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Special Report: What's the plan for Catclaw and Southwest in Abilene?

By Mari Cockerell, mcockerell@ktxs.com
Published On: May 09 2013 12:10:48 PM CDT
Updated On: May 09 2013 07:20:12 PM CDT
ABILENE, Texas -

Over the last decade, parts of Abilene have seen a good business boom. Southwest and Catclaw is one of those spots.  If you've ventured that way during peak shopping times, you know the new traffic can get downright hairy.

With more construction in the works; another strip mall and a new apartment complex, navigating these parts isn't expected to get any easier. So what's the plan? We talked with the City of Abilene to find out what may be in store for the busy spot. James Condry with the Traffic and Transportation Administration explains there are two kinds of work that can happen.

One is an operational change; adding lights or signs. Anything beyond that would be a broader scope project, like adding lanes and physically changing the roadway. Condry explains that kind of work must go through the Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Drivers may be disappointed to learn, the city has no changes on tap for Catclaw and Southwest. Condry says the city constantly monitors traffic flow all over town, and there simply isn't enough to invest major dollars into what is essentially a handful of congested hours. "Currently the roadway capacity has not been exceeded or even being approached, the roadway has capacity for added traffic, obviously as more traffic gets on it impacts an individual's own driving because you have to adjust your own driving, but the roadway has capability," said Condry.

Abilene police officer George Spindler says there actually aren't that many accidents at Southwest and Catclaw, but acknowledges there's plenty of frustration. Spindler says there is one move everyone could make to reduce some of the headache in this area. "What you may have to do is take a right hand turn out of a business versus crossing several lanes of traffic and taking a left hand turn," said Spindler.
 
There is, however, work in store for another one of our high growth and traffic spots: Highway 351. That roadway is under TxDOT'S jurisdiction. TxDOT confirms they have a consultant on board doing some preliminary design work. TxDOT is also working closely with the Abilene Metropolitan Planning Organization in that effort.

The future of Highway 351 is expected to be a topic of discussion at the MPO's next meeting set for May 21st.