DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The clogged freeway where, according to a TxDOT study issued Thursday, drivers spend more than 5.7 million hours trapped in traffic annually will get better, but not before it gets worse.
LBJ Freeway “was built for about 120,000 cars per day,” said Cynthia Northrup-White, a spokeswoman with the Texas Department of Transportation. “Right now it’s averaging close to 300,000 cars per day.”
IH-635, also known as the LBJ Freeway, connects drivers across north Dallas, Carrollton and Farmers Branch. It’s also the second-most congested highway in the state, second only to Dallas’s own Woodall Rodgers in downtown. Trailing them both in third is another familiar face: The stretch of U.S. 75 from 635 to Woodall Rodgers in Dallas.
Last year, IH-635 was the third most congested road and drivers idling in traffic lost an estimated $74 million, about half of the $141 million drivers were estimated to lose in 2011.
The press release announcing IH-635’s dubious runner-up prize notes that construction likely played a role in the highway’s ascension.
“Finishing or starting construction is probably the number one reason for the shift in ratings,” the release quotes Dr. Tim Lomax, Research Engineer with TTI, who coordinated with TxDOT staff to develop the list, as saying. “Weather contributed, and the economic recession has generally reduced congestion compared to four years ago, but in the last year, construction was primary.”
Drivers, understandably, said they feel trapped.
“It’s on my way to work, it’s on my way home,” said Danielle Plana, a frequent IH-635 driver. “There’s no other way around it.”
A five-year construction project is now underway. Officials promise it will alleviate congestion by adding managed lanes and widening the freeway.
“It’s a service level ‘F’ currently, for much of this freeway,” said Andy Rittler, a spokesman with LBJ Express, the group in charge of the remodeling. “When it’s completed, it’ll move up a service level by a grade or so.”
But until that’s completed, Rittler asks that drivers be patient. But that’s something often found in short supply: As Rittler spoke from the service road of IH-635 Friday, a small pickup truck jerked out of its lane, escaping the crowded freeway and gliding onto the access road.
“We anticipate that this corridor is going to have a demand of about a half-a-million cars a day by the year 2020,” Rittler said.
Beginning next weekend, the freeway will be shut down to one lane in order to demolish bridges. That’ll happen nearly every weekend until the end of October.
“I don’t take it at rush hour,” driver Michael Hall said. “But I’ve seen it, and been passing it, and it’s pretty bad at rush hour, for sure.”
“Wow,” said Kendra Babcock. “Maybe I should try to find a different way home.”
Here’s the full schedule of construction on IH-635: