County agrees to fund portion of Why 21 project


Madison County Commissioners agreed Monday to finance the county’s portion of the widening of Highway 21/US 190, around $1.2 million, over the course of five years with no interest. The county’s tab is much lower than the $3.3 million originally estimated years ago.

Monday’s resolution, at the regular meeting of Commissioners Court was expected and required for the project to move forward.

“Technically, we’re agreeing with the assessment they’ve provided us,” County Judge Tony Leago said at the meeting.

The assessment was the subject of a public meeting Thursday evening at North Zulch High School, where all the public comment was against the project. Most of the opposition stems from right-of-way issues around North Zulch and the lack of a loop around Madisonville.

The proposed widening of Highway 21 across 17.8 miles will include a relief route south of North Zulch, where the existing highway will not be widened, according to TxDOT documents.

The proposed rejuvenated highway will comprise two 12-food wide travel lanes in each direction with a 68-foot median. There would be two grade-separated overpasses on the route, at FM 39/Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway and at Zulch Road.

“Based on a review of crash records, a total of 218 crashes were recorded within the limits of the proposed project between the years 2012 and 2017 resulting in 16 fatalities and 27 serious injuries,” Colwell said. “The proposed project addresses safety issues with a redesign of the roadway’s curves and by constructing a median to separate opposing traffic.”

According to TxDOT documents, the project will require an additional 384 acres of right-of-way easement that could potentially displace five occupied residences, five abandoned residences and nine sheds and other structures.

The county’s portion of the project will fund right-of-way purchases and the costs of relocating some utilities.