Just as students return to Abilene, construction on the bridge and underpass at the intersection of TX-351 and I-20 has ramped up – with several closure dates on the calendar.
Construction has continued for the last year and has been a headache to many already. However, the traffic issues will only get worse, said state officials. The Texas Department of Transportation recently announced that the entire intersection, including the turnaround, will close from Monday through Wednesday for the demolition of the I-20 bridge. The next closure, slated for Sept. 5-14, will occur with the turnaround left open.
The two-lane highway overpass, which connects Abilene and the Metroplex, will be replaced with a three-lane overpass that complies with the latest TX-DOT safety standards, officials said.
The Abilene division of TX-DOT conducts periodical reviews and maintains all state transportation systems within their 13-county purview. Marry Belle Turner, a Public Information Liaison for TX-DOT, said the I-20 project is projected to cost $14.6 million, with work on the underpass to be completed sometime in October and the bridge replacement to be concluded in spring 2018. TX-DOT Abilene boasts of a 62% rate of completing projects on schedule and doesn’t see any major delays forthcoming regarding this project, Turner said.
While the construction may be necessary, it has had some adverse effects on local businesses. Golden Chick announced this week it would close its location on the north side of Abilene due to a substantial drop in business. Even larger businesses, such as Wal-Mart are feeling the squeeze as consumers choose to buy their wares elsewhere rather than brave the long traffic lines.
Chase Van Riper, freshman biology major from Abilene, said the whole situation was “extremely frustrating.” Hunter Sherrill, freshman biology major from Arlington, described the traffic when trying to go to War-Mart with his parents this past weekend as “completely unexpected.”
“That stops us from getting up and going. It’s harder to motivate us to go and wait for 20 minutes in traffic”, said Sherill.
Chris Wilson, freshman biology major from Wichita Falls, said “definitely don’t run over there for one item, wait till there there are multiple things you need before going.”