Nearly two years after the project was expected to break ground, construction is now underway on the long-awaited overpass at the intersection of FM 1488 and FM 149 in Magnolia.

Deidrea Samuels, public information officer for the Texas Department of Transportation, said Louisiana-based contractor James Construction Group began work on the project on Feb. 16. The $27.6 million project is funded entirely through TxDOT and is anticipated for completion in the first quarter of 2017, Samuels said.

"[The overpass] will help out [with] the kids getting to [Magnolia High School] because they won't block the only lanes of traffic," Magnolia City Administrator Paul Mendes said. "When it comes to crossing [FM] 149, you won't have a traffic light to slow you up on [FM] 1488. You'll go over the railroad tracks, [so you] won't have the delay of the long trains coming through."

Mendes said the overpass will feature two sets of cloverleaf access ramps, including one on either side of FM 1488 near Magnolia High School and another across the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad near FM 149. The road will be widened from one lane in each direction to two 12-foot lanes on each side with a 16-foot turn lane in the median along FM 1488 from the area in front of the Mostyn Manor subdivision to Mill Creek Road, he said.

"A lot of [construction] work will be done off to the side of the existing FM 1488," Mendes said. "The overpass will loop up and over. If you want to go north or south on [FM] 149, you'll have to loop back to it either northbound or southbound."

TxDOT and Montgomery County began acquiring right of way acreage for the mobility project about two years ago, Mendes said. The overpass was originally scheduled to begin construction in summer 2013 but was delayed due to snags in the right of way acquisition process, he said.

"They ran into some problems aquiring parcels of right of way and didn't want to get started on the project and have a gap because they didn't acquire [a certain] piece of right of way," Mendes said.

The community will see a tremendous benefit in mobility once construction on the overpass is complete, said Charlie Riley, Montgomery County Precinct 2 commissioner.

"We've been trying to get that [overpass] going for almost four years," Riley said. "Once that project is done, that's going to be a great improvement for [FM] 1488 and [FM] 149. [Traffic is] a boondoggle down there. It is a nightmare."