Fort Worth Zoo ready for spring break stampede

Posted Tuesday, Mar. 11, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Dealing with the stampede

Timing: The zoo is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, but try getting there around 9:30 a.m. Zoo workers often open the doors a few minutes ahead of schedule to let the early birds in.

Approach: Consider coming in from the less-crowded south. Take West Berry Street to University Drive and go north.

Detour: A portable sign is already up between the University Drive and Hulen Street exits directing motorists to exit on Hulen, where they can make a U-turn and go back to University on the eastbound side. The sign is there because police may close the westbound I-30 exits to University and Montgomery Street and direct people to stay on the freeway if traffic becomes heavy.

Planning: Consider visiting on a day other than half-price Wednesday. On a regular day, it’s $12 for adults, $9 for children and seniors and $5 for parking.

Information: fortworthzoo.org.

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Spring break and the Fort Worth Zoo go together like peanut butter and jelly, but the traffic — like a PB&J sandwich — can sometimes get sticky.

Thousands of North Texans are expected to flock to west Fort Worth this week to bask with the beasts in the warm weather. The peak travel day likely will be Wednesday, when zoo admission is half price. Zoo-goers should be prepared for massive crowds on the road, especially Interstate 30 and University Drive.

The area, through the years, has developed a reputation for terrible traffic during this week in March, but zoo officials said they’ve put together a plan with Fort Worth police to minimize mobility headaches.

“We have incredibly well-orchestrated movement, even on University,” said zoo spokeswoman Alexis Wilson. “We don’t just rely on people knowing where to go. We have extra staff on hand to help with parking. We have opened all our ancillary parking. Our zoo people are guiding you all the way through.”

The traffic issues will be amplified this year by the ongoing construction of the Chisholm Trail Parkway, a 28-mile toll road from I-30 near downtown Fort Worth to U.S. 67 in Cleburne. The road is scheduled to be completed in May. In the meantime, motorists have to negotiate narrow lanes and work zone signs along I-30 and the northern part of University Drive, where the new toll road passes overhead.

The North Texas Tollway Authority, which is in charge of the Chisholm Trail Parkway construction, isn’t slowing down the work just because of spring break traffic, spokesman Michael Rey said. But the agency did consult city and zoo officials to ensure the huge work zone wouldn’t exacerbate traffic problems.

“While CTP construction will be under way next week, the NTTA is not planning any major closures that would affect traffic,” Rey said in an email. “As always, we encourage all motorists to pay attention to roadway signage, including our changeable message signs that share important information.”

Visitors who don’t want to deal with the traffic headaches can leave the driving to someone else.

The Fort Worth Transportation Authority, also known as the T, is offering a Safari Shuttle. Residents can park near the Intermodal Transportation Center at 1001 Jones St., in downtown Fort Worth, and catch one of the zoo shuttles leaving about every 30 minutes.

Round trip service is $3.50 for adults, reduced fare of $1.75 for students, seniors or people with disabilities and free for children under 5.

Safari Shuttle is also free for anyone with a valid Trinity Railway Express pass, T spokeswoman Joan Hunter said. For more information on the shuttle, visit the-t.com.

Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796 Twitter: @gdickson

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