By Linda Wilkins
Assistant City Editor
The Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization voted to add an additional $2 million to a project that would renovate the interchange of Interstate 35 and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Chris Evilia, the director of the Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization, said the additional funds will make the traffic to and from Baylor Stadium smoother when the stadium opens.
He said there are three construction projects on portions of road that feed into the I-35 and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard interchange. One project, which would cost $48 million, is to construct frontage roads over the Brazos River. Another project, set to cost around $24 million, is to extend frontage roads going northward across the railroad tracks from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The third project, called Loop 574, extends Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard eastward to LaSalle Avenue. The $2 million will go into the funds for the third project, which will total about $13 million.
“None of those projects actually did any work to the interchange at I-35 and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard itself,” Evilia said. “It’s an oversight the Texas Department of Transportation noticed about a month ago.”
Evilia said the work done on the interchange is part of a larger, long-range project to widen and expand I-35.
He said the larger project is to completely reconstruct the interstate and add one lane in each direction to the existing interstate. The $2 million is part of the process to widen and modernize the frontage roads.
Because the frontage roads are being widened to three lanes instead of the current two lanes, the interchange road needed to be renovated.
Otherwise, Evilia said, the frontage roads would be three lanes leading into a two-lane interchange that would then have to widen back to three lanes. He said the construction is making the interchange and the frontage roads consistent.
In addition to the construction on the frontage roads, turn-around roads that do not currently exist are going to be added so people can turn around without having to go through the interchange.
Jodi Wheatley, the I-35 Information specialist for the Waco district of the Texas Department of Transportation, said the interchange is also going to be releveled to enhance the smoothness of the road. She said the plans for the grade level change were already in place but were meant to begin later in the construction process. Now the grade level change can occur along with the other construction to widen the frontage roads.
Wheatley said that by including the grade level change now, more money won’t have to be spent later to do it in the middle of another project.
“Engineers were looking at the ways the projects were coming together and this would have been a problem,” Wheatley said. “The way to handle the mismatched level was to change the intersection itself and widen it.”
Costs for each of the projects will not be finalized until the constructors bid on the projects in January.
Wheatley said a bridge camera is located on top of Clifton Robinson Tower that takes five snapshots per day to document construction being done on the roads as well as the construction site of Baylor Stadium. To see pictures of the construction, visit http://www.my35.org.