The timeworn LBJ East reconstruction project is moving forward after all. The Texas Transportation Commission in Austin unanimously approved a compromise plan today.
The project isn’t exactly off and running, though. It’s more like a longtime couch potato doing a pre-workout stretch. A stalemate over optional toll lanes has kept the venture dormant for six months, and the delay has added about $5-million to the cost with each passing month.
Local project crusaders are “reasonably happy” with the compromise, Dallas City Councilman and Transportation Committee Chairman Lee Kleinman told the Advocate this afternoon. “It’s moving forward, it’s already funded, and we need to get it started,” he says.
The agenda item ratified today by the Texas Transportation Commission calls for the “full reconstruction” of Interstate 635 between U.S. Highway 75 and Interstate 30, with a total of five free lanes and one toll lane. (Now the 11-mile slog has four free lanes plus one HOV Express lane each way.)
Initially, Kleinman, City Councilman Adam McGough and a host of other local leaders advocated for an additional free lane, plus two managed toll lanes each way. Gov. Greg Abbott refused, and the stalemate ensued.
The Dallas contingent sacrificed one optional toll lane to reach a compromise with the state. Kleinman says that the project was originally funded and environmentally cleared for a total of 14 travel lanes, seven each way. The state today approved an agenda item that calls for a total of 12 travel lanes.
But as long as the highway is limited to one optional toll lane each way, Kleinman says he feels “comfortable that we’re going to have some degree of flexibility on that other lane.”
So far local leaders have been shy about pushing that point with the state and hope they have time to work out the details.
The work is slated to start from west to east, so the striking remake of the dreaded LBJ-Skillman interchange will start first. The nasty interchange at LBJ and I-30 also will be totally revamped, and business owners and customers are happy about the new, continuous frontage road from one end to the other.
The people in the 200,000 vehicles that brave LBJ East every day shouldn’t start rethinking their travel times just yet, though. The project won’t be finished for another five years, at least.