If You Want to Sit In On Sneak Peek at IH35E Expansion in Dallas, Feel Free Next Week

Came across this on the city's website: an invite to an open house at R.L. Turner on Tuesday, during which Texas Department of Transportation officials will discuss a project that, as Jim noted only yesterday, the North Texas Tollway Authority wants no part of -- the expansion of IH35 from Dallas to Denton, a project that's been in the works for 13 years and is guesstimated to run $3.2 billion over its 28 miles. Though, actually, the topic on the table Tuesday is merely the southern tip of the three-phase project -- 35 from LBJ to the Bush, which will include those so-called managed toll lanes.

Tuesday night's wingding is one in a series of mandatory public hearings concerning the project's environmental assessment, during which folks will be told how much right of way the project will gobble up (84 acres, give or take ... or take some more) and how many displacements will occur (138) and what the reconstructed 35 will look as it morphs into a hybrid toll road from Dallas up to Denton.

There's some money for the project, but only pieces of it: TxDOT spokesperson Cynthia Northrop White tells Unfair Park this morning that Denton has regional toll revenue worth $500 to $600 million to cover some of the northern end of the redo, and Carrollton has another little bit to deal with Belt Line, which seems very specific. She also notes this morning that the NTTA actually didn't take a pass on the project Wednesday -- it just took another pass on the project, after having begged off two years ago.

"This is a managed lane project, meaning, like LBJ, you'll have free portions of the freeway and also managed lanes for those who want a higher level of service," she says. "NTTA took a pass on it a couple of years ago. It was their policy that they would review these managed lane project, but the conventional wisdom was they were going to pass on this, and since this was dormant for so long we went back through the process to see if this was a project they wanted to be involved in, and they said no. That means it will go to the private sector. RFIs have already gone out, and the private sector will have an opportunity to bid."

As for a time line: A TxDOT project manager told me this morning 2014 is the projected start date, but, of course, without anyone to build the thing, it's anyone's guess.

But, says Northrop White, "There's already been interest from the private sector, and we have to go through that process. When you get the private sector involved in a public project, we're looking for the innovation they bring, and what they propose determines when it gets built."

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