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New bridges at Bagby, Highway 6 setting stage for larger mall-to-mall project starting in January

New bridges at Bagby, Highway 6 setting stage for larger mall-to-mall project starting in January

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Work that started last week to build two new turnaround bridges at Highway 6 and Bagby Avenue is an early taste of the larger mall-to-mall highway project between Central Texas Marketplace and Richland Mall.

The full mall-to-mall project will involve building continues frontage roads, new exit ramps and overpasses to help traffic flow and make that stretch of Highway 6, which is part of Loop 340, safer. Except the Bagby bridges, work is slated to start Jan. 27 and wrap up in December 2023, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. The northbound exit for Waco Drive, on the Richland Mall end of the project, often sees a line of slow or stopped exiting traffic back up onto the highway, one example of a problem area the work is intended to address.

On the Central Texas Marketplace end, construction of the two new U-turn bridges at Bagby started early last week and is expected to be done in the spring, TxDOT spokesperson Jake Smith said.

“The bridges will provide east- and westbound traffic a route to turn around from either direction along Highway 6,” Smith said. “This will improve mobility and reduce congestion at the Highway 6 and Bagby Avenue interchange.”

Highway 6 traffic has been increasing in the project area for years now, said Kris Collins, senior vice president for economic development for the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce. Crashes in the area illustrate on a regular basis why the project is so needed, she said.

“The growth in the western part of McLennan County has increased traffic, especially in the mornings and evenings,” Collins said.

She also said she suspects more commuters have been taking Highway 6 instead of Interstate 35 when possible to avoid the ongoing widening of the interstate. The interstate project from 12th Street north to Loop 340 crossed its halfway mark this summer and is scheduled to wrap up in 2023. More interstate widening south of the ongoing work is on the drawing board but has not yet been funded or given a firm timeline.

After an initial realignment of traffic flow, crews had started drilling by Thursday in preparation for construction of the bridges at Bagby, TxDOT area engineer Clayton Zacha said. By late January, they will get rolling on the rest of the mall-to-mall project, closing frontage road turnarounds at Beverly Drive that will be replaced with bridges over railroad tracks there.

“The impacts you’ll see right off the bat (in January) are going to be the closure of both U-turns, and there will be a short closure of Exchange Parkway, and we’ll be closing Industrial Drive for a period of time as well,” Zacha said during a Metropolitan Planning Organization policy board meeting last week.

The cost of the full project increased from $46.5 million to $54 million after TxDOT accepted a higher bid with a shorter timeline. The Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization budgeted $2 million as contractor incentives to expedite the project, and the city of Waco spent $10 million to move utility lines ahead of time.

Smith said the new ramps will make it safer to turn into and out of driveways along the frontage roads. Crews will also reconstruct new frontage roads and overpasses at the intersection of Highway 6 and the railroad crossing near Beverly Drive, according Zacha.

The work will be focused on realigning exits and turning the frontage road from a series of turnaround loops to a continuous roadway, but that is expected to alleviate congestion on the main highway lanes, Smith said.

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