One year to go: Complex I-35E project closer to completion

Complex I-35E project closer to completion; TxDOT says interstate widening through Waxahachie making progress

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
Orange barrels along Interstate 35E signal construction along the 11-mile stretch between both junctions of U.S. Highway 77 through Waxahachie. The long-running and complex rebuilding project began with the awarding of a contract in 2015 and is estimated to be complete in the summer of 2022.

From north and south of where U.S. Highway 77 splits off to run through Waxahachie, Interstate 35E consists of six lanes, three in each direction.

But in the 11 miles in between, the interstate has only four lanes, creating a bottleneck that frustrates travelers and giving this stretch of highway a reputation for slow traffic. Construction along this segment has made travel slower at times, adding to the frustration.

But soon — and by “soon,” about a year from now — I-35E will have six free-flowing lanes throughout the entirety of Ellis County.

The Texas Department of Transportation and its contractor are drawing closer to completion of a major rebuild of the interstate through Waxahachie. This project has already been six years in the making, as the construction contract was awarded on Aug. 5, 2015, to OHL USA, Inc.

Construction on the $126.4 million project began in March 2016. The estimated completion is expected in the summer of 2022, weather permitting, said Danielle Boyd, TxDOT Dallas District public information officer.

When finished, I-35E will have three 12-foot main lanes in each direction as well as 10-foot inside and outside shoulders, putting the Waxahachie stretch on par with the rest of the interstate through the county.

“Currently, construction is in Phase III,” Boyd said. “The final three bridges are under construction at southbound U.S. 287, Business 287, and Waxahachie Creek. Remaining work includes pavement work, various alternating ramp closures throughout project limits, and installation of all ITS (Intelligent Transportation Systems.)”

South of Waxahachie, I-35E has been fully upgraded to six lanes from the south U.S. 77 junction to the Hill County line, through Forreston, Italy and Milford. That project took a little more than three years and was completed in March 2019 at a cost of just $36 million. Rather than a complete rebuild, a third 12-foot lane and 10-foot outside shoulder were simply added to each carriageway for this 18-mile project.

However, the Waxahachie project is much more complex because of the replacement of a number of bridges along this segment.

According to the website, the purpose of the project is to meet local and regional travel demands by increasing capacity; upgrading the transportation infrastructure to meet current FHWA and TxDOT design standards for interstates, bridges, and frontage roads, thereby improving the safety of travelers along I-35E.

Increased truck traffic along the I-35 corridor coupled with regional population growth in Texas has created travel demand that exceeds its current capacity. The existing I-35E facility through Ellis County is an essential element of the local and regional transportation system.