Orange-barrel update: What’s new with Central Texas road construction

12:00 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017 Local
American-Statesman Staff
Crews are building a roundabout where the Interstate 35 southbound frontage road meets 51st Street, plus other improvements at that intersection. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Yes, the MoPac toll lane project, which first appeared on this annual transportation construction roundup four very long years ago, makes it one more time this year even though the business end of the project fully opened two months ago. Some pesky sound walls remain to be done, along with various other dribs and drabs of the $230 million project.

A couple of other Central Texas toll roads remain under construction, a type of project that, based on the emerging taste of state leaders, might soon become a thing of the past.

But the focus this year, with six projects costing more than $300 million either underway or weeks from turning dirt, is Interstate 35. Though its overall plan to add toll lanes has been thrown into question by growing pressure to stop building toll roads in the state, the Texas Department of Transportation nonetheless has multiple, nontolled projects designed to ease congestion by updating overpasses, frontage roads and entry and exit ramps.

Frustrated by or curious about all the orange barrels on area roads? Here’s what you need to know about highway work in Central Texas.

MOPAC BOULEVARD

Project: A toll lane to each side of North MoPac, along with sound walls and some other improvements, from West Cesar Chavez Street to Parmer Lane.

Length: 11.2 miles

Projected cost: $233 million

Start: January 2014

Estimated completion: Summer 2018

Project update: The toll lanes have been completed and the last sections opened in October, and a good portion of the sound walls are done. But some walls remain to be done, or repaired in some cases (already) along with grading and sidewalk work, and aesthetic improvements in various areas, work that will be done primarily at night.

U.S. 183

Project:Construct six toll lanes and four to six frontage road lanes between U.S. 290 and Texas 71, including new interchanges and bridges at the Colorado River, and a new interchange at Texas 71.

Length: 8 miles

Projected cost: $750 million

Start: April 2016

Estimated completion: Phase 1 (roughly U.S. 290 to Technicenter Drive) in 2019 and Phase 2 (Technicenter to Texas 71) in 2020.

Project update: Work is going on throughout the corridor, with construction of the new Springdale Road interchange done, paving in various places, major bridge construction at the Colorado River crossing and bridge columns underway for the Texas 71 flyovers.

American-Statesman Staff

TEXAS 45 SOUTHWEST

Project: Build a four-lane tollway from the south end of South MoPac Boulevard to FM 1626.

Length: 3.6 miles

Projected cost: $108 million

Start: November 2016

Estimated completion: early 2020

Project update: Bridge across Bear Creek almost complete; base pavement from 1626 to Bliss Spillar Road complete; sections of shared-use paths complete; and bridge beams under construction for flyovers at South MoPac Boulevard.

FM 1626

Project: Widen the existing two- and three-lane road to a four-lane divided road with a turn lane or median from RM 967 to 2770. Part of it will have curbs, gutters and a sidewalk, while the other section will have extra-wide shoulders.

Length: 3.3 miles

Projected cost: $21.5 million

Start: November 2016

Estimated completion: Spring 2019

Project update: Have added temporary pavement and shifted traffic west so the east side can be built. Columns for wider bridges at Onion and Mustang Creeks are under construction.

I-35/STASSNEY LANE/WILLIAM CANNON DRIVE

Project:Replace the Stassney Lane and William Cannon Drive overpasses with wider bridges with longer spans, allowing expansion of I-35; add reconfigured entrance and exit ramps, U-turn bridges and widened freeway lanes to include shoulders and extended entrance/exit lanes.

Length: 3.2 miles

Projected cost: $79 million

Start: July 2016

Estimated completion: Winter 2019/2020

Project update: New southbound entrance ramp to Stassney Lane is open. U-turn bridges at Stassney under construction. Extensive work on outside shoulders of main I-35 lanes underway, and old Stassney overpass scheduled for demolition in early 2018.

I-35/OLTORF STREET

Project: Replace the Oltorf overpass, adding U-turn bridges in each direction, with new ramps and frontage road improvements, and a shared-use path.

Length: 1.3 miles

Projected cost: $42.6 million

Start: February 2017

Estimated completion: Spring 2019

Project update: Have completed Oltorf overpass and some new ramps, and working on utilities and northbound frontage road.

I-35/51ST STREET

Project: Build a roundabout where I-35’s southbound frontage road meets East 51st Street, make ramp changes and add a southbound intersection bypass lane beneath the 51st Street overpass.

Length: 0.9 miles

Projected cost: $16.5 million

Start: October 2016

Estimated completion: Spring 2018

Project update: New southbound exit and entrance ramps are complete and opened, as is one lane of the bypass. Roundabout construction set to accelerate in early 2018.

I-35/U.S. 183

Project:Add three flyovers at U.S. 183/I-35 interchange, revamp the existing northbound to westbound bridge, rebuild the St. Johns Avenue overpass and add two U-turn bridges.

Length: 2.7 miles

Projected cost: $124.4 million

Start: January 2018

Estimated completion: Mid-2021

Project update: Construction will begin in January.

I-35/45 NORTH/U.S. 79

Project: Make various ramp changes to the northbound I-35 main lanes between Texas 45 North and U.S. 79, reconstruct the northbound and southbound frontage road intersections at U.S. 79 and add a third left-turn lane for westbound U.S. 79.

Length: 2.3 miles

Projected cost: $28.1 million

Start: July 2016

Estimated completion: Spring 2019

Project update: Construction on U.S. 79 intersection nearly complete, with third left turn lane opened. Bridge beams for braided ramps northbound on I-35 between Hesters Crossing and RM 620 now being installed.

I-35/FM 3406(OLD SETTLERS BOULEVARD)

Project: Replace and widen FM 3406 bridge at I-35 and add two U-turn bridges along with bike and pedestrian improvements.

Length: 0.42 miles

Projected cost: $12.4 million

Start: March 2017

Estimated completion: Fall 2018

Project update: Old FM 3406 overpass has been demolished and south-to-north U-turn bridge is temporarily being used for westbound cross traffic. Work continues on new bridge and the other U-turn bridge.

BEE CAVE ROAD

Project: Add a center-turn lane, wider shoulders and sidewalks to Bee Cave Road between Walsh Tarlton Road and Redbud Trail.

Length: 3 miles

Projected cost: $29 million

Start: November 2016

Estimated completion: Summer 2019

Project update: Installing retaining walls, relocating utilities and installing water lines and storm sewers in various locations. Have excavated hillside from Old Bee Cave Road to Buckeye Trail for widening of the road, and have installed some sidewalks.

MOPAC INTERSECTIONS

Project:Add MoPac underpasses at Slaughter Lane and La Crosse Avenue along with main lanes and auxiliary lanes between the bridges, convert the Slaughter overpass to a diverging diamond configuration and improve the La Crosse intersection.

Length: 2.75 miles

Projected cost: $53.5 million

Start: January 2018

Estimated completion: Early 2021

Project update: Construction contract awarded in late 2017. Have begun utility relocations and surveying. Tree clearing to begin in January.

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