Two safety projects for the dangerous hill on Lake Shore Drive west of Mt. Carmel Drive are just around the corner.

Big Creek Construction will start working in late May or June under a contract to rebuild the outside lanes of the road, banking the curve to make downhill motorists less likely to crash into the guardrails.

The city of Waco last month approved the contract for $372,720, though the project will be overseen by the Texas Department of Transportation with the help of a federal Highway Safety Improvement Program grant. The project should take three or four months.

Meanwhile, the city is planning early this summer to bid a project to reconfigure the Mt. Carmel intersection at Lake Shore Drive to provide a separated right-turn lane and improve visibility. That project is budgeted for about $263,000.

Officials are hoping to synchronize the projects to minimize the time the road is affected by roadwork, said Jim Reed, capital projects manager for the city public works department.

Reed said he doesn’t expect any extended closures or detours into the Mountainview neighborhood.

“There may be some day closures, but just short-term,” he said. “Everybody recognizes that would be a problem for citizens.”

The stretch of road between Mt. Carmel and Koehne Park has been a headache for the city for a couple of decades because of its unusual geography. The road hugs a hill that is composed of layers of limestone and unstable shale, causing the edges on the Lake Waco side to shift downward over time.

As a result, the road has started to bank outward, putting cars at risk of sliding into the guardrail when they are headed downhill on the curve, especially in wet weather. The TxDOT project will raise the outside of the lane by 6 inches and add a special kind of porous asphalt designed to prevent standing water on the roadway.

The project was part of a recommendation from a $510,000 engineering study looking at the geological and safety issues along Lake Shore Drive. But Reed said the study points to the need for much more expensive work in coming years along the roadway.

Reed hopes to get the green light to do engineering work next year on a multiyear project to stabilize the slope above and below Lake Shore Drive, which is in danger of a deep-seated landslide.

The proposed solution would require $24 million to pin the unstable soil to the bedrock using “soil nails,” which are 30- to 40-foot metal stakes with a corkscrew tip. In addition, a new drainage system would prevent water from weakening the base soil.

‘Expensive effort’

“I think it will be done over three to five years, and during that time we’ll be reaching out to see what kind of financial help we can get,” he said. “It’s an expensive effort. Waco has been trying to deal with this for years. There’s been talk about closing it or building a bridge, but I think the best solution is to rehab what we have in place.”

Councilman Jim Holmes, who represents the area, said that section of Lake Shore Drive is a critical connection for traffic and provides a beautiful view of the lake.

“We don’t want to close that road down,” Holmes said. “There’s a lot of work we need to do on Lake Shore, and these are just two of the introductory projects.”

He said the big stabilization project may take a while to do, but he wants to keep the project on the council’s priority list.

J.B. Smith is the the Tribune-Herald managing editor. A native of Sulphur Springs, he attended Southwestern University and joined the Tribune-Herald in 1997. He and his wife, Bethany, live in Waco and have two children.

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