Twenty-two years. That’s how long the promise or threat (whichever side of the centerline you stand on) has been hanging over this little rural community. Since 1997, we have lived with the uncertainty of the future of the SH 21 widening project – which property would be impacted, whether or not the project would ever see the light of day, whether we can sell our property or build on it knowing it could well be in a future right-of-way taking --- dividing our community and perhaps sounding the death knell for North Zulch.
Twenty-two years, and now in the spring of 2019 we learn that a possible letting date of September 2021 may be on the horizon for a portion of the project that TxDOT has deemed the “preferred” route. If that happens, we can look forward to another three to four years of intensive construction disrupting our daily lives and bringing whatever unintended consequences will surly follow for North Zulch and Madisonville.
Enough already. The time has come to develop a plan that all stakeholders can sign onto which will address the needs of our community and significantly improve east-west access for the traveling public from IH45 in Madisonville to Bryan/College Station.
Thinking outside the box, there is an alternate that has not been considered and in the interest of common sense and cost/benefit should have been in the mix years ago.
1. Put project Segments B and C (west of North Zulch to Madisonville) on temporary hold and reallocate the construction funding (approximately $80+ million) to #2.
2. Fast-track Madisonville Relief Route to highest priority and advance to earliest letting date possible. This is the3 bottleneck in the SH21 route.
3. Build Segment A (Navasota River to west of North Zulch) – in 2021 letting.
4. Rework the SH21/FM39 intersection west of RR overpass to enhance safety.
5. Gentle the S-curves east of North Zulch with minimal relocation and narrow median.
6. Revist Segment B project including urban section alternative along existing route through North Zulch to preserve the integrity of our community. See prior public meetings in Kurten, North Zulch and Madisonville and the original Environmental Assessment from 2002. Schedule Segment C project for letting as soon as additional funding is available.
All of the above could be undertaken concurrently and without delay. Allocating our limited funding resources to the areas of most need based on traffic volumes and congestion would appear to be a no-brainer. Madisonville cannot wait another 22 years for relief and North Zulch’s 22-year wait should end now.
Peggy Krohn, North Zulch