Chris Van Horne, NBC 5 Fort Worth Reporter
The project to expand Interstate-35W north of downtown Fort Worth will have a huge impact on commerce and commuters and the the success in funding the project could be a model used elsewhere in the state.
Interstate 35W, the most heavily congested roadway in the state, will start to see work later this year.
The $1.6 billion expansion from Interstate 30 to the Highway 287 split will double the number of general lanes from two to four and add managed toll lanes.
The project is financed by the state, federal government and North Tarrant Express, a private entity. The partnership could be used elsewhere in the state as Texas Department of Transportation looks for new ways to fund roads.
"I think that's part of the solution," said Phil Wilson, TxDOT executive director. "When you're able to bring that tool to the solution box because it may build a project 20, 25 years faster than a traditional gas tax method of finance, I think people are open to that."
Wilson, who addressed the coalition's annual meeting at Texas Motor Speedway on Thursday morning, said toll roads aren't the only way to build highways. But with the gas tax not producing like it use to, his department will need more money from the Legislature to keep up with transit needs and costs, he said.
"We need a billion dollars in maintenance," he said. "We're short right now."
Anyone who drives I-35W knows that congestion is nearly an all-day issue.
"Our current infrastructure is currently inadequate to meet the traffic flows we encounter every day," said Bill Meadows, Texas Transportation Commissioner and former Fort Worth councilman.
But the impending highway expansion should make a world of difference for drivers and the economy.
"[Interstate] 35W connects Texas with the rest of the U.S., certainly Canada and Mexico, so improvements to 35W through the metropolitan area are absolutely huge," said Russell Laughlin, 35W Coalition president.
The 35W project is just one of the many projects under way or planned in North Texas that add up to $15 billion.
"Certainly the focus continues to be what else can we do in North Texas," Laughlin said.