I-35E Makeover Enters 2nd Year in Denton County

Crews have now been working for a year on improving a 30-mile stretch of Interstate 35E from Farmer's Branch to Denton, but there is about 2 1/2 years to go.

Project leaders broke ground on the $1.4 billion first phase of the project in October 2013.

On Friday, AGL Constructors took community leaders and elected officials on a tour of the project to show off the progress after one year.

The biggest work has been on bridges and frontage roads from Interstate 635 to University Drive.

Project Manager Gary Geppert said they are working on 75 bridges, including rehabs, upgrades and complete rebuilds.

Among the most noticeable changes is the area over Lewisville Lake where AGL said 195 of the 310 drill shafts are now in place to construct a new bridge over the lake. They plan to set beams for the structure soon.

In addition, the team pressed their efforts to keep an open line of communication with the public and keep everyone affected by the project informed on its progress.

AGL said it has held more than 120 presentations, including 15 meetings just for businesses on the stretch and nine for the communities in the three sections of the project. They also plan to continue those regularly throughout the scope of the project, which is projected to last through mid-2017.

"I think they've done a real good job of keeping people informed and just keeping things going,” said Denton County Judge Mary Horn, who has been working to get the project off the ground for years.

Several of the city representatives along the stretch told contractors that their residents had been fairly comfortable with the process so far and they'd heard, overall, few complaints or issues from the public.

"People have questions and as long as you provide them an answer that's basically all they want to know,” said Corinth city councilman Joe Harrison. "You know, it hurts while they're building it cause we have problems. But long range, you've got to look for the long range."

While traffic disruptions have stayed to a minimum so far, the main impact in the first year may be on businesses along the frontage roads.

Several have been forced to relocate due to the expansion of the road.

Chasin’ Tail Bar-B-Que in Hickory Creek just announced that they are readying to move from their location on the south-bound frontage road to a building across the interstate in Lake Dallas.

"By the end of November, early December we should be open and operating there,” said co-owner Brooke Asbell.

Asbell said at the beginning of the project they weren’t sure what would happen to the store if they would survive the process.

However, one year in, Asbell said they have not only found a new home, but have found the construction to be a good neighbor. He said few customers have reported disruptions in traffic and he’s actually gained more customers from some of the hundreds of workers taking on the construction.

“I think they like that we’re still here for now,” he said.

AGL said there are some major undertakings readying to start.

In Corinth they plan to completely close and reconstruct the Corinth Parkway bridge - a project expected to take about eight months and start first quarter of next year.

Right after that a similar project will take place on the Post Oak Bridge just to the north, but city leaders said they are preparing for the traffic changes.

However, some growing pains and disruptions are expected with these projects, and elected officials on the tour agreed.

AGL said it hopes to leave the area better than it found it, so not only are workers taking on the construction but also trying to help in the community by fixing up parks along the way, hosting blood and school supply drives, and working on more public education like online videos to help the public better understand what happens in the construction zone.

After the first phase of the project, Denton County leaders, AGL and TxDOT hope to begin work on phase two. Right now, they are looking for funding sources and hoping to have those in place by 2025 at the latest.

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