DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – As the Horseshoe Project wraps up in downtown Dallas, southern sector commuters brace for more big changes. Yes, more road construction, driven by an increasing population south of downtown.

“I used to work from Midlothian to Duncanville and to get to Danieldale was a 15 minute trip,” says Dwayne Lusk. “When I left and moved to Dallas, it was a 35  to 40 minute trip,” he adds with a laugh. Lusk says he still ventures south to visit friends; but, agrees that the wider roads are needed– in spite of the inevitable construction headaches. “It’s long overdue.”

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After more than a decade of planning, construction is now underway on The Southern Gateway Project.

Southern Gateway Project construction (CBS11)

The more than $665 million project will add lanes along Highway 67 North of Interstate 20, widen the Highway 67/I-35 split, and then add lanes to I-35 from the split to Colorado.

Project timeline? Three years. Yikes!

“Everyone’s going to feel this pain,” says State Sen. Royce West, Dallas. “But, you’ve got to make certain that you understand that if we’re talking about consistent growth in the southern sector… you’ve got to have a transportation infrastructure in place to make certain that that takes place. I’ve gotten the calls. I hear you. I feel, in part, the same way; but, I’m looking at the bigger picture.”

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Senator West says he’s been fighting for this transportation relief for the southern sector for more than 15 years… “back when my mustache was black,” he adds with a laugh. He says he is confident that good roads and infrastructure will spur economic development; but, he says the widened roads are needed to handle the population growth in the area, now, and in the future.

“You’re going to see over the next 10 years or so, you’re going to begin to see more and more high rises coming up on the banks of the Trinity, and those folks will be utilizing I-35 as a means of getting around.” The project is slated for completion is 2021 and will include “Seven lanes coming in, and seven lanes going out.”

Construction is already underway to widen Highway 67 south of I-20. Those new lanes will eventually link up to those widened through The Southern Gateway Project. It will be great, supporters say. For now, commuters are making plans to find alternate routes.

“From the times I’ve been on it, it’s been horrible!” says Deondre Degreaffenried, a local business owner, of the construction on Highway 67. “I avoid it at all costs.”

Commuters will already likely notice that the HOV lanes from Highway 67 into downtown are already closed. They will reopen as express lanes.

“These new express lanes will be completely non-tolled,” says Dianne Tordillo, Public Involvement Manager with The Southern Gateway Project. “What’s different about them is that they will be reversible and they will also have different exit and entrance locations. They really truly are express lanes, where the entrance and exit points will be limited
along the corridor.”

Commuters are encouraged to check out the project website http://www.thegatewayproject.org to get additional information or to submit questions. There is also an option to sign up for email and text message notifications to be kept aware of upcoming closures.

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“In the grand scheme of things, I will be inconvenienced,” says Sen. West, “hopefully my grandchildren won’t be.”