(December 21, 2012)—The Texas Department of Transportation declared a moratorium on construction-related lane closures on Interstate 35 from 7 a.m. Friday through 7 p.m. Jan. 2, but that doesn’t mean motorists won’t encounter backups and delays.
AAA-Texas says most of the 7.7 million Texas it estimates will travel over the holidays will be driving, and that means heavy traffic on the interstate where lane reductions and accidents are bound to cause backups and delays.
TxDOT says drivers should expect to encounter areas of I-35 without shoulders and areas where three lanes narrow to two on both the southbound and northbound sides of the highway.
Those areas typically create backups when traffic is heavy as drivers merge.
In Lampasas, holiday drivers hitting the road Friday said U.S. Highway 281 would be their route of choice.
"It's easier to go through Lampasas and the gas is cheaper so we travel this way a lot and stay on 183 then go to Georgetown hit 29 and go straight on through hit 95 into Elgin," holiday traveler Susan Bridges said.
Kay Ramirez was traveling to Vernon and said she was avoiding I35 because of the added construction delays she recently sat through.
"They had a lot of construction and it was about an hour to get out of the traffic jam and you know 55 or 60 miles an hour it's not fun," Ramirez said.
The added motorists are also bringing in business to local stops in Lampasas.
The owner of the Country Kitchen and Bakery in Lampasas, Scott Mclean, said the holidays are always busy, but this year he's seen more people from out of town than normal.
"Everybody's avoiding I-35 so we've gotten increased business everyday especially weekends, people out Christmas shopping, people traveling long ways to grandma's and staying off 35 and coming on 281," Mclean said.
The weather in Central Texas shouldn’t be a problem through the weekend, but showers are in the Christmas Day forecast and to the north frozen precipitation is a possibility.
The National Weather Service says snow is possible with some accumulations along and north of the Interstate 20 corridor while a mix of rain and snow will be possible south of I-20 with little or no accumulations.
Conditions could change, however, and travelers are advised to check current forecasts before hitting the road.
Gas Prices Are Down
Gas prices average just more than $3 a gallon in Texas.
AAA-Texas reports that the average price dropped 6 cents this week to $3.03 while nationally the average price is $3.23 a gallon.
The cheapest gas in the state is in Fort Worth at $2.98 a gallon and the most expensive is in Amarillo at $3.10 per gallon.
Number Of Troopers On The Road Is Up
The Texas Department Safety is increasing the number of troopers on the road over the holiday period from Friday through Jan. 1.
A TxDOT grant is paying for the stepped-up patrols, which will target suspected drunken drivers.
During the holiday period last year, Texas troopers made more than 1,100 DWI arrests and issued more than 15,000 speeding tickets.
(Rachel Cox contributed to this report)