I-35 Widening Project to Have Major Multi-year Impact on Campus

February 1, 2019
The Texas Department of Transportation, the City of Waco and Baylor University are preparing for the first phase of a major, multi-year construction project on Interstate 35, which will significantly affect the University for the duration of the project.

The Waco 4B project, which will begin this spring, includes the six-mile stretch of I-35 from North 340 Loop to 12th Street, with the yet-to-be-funded second phase running from 12th Street to South 340 Loop. TxDOT has selected Webber LLC as the contractor, although the company’s specific timeline will not be released until a second TxDOT public meeting in early 2019.

Since summer of 2018, Baylor representatives have been serving as part of a larger I-35 Waco Communications Steering Committee, which includes stakeholders from across the community who will be most affected by the construction. The committee’s purpose is to guide communications and outreach strategy and help distribute information on the project to various constituencies.

Some broad details – which are subject to change – have been shared, including:

• Construction work to begin first on frontage roads, followed by the southbound main lanes, then northbound main lanes.
• Minimum two lanes open in each direction at all times.
• Main lanes closed only overnight or on weeknights (exceptions for major demolition projects).
• Contractor subjected to financial penalties for unscheduled road or lane closures to minimize impact to the traveling public and local businesses.
• 4th/5th Street exit expected to be open at all times.
• No closures allowed on holidays or major special event dates for Baylor and Waco.

Last fall, the University assembled a campus-wide subcommittee to align with TxDOT’s communications efforts and develop a plan for timely communications to faculty, staff, students, alumni and visitors as details are finalized on the I-35 project. The subcommittee, which convened officially in September, already has provided TxDOT with projected major event dates over the next four years, including football games, commencement, Premiere events for prospective students, Move-In days and the first day of classes.

“Anytime you have construction on a major thoroughfare, there will be some disruption, so now is a good time before construction begins for our committee to develop a robust communications plan for the campus,” Jeremy Vickers, associate vice president for external affairs and subcommittee member, said. “It’s also a good time for faculty and staff to start thinking ahead about and exploring alternate routes to campus, such as Loop 340 and LaSalle Avenue.”

According to Vickers, the project will have some significant benefits to Baylor and the Waco community.

“Interstate 35 is one of the busiest interstates in Texas,” Vickers said. “Although it will cause some short-term angst, I-35 expansion will accommodate Waco and Baylor’s growth, provide much improved and safer transportation through our area and provide pedestrians and bicyclists with easier, safer and more accessible travel from campus to downtown.”

The Waco 4B project will widen I-35’s main lanes to four lanes in each direction, rebuilding the full roadway to replace aging infrastructure built in the 1960s. While improving safety and incorporating new technology to better serve I-35 travelers, the construction will improve continuous frontage roads and entrance and exit ramps, reconstruct bridges and improve interchanges, add U-turns and improve bicycle and pedestrian access.

The major impacts to campus are expected to be the demolition of the 8th Street pedestrian bridge, reconfiguration of Dutton Avenue and the addition of overpasses at 11th/12th streets, 4th/5th streets and University Parks Drive. The addition of U-turns at University Parks Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard will greatly improve pedestrian access and safety and traffic flow.

“The project brings needed safety and mobility improvements to the Waco District,” said Stan Swiatek, engineer for the TxDOT Waco District. “We will be working to get the project completed safely and efficiently while being considerate of construction impacts to the community. We are committed to maintaining regular close and effective communications with the community and travelers on I-35.”

Using best practices learned from previous I-35 construction projects, TxDOT is developing a strong communications plan that incorporates smart signs and multiple communications channels to help local citizens and travelers know in advance about delays, lane closures and other important information.

TxDOT’s project website at www.My35.org/Waco provides updated information on the project, as well as ways to stay informed throughout the project by email, text messages and Twitter @My35Texas. Campus-specific I-35 updates can be found at baylor.edu/I35. In addition, for questions and feedback for the Baylor subcommittee, please email I35@baylor.edu.

Baylor Waco 4B Subcommittee:

Jeremy Vickers, associate vice president, External Affairs
Lori Fogleman, assistant vice president, Media and Public Relations
Jen McCrady, associate director of admissions communications, Admissions
Becca Broaddus, publications manager, Hankamer School of Business
Rebecca Nall, assistant director of communication, Mayborn Museum
Jovan Overshown, senior associate athletics director for branding and engagement, Athletics
Henry Howard, associate athletics director for capital projects and championships, Athletics
Capt. John Kolinek, assistant chief of police, Baylor Department of Public Safety
Matt Penney, director, Parking and Transportation
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