FORT WORTH — When Mayor Betsy Price pitched an inter-city bicycle trail that will connect Fort Worth with Dallas to the North Central Texas Council of Governments, the council listened.And they are running, or cycling, with the idea.She [Price] had a big vision to get the Metroplex to come together on connecting communities, cycling, health and economic development, and we could see a vision of this happening, said Karla Weaver, program manager for congestion management and system operations for the council of governments. The councils plan is to use 30 miles of already-established bike trails in Fort Worth, Arlington, Grand Prairie, Irving and Dallas and then connect those routes with 34 additional miles of trails. The trails could be used for both recreation and commuting. Ten of the needed miles already have identified funding and a plan for construction, Weaver said, leaving 24 miles unfunded at an estimated cost of about $30 million. Those miles will be the most expensive to complete because bridges will be needed to take the trails over interstates, rivers and other obstacles, she said. A new Metroplex connectionPrice said the idea was a result of years of dialogue among officials in the Metroplex. When I was president of Streams and Valleys, we talked a lot about people in Fort Worth wanting to get into Arlington and people in Arlington wanting to get to Fort Worth on the trails, Price said. Then we started brainstorming wouldnt it be nice to be able to get Dallas? After Price pitched the idea, Weaver said, her staff studied the current bicycle infrastructure in the five towns, planned the connectors to bring the trails together and then contacted the mayors to get support. The mayors of the five cities have all signed onto the plan. A continuous system of trails from Dallas to Fort Worth will make bicycling safer for families and connect our residents to parks, shopping, restaurants and, perhaps most important, one another, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said in a news release. The connected trail could take up to ten years to complete, Weaver said, but the cities can start applying for funding immediately when the 2014 Transportation Alternatives Program, a federal grant program, opens to applications in February. The 12 counties that make up the North Central Texas Council of Governments will compete for that $28 million pool of money designated to promote on- and off-road pedestrian and bicycle routes, said Weaver. The bicycle route will also provide several connections to Trinity Railway Express commuter rail stations in Fort Worth, Irving and Dallas. The mayors also plan to work on a unified name or emblem for the trail. Missing linksFort Worth is missing three sections of trails needed to link to downtown Fort Worth with the eastern cities, but Price said the money wont come from local taxpayers, but from federal and state grants. Arlingtons section of trail is mostly complete, but large sections are also missing in Dallas, Irving and Grand Prairie. Once the trail is complete, Price said it will attract eco-tourists and encourage travel between the cities. People who walk, people who scooter, people with motorized wheelchairs can use these it is the complete streets issue so that users of all types can have access to and from places, Price said. The regional bike trail will be part of a much larger network of trails in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Weaver said, and once the east-west trail is completed, additional links can be added to link cities north and south of the trail.Already, ten counties and 117 cities in North Texas have 1,728 miles of existing and planned shared-use paths, according to information from the council.
Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984 Twitter: @catyhirst