A re-do of the Interstate Highway 35 service roads through downtown Gainesville, originally scheduled for June 2008, was taken off the table due to a lack of funding, officials with the state transportation department said Friday.

The “IH-35 Rehabilitation Project” — which plans for the reconstruction of service roads on each side of I-35, making them wider and one-way on each side, and which eventually calls for the removal of the Southland Drive overpass to be compatible with a reconfiguration of the existing half-clover leaf interchanges at the U.S. Highway 82/I-35 intersection — may not be back online until 2011.

Mike Hallum, assistant area engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation’s Gainesville office, said on March 14 a meeting was held in Gainesville to discuss projects to be let out in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

“Several weeks later, our district received word on the new allocations of money that prompted changes to the projects in those three fiscal years,” Hallum said, in a written statement. “The reduced allocations also affected the IH 35 project that was scheduled to let in June of this year. The only other project affected in our area was FM 902 that was scheduled to let in February 2010. With the reduced allocations, this project could not be funded, but it has been setup as a back log project in Fiscal Year 2010.

“A back log project is one that is setup so that in the event additional funding is available, the project may be let using those additional funds.”

Gainesville City Manager Barry Sullivan said in an interview Thursday this is the second time the project has been delayed.

“The city’s not happy that the project has been delayed,” he said. “We understand funding restraints, so the city is going to work with TxDOT to get this project moving forward again.”

Sullivan said right-of-way land for the project was purchased by the city, and fences were removed and trees taken down to make room.

According to a letter to Mayor Glenn Loch from Larry Tegtmeyer, Wichita Falls District Engineer (which includes the Gainesville area), the district was allotted $27 million in preventative maintenance and rehabilitation funds and $6.1 million in district discretionary funds to finance projects through fiscal year 2008, and projects through 2010 — about one-third of the normal allocation.

The construction on the I-35 rehabilitation project would have consumed about half of both of those allocated funds, leaving $8 million per year in 2009 and 2010 for the nine-county district, Tegtmeyer said.

“In addition,” he said, the Wichita Falls District was allocated $1.8 million to acquire right of way and relocate utilities in fiscal year 2008, and TxDOT anticipates a district allocation for fiscal years 2009 and 2010 to be reduced by more than half. The latest estimate for the remaining utility relocation of the I-35 rehabilitation project is $2.1 million.

“Considering how these funding issues have affected, and will continue to affect the Wichita Falls District through 2010, we have made the decision to remove the IH 35 rehabilitation project from the June 2008 letting,” Tegtmeyer wrote. “The district views the rehabilitation of IH 35 as an important project, as well as the state, and we are committed to construction this project as soon as possible.”

However, he said, it may be 2011 or later before funds are available.

Reporter Andy Hogue may be contacted at andyhoguegdr@ntin.net

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