Construction a constant on I-35Feb. 13, 2001
Projects may continue for another 12 years
By LACY ELWOOD
As the midpoint between Dallas and Austin, Waco has seen an increase of traffic and construction along I-35, and over the next 10 to 12 years, the interstate will be under constant construction.
Construction began in January on a stretch of interstate just north of campus between Craven Avenue and the intersection of I-35 and Business 77. The project consists of reconstructing the four existing lanes, adding an additional lane in each direction, adding a concrete median barrier and replacing the bridges at Craven Avenue and Crest Drive in Lacy-Lakeview. The Texas Department of Transportation expects the $20 million project to be completed in January of 2002.
The DOT is holding meetings along the 94-mile stretch of highway between Hillsboro and Bell County to plan for future construction, said Ken Roberts, Waco District Public Information Officer.
Roberts said the DOT is attempting to prevent accidents along the construction site by creating shoulder lanes.
'We have built traffic lanes that are actually on the shoulder, moving the traffic over,' Roberts said. 'We are now able to expand the inside and center lanes of the road. We are also working on construction at night.'
Roberts said construction could play a role in the number of accidents on I-35.
'Accidents on the interstate are a result of congestion, traveling at speeds that exceed the speed limit, distractions such as cell phones, and road rage,' Roberts said. 'When you combine all of that with the number of trucks on the road and mix in construction, you've got the potential for accidents.'
The Texas Department of Public Safety Web site reports that 3,106 fatal traffic accidents occurred in 1999 across the state, resulting in 3,519 deaths. Roberts said the greatest contributor to accidents is heavy traffic.
Students are already experiencing the hazards caused by construction sites.
'I can't stand it,' Elizabeth Goble, a San Antonio freshman, said. 'Not only does it make my trip more time consuming, but it's a hazard. It makes it a stressful drive.'
Roberts said tollways, truckways and the use of rail to move trucks and their cargo are options being considered to alleviate the traffic. 'Truck-only lanes could be possible, but not in the near future,' Roberts said. 'Right now, we are planning to add an additional lane to the interstate in Waco. If one of the lanes was a truck-only lane there would be bumper to bumper trucks.'
Construction is occurring along I-35 from Texas to Minnesota because of the North American Free Trade Agreement and trade across Texas, Roberts said. He said that 30 percent of the vehicles traveling through Waco are trucks carrying cargo north.