Work on the $1.4 billion expansion and upgrade to Interstate 35E north of Dallas launched this month with a groundbreaking ceremony on the shores of Lewisville Lake.

Photo courtesy of TxDOT
A photo illustration showing the southbound bridge and additional lanes to be built across Lewisville Lake as part of the project.
Photo courtesy of TxDOT
A map indicating the location of the 35Express project between Dallas and Denton.

The 35Express project extends 28.2 miles from I-635 in Farmers Branch to U.S. 380 in Denton, crossing eight cities in Dallas and Denton counties. Work is slated to begin by the end of the month and completion is slated for 2017.

The project, the first of two planned phases to revamp the roadway, is one of several Public-Private Partnerships the Texas Department of Transportation has entered into to upgrade the infrastructure of the region.

The highway is a key transportation corridor that bisects one of the fastest developing regions in the country. At the Oct. 4 groundbreaking, state and local leaders said the influx of residents to the area made the project a necessity.

According to the U.S. Census, the state of Texas' population is expanding by more than a thousand people per day with the Dallas/Fort Worth area making up a full third of that amount. The growing population creates a conundrum for the region, said State Senator Jane Nelson at the groundbreaking ceremony.

“We welcome [new residents] with open arms but it creates problems for our infrastructure,” she said. “We literally cannot survive economically if I-35 is not functioning properly. The alternative to doing something is complete gridlock.”

Two sections of the 35Express project were listed on the 100 Most Congested Roadways in Texas for 2012 and at its busiest point near the I-635 in Dallas more than 210,000 vehicles use the highway daily.

Efforts to expand the highway, which was built in the 1960s, began in 1998 when a major investment study was launched.

In March 2012, the Texas legislature green-lighted the PPP project and, in December, AGL Constructors were tapped for the job by the Texas Transportation Commission. The consortium is comprised of Archer Western Contractors, LLC, Granite Construction Co. and The LANE Construction Co.

The first phase of the project is includes the construction of two reversible managed lanes that will extend from I-635 to Lewisville Lake as well as additional general purpose lanes the length of the corridor.

A new southbound bridge across Lake Lewisville will be built that will allow the addition of frontage roads and a shared path for pedestrians and cyclists. Together, the two bridges will greatly improve mobility across the body of water while providing more options for re-routing traffic during major incidents along the choke point.

Key interchanges along the corridor, such as Belt Line Road and the Sam Rayburn Tollway, will also be substantially improved and several bridges along the corridor will be expanded, reconditioned or completely reconstructed.

The second phase of the project carries an estimated price tag of $3.4 billion and will include the extension of the two managed lanes to Denton and the addition of one general purpose lane and two to three frontage lanes the length of the corridor. That effort will begin when funding becomes available, said TxDOT spokesman Tony Hartzel.

“We will open Phase I and operate it and see what kind of revenue it generates,” Hartzel explained. “We will then be able to use that data to arrange the financing of Phase II.”

The 35Express project is one of 32 projects to upgrade the I-35 corridor valued at almost $5.3 billion. These include a $2.5 billion expansion of 90 miles of the highway between Salido and Hillsboro in Central Texas as well as $1.6 billion North Tarrant Express on I-35W through Fort Worth.