Railroad underpass

The Texas Department of Transportation is widening South Fort Worth Drive from two lanes to six, including widening the railroad underpass. The $43.6 million project runs from Interstate 35E to FM1830 and is expected to be finished in November 2020.

The biggest hitch in a Denton driver’s get-along may not be the many city streets under construction, but the state highways.

The Texas Department of Transportation’s contract for FM2181 (Teasley Lane) fell apart earlier this year. The widening of Interstate 35E has gone so slowly, the project is approaching one year past due. Those two delays make the widening of U.S. Highway 377 painful, but that project is, so far, making timely progress.

Road projects took up a major portion of the joint meeting between the Denton City Council members and Denton school board trustees Monday. The two bodies typically meet at least once a year to discuss items of mutual interest or concern.

In addition to updating school and city leaders on current road construction projects, the city staff briefed the two bodies on other state road projects coming off the drawing board. They include two new interchanges, one at Mayhill Road and another at the merge of I-35E and Interstate 35W, and new frontage roads coming to I-35W.

U.S. 377 (South Fort Worth Drive)

The $43.6 million project is widening the highway to six lanes from I-35E to FM1830. Construction began in January and crews moved utility lines that first month. The city has more utilities to move and, according to the latest update, a storm sewer line through one of the trailer parks turned up unexpected problems that the city is still working on.

City Engineer Todd Estes told school trustees and council members that plans and permits for the new railroad overpass were the biggest hurdle for the project.

“Since that’s been addressed, things are moving fairly rapidly,” Estes said.

Mayor Chris Watts asked whether the northernmost portion near I-35E would open sooner, but Estes said there’s been no announcement of when any part of the roadway would reopen.

The project remains on schedule and is expected to be finished in November 2020.

FM2181 (Teasley Lane)

The project was supposed to widen the road from two to six lanes for $37.6 million and be finished around the end of the year.

But TxDOT ended its contract with Munilla Construction Management in January after the project got too far behind, including MCM’s payments to subcontractors. The company declared bankruptcy in March, one year after a bridge MCM was building in South Florida collapsed and killed six people.

Estes told school and city leaders that negotiations to name a replacement contractor and finish FM2181 are continuing, but he didn’t expect the issues to be resolved before the end of the year.

City and county officials are working on addressing interim issues, Estes said.

“We’re working to get sidewalks in shape for the start of school,” he said.

Nelson Elementary School and Guyer High School are located on Teasley Lane.

Council member Keely Briggs said that two local firms were in talks with TxDOT to resume construction, according to a briefing she received in the Mobility Committee. Lingering concerns over who accepts responsibility for the work done so far are slowing the talks, she added.

I-35E from Dallas Drive to Mayhill Road

This $26.6 million project widens I-35E from four lanes to six. Nearly one year behind, the project is now expected to be finished in November.

The city contributed $2.1 million for a new underpass at Brinker Road as part of the project. The deal was made together with economic incentives for a new Buc-ee’s travel plaza built on the west side of the Brinker underpass. The underpass is not expected to open before the rest of the project, including traffic signaling, is finished because of safety concerns, Deputy City Engineer Pritam Deshmukh said.

Crews are also enlarging the interchange at South Loop 288 and have added Texas turnarounds at the Mayhill interchange.

Those turnarounds were a temporary fix, however, as TxDOT prepares to completely rebuild the undersized Mayhill interchange.

A $53.4 million project, the new interchange at Mayhill is still on the drawing board, and a contractor is still acquiring right of way. TxDOT expects to bid the project in November 2020.

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

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