The symbolic toss of dirt officially started what's planned to be a three-year project.
"The whole thing is a journey and we are just glad we are finally at a point where we can start and people can see what we are doing,” said TX DOT Deputy District Engineer Kevin Dickey.
Computer renderings show what the I-35/183 intersection is expected to look like. Three new flyover ramps are to be added at a cost of $124-million. There are ramps to southbound 183 from I-35 and a ramp for drivers traveling north on 183 to NB I-35.
There are currently only two ramps and during the rush hours they quickly become congested, modifications to them are part of the plan.
The new ramps will allow drivers to avoid a series of traffic lights under the flyover.
Those exiting from South183, to northbound I-35, are not getting a new ramp, but Dickey said a ramp could be added later. "Yes, we will be evaluating the entire corridor and will try to make improvements to it,” said Dickey.
The flyover project also includes re-working the St. Johns avenue bridge. New u-turn lanes over the interstate will be added along with improved sidewalks and bike paths.
The work here is critical to the overall rebuild of I-35 through downtown Austin.
That project was on the fast track until the Highway Commission was pressure to remove plans for a toll road expressway. The interstate runs through a big chunk of a state House District represented by Celia Israel. The state lawmaker spoke during the groundbreaking ceremony.
"Unfortunately we don’t necessarily now what that over haul is going to look like, anymore, but when my dreams of a new multi-model I-35 do come true, hopefully I wont be an old lady at that point, and we will have an efficient detour around construction,” said State Rep. Celia Israel (D ) Austin.
Highway commission chairman Bruce Bugg remains confident there will be a plan to address the interstate gridlock through downtown. "We are working on it right now, and we are going to be rolling out some new projects, all non tolled and we are going to discuss this in March,” said Chairman Bugg.
That March meeting will be an important step in resolving questions about the downtown segment -- the original plan was to start work by the time the new flyover at 183 opens in 2021.