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Look ahead as I-35E work starts

The construction many of us have been both dreading and anticipating is finally going to happen. With the construction companies named, the reality of Interstate 35E road construction is mere months away from becoming a part of our daily lives during the next few years.

Many of us travel the interstate almost daily for work, school, shopping and more, and are quite aware of the bumper-to-bumper congestion, re-patched potholes and the seemingly multiplying-by-the-minute numbers of cars heading to and fro.

This $4.8 billion project is long overdue, especially along the 28-mile stretch between Carrollton and Denton in a corridor that has seen significant development in the past two decades and even more population growth.

Denton County’s population stood at 683,000 in 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 1992, the county’s population was recorded at 291, 602 — a 134 percent increase in population in 20 years.

Just think about it.

More than twice as many people are traveling the same four-to-six lanes. Add in the growing numbers of students at North Central Texas College, Texas Woman’s University and the University of North Texas — many of whom traverse the interstate from homes along this corridor and beyond into Dallas — and you can see why a drive that used to take 20 minutes now takes 40 minutes. If there are accidents or inclement weather, then the trip might stretch past an hour or more.

It is true that construction will slow things down even more for a while. Patience, planning and perseverance will be needed. But we have an alternative now we didn’t have then.

Alongside I-35E, the A-train glides daily back and forth along this same stretch of road. With the recent addition of mid-day train service, the Denton County Transportation Authority has looked ahead to the construction issues to offer an alternative that could offer both congestion relief as well as the ability to do a little work while riding the train, buses or van pools to and from jobs, whether they are 8 to 5 or noon to 9 p.m.

We congratulate officials for getting the project to this stage after years of discussions. And we hope they’ll keep a close eye on the projected timelines to make sure the project doesn’t stretch into a decade or longer.

Once complete, the I-35E project will improve existing lanes of the interstate, provide continuous frontage roads and bring new, reversible managed toll lanes to keep traffic moving at 50 miles per hour or more.

Just keep that vision in mind for the next few years.