Your Commute

Interstate 35W expansion in Fort Worth reaches halfway point

Star-Telegram

Has the crush of traffic on Interstate 35W got you down?

Hang in there, motorists. The $1.6 billion project that has burdened commuters north of downtown Fort Worth for about two years is halfway done.

“We have reached the 50 percent completion point,” said Heather DeLapp, spokeswoman for North Tarrant Infrastructure, the lead developer. “That’s a significant milestone.”

The biggest piece of the project, a massive makeover of I-35W stretching from downtown Fort Worth to Loop 820, is on schedule to be completed by late 2018, DeLapp said. The work is on course even though contractors missed lots of work days because of recent rains.

“We are hoping we will be able to open it a little earlier,” she said.

Just a bit further to the north, a portion of I-35W from Loop 820 to near Heritage Trace Parkway is on pace to be substantially completed even earlier, by late 2017, project spokesman Jason Crawford said.

Congested highway

DeLapp and Crawford provided I-35W updates Wednesday to the 35W Coalition, a group of business and political leaders that meets quarterly to discuss efforts to improve the I-35W corridor, which is one of the most congested roadways in the state.

The project includes reconstruction of existing main lanes, modernization of ramps and frontage roads and the addition of two toll express lanes in each direction. The existing main lanes will remain toll-free, while the toll lanes will be available for motorists willing and able to pay extra for a faster drive.

One other bit of good news: This week there will be no lane closures, because of events at Texas Motor Speedway — including the NASCAR Rattlesnake 400 on Friday and Indycar Firestone 600 on Saturday.

In its contract with the Texas Department of Transportation, the developer agrees to certain “blackout periods” during which lanes cannot be closed. Those periods include Wednesday through Monday (for speedway events) and July 2-5 (for Independence Day highway travel).

More high schools needed

The 35W Coalition meeting also featured a brief presentation by retiring Northwest School District Superintendent Karen Rue. She told about 100 people in attendance that by 2045 or 2050, her district, which already has three high schools, would need “a minimum” of six more high school campuses to meet population needs.

“We are the second fastest-growing district in North Texas. Frisco is the only one ahead of us,” Rue said. “We’re growing at a rate of 12,000 to 13,000 kids every 10 years.”

Also Wednesday, officials from the Denton County Transportation Authority disclosed that, starting in September, limited bus service would be initiated between downtown Fort Worth and Denton.

The service, initially expected to feature only one bus making five round trips per day, could be the first step toward integrating public transportation systems in Tarrant and Denton counties, said Kristina Brevard, Denton County Transportation Authority vice president for planning and development.

The service would likely include stops in the Alliance area, as well as at the University of North Texas, although details are still being discussed, she said.

The service could eventually include long-distance coach buses, with large seat backs, Wi-Fi and other amenities, Brevard said.

“We want to have Wi-Fi on board. We want television screens so you can watch the news,” she told the 35W Coalition. “The new generation (of public transportation users) is not living like we lived when we were growing up. They want technology at their fingertips.”

Gordon Dickson: 817-390-7796, @gdickson

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