November 2019 – In Waco, the interchange at BUS-77 and I-35 has produced some confusion for travelers in the past as they navigate their way through town. The new I-35 reconstruction project has been planned to remedy the confusion by simplifying the interchange, alleviating congestion on the bridges, and making it safer for traffic to pass through. Much of the existing BUS-77 structure has already been removed, and it will be rebuilt at ground level, with some specialized techniques assisting with operation and efficiency during the work.
As part of the rebuilding process, construction crews will put up temporary columns under the existing north- and southbound I-35 bridges. As the bridges stand currently, they share several large caps (a crossbeam underneath the bridge itself) with several columns holding it up. The additional temporary columns — two for each bridge, spaced on either side of each cap — will enhance safety while construction takes place. The project should kick off in early 2020.
“Safety is a driving factor in the work we’ll be doing on the existing I-35 northbound and southbound bridges,” says TxDOT Waco Area Engineer Clayton Zacha. “To bring in the right equipment for us to do that work, we’ll need to manage some clearance issues, such as providing space for 35-foot-long drilling rigs. We’ll need to set up temporary columns to bring in the drilling rigs and add supports to the I-35 bridges to make it safer for all involved.”
During construction, these columns on the south side of the intersection will be cut off at the top and stay under the new highway. The dirt covering the columns will provide extra bridge support. On ground level, BUS-77 has been brought down to grade.
These temporary columns will be installed before work begins on the bridges. The plan is to focus on one bridge — either the north- or southbound — at a time. They’ll cut the existing cap (which currently extends across both directions of traffic under each bridge) in half, install drill shafts, and build the support columns in place. Before they can start this installation, they’ll divert traffic away from the construction, so be on the lookout for traffic signs directing traffic to one side of the highway or the other during the lane closures, which will be conducted at night.
Travel lanes will have to be closed to allow for this construction, but TxDOT will strive to allow travelers to pass through the area in the direction they want on I-35 with as little disruption as possible.
“Drivers, please do your best to have patience with us. It’s a work in progress, and it takes a combined effort to create a safe environment,” says Zacha. “We recommend you take alternate routes, such as Loop 340, if possible. Please allow for delays if your travel takes you through this section of I-35 and you regularly use this interchange at BUS-77. We’ll do what we can to make it a smooth journey.”
On the north side of the intersection, the columns encased in dirt will be cut off at the top and remain when the highway is rebuilt.
The goal with this I-35 project is to safely move both northbound and southbound traffic to the new structures that’ll be built. The temporary columns will provide the construction crews with the support and space they need to do their work as the changes are made. When the work’s done, it should help drivers navigate entering and exiting I-35, as well as BUS-77, navigate more intuitively. Be alert and watch for lane closure signs!
I-35 Public Information Officer
Contact My35 TxDOT Waco District
100 S. Loop Drive
Waco, TX 76704