Waco groups advocating part of I-35 expansion to make areas more biker and pedestrian friendly

Posted at 1:24 PM, Jul 05, 2017
and last updated 2018-07-24 21:30:54-04

Two Waco groups that advocate for a more pedestrian and bicycle friendly city are presenting ideas, for a portion of I-35 that will be reconstructed starting the spring of 2019.  

The I-35 expansion would take place between 11th and 12th streets to Loop 340. All the existing structures would be removed from and four lanes would be built on each direction of the interstate.

Waco Walks and the Waco Bicycle Club have been meeting with the Texas Department of Transportation giving suggestions on ways to be more inviting to pedestrians and bicyclists in the underpass at 4th and 5th street. 

Waco Walks Founder, Ashley Thornton who walks from home to her work at Baylor University goes under I-35 to go to work at Baylor University. Her group is proposing widening the sidewalks at the underpass and adding railings to separate pedestrians and traffic.

"It's pretty safe right now but the reason is not walkable is because it is completely uninviting, it doesn't look safe,” Thornton said.

In addition, her group is proposing beautifying that area with a display of public art.

TXDOT’s I-35 Public Information Officer Jodi Wheatley said sidewalks and crossings are part of the design of the $300 million project.

“There a number of changes to traffic flow that will make pedestrian and bicycle access much easier and safer,” Wheatley said.

 In addition, it is reviewing the proposals and seeing if those ideas could be added to the design. 

"We are willing to look at more to see if we can come to an agreement and get funding. We have a small amount of time to make decisions but we are working on that,” Wheatley said.

According to Wheatley, any additions to the design would have to come from another funding source since currently TXDOT only has enough funding for the project.

Waco Walks is looking at ways they could fund their proposals, if they are not feasible under TXDOT’s budget.

Some improvements that are part of the project include fewer ramps and more space between them. For example, the one located on 4th and 5th street would be eliminated.

Waco Bicycle Club President Trent Dougherty said that would make traveling through the underpass safer.

“It's very scary and I think the elimination of the on ramps right here would help that tremendously because right now it feels like you are in the crossfire of a war zone with cars  getting on and off  right here in the area. Pushing those back is going to make it a much safer environment,” Dougherty said.

TXDOT anticipates finishing the design for the project in September. TheTXDOT project will go out for bids in December of 2018. It is expected to take three and a half years.

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