TEMPLE — Interstate 35 construction in Temple “is going to be intense for the next four years — there’s no way around that, it’s going to be a bear.”
That was part of the message Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jodi Wheatley told residents Tuesday at the Frank W. Mayborn Civic and Convention Center.
The remainder of the message focused on what major projects are expected in the near future, and ways people can stay informed about the construction and perhaps avoid congested areas.
Wheatley, Texas A&M University Transportation Institute representative John Habermann, assistant area transportation department engineer Mike Mazoch and project manager Rick Lewis presented updates on I-35 construction plans.
The project is expected to be completed in 2018, Wheatley said, and work along the 7.56-mile stretch of road will cost an estimated $241.3 million. The contractor is James Construction Group.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel — there is a finish date,” Wheatley said. “This is the largest project TxDOT has undertaken since I-35 was built 50 or 60 years ago.”
Roadwork outlined included:
- Avenue H from I-35 to 41st Street will be impacted until late spring 2015 for utility work and new pavement.
- 15th Street between Industrial and Zenith-Fannin Loop is closed until this summer for new culvert installation to improve drainage.
- The Third Street bridge over I-35 southbound will be demolished this summer.
- The West Adams Avenue exit bridge to I-35 will soon be closed, and traffic will continue over Adams to use a detour via 43rd Street to Airport Road.
- Avenue D at the southbound I-35 frontage road will be closed until summer 2015.
- The southbound main lane entrance from South Loop 363 to Midway Drive will be impacted throughout the summer.
- The northbound frontage road from the Mayborn Civic and Convention Center to North Loop 363 is becoming one-way north.
Loop 363 is expected to become an alternate route when traffic is backed up on I-35.
Residents expressed concerns about the closure of the West Adams Avenue exit bridge and the logjam of traffic at the detour.
“You don’t think that will create a backlog of traffic?” a resident asked. “At 5 o’clock, it’s going to be a nightmare.”
Another resident voiced concern about barriers being erected on I-35 all the way to Loop 363 during the construction process.
“Have you been out there lately and seen the skid marks? It’s black,” he said.
“Why don’t you have a sign to let people know?” a woman asked.
“People are used to there being three lanes and moving around, and we can’t adjust to people who are that impatient,” Mazoch said. “To move the barrier would bottleneck traffic even worse.”
Nighttime lane closures to accommodate construction are only allowed from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and not during weekdays or weekends, which are peak travel times, Wheatley said.
“Lanes won’t be closed on the weekend unless it’s an emergency situation, such as to replace a guardrail, or if there’s been a fire on the road, to replace pavement,” she said.
“Anytime there is a concrete barrier with a shoulder less than 10 feet wide, the speed limit is reduced to 60 miles per hour, and that’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“I know a lot of people don’t follow that, but you don’t have to go along. You can drive more safely.”
Wheatley advised people to go to my35.org to get updates on lane closures, planned construction and accidents that affect I-35 travel times.