What do the interchange widening project and Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher have in common? They’ve both earned the ire of at least one angry motorist in the Rio Grande Valley.
“It is as useful as the Cowboys field goal kicker.”
This is how Mike Rodriguez described his frustrations with the interchange construction Thursday on Facebook, and he was one of nearly 200 who shared similar sentiments.
The remarks are a small but significant representation of how many motorists who commute around the Pharr interchange — and by extension the McAllen, Edinburg and Mission metropolitan area — feel when being rerouted around the construction, thanks to detours costing them as long as half an hour in delays.
For many, it feels like the construction has been ongoing forever. For the Texas Department of Transportation, it’s a headache that will soon be relieved in favor of decongesting highways in an ever-growing region of over 1 million people.
The light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer as TxDOT officials say the interchange project is 70% complete.
The construction on the $303 million project began in August 2020 and has since caused various road closures and reroutes due to the work being focused on expanding the I-2 and I-69C Interchange.
As construction continues to progress, TxDOT spokesman Ray Pedraza explained that the area will continue to see traffic delays before relief arrives.
“Throughout the duration of the project, there will be lane reductions and ramp closures. I think some of the more major closures that we’re going to see are associated right now with the direct connectors,” Pedraza said.
He added that among the more significant closures are the nightly closures, which will begin again this week in order to make progress on new connectors.
“This week we have nightly closures of the eastbound and westbound main lanes between the Sugar Road exit and Gumwood Street and that’s because the contractor is working on the installation of girders, or steel beams on the new connectors,” Pedraza said, adding that the roads will close from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. where traffic will be detoured to the frontage roads.
In the meantime, frustration is building with motorists.
On Tuesday, The Monitor asked readers to comment on the ongoing construction and whether it has been disruptive.
As of Friday, there have been nearly 200 comments ranging in tone from hilarious to disgust.
“It has been a struggle to get to work every morning,” Orlando Noyola commented. “What used to take 20 mins now takes anywhere from 30 to 45 to merely go from the North to the south side of the same city. Having to share the city roads with others has caused major congestion and longer lines at stop lights.”
According to Crystal Ovideo, the construction has been less than ideal in emergency situations.
“Terrible yesterday me and my husband experienced an accident a couple of feet ahead of us on the expressway,” Ovideo said in the comments section. “It was impossible to go around the accident, considering the small amount of space between two lanes only. It was hard for the police to get to the scene of the accident. I say terrible, because me and my husband also had a family emergency, our baby had an allergic reaction and it was almost impossible to get home to take her to her family doctor.”
Although construction is still ongoing, Pedraza explained that substantial completion is still on track to be done by the end of this year.
And this isn’t the only good news for residents as connectors are expected to open in the next few months.
“Some welcome relief is in sight,” Pedraza said. “The new McAllen to Edinburg connector and the new Edinburg to Harlingen connector that are both under construction, associated with these closures … are expected to open for traffic this spring.”
Not only will those connectors open but in the summer construction crews will begin the demolition and reconstruction of the final connector from San Juan to Edinburg.
Pedraza explained that as of right now construction limits the roadway from Nolana to I-2 in Pharr which extended from Second Street in McAllen to Stewart Road in San Juan, but the end result will benefit residents overall, he said.
“Once complete, the interchange is going to be able to accommodate a much larger volume of traffic in a more efficient way,” Pedraza said. “The goals are to enhance safety and really accommodate a larger volume of traffic in that area.”