Regional planners this week are seeking public comment into the long-term future of the U.S. Business 77 corridor, which could include downsizing the road to reflect declining traffic volumes.

The Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization has scheduled several public input sessions Monday through Thursday at various locations as part of a study by Freese and Nichols that will guide transportation planners during the next 25 years.

The corridor under study, between the Brazos River and Interstate 35 at mile marker 342, includes freeway sections with frontage roads, as well as overpasses with as many as three decks. It was the primary route from Waco to Dallas from about 1950 until 1972, before I-35 was finished through East Waco.

“It functions adequately right now, but the MPO is charged with looking out 25 years in the future,” MPO Director Chris Evilia said. “We see an issue when you look at that kind of time frame. Recognizing that transportation planning takes time, we want to be ready to move forward.”

Evilia said planners are open to a range of ideas, including radically downsizing the corridor. That could include gradually eliminating frontage roads and overpasses where they are no longer justified by traffic counts.

The frontage roads are spotty along the northern section of Business 77, known as New Dallas Highway or Lacy Drive, and they are little-used. Meanwhile, interchanges and overpasses at Marlin Highway, Orchard Lane and East Waco Drive were designed for larger traffic volumes and could someday be razed and replaced with signalized intersections or traffic circles, Evilia said. The East Waco Drive overpass, known as Potts Interchange, was built in 1950.

City Center Waco Executive Director Megan Henderson said the interchanges and multiple lanes of Business 77 are confusing and discourage retail development.

“The current design is really inaccessible,” she said. “It creates a barrier in terms of being able to cross over. . . . It’s dramatically oversized for the amount of traffic it carries. It’s got all the negatives with none of the positives.”

Waco Mayor Malcolm Duncan Jr. agreed that Business 77 needs a makeover.

“It’s not only out of date, but it completely divides the neighborhood,” Duncan said Monday afternoon, just before the first public meeting in East Waco. “We need a different kind of roadway there. It’s worn out and needs to be replaced. . . . I also want to be sure we consider pedestrian and bicycle access and that it’s not just a place for cars.”

Planners will hold an open house on the Business 77 study from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Texas Department of Transportation Waco District headquarters at 100 S. Loop Drive, right next to the interchange of Business 77 and I-35.

Another public meeting is from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the City of Waco Multipurpose Center, 1020 Elm Ave. At this final meeting, planners will present an initial concept based on public input.

For more information, visit www.77corridorstudy.com or call the city planning department at 750-5651.

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Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization

What: U.S. Business 77 public input sessions

When and where: Tuesday, 3:30 to 5 p.m. Open house at Texas Department of Transportation Waco District headquarters, 100 S. Loop Drive.

Wednesday, 3:30 to 5 p.m. Open house at Texas Department of Transportation Waco District headquarters, 100 S. Loop Drive.

Thursday, 6 to 8 p.m. Public meeting, City of Waco Multipurpose Center, 1020 Elm Ave.

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