AUSTIN, Texas - Heavy equipment continues to carve limestone and dirt out of this intersection at 51st street and I-35.
The grinding pace by the work crews, at times seems quicker than the traffic rolling by, with the exception of a narrow stretch of newly paved asphalt. The pathway leads to the reconstructed turnaround bridge over the interstate.
"Opening back up the turnaround bridge is the first step, our next step is going to be some changes just past that, we are going to be removing what is basically a merge lane right now, for the exit at airport and the entrance ramp at 51st, so we can build a retaining wall there,” said TX DOT Spokesperson Diann Hodges.
That construction will extend the southbound Frontage Lane and create a by-pass under 51st street. The new fast track will reduce a somewhat captive audience currently enjoyed by the sales team at Sky's Auto Sales.
"It is a headache for the person driving on the street, but it is really good for us
e get business, when there is a lot of traffic people start looking at the cars, and actually last week I sold five cars,” said Judy Jaimes.
Work on the by-pass starts next week and will involve the temporary closure of the exit lane to Airport Blvd.
The biggest part of the project is yet to come. It’s a true example of “Thinking out of the box” to try to solve Austin's gridlock. The Sky FOX7 Drone provided a wider view of the northwest corner of the intersection- where a large Roundabout will be built. This TX-DOT animation shows what the new design will look like. Work starts this winter. It may take some time for drivers to get comfortable navigating a Roundabout, but TX-DOT officials believe the change up will work.
"Studies have shown that roundabouts are much more safer than a traditional intersection is, and once its complete people that are going through that intersection will go at least 4 minutes faster than they are right now. And that’s the thing we want to improve, people's mobility in that area and a Roundabout is a safe way to do that,” said Hodges.
The entire $16.5 million project is expected to be completed by early 2019.
There are several other big I-35 projects getting underway or close to starting up. Nightly frontage lane closures are scheduled from 6th street to William Cannon. Some main lanes will close overnight around Oltorf, as well as Slaughter Lane to the south - Wells Branch to the north and around Hwy 79 in Round Rock. In January work is also expected to being on building new fly overs at the Hwy 183 intersection.