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Dynamite being used to clear way for improvements to dangerous I-20 at Ranger Hill

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EASTLAND COUNTY, Texas - You may have seen it or heard it - an explosion rang out, and traffic on Interstate 20 in Eastland County was shut down for about 15 minutes Tuesday afternoon.

But it's not cause for alarm, Texas Department of Transportation contractors are using dynamite to help break up Ranger Hill so they can build a safer stretch of I-20 there. --- WATCH THE VIDEO --} http://www.ktxs.com/news/video-dynamite-being-used-to-clear-way-for-improvements-to-dangerous-i-20-at-ranger-hill/623463724 --- Drivers can expect more explosions and more brief traffic shutdowns on I-20 through the end of the year.

"It's a very controlled process and a very effective process," said Andrew Carlson, a public information officer with TxDOT. "If we were to go in here with just heavy equipment it would take forever to do the kind of excavation work we need to do."

Tuesday's blast was the third of about 70 explosive demolitions they'll conduct on Tuesdays and Thursdays through the end of the year to help level out the ground.

"Basically we're getting rid of the hill," Carlson said. "We're taking all of that dirt and rock that makes up the hill and we're gonna spread that out and actually build a new highway on top of that."

It's part of a three-year, $76 million project to make that part of the interstate safer.

About 18,000 drivers pass through there every day, and Ranger Fire Chief Darrell Fox said with its curves and steep grade -- it's a dangerous stretch of road.

The new road will go from a 6-percent grade to a 3.5-percent grade after they break up and spread out 2 million cubic yards of rock and dirt.

TxDOT said they should have that taken care of by the first of the year. That's when they'll start construction on the new, safer roadway. The entire project is supposed to be finished by 2020.

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Crews have been using explosives to break up rocks -- eight miles east of Ranger -- as part of a $76 million project aimed at making a dangerous stretch of I-20 at Ranger Hill safer.

The latest use of dynamite was Tuesday, as evidenced by the KTXS video.

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WATCH THE VIDEO --} http://www.ktxs.com/news/video-dynamite-being-used-to-clear-way-for-improvements-to-dangerous-i-20-at-ranger-hill/623463724

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I-20 at Ranger Hill is known by the Ranger Fire Department as a dangerous road because of its 6-percent grade, which is against safety standards. Severe weather and speed made the road even more dangerous.

The project is expected to be completed by 2020, with frontage roads, a 3.5-percent grade, and a third westbound climbing lane to accommodate smaller vehicles.

Previous story:

Ranger Hill is a notorious stretch of Interstate 20 located eight miles east of Ranger that curves sharply around a steep climb, and more than 150 accidents have occurred there.

Wednesday (Sept. 6), Texas Department of Transportation, alongside state and Eastland County leaders, broke ground on a $76 million reconstruction project to make the pass safer.

Ranger Hill is known by the Ranger Fire Department as a dangerous road because of its 6-percent grade, which is against safety standards. Severe weather and speed made the road even more dangerous, and Ranger Fire Chief Darrell Fox said the change is long overdue.

"We've had a lot of problems on this hill over the years. I've personally been working on this hill for 36 years and it's been a very dangerous situation here," Fox said. "We've had anything from several fatalities to one accident with 17 vehicles involved."

The project is fully funded by taxpayers. Eastland County Judge Rex Fields played a big part in helping launch the project.

The project is expected to be completed by 2020, with frontage roads, a 3.5-percent grade, and a third westbound climbing lane to accommodate smaller vehicles.

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