I-35 projects top list of regional transportation work in 2017

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NWA-2017-01-19-1

Regional Projects

1. I-35: The Texas Department Transportation broke ground on several projects on I-35 in 2016 as part of its $4 billion Mobility35 program to improve the highway. The state agency plans to complete standalone projects that will make a significant impact on mobility as funding becomes available.

A. 51st Street: TxDOT began construction in September on a roundabout at the southbound I-35 frontage road and East 51st Street intersection. Other improvements in the area include ramp upgrades and adding a southbound intersection bypass lane beneath the 51st Street overpass. On Jan. 8, TxDOT closed the southbound-to-northbound turnaround bridge for reconstruction. The turnaround bridge will reopen in early April. The $16.5 million project will be complete in early 2019.

B. Oltorf Street: The project includes rebuilding the Oltorf Street bridge; improving entrance and exit ramps and frontage roads; extending entrance and exit lanes; and adding northbound and southbound U-turns at Oltorf. Bicycle and pedestrian accommodations will also be improved along the I-35 frontage roads in each direction between Woodland Avenue and Woodward Street. Construction on the $42.6 million project begins in February and will be complete by early 2020.

C. US 79 to SH 45 N: In July, TxDOT began construction on braided ramps—where one ramp crosses over the other—to remove merging and weaving conflicts on the I-35 northbound main lanes between Hester’s Crossing Road and RM 620. An extended northbound entrance and exit lane will provide drivers with more time to accelerate and merge onto the highway. The northbound ramps between SH 45 N and RM 620 will also be modified. The frontage road intersections at I-35 and US 79 will also be reconstructed, and a third left-turn lane from westbound US 79 to southbound I-35 will be added. The $28.1 million project will be completed in spring 2019.

D. Parmer Lane: The construction of a diverging diamond intersection—in which traffic is temporarily diverted to the left side of the roadway to facilitate better left turns and through traffic—is designed alleviate traffic congestion at the intersection of Parmer Lane and I-35. The project also includes operational improvements at the Lamar Boulevard and Parmer intersection. TxDOT anticipates starting construction on the $25 million project in late 2018.

2. Loop 360: In February 2016, TxDOT began work to add an extended entrance or exit lane to each side of Loop 360 from south of MoPac to north of Walsh Tarlton Lane. The $6.44 million project also includes adding a third left-turn lane from the northbound MoPac frontage road to northbound Loop 360. The new lanes opened in December, but final paving will not be done until this spring. The state agency is planning additional improvements to Loop 360 between MoPac and US 183 to add overpasses and underpasses at major Loop 360 intersections to eliminate traffic signals. Construction on some of those projects is several years out.

3. SH 71 Express: Work is expected to be finished this spring on one new express, or toll, lane on Hwy. 71 from east of Presidential Boulevard near the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to east of SH 130. The $139.5 million project also included rebuilding the intersection at FM 973, adding direct connectors between Hwy. 71 and SH 130, and building a 5-mile-long shared-use path for pedestrians and bicyclists. Construction on the toll bridge over SH 130 is complete, but work continues between Presidential and FM 973.

4. MoPac: The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority opened the first section of the MoPac express toll lane in October between northbound RM 2222 and Parmer. The express lane charges a variable toll based on the amount of traffic in the express and main lanes. The rest of the toll lanes between Parmer and Cesar Chavez Street will open in the first half of 2017. The project cost is $204 million.

5. 183 North: In April, the Mobility Authority received environmental clearance on the $650 million project that would add two express lanes in each direction on US 183 between SH 45 N and MoPac. A fourth nontolled general-purpose lane would also be built to correct an existing lane imbalance where lanes shift between three and four main lanes. The agency is analyzing options to phase construction.

6. 183 South: Construction began in May on the $743 million project, which will include building two to three tolled lanes in each direction on US 183 between Hwy. 290 and
Hwy. 71 and also include three nontolled lanes in each direction with bike lanes and a shared-use path. The first phase of the project between Hwy. 290 and Techni Center Drive is anticipated to be finished in 2019 with full completion of the project in 2020.

7. SH 130/Hwy. 290 intersection improvements: The Mobility Authority completed a $2.5 million short-term project in 2016 to aid congestion at the SH 130 and Hwy. 290 interchange. The agency added two signalized right-turn lanes from southbound Hwy. 130 frontage road to the Manor Expressway frontage roads with access to the 290 toll road. The agency is designing three new direct connectors between SH 130 and Hwy. 290 that could begin construction early 2018. The project is estimated to cost $130 million.

8. Toll 183A extension: Design of the Toll 183A extension from Hero Way in Leander to Hwy. 29 near Liberty Hill kicked off in late 2016. The Mobility Authority is reviewing phasing options to add tolled lanes to the highway. Construction would take three years and is expected to begin after the design and public input process end around mid-2018. Total project costs are still being finalized.


Local projects

NWA-2017-01-19-29. Intersection safety improvements
The city is implementing $647,000 worth of safety improvements at the intersection of  North Lamar Boulevard and Rundberg Lane in North Austin. Improvements include constructing raised medians and raised right-turn channelized islands, restriping and adding crosswalks as well as building a pedestrian hybrid beacon on Rutland Drive near Lamar and adding a traffic signal by the Walnut Creek Library. In early 2017, the city will start work on similar safety improvements at  Lamar and Parmer Lane.

Timeline: November-summer 2017

NWA-2017-01-19-310. Jollyville sidewalk upgrades
In early 2017, the city of Austin will begin a four-month, $330,000 project to improve sidewalks on Jollyville Road between Duval Road and Balcones Woods Drive. The project will include new sidewalk construction and retrofitting existing sidewalks and ramps to bring them into compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act as well as some drainage work. The city expects to finish the sidewalk improvements by late summer. The project is being funded by the city of Austin 2012 mobility bond.

Timeline: early 2017-late summer 2017

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Amy Denney
Amy has been reporting in community journalism since 2007. She worked in the Chicago suburbs for three years before migrating south and joined Community Impact Newspaper in September 2010. Amy has been editor of the Northwest Austin publication since August 2012 and she is also the transportation beat reporter for the Austin area.
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