TxDOT researching Highway 21 bypass around Madisonville

MADISONVILLE, Tex. (KBTX) - The Texas Department of Transportation is considering a plan that would redirect traffic on Highway 21 around the city of Madisonville.

Many 18-wheelers travel through the narrow downtown district, backing up traffic and damaging buildings. City officials said the traffic along Highway 21, coming from Interstate 45, is a problem.

"All cities in the state of Texas are growing and this is kind of the outcome," said Madisonville city manager Camilla Viator. "When something grows, you have got to be able to spread out. We are getting more and more traffic through our town, that is becoming dangerous."

TxDOT officials said the proposed seven mile extension is still in its infancy, but it would make the area a lot safer for drivers. The department has been working on this project since before 2014. They have held public forums over the years. The last forum they held was in December.

Some people in Madisonville fear that the bypass could hurt the city economically. They worry that when the big trucks leave the city for a new route, the customers will leave as well. City employees disagree with this notion.

"People traveling through our town now in 18-wheelers are not the ones stopping and eating at our restaurants," said Viator. "I think the ones that still want to come through Madisonville, they will still come down, with some great advertising."

TxDOT said big trucks have caused considerable damage to some of the properties in downtown.

"At the old Barrett Building, if you look on the side, you can see it has been hit many, many times," said Bob Colwell with the Texas Department of Transportation. "So, we do have a problem in that area and we're looking at building a relief route."

The proposed bypass could cost $120 million. TxDot said they currently have no way to finance the project. However, they are currently conducting research of the land south of Madisonville to find the best possible route.