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Dallas to Austin and Back, on the New I-35

Tue March 07, 2006 - Midwest Edition
David Recht

Interstate 35 is a major commercial corridor, running through Texas from Oklahoma to Mexico.

The highway dates back to before the advent of the Eisenhower Interstate system in the 1950s as old U.S. Route 77.

It passes through the major metropolitan areas of Laredo, San Antonio, Austin, Waco, Dallas, and Denton.

As the Texas economy has grown, the I-35 pavement has aged, and the roadway cannot sustain the volume of traffic with its current lane configuration.

For this reason, the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) is in the midst of a massive reconstruction of Interstate 35, through various construction contracts along selected roadway segments between Dallas and Austin.

The projects have been staggered, both in time frame and location, to keep traffic moving as best as possible. The total time frame for all projects exceeds ten years.

One of the cities in the midst of this ten-year makeover is the Central Texas town of Waco, located on the banks of the Brazos River, and home to Baylor University.

The community is rightfully concerned about the impact that construction will have to its quality of life.

The highway department acknowledges that there will be inconveniences during the course of construction. TXDOT Spokesman Ken Roberts, who works for the highway department in Waco, told the Baylor Lariat, “Be patient with us, let us get the job done, and drive defensively.”

So far, construction is proceeding much more smoothly than expected.

“Despite the amount of construction between Dallas and Austin at any given time there are surprisingly few delays,” said Jessica Scott, a frequent Dallas-to-Austin motorist, “I can’t remember being inconvenienced by construction projects. Usually, if there is a big delay, it is due to a wreck.”

The success of the I-35 construction projects can be credited to the general contractors working on their respective projects.

Major contracts are currently under execution by Archer Western Limited, Arlington, TX; Young Contractors, Waco, TX; Ed Bell Construction, Dallas, TX; and Zachry Construction, San Antonio, TX.

All of these companies have significant highway experience. Zachry Construction recently completed the Dallas High Five Interchange between I-635 and U.S. 75. Ed Bell Construction is working currently on ramp reconfigurations on Interstate 20.

All of these contractors own their own equipment, and utilize subcontractors who have certification working with the Texas Department of Transportation.

Additionally, TXDOT is under contract with VMS Inc. of Waco, TX, to provide routine maintenance and resurfacing operations to the passable lanes of I-35.

Throughout the interstate corridor, signs are clearly mounted that inform motorists of the private roadway maintenance contract.

These signs are complemented by individual project signage and traffic control information that summarize current detours and lane closures.

There are several such construction zones throughout the interstate, and motorists also are informed that speeding in a work zone is cause for traffic fines to be doubled, per Texas State Law.

These work zones are dotted with various types of construction equipment.

Near F.M. 1325, there is currently an FMC Link-Belt lattice truck crane. The HC-238H II model has a 150-ton (136 t) capacity, and a luffing boom of 165 ft. (50.3 m).

Several miles to the north, there is a Terex Stinger model 60100 in use. This crane has a maximum sheave height of 110 ft. (33.5 m), and can be extended to 165 ft. (50.3 m) with the use of a jib.

In order to build highway grades that support the girders and spans erected by such large cranes, there are numerous Cat 330 excavators currently in use along I-35.

This model can be equipped with buckets of varying size, depending upon the application: 30 in. (76.2 cm), 48 in. (121.92 cm), and 72 in. (183 cm).

Flanked by the excavators are Cat-914G wheel loaders, which can be fitted with 1.5-cu.-yd. (1.2 cu m) or 4.5-cu.-yd. (3.4 cu m) buckets.

Paving operations are currently performed with PS-300B pneumatic compactors.

This model is supported by a Cat-3054 engine that generates 99 hp (74 kW).

Once earth has been compacted within range of the proctor density outlined in the contract specifications, then asphalt is placed with a Caterpillar AP-1000B rubber-tired asphalt paver.

The engine has a full load speed of 2,200 rpm, is cooled by a radiator, and has six cylinders. The diesel tank has a capacity of 265 gal. (70 L).

Reconstruction of I-35 is one of the largest jobs in Texas.

To get the job done, there is a modern fleet of construction equipment that will be hard at work in the coming years performing earthwork and paving operations

David H. Recht owns an Irving-based civil engineering and construction firm. CEG

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