Why is 19th Street road work taking so long? It’s actually on schedule, but frustrating some businesses

19th Street construction in Lubbock, Texas

(Photo above: 19th St. east of Ave. Q)

For businesses and drivers along a busy stretch of 19th Street, a year-and-a-half of a street improvement project is long enough.

But the project’s official timeframe is another year-and-a-half – until the summer of 2025, according to the Lubbock office of the Texas Department of Transportation.

That doesn’t make Bill Roberts happy.

“Just do the job! Get it finished,” said Roberts, owner of Galaxy Pawn Shop. His business is about a block east of Avenue Q.

“We’re out here looking out the window right now, and it looks like it has for months and months and months,” Roberts said of his view of barricades and concrete barriers.

Work started in June 2022 on the $25-million-plus project along two areas of 19th – from Memphis to University avenues and Avenue Q to Interstate 27.

The stretch east of Avenue Q has seen problems as TxDOT and the city have worked together to replace underground water and sewer systems along with the road work.

Traffic is one lane in each direction.

  • 19th Street construction in Lubbock, Texas
    19th St. east of Ave. Q

“Crews have been coming across a lot of unknown utilities,” said Dianah Ascencio, spokesperson for TxDOT’s Lubbock office. “When that happens, the work will stop and then we have to call the City of Lubbock for them to come out and take a look before any work can resume. But they are making progress,” Ascencio said.

The city declined to comment, saying it’s a TxDOT project, because the street is also U.S. Highway 62 and State Highway 114.

Lubbock Lights reached out to the contractor, Sacyr Construction USA, on Monday and Tuesday. Sacyr, with worldwide headquarters in Madrid, Spain, said it would be unable to provide a statement until after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Segment south of Tech campus waiting on warmer weather

The westbound lanes of 19th Street on the southern edge of the Texas Tech University campus are done. The eastbound lanes lack one round of asphalt, waiting for temperatures warm up, Ascencio said.

“We will be doing that next summer. Our contractor was hoping to be able to do that this year before the temperatures got a little bit cooler,” she said.

‘They’re killing us’

For Roberts, it’s a nightmare. He’s not sure his business can survive another year-and-a-half.

His main concern as drivers navigate a difficult construction zone, it’s hard to notice a pawn shop – let alone pull in for a visit.

One customer told him, “‘If the person’s not coming here for a reason, nobody would ever stop.’ You know, and he’s right.”

“We don’t have the lookers, you know, people on that street. ‘Oh, there’s a pawn shop. Let’s see what they got,’” Roberts said.

“We’ve been sitting this way for well over a year now,” said Roberts. “My question is: when does the state or the city or somebody say enough is enough?”

19th Street construction in Lubbock, Texas
19th St. east of Ave. Q

It’s about to get worse for the pawn shop. One of those city pipelines near Dixie Drive will get replaced. When that happens, there will not be a back way into the shop, Roberts said.

“Either fix it, you know, or put it back where it can be driven,” Roberts continued. “I’ll just tell you like this. They’re killing us. I’ve been here like … 29 years, and it’s not good. Not good.”

When asked if he’s considered closing the business, he said that’s up to the Lord.

“He’s the one that owns the shop. I just work here,” Roberts responded. “I can’t answer that.”

The manager of nearby South Plains Auto Collision, Stefanie Hull, said, “It’s taking forever, and it’s ridiculous.”

Her business relies on referrals, so 19th Street work does not impact her customer base the same as it does Roberts. But it’s inconvenient.

Ascencio said, “We’ve had some business owners and some citizens reach out to us regarding construction, and we always encourage them to call us.”

‘We understand each other’

It may seem the project is behind schedule because progress has been slow between Q and I-27, Ascencio said.

TxDOT does not tell contractors how to manage their schedule, Ascencio said, as long as they are finished within the agreed-to timeline.

“This is a new contractor actually to the State of Texas,” Ascencio said. “So, I think there may be a little bit of a learning curve on what we expect from our contractors and the quality that we expect.”

“We’ve been working with them to make sure that we understand each other,” she continued.

“Our inspectors are out there. Our project engineer is letting them know our expectations and holding them to the standards,” she said.

“Even if it takes a little bit longer than what we thought it was going to take, we want to make sure when we actually have a finished project, it’s going to be the best project,” she said.


Author: James Clark- James Clark is the associate editor of Lubbock Lights. He worked in radio, television and digital media for a combined total of more than 30 years. He was Director of Digital News Content at KAMC, KLBK and EverythingLubbock.com for nearly 10 years.