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Funding Crisis Forces Cancellation Of Highway Widening Projects

By Jack Fink, CBS 11 News
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Traffic backs up Interstate-35 in Texas. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Newsmakers/Getty Images)

Traffic backs up Interstate-35 in Texas. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Newsmakers/Getty Images)

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Alexa McIntyre drives across North Texas for her job each day.  “I spend about three hours a day in the car.”

In the future, McIntyre, and millions of other North Texas drivers, will spend even more time in their vehicles and stuck in traffic.  That’s because a funding crisis is forcing regional transportation planners to slash more than a dozen major highway widening projects around North Texas down the road.

Michael Morris, the region’s lead transportation planner says, “We’ve got to cut the plan about $50 Billion in improvements over the next 25 years.”

He says among the projects on the chopping block:
State Highway 114 in Irving west to DFW Airport.
I-30 from downtown Dallas east through Rockwall
I-45 in downtown Dallas south to I-20.
And I-35 E from downtown Dallas north to State Highway 183.

In Tarrant County:
State Highway 360 in Arlington will not be widened.
Neither will I-30 from W. Arlington west to Dallas.
Nor I-35 W south of I-20.

In Denton County:
I-35 W from north of State Highway 114 up to I-35 E in Denton is also likely a no go.

Starting in 2012, transportation leaders say Texas will no longer have any money to pay for new construction — only maintenance.   Morris says, “Until the elected officials say you know what we wish to spend more money on transportation in DFW because they’re one of the strong economic issues in the state… Until that conversation occurs between elected officials and citizens, it’s going to get a lot worse.”

Making matters even worse, DFW’s population is expected to grow by three million people by 2035, something McIntyre doesn’t want to hear.  “I think traffic is bad as it is.”

Planners have even mapped out how much more severe congestion the area will have because of the cutbacks.  They say they’ve been sounding the alarm for years.  “Now we’re ringing them louder,” says Morris.

Commuters like Alexa McIntyre say they can’t avoid the traffic.  “You have to use the highway, you don’t save time by taking the side roads.”

The list isn’t final yet.  The regional transportation council will host a number of public hearings around the area for the next three months, before voting on the proposal in March.  The federal government will give final approval.

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