I-30 traffic

Bumper-to-bumper traffic like this, seen in Fate, is a nearly daily occurrence for drivers going in either direction on Interstate 30 in Rockwall County, and has only worsened with each interchange project.

The Texas Department of Transportation will be holding a public hearing to discuss the future of the Rockwall County Interstate 30 corridor, on Jan. 31 at 6 p.m. in the Royse City High School cafeteria.

Improvements to I-30, which have been high on the priority list for TxDOT and the North Texas Regional Transportation Commission, a body of the North Texas Council of Governments, aren’t slated to begin for a few years, but the project’s impact on commuter and residents of the Rockwall-Fate-Royse City area will be significant. Any concerned residents are encouraged to attend the hearing to learn more about the expansion plans and to field any questions for TxDOT officials.

County Judge David Sweet emphasized the importance of Rockwall County residents attending the meeting in two weeks, saying that the I-30 project is the “largest public works project in the history of the city and county, and for their future.”

“I cannot emphasize enough how important improvements to I-30 are for the future of Rockwall County,” Sweet said. “It’s extremely important, and for anyone who drives east or west on I-30 for work, they know it’s as painful as painful can be.”

Sweet further added that attending the hearing will give residents a better understanding of the project’s timeframe, and how, precisely, normal traffic patterns will be affected.

Sweet also commended Rockwall County Precinct 4 Commissioner David Magness, the county’s representative to the NTRTC, for his and the county’s cooperation with TxDOT on a number of recently finished or ongoing interchange improvements on the corridor, including at FM 2642, FM 3549, John King Boulevard and elsewhere.

“That partnership, between the county and TxDOT, has been key,” Sweet said. “The I-30 improvement project wouldn’t have even happened without the partnership on these interchanges first.”

Magness echoed Sweet’s emphasis on the project’s importance, and stressed that Rockwall County officials have worked closely with TxDOT, the city’s of Rockwall, Fate and Royse City, and businesses along the corridor to ensure that the traffic impact of construction is minimized.

“The plan is to make the construction process as resident-friendly as it can be,” Magness said. “We’re committed to continuing to work with TxDOT and the cities to make sure we don’t put undue burdens on businesses up and down I-30. This will be a positive process.”

The proposed project would address a 17-mile stretch of the interstate, from Bass Pro Drive to just west of FM 2642, and would entail lane expansions at every point in the highway, including widening the Lake Ray Hubbard bridge.

TxDOT officials have said that, while the project would require new areas of right-of-way in multiple locations along the corridor, no businesses or residences would be displaced by any changes to right-of-way.

According to a TxDOT statement, the proposed highway improvements are “needed due to traffic congestion that limits mobility and to provide for future growth within the traffic corridor.”

The statement also noted that, due to the project’s intersection with the lake and with FEMA-designated “100-year floodplains,” the state agency would be working closely with a FEMA floodplain administrator, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other regulatory agencies to ensure the project’s safety, as well as compliance with the federal Clean Water Act.

The plans to improve I-30 went through a gauntlet of public contention last year, when TxDOT and the NTRTC came to a disagreement over the funding of an adjacent project, to expand and improve Interstate 635 East, also known as Lyndon B. Johnson Freeway.

The I-635 project was identified as the NTRTC’s top priority in the coming years, as its traffic and wear conditions have worsened significantly, but TxDOT opposed the commission’s intention to fund the project through managed lanes, or toll roads. Exacerbating the problem, a number of local elected officials, including State Senator Bob Hall, either opposed toll roads as well or took a hands-off approach to the disagreement, putting possible funding for I-30 and Highway 80 improvements in limbo.

After working with the affected cities and counties and the NTRTC, TxDOT reached a resolution on I-635, freeing up state funds for the Interstate 30 project.

The project will work through the I-30 corridor from west to east, starting with the segment from Bass Pro Drive to Dalrock Road, expected to commence in late 2020. Work is expected to begin approximately one year later, in late 2021, for the portion of I-30 from State Highway 205 to FM 2642.