Following a groundbreaking ceremony, crews are finally set to begin work on the 610 West Loop interchange project, which transportation planners hope can alleviate the freeway bottleneck.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and other local officials held the ceremony Monday on the Southwest Freeway HOV lane.
While the project was expected to begin this holiday season, reports now say the $259 million redesign of the roadway will begin construction in February 2018.
Delaying construction could be a boon for Houston shoppers, as the interchange is situated in the retail capital of Houston near the Galleria area. As gift-givers flood the area to pick out the perfect present, the last thing they want is road work.
The upcoming interchange project also caused the city to cancel the tree-lighting ceremony on Post Oak Boulevard, leading to accusations of the city being a Grinch.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, the intersection of I-59/I-69 and the 610 West Loop is one of the most congested areas in the state, which comes as no surprise to Houston drivers caught in its chokehold in their daily commutes.
Transportation planners hope to eliminate the bottleneck by turning one-lane connectors into two-lane connectors and eliminating sudden lane changes. The project will also add shoulders and retention ponds that will keep the roadway free of water.
“Somebody has to stop and weave, or needs to weave, usually their first reaction is to take their foot off the accelerator and slow down,” said TxDOT District Engineer Quincy Allen, according to the Houston Public Media. “When we rebuild these ramps we’re going to improve the operational efficiency of them. How much time you have to make a decision when you change lanes.”
Construction crews will work seven days a week during the five to six years the project is expected to last. The three main lanes of the highway will remain open to drivers, with any closures occurring overnight or on weekends.
TxDOT says they hope the project will end early, but previous reports state the winning bid, awarded to Williams Brothers Construction, allotted for 2,030 working days, which works out to nearly nine years.