I-35E expansion project to begin in October

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by STEVE STOLER

WFAA

Posted on August 20, 2013 at 6:01 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 20 at 6:53 PM

I-35E expansion project

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LAKE DALLAS — LBJ Freeway, the DFW Connector, and the North Tarrant Express project are all on the list of major construction work in North Texas.

Soon, you can add Interstate 35E to that list.

In just two months, work will begin to add new lanes along a 29-mile stretch of I-35E from LBJ Freeway in Dallas all the way to U.S. Highway 380 in Denton.

For the $1.4 billion project, the high cost means more than dollars and cents — it means improving traffic conditions and safety.

The project has been the dream of motorists and politicians alike for more than two decades. On Tuesday, that dream took one step closer to becoming reality.

Denton County Commissioners voted unanimously to provide their local share of funding that will kick off years of construction to improve and widen I-35E.

But just down the highway in Hickory Creek, the owner of a well-known barbecue joint was in no mood to celebrate.

"I’m very disappointed to hear it’s going to come this soon," said Mike Cooper, who owns Chasin’ Tail BBQ.

Texas Department of Transportation officials showed up at Cooper's establishment two weeks ago with the bad news. The 31-year-old restaurant is in the construction zone where new bridges will be built over Lewisville Lake. Cooper must close his doors by the end of the year.

"It will not be easy," Cooper said. "We've got a big 'ol smoker in the back, and it will be tough to get a city to approve it."

But the bridge over the lake is considered a huge traffic safety problem. So building a new one for northbound cars and replacing the old one for southbound traffic will be the first phase of the project.

"If there's a problem on the bridge or leading up to the bridge, it just snarls up traffic for hours," said Denton County Judge Mary Horn. "There are no options."

Two more free lanes will be built. Managed, voluntary toll lanes will be constructed in the middle of the interstate. Tolls will vary depending on peak times.

Ramps at LBJ, the Bush Turnpike and State Highway 121 will all be improved.

"This is to meet the needs of the D-FW region to get people to and from work," said Michael Morries, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

Cooper understands the need. But that won't save his business, a North Texas institution.

All he can do is hope TxDOT will give him a fair deal so he can reopen somewhere else.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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