A new chapter in Fort Worth’s transportation history has begun.Chisholm Trail Parkway welcomed motorists during rush hour Monday morning. The 28-mile toll road connecting Interstate 30 near downtown Fort Worth to U.S. 67 in Cleburne was open by 11 p.m. Sunday, except for the interchanges at Interstate 20 and I-30 that won’t be complete until late summer or early fall.North Texas Tollway Authority crews spent all of Sunday putting the final touches on the road’s dozens of entrance and exit ramps.Although some motorists took a late-night cruise on the new toll road, others waited until daybreak. It was a time of anticipation for many motorists who just wanted to get on the road and see what they got in the $1.6 billion project, some of which is paid for with state and federal highway funds but most of which is financed by the North Texas Tollway Authority.Some drivers sought a new commuting pathway through southwest Tarrant County and northern Johnson County out of necessity — a roadway in that corridor has been planned for more than 50 years — and others apparently took the new road just out of curiosity.Wynona Beucler of Cleburne, a registered nurse at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in southwest Fort Worth, said she plans to use the road daily to get to and from work.It won’t be cheap. With a TollTag, she can expect to pay $3.63 each way for a trip between U.S. 67 in Cleburne and Altamesa Boulevard in southwest Fort Worth.In exchange for that toll, she will save roughly 30 minutes each way, or potentially an hour a day. She said the trip usually takes about 50 minutes, depending on congestion and time of day. She projects she can get to work in 20 minutes using Chisholm Trail Parkway.“I’m looking forward to it,” she said. “I just wish it [the cost] wasn’t quite as high.”On Sunday evening, Beucler drove out to the southern end of Chisholm Trail Parkway at U.S. 67 in Cleburne and toyed with the idea of taking a joy ride just to get a look at the new road. But at the time only the northbound lanes were completely open heading toward Fort Worth. The southbound lanes were still being worked on. So Beucler decided to wait till another day.“I came out to give it a try, but I don’t know if I can get back home,” she quipped.For motorists wishing to use Chisholm Trail Parkway to get to downtown Fort Worth: The road is open no farther north than University Drive. The tollway authority has installed electronic message signs urging northbound motorists to exit at Montgomery Street, instead of going all the way to University, and take I-30 the rest of the way downtown.Construction on the remainder of Chisholm Trail Parkway is expected to be complete by September or October, tollway authority officials said.Last-minute workDozens of workers from the tollway authority and its contractors worked around the clock in the final days before the Sunday night opening. In all, they opened 72 ramps before midnight, authority spokesman Michael Rey said.“We’re getting good reviews from the morning commuters so far,” Rey said. He acknowledged some problems with signal timing at Montgomery Street, where many motorists bound for downtown Fort Worth exited the toll road.“That may be a work in progress,” he said. “We have officers on standby to direct traffic at that intersection.”Some entry and exit points remain closed, including those at Edwards Ranch Road.“We expect them to be complete within the next two weeks, weather permitting,” Rey said.James Pointer, who lives on Rogers Avenue near the north end of the parkway, took the toll road on his trip home after visiting a relative in Hamilton, about 100 miles southwest of Fort Worth.Once he got on the toll road in Cleburne, Pointer said, he was happy with the efficiency of his drive. That trip costs $4.91 for those with a TollTag, or $7.37 for those without one. It’s an all-electronic toll road, and motorists without a TollTag on their windshield have their license plates photographed, so the registered owner can be mailed a bill.“I was pretty impressed. I held to the posted speed limits, and it took me about 25 minutes to reach the Rogers Road exit here in almost downtown Fort Worth. Since I live on Rogers Avenue, it’s hard to beat that,” he said in an email Monday afternoon. “I think I missed about 25 red lights and stop signs [compared with] the way I usually go, which is Highway 144 from Glen Rose to Granbury, then on to Fort Worth. I give it a thumbs-up [and] plan to use it on my trips to Hamilton from now on.” Staff Writer Terry Evans contributed to this report.
Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796 Twitter: @gdickson