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Keep all aware of I-35E changes

At least one business owner said he is concerned about how he and his employees will be affected by the Interstate 35E expansion.

With hundreds of businesses lining I-35E from Interstate 635 to U.S. Highway 380, we bet he’s likely one of many.

As the project has moved through the planning stages in recent years, it has morphed somewhat, leaving landowners wondering whether or not to expect relocation or a sigh of relief.

In April 2012, we learned plans were to keep the expansion within the same footprint of the existing roadway, which would likely not impact nearby landowners. This week we learned there was another phase of the project— aptly named Phase 2 — that would expand the existing footprint with additional traffic lanes, necessitating right of way acquisition letters to be mailed out to some 500 landowners along the route.

A Texas Department of Transportation spokesperson said the agency is not sure when the second phase would start, indicating a time line of three to 10 years.

While we understand that an exact time line is iffy at best when it comes to obtaining rights of way and project funding, officials surely must realize the substantial impact their decisions have on residents and their livelihoods.

“I am hanging here. I have 20 employees who support their families from this business. I certainly will try to do everything I can to keep it open,” said Brian Robertson, owner of Comet Cleaners, which has a location in Corinth that sits just off the interstate at FM2181. His situation reflects the uncertainty facing anyone along the proposed construction route.

It is a challenging feat to expand an interstate in Texas, especially in high-growth areas where homes and businesses abut the freeway. In neighboring Oklahoma, space for expansion has been left along the I-35 corridor from the Red River north.

We need the additional traffic lanes now as anyone who drives through this stretch knows. Slowed traffic adds minutes to daily commutes and, oftentimes, almost up to an hour or more if inclement weather strikes or accidents occur. With a sizable number of students commuting to the University of North Texas, Texas Woman’s University and North Central Texas College’s Corinth campus, the additional traffic has stretched capacity to its limits.

We’ve no question of the need or of the challenges mentioned.

However, we think TxDOT and county officials should be more transparent during their decision-making processes and make an extra effort to keep people informed about the changing nature of the project as it continues to morph during the planning stages.

A number of businesses along the I-35 corridor have been left in limbo for far too long, awaiting the answers as to whether to renegotiate leases or abandon ship and move elsewhere.