The long delayed expansion of Interstate 635 LBJ East Freeway between U.S. Highway 75 Central Expressway and Interstate 30 finally won approval of the Texas Transportation Commission Thursday.
“It impacts, as we’ve talked about, our quality of life, economic development and public safety of our region. So we’re thankful for that,” said Dallas City Councilmember Adam McGough.
The Dallas Lake Highlands Councilman spent the past five months shuttling to Austin to lobby for the project with neighbors from a group that called itself "LBJ Now."
They were there again Thursday for the final vote.
“We also hope you’ve seen how important this project is to Lake Highlands, to our quality of life, safety and economic development. So that’s my main message, is to say thank you. And it’s been an interesting spring,” LBJ Now leader Kathy Stewart said.
The $1.8 billion freeway improvement was the highest priority of North Texas regional transportation planners. But it suffered an additional political detour this year over strong opposition from Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and other top state leaders to the proposed use of new managed toll lanes to help pay for it.
The compromise approved Thursday keeps an existing managed toll lane in each direction on LBJ East.
“There are no new toll elements in this project. What we have done, we have grandfathered a toll element that was there, two years before this had come before the commission,” Chairman Bruce Bugg said.
Exisiting state money will pay for the project without cancelling other North Texas projects as was discussed earlier this spring.
Commissioner Jeff Austin from Tyler praised the end result.
“Everybody coming together and saying let’s get it done. The consequences of doing nothing are huge,” Austin said.
There will still be a year of design work and then years of construction before drivers see the final product of Thursday’s vote.