If you use I-35 in Central Texas, by now, orange cones and concrete barriers seem like a normal part of the landscape.
The I-35 expansion project has been going on for years, and we’ve been following the story, trying to figure out what’s taking so long. Throughout the course of our coverage, Congressman John Carter has outspoken in what he believes the root of the problem is.
"The contractors took on more than they could chew." Said Carter. "As far as I'm concerned, they should never have another job in the state of Texas." He said in a separate interview.
We looked into the contracting company, and for handful of the projects that have taken the longest, like Salado where construction almost destroyed the local economy, and in Temple, Belton and Bruceville-Eddy where there’s still a lot of work to be done, all roads lead back to the James Construction Group, the contractor that was originally awarded the project.
So we took a closer look, and what we found, is that in many cases they are way past scheduled completion dates, with plenty of work to be done.
State Representative Hugh Shine was part of the ethics team that looked into the issues facing I-35 last session. “Some of the issues that were of concern is that contracts were issued before right of way was purchased.” Explains Shine.
We wanted to hear from the contracting company itself, we’ve been trying to contact them for upwards of two years with no luck, so we stopped by their office in Belton, and were referred to firm in Louisiana, but never got through.
However, the numbers paint a bleak picture. Projects that have been gone way over schedule with work left to be done. Shine says it all comes back to a breakdown in communication, and to point fingers at just one entity, isn’t fair.
“The contractors found utilities that weren't depicted on their scaled map that they were using to work, and consequently utilities were interfered with, without any knowledge they were actually there."
Despite completion dates being pushed back time and time again, Shine says he’s in constant communication with the contractors, and is despite some challenges early on he’s confident this headache is almost over.
“They're moving at a pretty good clip, and they are anticipating to be done by this time next year.”
After years of backup, some hope at last, that soon enough orange cones and traffic signs will at last be replaced by the open road.