The massive makeover of Interstate 35W in Fort Worth may soon get even bigger.
With the current I-35W expansion project on course for completion in 2018, officials now want to expand it. The result could be additional years of orange barrels and concrete barriers for motorists, but long-term improvements that would reinforce the I-35W corridor’s role as the transportation backbone of the western half of the Metroplex.
Officials said they’re considering adding new lanes, ramps and other features that would extend the project several miles to the north, south and west. The current project covers more than nine miles and totals $1.6 billion.
We’re going from four lanes built in the 1960s to about 12 lanes. It’s a massive undertaking. That’s where the leveraging comes in.
Jungus Jordan, Fort Worth City Council
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“We’re 50 percent complete and also adding additional connections to ease congestion.” Heather DeLapp, a spokeswoman for lead developer North Tarrant Infrastructure, said after briefing the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition.
She said the portion currently under construction, from I-30 near downtown Fort Worth to north of the U.S. 287 “Decatur Cutoff,” is still on schedule to be finished by September 2018. The work includes reconstruction of existing toll-free main lanes, the addition of four toll lanes and modernized frontage roads and access ramps.
We have had a lot of bad weather this year, and we have still been able to stay on schedule.
Heather DeLapp, North Tarrant Infrastructure
“We have had a lot of bad weather this year, and we have still been able to stay on schedule,” she said.
In fact, the project has proceeded so smoothly that the parties involved are looking at adding these features:
▪ A direct connection to make it easier for motorists to go from eastbound I-30 to the northbound I-35W toll lanes. Under previous plans, it’s pretty easy for westbound I-30 motorists to get on the toll lanes, but eastbound motorists have to mingle with nontoll traffic.
▪ New ramps at Belknap Street in downtown Fort Worth that will make it easier for motorists to go directly between the toll lanes and downtown Fort Worth. Previously, officials said they planned to build a reversible toll lane ramp at Belknap Street, so motorists could more easily get into downtown on weekday mornings and out of downtown in the afternoons. Now they’re working on a ramp that goes both directions 24 hours a day.
▪ Extending the project eight miles to the north, from the current terminus north of U.S. 287 to Eagle Parkway near Alliance Airport. If that plan goes through, the project will essentially run from downtown Fort Worth to the Tarrant-Denton County line.
▪ Extending the project about 14 miles to the south to more readily connect downtown Fort Worth to Texas 174 near Burleson. Such a southern extension still needs to be studied and could be several years away. But state transportation spokeswoman Jodi Hodges said the I-35W corridor in southern Tarrant County is seeing increased congestion that needs to be addressed.
The additional work, if approved, likely will add more than a billion dollars to the final price tag, officials said. However, the state transportation department isn’t funding the bill entirely with tax dollars. Instead, North Tarrant Infrastructure and its partners are bringing private-sector dollars to the project, with the expectation that they will be repaid with toll proceeds.
“We’re going from four lanes built in the 1960s to about 12 lanes. It’s a massive undertaking,” said Fort Worth Councilman Jungus Jordan. “That’s where the leveraging comes in.”