Oil revenue to fund 7th Street reconstruction

Councilman Jamie Smith

With some $47 million in the bank in oil royalties from the Beaumont Municipal Airport, the city of Beaumont is gearing up to begin its first major infrastructure project using the newly -acquired funds to revamp Seventh Street from Laurel to Interstate 10.

City Council approved the lowest bid Tuesday, April 30, awarding the project to Brystar Contracting Inc. for a total price of $6,075,569.55.

The project will completely gut the bumpy and pothole-laden Seventh Street and will include new drainage, sewer and water lines underneath a new three-lane road flanked by sidewalks and four-foot bike lanes on each side.

According to Capital Projects Manager Brenda Beadle, the project marks an exciting — and particularly busy — time for the city.

“We’re trying to do so much to improve our infrastructure, and this is just one more of our thoroughfares that are in our older areas,” she said. “A lot of our older areas suffer from street failure.”

Although westbound Interstate 10 traffic cannot exit directly onto Seventh Street, eastbound lanes have their own exit onto the narrow street, making repairs to the road difficult. What’s more, many residents in the area have complained about flooding during heavy rains, flooding that many thought would be alleviated by major drainage construction on Calder.

“All our water and drainage will be increased to drain the water to the Calder boxes,” Beadle said. “So the water will flow directly to Calder.”

Even so, city officials say flooding is not nearly as bad as it was in years past.

“The city does not seem to have the flooding of our streets that we’ve had in the past,” Beadle said. “With all these projects that we’re doing, this is only making it better. And we’ve got several coming up.”

Some of the city’s other projects in line for the freed-up oil money are Old Dowlen Road from Highway 105 to Dowlen ($5 million), the new Northwest Parkway from Folsom to Parkdale ($6 million), and Dowlen Road from Highway 69 to Delaware ($800,000).

Councilman Jamie Smith, whose ward comprises the southern portion of the Seventh Street project, said he’s ready for the project to break ground.

“Any time you improve the street, it’s gonna be a whole lot better for the citizens in the area and anyone who travels down Seventh Street that way,” he said. “A lot of people use that way to avoid traffic.”

The newly widened and accessible roadway will help residents in other ways, he said, adding he’s hoping Beaumonters will appreciate the work council does to make their lives better.

“I’m hoping people are noticing that our focus has shifted to infrastructure,” he said. “It’s good to have recreational facilities and things like that, but you want a nice, easy, relaxed trip getting there, not dodging potholes or feeling like your car is about to drop away from you.”

Getting funds they didn’t expect to build the project only sweetens the deal, Smith said, saying if residents can adjust to what could be a year’s worth of construction in the area, the wait will be worth it.

“After the construction phase is over with ... they’ll be happy,” he said. “Hopefully they can understand the inconvenience and understand what we’re trying to do and see the end game of it all.”