intersection opens

Temple City Manager Brynn Myers, Susan Long, Mike Pilkington and Jessica Walker look at the new intersection at Loop 363 and First Street on Thursday.

A set of barricades came down Thursday as the Texas Department of Transportation and the city unveiled the new intersection at First Street and Loop 363.

For now, eastbound loop traffic needing to access First Street will continue to detour at Fifth Street. Once complete, the new configuration should provide better access to Temple College and the Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Medical Center.

About two dozen public officials huddled under a tent near the Temple College campus to commemorate the upcoming end of the project, which will create a signalized interchange at the two roadways.

“We consider it a success when the project is on time, on budget and when it’s a quality project. This project has all three of those,” TxDOT Deputy District Engineer Michael Bolin said.

With increased traffic and growth in the area, both entities felt it necessary to provide a more efficient intersection.

“The layout of the new intersection gets the traffic to a more standardized pattern while allowing for future expansion in the area,” Bolin said. “This is critically important in this region because we continue to see healthy growth in the area. These types of projects will ensure that growth continues.”

The finishing touches on the project will continue over the next few weeks. Currently, access in and out of First Street from westbound Loop 363 is open. The intersection crossing the loop will open once traffic signals are installed.

“We anticipate having a traffic signal completely open from one side to the other within the next 30-45 days,” Roberts said. “The advantage is to go ahead and get as much open as we can to expedite the flow of traffic and get people used to the movement. Then we will get the signals in themselves so we can go across to the other side.”

The city contributed $6.5 million to the $13.2 million project, funded by its Reinvestment Zone. The city plans to eventually extend First Street south into the proposed TMED South development.

The Temple Medical and Education District, or TMED, is a zoning district that is designed to promote the city’s medical and education industries. TMED South is a proposed expansion of the district in the land south of the loop and east of Fifth Street. The city envisions a mix of businesses and residences on the property.

City Manager Brynn Myers said the eventual extension of First Street will connect an important business district with a growing residential area.

“It’s a really important interchange for us. First Street connects the southern portion of our city — which is experiencing incredible growth — into the heart of downtown,” Myers said. “First Street is a really important corridor for us and we’re proud to see this beautiful interchange as a gateway into that area.”

State Rep. Hugh Shine, R-Temple, was unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict, but he issued a statement on the project.

“Leadership in our community has worked tirelessly to improve the image of our city, access to our hospitals, schools and businesses,” Shine said. “Temple is a great place to live and completion of this interchange will also improve the safety of local and transient traffic entering the southeast corridor of Temple.”

Cheryl Hassmann of U.S. Rep. John Carter’s office issued a statement at the ceremony on behalf of the congressman.

“One of the amazing things about the Texas 31 Congressional District is the immense growth our area continues to see,” Hassmann said. “Today’s ribbon cutting is just an example of that. Expanding and improving our infrastructure means jobs, a stronger economy and a better quality of life for our residents.”