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Village of Salado influences bill aimed at helping communities impacted by I-35 construction

Posted at 7:03 PM, Mar 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-27 20:08:42-04

SALADO, TX — A bill that could change the way communities are impacted by construction currently sits on the House floor.

As it stands now, when a contractor doesn't meet a construction deadline during a transportation project, they pay a penalty to the state. Senate Bill 282, which was drafted by Senator Dawn Buckingham, would redirect those funds to the impacted communities.

SB 282 is also known as “The Salado Bill,” because it was influenced by the devastation the village went through when I-35 construction got off track and cost the community thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

"Salado went through a very difficult time. It was not only difficult because of the loss of customers, but because of the loss of hope," Village of Salado Mayor Skip Blancett said.

The Village of Salado was severely impacted when a construction project lasted roughly a year longer than it should have.

"I think that the construction company may have overestimated what they could do so when they took something apart, they didn't put it back together so you had different places on I-35 that were literally torn apart," Blancett said. "It hurts when you hear your best friend say, 'I am sorry, we can't keep our business open there are no customers.' It hurts when you hear customers say, 'I'm sorry, we are not coming back again.' It's too hard to get here and it's too dangerous."

The village fell victim to I-35 construction that began in 2013. The road improvements were supposed to wrap up in 2015, but it wasn't finished until the Fall of 2016.

"We don't blame anyone. What we do is simply say, 'This is what happened and no other community in Texas should have this happen to them,'" Blancett said.

Blancett was invited to speak on behalf of SB 282 to senators during the legislative session in March.

The mayor has been working for nearly two years to make this bill happen.

"I didn't talk about money, I didn't talk about what you can get from it. I talked about what it does to a community, how it can literally tear it apart," Blancett said.

The bill is currently waiting on a vote from Texas Representatives.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, they are currently working to get that part of the statewide I-35 project to the point of what they call Substantial Completion by the end of May.

Final touches to the project, like landscaping and signage, should be done by the end of the summer.

While projects in Bell County wrap up, construction will soon be underway in Waco.

According to TxDOT, construction on I-35 is set to begin between 12th Street and N. Loop 340 in the summer of 2019.

There will be an open house on April 17 at Knox Hall in the Texas Ranger Museum for anyone wanting information on the improvements that are to come.