FORT WORTH — Area residents aren’t happy that a busy chunk of North Beach Street in far north Fort Worth has been shut down for roughly the next four months.The area of North Beach Street is between Heritage Trace Parkway and Heritage Glen Drive, in the midst of a quickly expanding residential and commercial neighborhood near the Fort Worth-Keller border.Residents want to know why the entire two-lane road had to be closed at once, instead of closing one lane at a time for the expansion. They said they were initially told by city officials that the road would remain open.“The construction plan has appeared to change and may lead to short term pain for long-term gain” said Nick Evans, who lives near North Beach Street and Heritage Trace Parkway and commutes to work each day to near the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base. “But I hope the city has thought of ways to reduce traffic flow through the neighborhoods while the main road is under construction.”Closing the entire road makes it possible for the contractor to get the work done eight months earlier than if the workers had to maintain traffic flow, said Fort Worth Councilman Danny Scarth, whose district includes the work zone.He also said the removal of about 25 feet of earth in an area of North Beach Street that some motorists have nicknamed “roller coaster hill” also made it potentially unsafe for vehicles to travel in the work zone.“It comes down to safety and time,” Scarth said. “Part of that hill is getting shaved off about 25 feet. To keep two lanes of traffic open, you would have to excavate half the hill, lower the lanes, open the lanes and then have people driving by while they were excavating 25 feet above you.”“If it’s closed completely, they can come through and shave all the hill off much faster,” he said. “They can do it in a matter of weeks.”Work zoneScarth said he understands residents’ concerns and is trying to keep them up to date on the project. The closure began July 16.Scarth’s website — http:// fortworthtexas.gov /district4 / — also includes a map showing multiple alternate routes motorists can use in the area.City officials say they’re also working with area businesses to preserve access. For example, an orange work zone sign has been placed near the intersection with Shiver Road, to let motorists know that the Northpark YMCA is still open. That YMCA branch is just a few hundred feet south of the road closure.The work is part of a bigger project that involves spending $7.2 million in voter-approved city bond funds expanding North Beach Street from Vista Meadows Drive to near Shiver Road. When the work is done, North Beach Street will be a four-lane, divided arterial with curbs, a raised median and turn lanes, according to information provided by the city.Storm drainage, street lights, bike lanes, sidewalks and three new traffic signals also will be added in the area.The contractor, Mario Sinacola & Sons Excavating Inc. expects to complete the work in April 2015.Long-term planFor motorists, perhaps the worst part of the project will be over when North Beach Street re-opens with one lane in each direction. The contractor has agreed to pay damages of up to $7,500 per day for every day the closure lasts beyond Nov. 15, Scarth said.Although the road will be closed to normal through traffic for four months, a temporary lane is being built for emergency vehicles and should be completed by next week officials said.The work is part of a long-term plan to make North Beach Street a viable north-south alternative to Interstate 35W — for local traffic, not trucks or other long-distance travelers — over the next two decades. The road offers a 15-mile-long connection from East Fort Worth to the city’s border with Keller. Much of the road is six lanes wide but a few pockets are extremely narrow, the result of years of neglect as the city has struggled to expand its roads quickly enough to keep up with growth.Nearly 36,000 vehicles per day travel North Beach just north of 820, according to the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796 Twitter: @gdickson