I-35 Northeast Express construction on track to begin next year

Design work is underway on a portion of the massive project to reshape I-35 on the Northeast side, with construction expected to begin in mid-2022.

The Transportation Policy Board of the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization heard an update about the project during its meeting on Monday.

“This is a very important project to the San Antonio community, the surrounding communities and the region,” Daniel Worden, the project’s manager, told officials.

The Texas Department of Transportation is promising that the I-35 Northeast Express project will ease congestion in the fast-growing corridor. Work will begin on the central portion of the project first from Loop 410 to FM 3009. The plans involve adding three elevated lanes in both directions on the roadway: two regular lanes and one high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane.

The elevated express lanes are designed to keep regional traffic moving through the area. Local traffic would utilize the main lanes. The project would slash travel times in the corridor once completed, according to TxDOT.

For instance, in the section from Loop 410 to FM 1518, travel times would go down from 24 minutes currently to 15 minutes with the new main lane configuration and nine minutes with the planned express lanes.

Some officials had questions about the limited access points for the express lanes and what that would mean for emergency vehicles.

“There are a lot of accidents on I-35, both on the north and south, and at 1604. Minutes matter for emergency vehicles and being able to get to those people when they need help,” Live Oak Mayor Mary Dennis said. “I think has to be part of the conversation.”

Worden responded that TxDOT will meet with EMS providers throughout the corridor monthly to address concerns.

The work will be extensive, and officials said they will work to find ways to reduce disruptions.

“They’re not going to be working on the full corridor, it’s going to kind of be segmented,” Worden said. “There are going to mechanisms in the contract that incentivize the contractor to work more at night in the non-peak hours, rather than in peak hours.”

Construction is also planned for the section of I-35 from Walters Street to Loop 410 in San Antonio and from FM 3009 up to FM 1103. The southern section is funded but no date has been set for construction to begin. There is currently no dedicated funding for the northern section.

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