Lane shift puts the squeeze on LBJ traffic

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by JASON WHEELER

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwheelertv

WFAA

Posted on May 21, 2013 at 9:59 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 22 at 10:07 AM

DALLAS — A huge change is coming to LBJ Freeway at the end of this month. As we first reported, the lack of shoulders in the construction zone has raised safety concerns.

But the fix means that instead of four lanes in each direction, we'll soon have only three.

In much of the Interstate 635 construction zone, there are no emergency shoulders, which leaves no room for error.

"Right now there's no space... there's just no space," said LBJ Express project spokesman Andy Rittler. "If there is an accident — a fender-bender &mdsh; it's a three-hour ordeal."

But on an average day, there are nearly a dozen accidents and breakdowns that block lanes and back-up traffic on the east-west corridor.

We saw it for ourselves on a recent ride-along. Even emergency vehicles had a difficult situation.

After months of negotiations, construction managers have convinced the Texas Department of Transportation to let them set up one shoulder lane on each side of the freeway between the Dallas North Tollway and Interstate 35E.

"It allows us to make sure we can get emergency vehicles and wrecker crews in and out of the project much easier," Rittler said.

But to do it, they'll take away one lane of traffic in each direction. That means motorists will be squeezed into three lanes in each direction instead of four.

"Are you kidding me?" one driver exclaimed.

"It sucks," said another. "It's gonna take longer to get to work."

"That's always the initial reaction people are going to have," Rittler conceded.

Then the follow-up reaction: Drivers who have been constricted by concrete barriers do welcome an emergency way out.

Still, those we talked to say when they really sit and think about it — which they have plenty of time to do on this roadway — their choice is clear.

"What would you rather have — the shoulder, or the extra lane of traffic?" Rittler asked. His answer: "The extra lane, of course, so you can get through."

E-mail jwheeler@wfaa.com

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