Last August, we thought it would be July.

In January, we thought it would be August.

Now it’s May, and we’re thinking September’s end.

The widening of the last 1.7 miles of Interstate 35E through Denton won’t be complete until the fall school term is well underway, nearly a year later than first planned.

Texas Department of Transportation contractor OHL is building two new overpasses, one at Loop 288 and another at Brinker Road, as part of the highway widening between the Mayhill Road and Dallas Drive exits.

TxDOT made about $1.4 billion in improvements on I-35E between Dallas and Denton that were finished in 2017. Another $3 billion-plus in work is needed, but there’s no money for it so far. To address congestion at South Loop 288 sooner rather than later, city and county officials put together a deal with a private developer. In exchange for about $8 million in incentives to build in Denton, Buc-ee’s advanced about $2 million for the improvements.

The $26.6 million project includes improvements to the northbound and southbound frontage road, including where Buc-ee’s was built at the new Brinker overpass.

City spokesman Ryan Adams said the widening of Mayhill Road will eventually affect the northbound frontage road from Mayhill up to the south side of Loop 288. The city recently secured funding to reroute Mayhill Road over the floodplain. Currently, TxDOT is buying right of way to move the northbound frontage road in that area, although construction won’t begin until 2020.

Some business owners near the freeway have been concerned about the work on the frontage roads, which has been disruptive. City Engineer Todd Estes, who reviews the progress with TxDOT officials from time to time, said the frontage roads require major drainage improvements with the expansion.

“There is still a lot of work to be done between now and September,” Estes said.

City officials had hoped crews could open the new Brinker underpass earlier than September to ease congestion sooner. Local drivers heading south on I-35E will be able to bypass Loop 288 altogether via Brinker once it opens.

According to Ryan LaFontaine, TxDOT spokesman, the Brinker Road underpass is expected to open Sept. 30 after the rest of the project is complete.

PEGGY HEINKEL- WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.

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