A $7-million roadway connecting two busy parts of Expressway 77/83 in Harlingen is on schedule for completion this month.
Spur 54 links southbound and westbound traffic on the expressway, running east-west behind Bass Pro Shops and in front of the Sam’s Club store in Harlingen. Construction on the 1.2 mile-long roadway began a year ago. It is already busy with traffic and leading to the development of new retail and restaurant activity.
“We have received several inquiries from developers and realtors for properties along Spur 54,” said Carlos Sanchez, the assistant city manager for external services in Harlingen. “This is a good indicator of economic development plans.”
Build It and They Will Come
There has already been plenty of development even before the state-funded construction of Spur 54 is complete. Bar B Cuties is building a new restaurant between the new roadway and Sam’s Club. A retail/office development across the street from the emerging restaurant includes a Paris Bakery, Just-A-Cut and a dentist’s office. A new Jubiliee Harlingen school campus has opened by the west end of Spur 54.
The Harlingen Convention Center is located just north of Spur 54, with new hotels in close proximity. Traffic is already to start to accumulate during morning and afternoon rush hours on the roadway. It’s a sure indication that local residents are already using Spur 54 as a vital link between north/south Expressway 77/83 heading into the Harlingen interchange and the part of expressway heading west toward Weslaco and McAllen.
“We expect this area to continue to grow,” Sanchez said. “Spur 54 provides the necessary infrastructure to help manage traffic.”
The roadway includes drainage improvements and underground infrastructure to facilitate the installation of signalized traffic signals when the need arises. The Spur 54 project also includes a 10 foot-wide trail on the south side of the right-of-way. It will extend from a renovated Lon C. Hill Park which is in development to become a destination park.
The purpose of the trail, Sanchez said, is to provide alternative modes of transportation that links retail areas to residential and recreational areas for pedestrians and cyclists to enjoy. Harlingen, like many Rio Grande Valley cities, is developing hike-and-bike trails and city officials plan to make Spur 54 part of that effort.
The roadway goes three lanes in each direction with a center-line median. The project is being managed by the Texas Department of Transportation and is being fully funded by the state.
“It’s going to become more of an important corridor,” said Raudel Garza, the chief executive officer of the Harlingen Economic Development Corp. “We’re seeing that whole area shifting to office and retail.”