The proposed I-35 expansion from the south will first impact Valley View.
The process of obtaining the right-of-way and the actual construction will affect residents. However, the finished product will aide in safety and ease traffic congestion.
Widening I-35 has been the topic of discussion since about 2007. Now TXDOT says it has been cleared to begin an environmental impact phase.
The state has held recent public meetings with the thought of moving the project up in their schedule.
Plans include doubling the amount of lanes in both directions from four to eight and would run for 22-miles from mile marker one in Oklahoma to FM 3002 at the Cooke County and Denton County line.
“We need to expand I-35. In fact, I-35 is the heart of Texas and from the Red River all the way south, I-35 is being expanded as we speak,” TxDOT Public Information Officer Adele Lewis said in a news report.
Plans also call for two brand new bridges over the Red River. The current northbound bridge would be removed and the southbound bridge would be converted into a frontage road.
For Valley View residents, the proposal includes moving the railroad corridor east of its present location and constructing a bridge over the train tracks at FM 922.
According to the TXDOT project, the right-of way through Valley View is constrained by the nearness of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad track and the existing northbound frontage road. There are only 60 feet between the railroad crossing bars and the I-35 northbound frontage road intersection with FM 922. Because FM 922 is a major school bus route, this distance is not adequate. A school bus barely fits between the crossing gates and the stop bar, which creates serious safety concerns. Residents also regularly experience waits in excess of 30 minutes to cross the tracks.
Valley View has three railroad crossing locations at FM 922, Krahl Road, and Hockley Creek Road. The crossing at FM 922 is of particular concern to engineers.
According to TXDOT, the proposed relocated track would depart from the existing alignment at the Spring Creek crossing at mile marker 398.
The track alignment would be moved to the east approximately 850 feet from its existing location at FM 922. The alignment would continue along a straight path for approximately 4.5 miles until it ties back in to existing tracks near Hockley Creek at mile marker 403. According to engineers, this relocation would allow grade separation of the railroad and FM 922 which would greatly improve safety.
The proposal includes creating one-way service roads versus the current two-way service roads for traffic.
North of Valley View, several of the intersections and interchanges in the study area have outdated configurations including ramps of inadequate length. The jug handle configurations north of Hockley Creek Road, County Road 218 and FM 1202 are the result of antiquated two-way frontage road operation. Neither this intersection design nor short ramps safely support high-speed traffic movements. Short ramps do not provide adequate distance for comfortable acceleration onto the mainlanes and deceleration onto the frontage roads.
The I-35 mainpavement through Cooke County from Gainesville to the Red River is aged. The main lanes were constructed in the1950s and have been overlaid several times with asphalt. The pavement from Gainesville to the Denton County line is approximately 20 years old. This pavement is in relatively good condition, but is expected to require rehabilitation in the next 10 to 15 years.
The 22-mile project includes two additional lanes in each direction, realignment of portions of the roadway, two new bridges over the Red River, removal of the northbound Red River bridge, conversion of the southbound Red River bridge to a frontage road, realignment of a rail corridor for approximately 4.8 miles, conversion of two-way frontage roads to one-way, and new right of way.
“We need to alleviate the congestion, improve our connectivity so that we can move people and commerce through the state of Texas and on to other parts of our country,” Lewis told news agencies.
She anticipates that purchasing private property for the right of way will be a hurdle.
“That’s where the state comes in because we do pay full price for the right of way that we need,” Lewis stated.
A draft Environmental Assessment is expected to be approved in late fall 2015.
Once the Federal Highway Administration approves the EA, a public hearing will occur with an expected finding of no significant impact (FONSI). TXDOT anticipates more public hearings in the winter/spring of 2016. The FONSI is anticipated in late fall/early winter 2016. Construction is not funded at this time.
For more information contact Stephanie Manry, 1601 Southwest Parkway, Wichita Falls at Stephanie.Manry@txdot.gov or 940-720-7733.