The Texas Department of Transportation is making a big change in how drivers from downtown Dallas access the Dallas North Tollway.
The agency is closing the old exit ramp to the Tollway from I-35E northbound, the one right past American Airlines Center, and replacing it with a new ramp that will be located a half-mile south of the current one.
The big change takes place on Saturday May 22 at 5 am.
For motorists who are heading north on I-35, it's not a big deal. You'll just need to start watching earlier, before you cross under Woodall Rodgers Freeway. The new exit is now immediately after the Commerce Street exit. It'll actually be better because you won't need to contend with oncoming traffic from Woodall Rodgers.
But if you're coming from Woodall Rodgers, and that includes traffic from I-45, it'll be major: No more spilling out onto I-35 and hopping onto the exit lane. That exit lane will be gone. Pouf.
Instead, the engineering braintrust at TxDOT is directing you to keep driving north on I-35 and get off at the Oak Lawn exit, take a right, then a left onto the Tollway by the Old Parkland campus.
On the surface, that's not awful but: Oak Lawn is the exit you take to get to the Dallas Design District. If you've ever tried to get coffee at Ascenion, or meet for pizza at DeLucca Gaucho Pizza & Wine, or grab a drink at Virgin Hotel Dallas, you already know that exit is a pain.
The exit has two lanes. Both can go straight. The lane on the left is marked straight or left turn, and the lane on the right is marked straight or right turn. It really needs three.
It needs a dedicated right-turn lane. UPDATE: There is a dedicated right-turn lane. Oops.
To be fair, the problem they're trying to solve — the Woodall Rodgers-I-35-Tollway intersection — is a holy mess. You have drivers from Woodall Rodgers trying to cross lanes left to go north on I-35, at the same time that drivers from I-35 are trying to cross over right to get onto the Tollway exit. It's a merge nightmare.
This work is part of the $79 million Lowest Stemmons project to improve traffic flow and mobility, with the addition of new ramps adjacent to the existing highway. The project stems from TxDOT's Texas Clear Lanes effort to relieve congestion in major metropolitan areas.
TxDOT whipped up a fancy YouTube video which purports to explain exactly what's going on. It doesn't explain the Oak Lawn exit situation very well, but in its favor, it has a great house music soundtrack, 5 stars for that.
It won't stop here: According to a release, the permanent relocation of the I-35E southbound to Woodall Rogers Freeway exit ramp will be announced at a later date.