a six-month project, but they could have problems if the traffic problems dragged on, Maheshwari told the The Daily News.
City officials in May said the work might be to blame for new estimates that the city might finish 2019 with about $400,000 less sales tax revenue than initially projected.
While getting the FM 646 intersection back open will be a major relief for drivers and business owners, traffic troubles along I-45 between Galveston and the Clear Lake area are just getting started.
Work on the FM 646 overpass, which began March 1, is part of a huge project to expand the whole southern run of I-45.
Department officials also closed down many of the exits between FM 517 and FM 518 as part of that $120 million effort to expand the interstate in several phases starting in the north part of the county and moving south.
Reopening FM 646 traffic will enable crews to continue moving their work at expanding the interstate south, Perez said.
“We want to address congestion and growth in the area and traffic volume,” Perez said of the ongoing construction.
“In order to do that, we have to have closures in place. And we appreciate everyone’s patience. But we know to move on, we’ll need to open up access.”
The state is making a major investment in the main corridor running through Galveston County and that’s a good thing, because the county’s population already had grown past what I-45 could accommodate on a typical workday, much less during something extraordinary such as a hurricane evacuation.
The end result will be a major benefit for everybody.
• Michael A. Smith