A plan to let bids on the rebuilding of the Wesley Street overpass across Interstate 30 has been delayed until early 2008, although millions of dollars still need to be found to pay for the proposed project.

An unprecedented amount of time and money is being spent on making improvements to transportation venues in Hunt County, with work either underway or planned for three highways in the Greenville area alone. The status of the biggest single project, the rebuilding of the Wesley Street overpass across Interstate 30, remains in limbo, as government officials attempt to come up with millions of dollars needed to pay for the job.

In a four-part series, the Herald-Banner takes a look at four major efforts which will impact how people drive to and through Greenville in the years ahead, beginning with an update on the overpass.

First it was an underpass, then an overpass, then back to an underpass.

The proposed connection between the future Monty Stratton Parkway and Interstate 30 was the sticking point in a dispute between the City of Greenville and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), which resulted in an overall project to improve the traffic flow along the interstate being stopped in its tracks.

The initial plan was to rebuild the Wesley Street/Highway 34 overpass across Interstate 30, due to the bridge being too old and too low. The scope was expanded to include just about all of where the interstate passes through Greenville. The project was ready to go out for bids in April and then ... it was back to the drawing board as City of Greenville officials objected to the final designs for the endeavor.

The overpass will still be reconstructed, someday, but it will cost millions more to make it happen.

“We’re working on following up on some agreements in order to pay our consultants additional money to redesign the project,” said Craig Miser, area engineer with the TxDOT Paris District office in Greenville.

Miser said his office is still proceeding with preparations for the work.

“We’re working with the utilities right now to establish the status of every utility which might be in the way,” Miser said. “We’re going to try and let it early next year.”

The overall plan encompassed more than four miles along the interstate. The frontage roads between the Monty Stratton Parkway and Division Street were to be converted to one way operation and TxDOT agreed to design and build an exit ramp at the Monty Stratton Parkway, with the City of Greenville, Hunt County, the Greenville Board of Development and businesses in the area chipping in the cost of constructing the ramp.

Designs for the estimated $28.5 million project were all set and ready to go in the spring, before the City Council asked for a time-out.

The Council and TxDOT had differed over whether the crossing at the Monty Stratton Parkway should be an underpass or an overpass. It was originally designed as an underpass, but when the project started going well over budget, TxDOT made the change to an overpass, saving an estimated $4 million.

City of Greenville representatives objected, arguing that an overpass would limit development in the region and that it would to cost the city $4.5 million to make the connection between the road and an overpass.

In late April, several Council and city staff members traveled to Austin for a meeting with state TxDOT leaders, a session which resulted in the decision to return to the Monty Stratton Parkway underpass.

But there was still the issue of where the extra money was to come from.

The TxDOT officials reportedly offered to make up a considerable portion of the deficit itself and Miser said they did, but there is still a significant gap.

“There is still a $2.5 million shortfall from the City of Greenville before we can let that project,” Miser said.

Miser understands city officials have been working alongside the area’s state legislators and with U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Rockwall) to see of there is any funding available which can be obtained. He has not heard of any progress on that front lately, but admits anything could happen up until the time to let the project comes again.

“There is still quite a bit of time between now and then,” Miser said.

Tuesday, dirt work on the widening of U.S. Highway 380 through Hunt County could only be weeks away.

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