When construction crews break ground on the $6.8 million Loy Lake Road bridge upgrade early next year, it will be something of a first for Aaron Bloom. The bridge-widening endeavor will be the inaugural major road project undertaken on his watch as the Grayson and Fannin county area engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation.

When construction crews break ground on the $6.8 million Loy Lake Road bridge upgrade early next year, it will be something of a first for Aaron Bloom. The bridge-widening endeavor will be the inaugural major road project undertaken on his watch as the Grayson and Fannin county area engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation.


"It’s obviously a very important project for this area," said Bloom, who’s been on the job since early November. "I don’t have an actual (project start) date yet, because we’re still waiting on the notice to proceed from Austin, which we should be getting just any day now. It’ll be a project that has to be built in several phases, ‘cause we’re gonna have to make new tie-ins to the bridge."


Though not yet 35, Bloom is a seasoned veteran when it comes to road construction management. Bloom was raised in Gainesville and spent the past dozen years there after earning a civil engineering degree from the University of Texas in 2002.


"While I was going to school, I worked two summers with TxDOT in Gainesville, so that’s how I got my exposure to TxDOT and got my foot in the door," said Bloom. "I spent my time there pretty well just working on design and construction management — handled all the roadway construction projects for that area."


It was those experiences in managing road projects that provided Bloom with a knowledge base that will come in handy as an area engineer. According to TxDOT, Bloom’s job will be to oversee the planning, designing, building, operation and maintenance of transportation infrastructure in and around the Sherman-Denison area.


"I have a maintenance supervisor in each section, so I oversee them and help coordinate their priorities as far as maintenance of roadways and selecting which roadways get the rehab money," explained Bloom. "All the construction projects through contractors, I’m responsible for those, so I … review the monthly estimates, trying to keep those on track and working through any issues that may develop in construction. New projects that are being designed, (I review) those, make sure they’re fitting what we want to do."


Bloom said, in addition to the Loy Lake bridge expansion, three other major projects in Grayson County will begin in 2014.


"We’ve got a project on 691, to widen that on both ends. That’ll be a project that will help that area that’s growing and developing," said Bloom. "I’ve got a project that will start right after the new year on (U.S. Highway) 75 at (FM) 1417. It’s just to replace an exit ramp to build a new one that’s not as sharp, and then remove the old one after we get the new one built. And then I’ve also got a project on 75 near Howe where there’s about a mile and half piece that we haven’t widened and moved toward the inside, … so we’ll be starting that project also after the new year."


As with most government jobs, the fight for tax dollars will be frequently top-of-mind. The Howe project alone will cost the state $11.1 million. Bloom said funding challenges will dominate the next decade, with no infusions of money planned beyond yearly legislative appropriations.


"Right now, we’re just down to our traditional funding, and that barely covers keeping the roads in the condition they’re in — just trying to keep them in a (decent) condition," said Bloom. "We try to project what the revenue will be, but you can’t anticipate proposition money until it’s been voted on and passed. So without additional revenue sources coming in, the focus of the next 10 years will be trying to maintain what we’ve got."


Bloom said the move from the humdrum of Gainesville to the relatively bustling area of Sherman was a shock at first, but nearly two months into the job, he said he’s prepared to tackle the major construction that will begin next year.


"It’s definitely different than what I’m used to. There’s a lot more work that’s going on over here in Sherman. It’s pretty time consuming," said Bloom. "Right now, I’m just trying to get a feel for what construction projects are going on, seeing where we’re at on construction, and working through any issues we have on them."