State transportation officials heeded public comment they received 10 months ago and shortened a proposed project to widen a section to U.S. Highway 377 (Main Street) in Brownwood to accommodate a center left-turn lane.

Speaking at a public meeting Tuesday night at Texas State Technical College, Jason Scantling, director of transportation the Texas Department of Transportation’s  Brownwood district, said the proposed project now consists of widening Main Street from the Austin Avenue intersection to the Truman Harlow Overpass. TxDOT is also proposing to add right-turn lanes from Austin onto Main Street. The purpose of the proposed project is to reduce collisions — particularly rear-end collisions — and improve traffic throw, Scantling said. The cost is projected at $1.5 million to $4 million, with letting of bids  in January 2022 if TxDOT does the project.

The original proposal was to widen Main Street from Baker Street to the Wesley Street, near the base of the overpass.

According to the current proposal, TxDOT would require right-of-way that would pass across the porch of a home on Main Street, so the porch would need to be removed. The right-of-way would pass close to the front of another home, and the owner of that home may choose to have the home moved back 10 feet at TxDOT’s expense. TxDOT has been negotiating with those property owners, Scantling said.

Last July, TxDOT officials hosted a public meeting on the proposed project when the proposal was to widen the street from Baker Street to the overpass. But several citizens who spoke against the proposal, saying at a public meeting held by Texas Department of Transportation officials at Texas State Technical College believe it’s a bad idea, saying it would encroach on churches that are already dangerously close to the street. That particularly puts children in danger by being so close to the street, several citizens said.

About 100 attended that meeting.

Tuesday night’s crowd was much smaller and less vocal.

“Based on that public feedback we got, we shortened the scope of the project,” Scantling said. “Public comments that we get from you guys (Tuesday night) are very, very important to use. They drive these projects, whether they move forward or other they’re terminated. We want to do what the public wants.”

Scantling also said there had been concern at the July meeting about the impact the project would have on historic structures. Scantling introduced TxDOT historian Rebecca DeBrasco, who said the National Historic Preservation Act requires TxDOT to identify historic properties within the project. 

Two historic structures are within the project as it is currently proposed — St. Mary’s Catholic Church and the residence at 1002 Main, which is owned by Howard Payne University, DeBrasco said. As the project is currently proposed, TxDOT would take a small portion of the church’s sidewalk and parking, she said. 

The impact to businesses will be “minimal,” DeBrasco said.