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DALLAS Already one of the most congested routes in the nation, driving on LBJ Freeway is about to get even worse as part of a $2 billion makeover, which started on Sunday.

It won't be finished for five years..

Seventeen miles of freeway along Interstate 635 and I-35E will be rebuilt at a cost of $2 billion. Step one focuses on LBJ's HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes.

Workers shut down five miles of HOV lanes on LBJ between Midway Road and Luna Road on Sunday. That move could drastically alter your morning commute.

The Gonzales family commutes to over the freeway on a pedestrian bridge connecting their neighborhood on one side to an elementary school on the other.

We're on that bridge every day, said Vincent Gonzales.

But that bridge will soon come down as part of the reconstruction project.

That's a big inconvenience, Gonzales said. Now it means I'm going to have to be traveling more time around ... the highway construction.

It is one of many headaches that leaders of the highway project acknowledge will be ahead for motorists and pedestrians.

Starting Monday morning, chunks of the HOV carpool lanes the region's busiest will be closed forever.

They will eventually be replaced with a six-lane toll tunnel and eight free lanes above.

The project doubles LBJ's car capacity between I-35E and North Central Expressway.

Tomorrow is one of the most important aspects of this project, because it really sets off the first real construction people going to see and experience along the LBJ project, said Andy Rittler, spokesman for what's known as LBJ Express.

With the HOV lanes shut down, workers will in the the coming weeks begin dismantling and rebuilding the many bridges crossing the freeway.

The pedestrian connection used by the Gonzales family should re-open by the fall, but directors of the project warn there will be more closures and delays affecting drivers and homeowners.

We anticipate there is going to be some headaches, but at the end of five years, drivers are going to have a brand-new highway and one that is safer and state-of-the-art, Rittler promised.

Over the next five years, crews will be working to make it as easy as possible for drivers to get to businesses along LBJ.

Now that the HOV lanes are closed, contractors promise that no other lanes on Interstate 635 will ever be closed during rush hour.

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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