If you were surprised by last week's announcement that Interstate 35 Exit 301 in Temple would be closing for a year, you aren't the only one. Some Temple business owners are not only upset about the short notice, but are concerned about the impact the closure could potentially have on their businesses - especially those downtown.

A meeting of local business owners and operators is scheduled for 5:30 PM Thursday, October 26 at Pignetti's, 14 South 2nd Street in Downtown Temple.

District 55 Representative Hugh Shine is expected to attend, and Paula Chandler, Regional Director of Express ER in Temple, said she planned to reach out to TxDOT representatives and ask that they attend as well.

Congressman John Carter was invited, but will be in Washington DC the night of the meeting. A representative of Mr. Carter is expected to attend.

We spoke with Chandler Monday afternoon, who said her company is trying to get the word out about the negative impact the closure could have on the downtown area.

"There won't be any easy access to Downtown Temple for a very long time," Chandler said. "TxDOT didn't let everyone know in a timely manner that this was going to take place."

Chandler said Express ER General Partner Dr. Daniel Akers was able to meet with TxDOT's John Habermann Friday morning and have the closure delayed by two weeks.

"They couldn't present any impact study," Chandler said. "They'd done no impact studies on how this would affect downtown business owners. They just made this decision to close 301, so as a result of that meeting they said they would delay the closing by two weeks. We're going to take that opportunity to meet with local business owners, meet with our state representative, and see if we can come up with an alternate plan to killing the only exit that leads directly to downtown without having to go through the gauntlet of a one-lane, difficult access road."

Given the ongoing revitalization of Downtown Temple, the closing of the exit couldn't have come at worse time.

"Downtown is so nice now, with all these nice restaurants and The Hub to shop at," Chandler said. "To close the only direct access to that just doesn't make any sense. As a business owner, I can't imagine that the City would be in favor of that."

Under the current plan, northbound travelers would use Exit 300 and stay on the access road for several miles to reach Central Avenue.

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