AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new turnaround lane at Interstate 35 and 51st Street aims to cut down on congestion and keep traffic moving. The Texas Department of Transportation opened the new turnaround at 5 a.m Monday for cars traveling southbound on the frontage road and want to turn to go northbound. Prior to the turnaround, drivers had to sit through two lights.
This is the first of three phases for the intersection that aims to improve traffic. The second phase begins Thursday with the construction of a bypass lane under 51st Street that will take drivers to Airport Boulevard. However, in order to do that, crews have to take away the merge lane that runs on the main lanes of I-35 between 51st and Airport Boulevard.
“People need to be mindful that if they are getting onto traffic southbound on I-35 past 51st they are going to have to merge right into traffic they are not going to be able to stay in a merge lane and those taking Airport will just have to take the exit without getting into a merge lane,” says Diann Hodges a spokesperson with TxDOT.
That could cause some temporary backups until construction is complete in the fall.
“In the long run this will change the way you exit for Airport Boulevard,” says Hodges. “Right now there is an exit for Airport when the project is complete you are actually going to exit for Airport before 51st Street and you’ll be able to go straight.”
After the bypass lane is complete, a roundabout will be constructed at the 51st Street intersection that includes better sidewalks and bike lanes. The overall project is expected to be complete by early 2019. TxDOT estimates an average of 215,000 cars travel this section of I-35 every day.
On KXAN News Today, Kate Weidaw is LIVE from the intersection to lay out the rest of the construction slated for this intersection.