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TxDOT Takes on $165M I-30 Job in Dallas

Thu August 27, 2009 - West Edition
Kathie Sutin

Drivers in Arlington, Texas, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area will soon find traversing I-30 a lot more like travel in the 21st century than travel in the 1950s.

Crews are upgrading the lanes between Cooper Street and Ballpark Way to Interstate standards adding new and improved access and modern frontage roads, due to the $165.5 million I-30 Mobility Improvement Project. The 2-mi. (3.2 km) stretch was a remnant of a former Dallas-Fort Worth Turnpike, a toll road constructed in the 1950s.

When the project was paid off and toll booths removed in the 1970s, “there wasn’t any reconfiguration of the access points so it remained cumbersome to get onto it or exit from it,” Val Lopez III, a spokesman for Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), said.

The project on the major east-west connector between Dallas and Fort Worth includes depressing the roadway through most of the area, the construction of new bridges at Baird Farm Road and Center Street and the reconstruction of the FM 157/Collins Street bridge.

Center Street is complete with the Collins Street bridge opening in late November. The Baird Farm Bridge, called Legends Way south of I-30, is partially complete, allowing westbound traffic to exit southbound to Legends Way.

The project, began in 2007, is more than a face lift — it will give drivers easier access to the Interstate and exit from it as well as modern frontage roads.

A new continuous one-way frontage road system includes dedicated turnarounds at the new and reconstructed bridged allowing drivers to bypass some signalized intersections, reducing travel delay on the frontage road system. The new system replaces old-fashioned cloverleaf interchanges.

“I-30 is a converted turnpike with limited access and availability,” Lopez said.

“The idea (in the toll road days) was not to have easy access. You know, you had to pay a toll to get on the road. Now you’re not going to have those old cloverleaves out there. This project convert the old turnpike into a modern highway with conventional entrances and exits and frontage road. Before the start of the project, that section of I-30 had neither. Because it was a toll road, it didn’t even have formal frontage roads.”

Instead, “city streets happened to be next to” the toll road, Lopez said. “Now, we’re modernizing it, putting in modern exit and entrance ramps and conventional frontage roads.

“Congestion is a factor in that area,” Lopez said. “The area has several traffic generators in the area.”

The congestion is a result of a convention center, Six Flags amusement park, a large water park, the ballpark where the Texas Rangers play and the new Cowboys Stadium under construction there as well.

“There’s a tremendous amount of need for access in that particular area,” Lopez said.

The three-year project, a partnership between TxDOT and the city of Arlington, and is slated for completion in late fall of next year.

“We’re on track to do just that,” Lopez said.

Zachry Construction Corp. of San Antonio did the Center Street work with the other bridges, the rebuilding of the main lanes and construction of the frontage roads being done by W.W. Webber Contractors of Houston.

Crews are lowering the roadway’s main lanes 20 ft. (6 m) to accommodate the new bridges, Lopez said.

Currently, the project is on time and on budget, he added. “We’re doing very well with the timeframe.”

The new bridge with “completely new access” was built about 18 months ago, Lopez said.

A major milestone was achieved in March with the rebuilding of the eastbound main lanes and the exit ramp at Barrett Farm Road allowing westbound traffic to exit onto the new bridge, Lopez said.

As with other highway reconstruction projects, maintaining traffic flow during construction is a top priority on the project.

“The main challenge of the project was maintaining three lanes of traffic in each direction as we rebuild the entire highway,” Lopez said. To do so, crews put down lanes of temporary asphalt “to widen the northern half of the highway so we could shift all six lanes of traffic onto that temporary roadway as we rebuilt the southern half of I-30,” he said.

“Before we did anything, we added new asphalt. It’s not permanent because currently we’re rebuilding that site now after we shifted traffic. The existing lanes couldn’t handle six lanes of traffic. We had to add more. That was the major challenge. Before we actually did any construction of new facilities, we had to create temporary facilities.”

In addition to the reconstructed three lanes that in each direction, the road will now have an additional, a high-occupancy vehicle lane in each direction, Lopez said.

“When the entire I-30 facility going back to Fort Worth is widened, it [this stretch] will already be wide enough to take five lanes of traffic in each direction but the rest of I-30 needs to catch up with it before we can do that.”

Ultimately the HOV access points will be near Center Street — from the Baird Farm Road bridge reversible-operation access ramp — and near the Dallas County line. When completed, the I-30 HOV lane system will span nearly 20 mi. (32 km) from Center Street into Dallas County near downtown Dallas.

Summer 2009 has been hot and dry in Texas. That spelled good news for the project which lost few days due to weather.

“Summer and drought are good for highway construction and it’s been good this summer.,” Lopez said. “We don’t really have a drought but and it’s been a relatively dry summer so it’s gone our way for the most part to stay on schedule.”

Motorists will not only find the driving on the 2-mi. stretch of I-30 easier —they’ll find it easier on the eyes, too. Murals 20 by 40 ft. reflect the history and culture of the local area are being painted on the retaining walls along the Center and Collins Street bridges. Four murals under the Center and Collins Street bridges have been completed thus far with more to come. Landscaping will include native grasses and wildflowers, flowering and canopy trees with seasonal color.

And the project is a boon to walkers as well. Pedestrian amenities include wide pathways and crosswalks with covered pavilions and other aesthetic elements on the bridges, Lopez said.

Zachry Construction did Center Street, the remainder of the project (the two other bridges, rebuilding the main lanes, frontage roads) was Webber.

TxDOT is keeping motorists abreast of news about the project at its own Web site, CEG

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