James Construction crews will begin work this week on connecting Salado Plaza to Williams Drive on the west side of I-35, which will require the closure of the N. Main St./FM 2268 cross-under of the I-35 mainlanes.
This major change in traffic patterns, as well as the new contract end date of March 2016 were the major disclosures stemming from the Texas Department of Transportation community meeting July 23 at Salado High School.
When work begins on the new Salado Plaza Drive/Williams Road connection, drivers traveling south on the access road will not be able to turn east at Cowboy’s Barbecue in order to cross under the interstate.
Drivers traveling north on either the northbound access road or N. Main Street will not be able to proceed west underneath the interstate during the construction of the new overpass of I-35 over Salado Plaza Dr./Williams Rd.
Drivers traveling south from Belton can connect to North Main Street at the entrance to Salado Plaza by taking the FM 2484 exit, crossing over the highway and traveling south on the eastside access road and then turning on Main..
Drivers traveling east on Salado Plaza Dr. or Mill Creek Dr. can turn either south or north on Main St. Those who turn north can then travel north on the access road until they can enter I-35 northbound north of the FM 2484 overpass. Those who turn south on Main Street can reach the southbound I-35 main lanes by crossing over the interstate at the FM 2268 bridge and then turning south.
Construction on the Salado Plaza Dr./Williams Rd. section of the 3.4 mile project is expected to finish by December 2015, according to Mark Jones, area engineer for TXDOT out of the Georgetown area office, which is overseeing the Salado expansion project on behalf of the Waco District of TXDOT.
Click here for Expanded view of Thomas Arnold to Salado Plaza.
Jones told the audience that the design for this section moves the overpass south to line up with a direct connection of Salado Plaza to Williams Rd. The intersection will have turn-around lanes as well as four traffic lanes at the Main Street connection so that drivers can turn south or north on Main St.
Jones reported to the audience that TXDOT has refocused its efforts on the Salado expansion project and expects that it will be “substantially complete” by December 2015 with total completion of the project by March 2016.
This expedited timeline has resulted in traffic flow changes that have made it more difficult for locals and travelers to maneuver through and to Salado. It should bring the construction project to an end almost six months earlier than projected at the last community meeting in February. At that meeting, Jones said that the anticipated end date was August 2016.
“I think that shocked everyone,” Jones said.
Following that meeting, a petition with more than 150 signatures and endorsement from the Village of Salado Board of Aldermen and Salado Chamber of Commerce was sent to Gov. Greg Abbott, Senator John Cornyn, Congressman John Carter and other elected state officials.
The executive director of TXDOT met last month with village, business and Chamber representatives as well as James Construction representatives to address the delays and to expedite the completion of the project.
Since that meeting, TXDOT officials have been meeting weekly with James Construction and Village of Salado representatives to open communication between the entities in an effort “to get the job done,” Jone said.
The initial contract for the Salado expansion was $70.4 million with an end date of June 2015. As of the end of June, James Construction had completed just over 50 percent of the total project, according to the TXDOT website.
The FM 2484 bridge is halfway complete. The Thomas Arnold bridge is completed but sidewalks are not accessible yet due to handrail issues. The FM 2268 bridge is completed with the exception of striping the traffic lanes.
Jones said that crews are working diligently south of the Thomas Arnold overpass to build the southbound access road bridge over Salado Creek as well as the southbound mainlanes bridge over the Creek.
TXDOT closed the southbound access road south of Thomas Arnold after the pavement of those lanes were damaged by the May flood. By closing those lanes, James Construction crews can concentrate on the construction of the structures there to complete them in a timely fashion. How long the southbound access road south of Thomas Arnold will remain closed was not answered during the July 23 meeting.
During a question and answer session that followed Jones’ remarks, a resident asked whether Salado Creek Road will become a cul-de-sac or will have connectivity to the southbound access road. Jones could not answer the question due to unfamiliarity with the specific area. However, the schematic from the TXDOT website shows that Salado Creek Road will connect to the southbound access.
The schematic also shows that when the project is completed, the southbound access road south of Thomas Arnold bridge will not have an entrance ramp to I-35 south until south of FM 2843 (Florence Road).
When the project is completed, entrance back onto Northbound I-35 mainlanes will be just after the FM 2268 bridge. The next entrance ramp will be more than three miles north just before the Amity Road bridge, which is part of the Belton project.