Rowlett, TxDOT hope project to add I-30 frontage roads will ease traffic as prized Bayside area takes shape

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GARLAND — During the same decades that Rowlett leaders were chasing their dream of turning an underutilized park into valuable Interstate 30 frontage, the Lake Ray Hubbard area was drawing a lot of people.

In the three years since a developer partner paid $31.8 million for the 257 acres of Rowlett’s obsession, the site known as Bayside has instead become the place where traffic backs up.

So excuse those folks stuck regularly on I-30 if they’re interpreting the long-awaited progress at Bayside as just more traffic coming to a stretch of interstate they use daily.

"For certain times in the day you have to plan for just sitting in traffic," said Sue Brown of Garland, one of several dozen area residents who attended Thursday night’s public input meeting in Garland.

A dead end sign of the Interstate 30 frontage road is seen near Bass Pro Drive as evening traffic backs up on eastbound Interstate 30 in Rowlett. (Jae S. Lee/Staff Photographer)

But the new developer and his city partners believe there’s good news for all in the form of Texas Department of Transportation plans revealed Thursday night at Hella Temple: a $138 million project to add six lanes of frontage across 2.4 miles of Lake Ray Hubbard between Garland and Rowlett by 2023. Currently, there is no frontage road across the lake.

"That access is really critical for this to succeed," said the developer, Tom D’Alesandro. "First and foremost, Bayside has to serve the people of Rowlett. But it also has to serve as a regional attraction."

TxDOT’s plan included enhancements for the unwieldy Dalrock Road exit and its offshoot to Dallas’ Robertson Park — designed for when the park drew dozens of people, not the thousands anticipated in its rebranding as Bayside.

"The worst intersection in the city," said Brown, who has lived a few exits west of the lake since 1995. "It’s very dangerous. That needs to be improved immediately."

The two-year construction project also will provide connectivity on the north side of the lake, which had never been cultivated until now. Water and sewer lines have been put in there to set the stage for multi- and single-family housing that is now taking shape. Planners believe about 2,000 people will live at Bayside.

They’ll connect to the more recreational southern side of the development via Bayside Drive, a planned main road. TxDOT’s project includes a five-lane Bayside Drive bridge over I-30.

With a direct connector to Dalrock from eastbound I-30 frontage roads, the project also acknowledges the use of Dalrock, a major Rowlett arterial street. It carries 22,000 cars a day and is a popular link from I-30 to State Highway 66 and bustling portions of northern Rockwall County.

"There’s some capacity relief on the main lanes should there be an incident," said Shawn Poe, Rowlett’s public works director. The city also inherited emergency duties when it extended city limits to the freeway with the 2015 purchase. "They’re also providing some emergency on-ramps specific for first-responders,"

George Andrea of Garland, who was among those residents checking out the design schematics Thursday night, said he was happy to see that the new frontage roads are separated from the existing lanes. He paid several late pickup charges when his daughter was in a pre-kindergarten program in Rockwall, and he’s been late to another daughter’s 5:30 p.m. swim team practices there.

TxDOT hopes the Interstate 30 frontage road project will help relieve traffic in areas like this — eastbound I-30 near Bass Pro Drive (above) — in much the same way that new frontage roads added to Interstate 35E at Lake Lewisville helped ease congestion there. (Jae S. Lee/Staff Photographer)

The congestion relief, TxDOT believes, will mirror that seen at Interstate 35E and Lake Lewisville in the two years since new bridges and first-ever frontage roads were unveiled there.

‘Transportation backbone’

"From a development standpoint, this obviously provides the critical transportation backbone for a billion-dollar project we’re going to see built out over the next eight to 10 years," said Jim Grabenhorst, Rowlett’s economic development director.

The south side of the lake will feature a 500-room resort hotel and conference center, D’Alesandro said, plus a dozen restaurants and a setting for outdoor concerts and other entertainment.

"We’re trying to create a place where people can experience the lake," he said, noting that the crystal lagoon feature is still being planned "but it’s not the big deal a lot of people thought it would be. It was much more important for people in Rowlett to have a natural park experience and a significant place for public entertainment and events."

TxDOT plans nearly $2 billion in improvements to I-30 from downtown Dallas to the Hunt County line. Crews are working a $2.3 million concrete repair project on I-30 in Rockwall County, closing lanes two miles at a time overnights to complete the work.

But a few of those who visited Thursday were concerned that officials aren’t yet scheduling frontage roads over the second half of the I-30 bridge over the lake, from Dalrock to Rockwall. Andrea said that’s not as much a problem as traffic that has increasingly fed into I-30 on the Garland side since the Bush Turnpike extended to I-30 in 2011.

"It opens up a little after Dalrock," he said. "The issue I see is between George Bush and Dalrock. A lot of traffic coming off George Bush goes on to Rockwall while some traffic on I-30 wants to go to Dalrock. So there’s interweaving."

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