The soon-to-be completed widening of a nearly 10-mile stretch of Interstate 35 between Waco and Bruceville-Eddy will allow a more seamless flow of traffic, with more improvements on the way, Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jodi Wheatley said.
The I-35 Waco Project 3B-Lorena was quietly finished around Memorial Day when TxDOT crews converted the four-lane portion of the interstate to a six-lane roadway for about 9.8 miles from Old Bruceville Road to Sun Valley Boulevard/Farm-to-Market Road 2063 in Hewitt.
The project, which began in March of 2012, had a projected budget of $169.4 million to support the increased amount of truck traffic along the I-35 corridor, allowing the region’s population growth to benefit with the smoother, larger roadway, Wheatley said.
“It has been four years and it really has been a long project, but it is wrapping up now,” she said. “There are still some daytime and nighttime closures to finish up some painting, striping and hanging some signs and stuff like that, and we normally would have completed that before opening the main lanes, but we really wanted to get the project opened for Memorial Day.”
Although final costs have not been totaled for the roadway renovation, Wheatley said crews accepted a bid of $169.4 million.
Three or four lanes remain open in both southbound and northbound lanes to accommodate a larger traffic volume as crews wrap up the final stages of work on the project, which is expected to be fully completed in the next several weeks.
“It really feels like there is a lot less traffic out there now, because the road is so much smoother and all the traffic is spread out onto the extra lanes,” Wheatley said. “I think there is a lot less stress all the way around.”
Lorena Police Chief Tom Dickson said local law enforcement have noticed a vast difference in interstate traffic since Memorial Day. He said it appears motorists are driving through with more ease.
“It is much more different than when construction was going on. Our accidents have gone down tremendously,” Dickson said. “At one point, we had barrier walls up on both sides, so it was just two lanes, and now that those are gone and three lanes are open, traffic is moving smoother.”
Dickson said officers continue to monitor traffic along the interstate and look for speeding vehicles now that the roadway is wider. Regardless, he said, the nearly completed project is adding benefit to Lorena.
“All along, we said that once the project was completed, we knew we were going to have a beautiful road through the city,” Dickson said. “It is really shaping up and we hope this is just the beginning of Lorena’s growth.”
In Waco, Wheatley said bridge repairs are continuing on I-35, especially north of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Construction near McLane Stadium is expected to be completed by fall 2017 as maintenance projects continue south of the Fourth/Fifth Street exits to New Road, scheduled for completion at the end of August.
TxDOT officials said they continue to wait on additional funding to begin work on widening I-35 through the city limits of Waco, but no projected start date is available.