I-45 and FM 646 intersection flip finishes early as widening project continues south

A major I-45 project has reached substantial completion months ahead of schedule as the Texas Department of Transportation continues to widen the interstate all the way to Galveston.

In late June, TxDOT opened FM 646 to east-west traffic at I-45. It had been closed since March 1 as crews demolished the FM 646 overpass to flip the intersection so I-45 passes over instead of under FM 646. I-45 lanes remained open during the work, though there were lane shifts to accommodate demolition.

Crews have also finished constructing the new northbound I-45 main lanes over FM 646, finishing Phase 1 of the project. Northbound and southbound traffic share the northbound I-45 overpass as crews start Phase 2, which includes the construction of the I-45 southbound overpass at FM 646. Phase 2 should be complete by next summer, TxDOT Public Information Officer Danny Perez wrote in an email to Community Impact Newspaper.

During the months of work, eastbound FM 646 motorists who wanted to cross I-45 had to travel south along the I-45 frontage road, make a U-turn at FM 517 and then continue east on FM 646. Westbound motorists had to travel north and make a U-turn at Hwy. 96.

TxDOT officials expected the FM 646 closure to last until September, but crews finished the project 2 1/2 months early. The contract included a $30,000-per-day incentive for finishing early up to a maximum of 45 days, netting the contractor an additional $1.35 million, Perez wrote.

“With all our projects, our goal is to finish sooner [rather] than later to minimize the impacts on the traveling public,” he wrote.

Other work at the intersection still needs to be complete, including reconstructing the curved access roads from the I-45 frontage roads to FM 646, reconstructing U-turns along FM 646 under the I-45 bridge, and creating a detention pond at the southwest side of the intersection, Perez wrote.

The intersection flip is part of one of several projects to widen I-45 in Galveston County.

The $121.7 million project to widen I-45 to eight lanes between FM 518 and FM 517 began in November 2016 and is expected to finish in early 2021. Crews are widening I-45 to 10 lanes between NASA Parkway and FM 518, a $99.8 million project that began in May 2017 and is expected to finish in fall 2021. Crews are also widening I-45 between FM 517 and FM 1764, a $230.5 million project expected to finish by fall 2022, according to TxDOT documents.

There are four other I-45 widening projects farther south totaling $428 million that will start anywhere between August and April 2022.
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