Work is moving forward to transform Interstate Highway 35E from a transportation hub to a gateway into the city. The project will increase the number of travel lanes and add aesthetic features along the 11-mile stretch of the highway.
The first phase of the project is set to be complete in September of 2019. It will add two travel lanes on the highway, which will increase the number from four to six lanes. Several bridges along the 11-mile stretch are being replaced or remodeled. The project also includes a lot of esthetic changes along the highway.
Texas Department of Transportation Area Engineer Darwin Myers stated to help facilitate work in the medians, crews first had to widen the roadway. This allowed dirt work, base work, and concrete paving to begin and continue. He noted the project is about 30 to 35 percent complete at this time.
“A lot of the work has to be done at night because of the traffic,” Myers informed. “We are coordinating the work with the contractor, our inspectors, and the consulting inspectors, but for the most part, it has been going very well.”
One of the significant components of the highway expansion project is improvements to existing bridges and the replacement of others. Some of these improvements include adding railings on the bridges that mimic the railings on the historic viaduct in downtown Waxahachie, painting, decorative retaining walls that simulate cut stone, adding antique street lighting, and signage.
“A lot of the bridge work is moving very well. There are new bridges at Waxahachie Creek and were replacing railing on the frontage road bridges over U.S. Highway 287. Then, the railing at the Ganaway Bridge is being redone as well,” Myers elaborated. “The Brookside Bridge — we are still working out the details with the contractor. That bridge comes down completely and gets replaced. It will be a wider bridge that will accommodate four lanes traffic in the future.”
Myers continued stating once that bridge is taken down crews will have 60 days to replace it. The bridge removal was set to take place two weeks ago, but details such as road detours were not worked out. Demolition and replacement are looking to start in April. Cost of phase one is about $126 million.
The second phase of the project is in the planning stages currently. This phase will focus on improvements to the ramps and frontage roads.
“There are some ramp reversals to improve some access on the service roads. Improve the ramps themselves, signalization and maybe changing where we have an overpass now to an underpass. So those will be pretty extensive," Myers relayed. “The first one is planned on FM 387/Butcher Road and I-35 to flip that. Interstate Highway 35E will go over Butcher Road and flip that intersection.”
Improvements are being made on south Interstate Highway 35E for 18 miles to up the Hill County Line. The project took the existing 12-foot shoulder and made it into a new lane of travel. A new 10-foot shoulder was built, and the road surface was restriped. The project has been done in three, six-mile phases and is looking to be complete in April. Cost of the project was $35.8 million.
Myers advises drivers to watch their speed, keep an eye out for construction workers that are working in and around the roadway, and pay attention to the signs and message boards the might indicate a detour.
For more information about the status of the project go to TxDOT’s project tracker at www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/projects/project-tracker.html.