Gov. Perry Announces Plans to Widen U.S. 96, Eliminate Evacuation Bottleneck
BEAUMONT - Gov. Rick Perry today announced plans to widen the last two-lane section of U.S. 96 between Port Arthur and Jasper, which he said would "improve the quality of life in Southeast Texas, reduce commute times, increase travel safety and make hurricane evacuations more efficient and orderly."
When finished in 2008, travel times for Texans evacuating Jefferson, Orange, Hardin and Jasper counties will be reduced when the four and a half mile-long bottleneck is eliminated.
"Last fall, after Hurricane Rita made landfall and wreaked havoc all across Southeast and East Texas, I visited with several local officials about critical needs for future catastrophes. Local leaders told me we need to widen US 96 to safely evacuate our populations that live along and near the coast," Perry said. "Today I am proud to say we heard the people of Southeast Texas, and we are acting."
Perry and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) have fast-tracked the project due its importance. TxDOT plans to award the contract in July; the project should start in September.
"We are not only widening U.S. 96 to improve travel times in Jasper County, we are dividing the highway to make it safer and prevent head-on collisions," Perry said. "This is a great day for Southeast Texas. No state in the nation is laying as much asphalt as Texas, as we build critically needed capacity from El Paso to Beaumont so Texans spend less time stuck in traffic and more time with their friends and loved ones."
U.S. Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta recently came to Texas and called the state's method for financing new transportation construction a model for the nation.
"Instead of waiting on Washington to give us the funding we need or raising the gas tax, we are leveraging the resources of the private sector to build roads faster and sooner, allowing Texans the choice of driving roads funded by tax dollars, or new ones funded by tolls," Perry said. "We will continue to build a brighter future by aggressively pursuing transportation projects that cut commute times, enhance safety and create jobs."
Perry was joined at the announcement by Jasper County Judge Joe Folk.