Aided by reduced traffic during March, April and May, construction crews have made progress on work on the Sam Rayburn Tollway and its intersections.

The North Texas Tollway Authority’s Sam Rayburn Tollway widening project began in January 2019 and will add a fourth lane in both directions from Denton Tap Road in Coppell to US 75 in McKinney with a $200 million expansion. The project also calls for ramp improvements in Frisco between the Dallas North Tollway and Preston Road.

The Sam Rayburn Tollway widening project aims to improve regional mobility, as the North Texas population is projected to exceed 11 million people in the coming decades.

The entire 26-mile corridor is under construction at once so that crews can get ahead on project progress, NTTA spokesperson Michael Rey said.

Rey said decreased traffic on the tollway due to the COVID-19 pandemic allowed construction crews to begin work sooner and to extend work later into the day.

“From March through May, NTTA traffic engineers extended the times of permissible lane and ramp closures on the [Dallas North Tollway], [President George Bush Turnpike] and [the Sam Rayburn Tollway] to advance key construction and maintenance projects while traffic counts were low,” Rey said in an email. “These extended lane closure hours were discontinued in June when traffic volumes began to increase.”

However, reduced traffic due to COVID-19 caused adverse effects on NTTA’s toll transactions and revenue, according to a May 20 report by the toll authority. In April, NTTA saw a 56.6% decrease in toll transactions and a 47.4% decrease in total revenue as compared to April 2019.

Those toll revenues are used to finance road improvements. Toll road projects do not receive federal money, said Kevin Feldt, the program manager for the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

Rey said funding for the SRT expansion will not be affected by revenue dips, and the project is still on track to be completed in December 2021.

From January to April, crews excavated in the tollway’s median, began asphalt and concrete paving in certain areas, worked on intersection bridges and continued building a new ramp on Parkwood Boulevard, per the report.

Part of the SRT expansion involves adding lanes to existing bridges at several intersections. This process includes demolitions and adding foundation, columns, beams and a bridge deck, Rey said.

In its spring progress report, the tollway authority also provided updates on a planned fourth lane in each direction of the Dallas North Tollway between US 380 and the Sam Rayburn Tollway. This is part of NTTA’s DNT improvement projects, which extend along the 32-mile stretch between I-35 East in Dallas and US 380 on the Frisco/Prosper border.

Between January and April, environmental engineering started, and it will continue along the Frisco section of the DNT.

“In McKinney and Allen, concrete paving for the additional east- and westbound lanes is complete,” Rey said in an email.

As businesses and residents return to work and traffic increases, Rey said NTTA’s project and traffic engineers will evaluate tollway and intersection closures on a weekly basis.

Additional reporting by Elizabeth Uclés