Arlington to keep $4.5 million in county bond funds for scaled-back Stadium Drive project

Posted Tuesday, Nov. 05, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Tarrant County commissioners decided Tuesday to let Arlington keep about $4.5 million in bond funds to widen Stadium Drive even after the city ditched plans to build a costly underpass at the railroad crossing near AT&T Stadium.

Arlington originally planned to widen Stadium Drive, a gateway to the entertainment district, from four lanes to six between Abram and Division streets and build an underpass beneath the two railroad tracks to ease traffic congestion and reduce air pollution from idling vehicles.

The bond-funded project, initially estimated to cost $20 million, was also designed to alleviate the risk of vehicle-train collisions and provide another route for emergency vehicles when trains block the city’s other at-grade rail crossings, officials said.

But in February, the City Council decided to move forward with less expensive, at-grade improvements after the cost of the underpass rose by $15 million because Union Pacific asked the city to build a wider bridge than originally anticipated to accommodate future rail lines.

Although Arlington voters approved about $15 million in the 2008 bond election and $4.5 million was approved in a 2006 Tarrant County bond election, Arlington would have had to divert millions of bond dollars and street maintenance sales tax money to make up the funding gap for the underpass project, officials said.

“This decision was very difficult and was made after extensive discussion and deliberation over a six-month time frame,” Mayor Robert Cluck wrote to Tarrant County officials this year while seeking clarification on whether the scaled-down project was still eligible for county bond funding. “The city has many funding needs, especially in the area of roadway maintenance, and we just could not justify the additional $15 million for this project.”

Arlington is now planning a $13.3 million project to widen Stadium to six lanes between Abram and Division streets and to make “quiet zone” improvements – such as adding a median and enhanced railroad signal arms so trains don’t sound their horns while crossing the intersection. Work could begin next summer, Public Works Director Keith Melton said.

The county bond funding will allow the city to reallocate about $6 million in bond funds for the Stadium Drive improvements to unfunded and underfunded road projects, Melton said.

Stadium Drive is one of eight at-grade crossings in Arlington along the Union Pacific rail line. The city has only five roads that cross over or under the train tracks — West Green Oaks Boulevard, Forest Edge Drive, Fielder Road, West Street and Texas 360.

A traffic study conducted by the city reported that widening Stadium Drive, one of the routes to AT&T Stadium and Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, would reduce annual traffic delay by 3,408 hours and reduce accidents at the crossing by 67 percent.

“It will definitely help mobility in the area,” Melton said. “That’s a major corridor for traffic when there are events at the ballpark or stadium.”

Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639 Twitter: @susanschrock

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