OU weekend is full of traditions, beloved by both Longhorns and Sooners. And as anyone who frequently drives I-35 knows, one unavoidable tradition of the weekend is the overwhelming traffic on that highway as thousands of extra drivers hit the road before the game.
This year, for those driving north to attend the annual competition, there are a few extra things to be aware of to make sure you arrive safely and before the kickoff.
Construction is well underway for the process of expanding I-35 to 3 lanes in each direction through the Waco district. The Waco district includes I-35 through Bell County, McLennan County, and Hill County. In the 80-mile stretch between Hillsboro and Salado, we currently have 66 miles of active construction work zones. A number of those miles in the work zones are now bordered on each side by concrete traffic barriers, which does not change the lanes themselves, but sometimes cut down the shoulders of the road.
In any place the road shoulders have been reduced to less than 10 feet wide, and concrete traffic barriers line both sides of the road for a mile or more, the speed limit has been reduced to 60 mph. This limit is in effect 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is enforced. Please watch for these areas and cut back on your speed when you enter them, both for your safety and the safety of the drivers around you. These areas exist near Salado, Belton, between Troy and Waco, and North of Waco from Tokio Road/FM 1858 (exit #351) to FM 1242/Abbott.
In addition, we are replacing the bridge deck on the I-35 overpass at the intersection with US 77 north of Hillsboro (exit #370), with three northbound lanes and two southbound lanes open over the crossing. Southbound lanes of both I-35E and I-35W are reduced to one lane each as they approach the intersection, to help control traffic.
To avoid that intersection (or all of I-35) completely, there are some alternate routes available.
• SH 95E connects to US 77N, which comes into Waco on the east side. From there, you can take Loop 340/SH 6 to the north and then take the exit for US 84/SH 31. Turn right, and keep following SH 31 northeast through Corsicana to I-45.
From the Waco area:
• Take US 84/Waco Dr./Bellmead Dr. through Bellmead and past Loop 340. When US 84/SH 31 split, follow SH 31 to Corsicana, then to I-45N.
• Take I-35 north out of Waco to exit #343 at FM 308. Take FM 308 N to I-35E. There is a short zig-zag when FM 308 meets US 77. Just follow the signs for FM 308 and it will connect to I-35E between Carl's Corner and Italy.
• To avoid only the I-35 intersection with US 77 at exit #370, take the exit to US 77 and go east on US 77 to Milford. Then turn north onto FM 308 and follow that to I-35E northbound.
Remember to adjust your driving to handle the conditions around you, and watch for unexpected maneuvers by other drivers, especially in the areas where the speed limits are lowered and the lanes are lined with concrete barriers. Allow extra time to get to your destination, and don't text or tweet while driving. And make sure you have a P.A.S.S. (Person Appointed to Stay Sober) for your drive home after the game.