Drivers beware: Highway to close for work

I-35 highway is expecting a number of lane closures due to construction.
I-35 highway is expecting a number of lane closures due to construction.
I-35 highway is expecting a number of lane closures due to construction.

By Rebecca Fiedler
Staff Writer

Interstate 35 construction in Central Texas has resulted in the closure of main lanes for hours at a time, sometimes funneling traffic off the interstate entirely and onto access roads.

I-35 has been under construction for improvement in different sections across Texas for years. At the end of 2013, construction projects began around the Temple area, and currently there is traffic-impeding construction between Hewitt and Temple.

The Texas Department of Transportation is monitoring traffic constantly and trying to limit the number of main lane closures on I-35, said Jodi Wheatley, I-35 information specialist for the Texas Department of Transportation.

“We have guys who look into this from the Texas Transportation Institute from Texas A&M University,” Wheatley said. “They work with us on this. Part of what they do is called mobility coordination. They help us keep an eye on which construction companies want to close lanes and when. Sometimes companies get permission to close lanes and sometimes they don’t. We’re trying to at least keep the driving delay to a maximum of 36 minutes.”

There will eventually be maintenance work between South Loop 340 in Waco to North Loop 340. There will also be access road work done in the Waco area. Wheatley said she predicts this will start in about six months.

Many of the main lanes that run through Waco were build in the 1960s and are old, and the roads have been requiring constant maintenance, Wheatley said.

“It’s not a quick fix to do it right,” she said.

Cpl. Christopher Wilcox, public information officer for the Temple Police Department, has traveled along I-35 during multiple lane closures and been funneled onto access roads.

“One night I came in to stop by the sheriff’s department in Salado and I got sent off the interstate and over on the service road,” Wilcox said. “I got back on and got to Belton to stop by the sheriff’s office because they were working a project in that section, and I got taken off the interstate and sent to the service road. Then, when I came through Temple, they had one lane closed and traffic was funneled into two inside lanes.”

Wilcox said the construction is happening north and southbound on I-35.

“And it’s generally going on at what seems like all at the exact same time,” Wilcox said.

Temple police officers will be stationed at the construction, Wilcox said. Officers will sit with emergency lights on so that people coming up to construction scene will pay attention to.

“We have a contract with construction companies,” Wilcox said. “They contract with off-duty officers to come out and provide what’s kind of like safety security service for them.”

Wheatley said the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute are doing what they can to help construction companies get their work done without obstructing too much traffic.

“It’s definitely a balancing act,” Wheatley said.