‘Let’s dig’

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State Senator Jane Nelson speaks at the 35Express Groundbreaking with Denton County Judge Mary Horn listening Thursday in Highland Village.
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Groundbreaking event marks the beginning of I-35E expansion project

“Let’s dig,” Denton Mayor Pro Tem Pete Kamp said after her brief remarks during Thursday’s groundbreaking event for the expansion of Interstate 35E, which has been titled the 35Express.

Kamp was joined by a veritable who’s who of stateand local officials, including state Reps. Myra Crownover and Tan Parker, state Sen. Jane Nelson, Denton Mayor Mark Burroughs and the Texas Department of Transportation Executive Director Phil Wilson.

“When you find a way to say ‘yes,’ you can get things done,” Wilson said in his remarks as he touched on the partnerships involved in the progress made in the expansion of I-35E.

Partnerships was one of the main themes of the majority of speakers at the ceremony. Moments before Morris took the podium,Texas Transportation Commissioner Jeff Austin III touted the cooperation between the cities and agencies.

“This kind of cooperation and legislative support is a true testament for your commitment to getting projects done through partnerships,” he said. Austin also noted the design/build aspect of the project that will allow AGL to be working on one section of the corridor while designing an upcoming section of work simultaneously.

“That will cut the construction time almost in half— what could have taken over a decade to complete will now be completed inthree and a half years,” he said.

Austin also said it will allow cities to have input on the designs of those sections that would directly impact them.

While the turning of the dirt was merely ceremonial,the location of the groundbreaking, Copperas Branch Park, was significant. 

The park will remain closed for the next few years as it will serve as the staging area for AGL Constructors, the engineers on the expansion project.

The plan is to add general-purpose lanes, managed toll lanes and frontage road improvements from Interstate 635 in Dallas County to U.S. Highway 380 in Denton County, a distance of about 28.2 miles.

The existing lanes of the highway will remain free.Phase 1 of the project will add an additional free lane each way from State Highway 121 to U.S. Highway 380, as well as two reversible managed lanes from I-635 to an area around Swisher and Turbeville roads. Phase 1 also includes the expansion of the Lewisville Lake Bridge.

Funding for the project will be a joint effort between TxDOT, the Regional Transportation Council and multiple regional partners.

Both Nelson and Crownover noted the impending inconvenience the project will cause once construction starts. 

Nelson said I-35E was the lifeline for businesses and people and that no one could survive economically if the road is not functional.

“The alternative to doing something is gridlock,and that is unacceptable,” Nelson said.

Crownover said the expansion was not government for government’s sake, but it was about the community needs, calling I-35 the Mississippi River of commerce.

“’We know there will be inconveniences, but TxDOT is a nimble group who believes in communication. [We] will know exactly wherethey are and what they are doing,” Crownover said. “They know how to do this and they will get it right.” 

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and viaTwitter at @BjlewisDRC.

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