South Bicentennial reopens after expressway construction

McALLEN — Bicentennial Boulevard’s intersection with Expressway 83 has reopened after more than a year of construction — turning from an overpass to an underpass, the highway now passing over the busy thoroughfare.

An officer directed traffic Monday night as cars clogged Expressway 83 and the surrounding La Plaza Mall area ahead of the holidays. The Texas Department of Transportation, which led the construction project, confirmed that the road has “opened to the public.”

The construction began in August 2018 and at the time of the road closing, TxDOT said in a news release that Bicentennial Boulevard would reopen in September 2019. The road reopened Sunday.

A ramp that came off the frontage road and led to a “T” at the top of the overpass had been closed since summer 2009 after the interchange there became the site of several deadly wrecks.

The latest was in April 2009, when 19-year-old Benjamin Rodriguez of McAllen smashed through the temporary barriers at the bottom of the access ramp, which were placed there as officials tried to figure out what to do with the ramp because it led from the westbound Expressway 83 frontage road to a T intersection with the Bicentennial overpass.

Rodriguez sped to the top of the ramp and, rather than turning left or right, crashed through a concrete barrier and plummeted onto the expressway’s westbound lanes.

Six people had died in crashes at the interchange since January 2005, according to The Monitor archives.

TxDOT officials had maintained the ramp — opened in 1999 as part of an Expressway 83 expansion through McAllen — was properly designed and safe for motorists.

After three Mission teenagers — including the daughter of then-Mission Police Chief Leo Longoria — died on New Year’s Day 2005, engineers added warning signs and flashing lights. Following another fatal crash in November 2008, officials said they would close the ramp late at night.