To put it nicely, getting from west Fort Worth to downtown is a bit more of a challenge these days. Some might say its a real pain in the neck.But motorists and area business owners say theyre getting used to the temporary loss of the West Seventh Street bridge, which is closed through at least early October - and possibly mid-November - for a major renovation.Its a pain, but people who are determined to get to this area are finding ways, said Debbie Allen, owner of Dee Jays Candles at 2828 W. Seventh St., just a couple of blocks from the bridge project. She said business has been somewhat slow, but not too bad.Diane Gigliotta, who works at a nearby Into the West hand-crafted furniture store, added: It really hurt us the first week, but the last two weeks it hasnt hurt us at all. If people want to get there, theyll go around the construction.On June 8, the bridge was closed, and crews began demolishing the 100-year-old structure that consistently scored lowest among all Tarrant County bridges in state safety inspections. Sundt Construction of San Antonio is spearheading the $25.9 million makeover.The company can earn a huge bonus for getting the bridge back open to traffic in less than 150 days. The contract calls for them to get a bonus of $33,000 for every day under 150.Of course, Sundt cant have too many days like Monday, when little work could be done around the bridge because of constant rainfall. Wet weather is a possibility again today, although the forecast calls for drier, hotter temperatures later in the week.On the bright side, crews were able to re-open Forest Park Boulevard on the west edge of downtown, after the last bits of the old bridge were removed Friday, said Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jodi Hodges. That section of Forest Park, which runs underneath the old West Seventh Street bridge, had been closed as a safety precaution for passing motorists.Twelve giant arches for the new bridge are already in place, and crews are installing floor beams that will eventually hold the new traffic lanes.Approximately a third of the new pre-fabricated floor beams have been installed, and placement of the pre-fabricated deck panels which will go on top of them will begin soon, Hodges said.But those visible signs of progress wont be much of a consolation to the several thousand motorists who used to depend upon the West Seventh Street bridge to get to and from downtown each day. Now, many of those motorists are using alternate routes such as West Lancaster Avenue and White Settlement Road.But in the effort to flock to those alternate routes, motorists are clogging up tiny side roads such as Currie Street. Allen, said at least three major collisions have occurred in recent weeks at the corner of Currie Street and West Seventh Street.People just cant figure out where to go, she said.
Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796 Twitter: @gdickson