The marathon project to widen Interstate 35 through Waco got off on the right foot Monday, with no major bottlenecks or wrecks reported from the closing of a northbound lane.
It was the beginning of an estimated 2,000-day, $341 million project to widen the interstate from near Bellmead to South 12th Street. The undertaking creates a six-mile construction zone around Baylor University, downtown, restaurant row at Fifth and Sixth streets and the Brazos River, with heavy equipment, crews in hard hats and street and exit closings.
“I have not been made aware of any potential issues so far, nothing where I have been asked to issue a statement,” said Waco Police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton, speaking late Monday afternoon. “We have passed along information on our Facebook page, and will continue to provide information on lane closures and when lanes slow down. The public needs to be aware that for the next four or five years we will have construction issues on I-35. They need to follow the signs, follow the rules and be particularly diligent in construction zones, where workers are trying to improve Interstate 35.”
About 140,000 vehicles a day travel I-35 through Waco, said Ken Roberts, spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation. The department will provide updated information on the widening at My35.org.
Interstate 35 will lose a lane this week as construction work starts to widen and rebuild th…
Motorists particularly need to use caution as mid-May approaches. At that time, TxDOT crews will demolish the pedestrian bridge spanning the interstate near South Eighth Street. Roberts said the 1,285-foot bridge was built in 1966.
“We do not know the exact date, but should as it approaches. We will get that information out as soon as possible,” Roberts said, adding the department likely will close the entire interstate, both northbound and southbound lanes, during the dismantling that crews will complete overnight.
“There have been times when the thinking was we would close, say, the northbound lanes one night and the southbound lanes the next in a particular area. But what we discovered was that when we started taking down one end of the bridge, the other began crumbling,” said Roberts. “So now we take the whole thing down at once. We get in there, knock it down, haul the material to a ‘spoils’ site and reopen the lanes. It can be done overnight, with the lanes possibly closed from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. so as to limit the inconvenience.”
During the bridge demolition in Waco, traffic will be rerouted to Loop 340 or to Interstate 35 frontage roads for the evening, Roberts said.
Roberts confirmed that TxDOT on Wednesday will permanently close Exit 335A on southbound I-35, which now leads to Fourth and Fifth streets. Motorists should use the University Parks exits instead, Roberts said.
“This exit is not coming back,” Roberts said. “The site is being reconfigured.”
A northbound main lane of I-35 closed Monday for the entire section of the project between 12th Street and North Loop 340, leaving only two lanes in that direction. Crews are reinforcing the pavement and shoulder.
Throughout the 5½-year process, motorists must watch for alterations to entrances, exits and frontage roads. Frontage work should wrap up in early 2022, and main lane projects the following year, TxDOT announced.
As each phase unfolds, businesses that may face challenges will receive “face-to-face visits” from highway department representatives, Roberts said.
The project is to be completed in late 2024, with The Woodlands-based Webber LLC serving as lead contractor. Trucks and heavy equipment bearing the Webber name are appearing along the construction route.
“The public will get very familiar with it,” Roberts said.