The final construction phase of the North Tarrant Express (NTE) I-35W project is now complete – two months ahead of schedule. NTE announced the long-awaited completion of the project at a press conference held at Topgolf in Fort Worth on Wednesday, July 18, and the road was officially opened on Thursday, July 19.
The full project corridor from the downtown I-30 interchange north to the US 287 interchange (Decatur cutoff) spans a total of 10.1 miles. In addition in traditional lanes, drivers have the option to travel along the NTE TEXpress Lanes on I-35W from downtown Fort Worth to North Tarrant Parkway. The newly designed corridor connects to the North Tarrant Express project along I-820 (North Loop) and SH-121/183 (Airport Freeway) adding an additional 13-miles to the NTE TEXpress Lanes in Northeast Tarrant County.
A unique design-build process, in which the project was designed and built concurrently, took several years off the project schedule. Scott Hall, with the Texas Department of Transportation, said the project has been a long time coming for Tarrant County, and the partnership between TxDOT and NTE helped greatly in delivering this project.
“I-35 is decades in the making,” Hall said. “Fixing this highway was a region priority for years. This partnership [with NTE] accelerated the expansion of I-35, and these design-builds significantly reduced the time for construction. A project of this magnitude could have taken up to twenty years if built traditionally in a “phase construction” approach. But now, safety, mobility and economic growth will occur now, instead of decades in the future.”
The 60-year-old infrastructure makeover included the complete reconstruction of frontage roads, general highway lanes and the addition of two TEXpress Lanes (managed lanes) in each direction. Along with the completion of the other two segments of I-35W project, which opened earlier this year and in 2017, the final reconstruction phase will provide congestion relief throughout the corridor with added capacity from with auxiliary and bypass lanes, longer weaving distances, expanded frontage roads even in peak hours on I-35W, once ranked one of the most congested roadway in Texas.
Fort Worth City Councilman Jungus Jordan said both I-35 and the city of Fort Worth have come a long way since I35 was first constructed.
“If you stop and think about it, I-35W was opened in 1959, 80 miles from Hillsboro to Denton, built by the greatest generation,” Jordan said. “This is a 10-mile project that will open and successfully improve mobility and reduce gridlock in our great city. The population of the city of Fort Worth in 1959 was 350,000 and today we’re approaching 900,000, so we’re pretty excited about the fact this is being built.”
Tarrant County Commissioner Gary Fickes echoed Jungus’s enthusiasm, saying the project will be a boon to drivers all over the county.
“This is a great day for the city of Fort Worth, for Tarrant County, and our entire North Texas region,” Fickes said. “This is one more piece of the mobility solutions we have been working on for the past 10-15 years in our area. I can’t tell you how thrilled Tarrant County and the citizens of the entire northern section are this project is complete. It gives those people that option on how to get to work in a timely fashion. Many of them have spent an hour to an hour and a half on those roadways, but those days are over.”
NTE and I-35W are among a handful of P3 projects in Texas approved by the Legislature. Since 2009, the NTE has leveraged more than $4 billion into new infrastructure development in Tarrant County alone. Throughout the North Texas region, more than 75 miles of TEXpress Lanes (tolled express lanes) and Express/HOV Lanes have been built and are currently operational with another 60 miles are under construction or in procurement.
Written by Ariel Graham