TxDOT plans full slate of projects

Area engineer goes over present and future road works in Ellis County during presentation

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror
Texas Department of Transportation area engineer Raul Paredes gives a presentation on current and future road construction projects in Ellis County during the Midlothian Chamber of Commerce's luncheon at the Midlothian Conference Center.

The Texas Department of Transportation has some big plans for Ellis County roadways, both in the present and in the future, local business leaders were told recently.

Juan Paredes, area engineer with TxDOT’s Dallas district, provided an update on construction projects in the county during last week’s Midlothian Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Midlothian Conference Center.

Paredes, who oversees all TxDOT projects in Ellis and Navarro counties, provided an overview of TxDOT’s local organization, mission and funding mechanisms. However, local participation, such as counties and cities protecting future rights-of-way, is crucial, Paredes said.

He demonstrated there are just less than $415 million in construction projects in Ellis and Navarro Counties combined, with just less than $266 million in Ellis County alone.

The biggest project underway is Interstate 35E in Waxahachie between the two junctions with U.S. 77, which is projected to be complete in May after about seven years. Paredes added he’s hopeful the job will be completed as soon as April.

“We all know this project’s been going on forever,” he said to laughter. “But we are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel.”

Work was progressing in 2020 on the first of two new viaducts that will carry U.S. Highway 77 south of Waxahachie. Two-way traffic has already been shifted to the new bridge (background). The old bridge (foreground) was demolished and is being replaced with a new one that will open in the spring of 2022.

Also projected to be complete by this May is the U.S. 77 viaduct replacement in Waxahachie, which began in 2019. The single two-lane bridge, built in 1930, is being replaced by two bridges with two-lane traffic in each direction.

The Loop 9 project between I-35E in Red Oak and I-45 in Ferris recently got underway with the building of the eastbound frontage road, as well as the I-35E interchange at Butcher Road, Paredes said. The U.S. 287 interchange at Walnut Grove Road in Midlothian is virtually complete.

Other Ellis County projects now underway include a bridge project on FM 66 near Maypearl and the rehabilitation of FM 780.

Projects to be let in the next five years include a single-point urban interchange, or “SPUI” on I-35E at FM 664 in Red Oak in combination with the Loop 9 interchange; another interchange on I-45 at FM 664; the reconstruction of FM 664 itself into a roadway of up to six lanes; and about a dozen reconstruction projects on farm-to-market roads scattered throughout the county.

In the Midlothian area, the reconstruction of FM 1387 between Midlothian Parkway and FM 664 is expected to be let in March 2026, and a similar reconstruction of FM 664 between FM 1387 and Westmoreland Road is targeted for a July 2028 letting. Both projects will widen the roadway to four-lane urban divided thoroughfares. A new interchange is also planned on U.S. 67 at Lake Ridge Parkway.

Traffic backs up on westbound U.S. Highway 287 during a hot July day this summer. The Texas Department of Transportation is exploring the possibility of eliminating at-grade median crossings along 287 between Midlothian Parkway and Walnut Grove Road.

A feasibility study was recently conducted for improvements along U.S. 287 that would include the addition of frontage roads and overpasses and the removal of at-grade crossings. Paredes gave a $728 million total estimate for the project, which would be undertaken in phases. The first priority would likely be in the area of Texas Motorplex, he said, with the second priority the section between Sardis and U.S. 67. However, the project is not funded yet and no letting date is set.

On a somber note, Paredes referred to the tragic September 2020 death of Waxahachie High School student Austin Elbert in a crossover crash on U.S. 287. He said a cable median barrier had been installed as far east as Business U.S. 287, but was extended to the crash site near the FM 664 overpass by request of Austin’s parents.

Months later, Austin’s cousin was in a hydroplaning accident in the same area, but the new cable barrier prevented her from crossing the median, possibly saving her life.

“When we heard that story, it really hit us,” Paredes said, “with what our job really is and to be here for the public and the safety of the traveling public.”