US 281 Relief Route
US 281 (American Legion Memorial Highway) is a heavily traveled north-south highway listed on both the National Highway System and TxDOT Freight Network. Relied upon daily by local travelers, trucking industries, and as an alternative to traveling I-35, US 281 is the longest continuous three-digit United States Highway route, spanning 1,875 miles from Texas’ Rio Grande valley northward to the Canada border.
Due this high travel demand, US 281 congestion within the city of Hamilton located in Hamilton County continues to increase, but space is limited in Hamilton’s downtown square district to add US 281 travel relief lanes. Therefore, TxDOT's Waco District is undertaking a study to examine the feasibility of installing a new location US 281 Relief Route around Hamilton to alleviate the congestion by providing travel capacity options for US 281 travelers. The current limits of the US 281 study area are shown on the study location map.
All Relief Route options are being explored and evaluated alongside the public with the goal of producing an optimum US 281 transportation solution which takes into account:
- Mobility and Congestion Relief
A feasibility study is a multiphase process that develops and examines different alternatives for a proposed project or projects. A feasibility study begins by evaluating existing conditions in the area and identifying goals and objectives. Alternative concepts are proposed and analyzed. Recommended improvements are based on several factors, including the minimization of potential impacts to natural and cultural resources. Throughout the feasibility study, there are many opportunities for the public to provide input. For the US 281 feasibility study, the team will provide opportunities for the community to provide feedback on:
- Existing constraints
- Improvements needed
- Current and future concerns
- Preferred alignment
- Additional considerations for study team
- Study recommendations
The US 281 Feasibility Study is comprehensive and will examine the existing travel conditions along the facility in the City of Hamilton and evaluate potential alignment alternatives for a US 281 Relief Route.
The study involves:
- Data collection and an inventory of existing transportation system features (including traffic origin and destination data, operating conditions, and safety issues)
- Analysis of current and future traffic forecasts and travel demand modeling
- Development of the purpose and need statement and study goals
- Development of inventory of environmental and community features
- Development of alternative improvements and preliminary cost estimates
- Identification of future transportation improvement projects
- Evaluation of potential impacts and cost-benefit analysis for proposed improvements
Project development process
Recommendations resulting from this feasibility study will follow TxDOT’s project development process prior any future US 281 project construction stage. Within the study and post-study project development process, advancing from one step to the next is contingent upon the outcome of the previous step and funding availability. The study recommendations may be broken into several environmental and construction projects that extend over a longer period of time.
Study schedule and getting involved
The US 281 study began in Spring 2022. The draft feasibility report is expected in Summer 2023 and the final feasibility report is expected in Fall 2023.
A critical element of a successful feasibility study is public and stakeholder engagement. The US 281 Feasibility Study will include public meetings as well as meetings with other agencies and organizations and members of the community. The public will be invited to provide their input in a variety of ways, including virtual engagement.
In conjunction with this study, the Waco District has also initiated a US 281 Study to explore and evaluate added capacity and operational Improvements to US 281 to alleviate congestion along the entire roadway within Hamilton County from the city of Hico southward to the city of Evant. The public involvement and meetings/hearings would be held in conjunction with the US 281 study.