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Sunday, June 1, 2003
Last modified at 8:33 p.m. on Wednesday, May 28, 2003
© 2003 - The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

photo: general

  An aerial view of the Marsha Sharp Freeway near Jones Stadium on the Texas Tech campus. Work on the freeway has picked up this year.
t A-j File Photo

Work continues on Marsha Sharp Freeway


After years of planning, securing state funding and buying right of way, construction finally has begun on the Martha Sharp Freeway, which will provide uninterrupted east-west travel across Lubbock.

Ground breaking for the first phase of the freeway was held May 6 on the southwest corner of U.S. 82 and West Loop 289. The first phase of the years-long project went to a California-based contractor for $46.5 million.

The first project includes widening West Loop 289 from four to six lanes and rebuilding the frontage roads from east of Chicago to west of the Loop. It also includes building a 50th Street overpass and extending 50th Street to Frankford Avenue.

Another major development includes the demolition of a grain elevator, an imposing structure in the 1400 block of Fourth Street. The elevator will be demolished sometime after Labor Day, said Penny Mason, public information officer with the Texas Department of Transportation.

She said bids are out for the demolition and they will have a better idea when the structure will fall after those are received. The building will be knocked down with a ball and crane, Mason said.

Commuters may already have noticed the demolition and relocation of businesses along Brownfield Highway and Fourth Street in expectation of the $268 million construction project, Mason said.

The Martha Sharp Freeway, named for the Lady Raider's women's basketball coach who brought a national championship to the South Plains in 1993, will run nine miles from West Loop 289 to Interstate 27.

It will be only the third limited access freeway in Lubbock and will run by several of the city's most important facilities, including Covenant Medical Center, Jones SBC Stadium and the United Spirit Arena.

TxDOT recently awarded a $1 million bid to demolish another 25 parcels in the freeway's path, Mason said.

She said 311 of 354 parcels, more than 90 percent, needed for the project have been acquired so far.

Mason estimated the total cost for buying the right-of-way for the freeway will be between $160 and $195 million.

''The buildings are being taken down,'' she said. ''Once all that is clear, they'll start moving the utilities.''

After this year's construction, the freeway, along with the frontage road system, will become a reality in the second stage of construction. Construction is tentatively planned to begin in 2004 and will cost $103 million.

In 2007, interchanges costing $54 million will be constructed on the west end of the freeway while $63 million will be spent constructing the interchange with I-27, beginning in 2010.

In the best case scenario, construction on the Martha Sharp Freeway will be complete in 2013. ''If things go as planned,'' Mason said.

In other words, the freeway might be completed for the 50th anniversary of when the concept of an east-west freeway was first addressed in the Lubbock Urban Transportation Plan in 1964, she said.

[email protected] t 766-8722

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