North Texas Daily

TxDOT presents plan to expand Interstate 35

TxDOT presents plan to expand Interstate 35

October 23
08:31 2013

Joshua Knopp / Staff Writer

Residents filled the Denton City Hall Council Chamber to the brim Tuesday evening to hear a presentation on 35Express – the plan to expand Interstate 35 over the next four years.

The Texas Department of Transportation plans to add one lane to I-35 starting at the Highway 380 exit in Denton. The extra lane will run down the east fork when the interstate splits and will extend all the way down by Interstate 635.

Additionally, the department plans to change the high occupancy vehicle lanes during that stretch into reversible toll lanes that will switch between going southbound and northbound depending on the time of day.

Various bridges are being redesigned as well. In the north segment of the construction area, bridges for North Texas Boulevard and Post Oak Road will have one more lane added. The Corinth Parkway Bridge is being reconstructed entirely to go under the highway instead of over it and will also have an additional lane. The plan also includes a new bridge over Lake Lewisville that will extend frontage roads as well as pedestrian and bike paths across the lake.

All of these changes are in an effort to reduce congestion in the area due to population growth, said Donna Huerta, public information officer for the Texas Department of Transportation. Huerta said highways in the region have been widening for decades, but the department simply can’t keep up with how fast the area is growing.

“We have more than a thousand people a day moving to North Texas,” she said. “We can’t keep up with it. All this talk about making 35 wider and bigger and better got behind the population growth.”

As it is currently planned, the entire project, including phase two, will cost $4.8 billion. Denton County contributed $680 million. This will be the sixth billion-dollar project that is currently underway for the department of transportation in North Texas alone.

Kimberly Sims, public information manager for AGL Constructors, which is contracted for the work, said the project would create about 900 jobs over its lifespan. The project is estimated to conclude in 2017.

The plan includes a contingency for a phase two, which would add even more lanes to the stretch of highway. Phase two is currently unfunded. AGL plans to fund this part with tolls from the new reversible lanes. The rates for these lanes have not been set, but Huerta said it would not exceed 75 cents per mile.

Many residents, like Connie Ray, questioned how phase two would be funded. Ray does not believe the tolls would be enough to fund phase two of the project and said the project will end up lasting longer and costing more money than expected.

“This is not going to be a fun project for however many thousand years,” she said.

Ray said her experience with Sam Rayburn Tollway, where she said herself and many others use the access road instead of paying for highway access, leads her to believe many will avoid using the toll lanes.

Other audience members asked if anything would be done about current logistical issues that cause congestion. Many asked about a segment of highway near the Post Oak Bridge, where a rise and a curve immediately afterward congest lanes in both directions.

“You get to a slight rise in the highway, and you can’t see,” said Denton resident Ruth Bowen, who commuted from Denton to Lake Dallas for 22 years while working for Lake Dallas Independent School District.

AGL’s design-build coordinator Andrew Schneemann said there are currently no plans to change that area of I-35, but the construction company would discuss it with the department of transportation after this meeting.

He said there were plans to restructure the interchange around Loop 288. AGL plans to spread the entrance and exit lanes on this interchange further apart to help alleviate congestion closer to Denton.

Bowen was regularly commuting to Lake Dallas when the third lane that currently closes after Swisher Road first opened, and in her experience, adding lanes is only a temporary solution.

“My hope is that when it’s initially finished, we’ll see some alleviation,” Bowen said. “But over time as more people move in here, we’re going to have the same problem. When me and my husband first moved here in 1978, I-35 was under construction then. Thirty-five years later, we’re doing this all over again.”

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