FORT WORTH — Voters approved the city’s street bond proposal, but it was closer than any bond election since 1990, according to early unofficial returns.
About 68 percent of voters approved the $150 million package, and 32 percent voted against it.
“It’s a big win for Fort Worth,” Mayor Mike Moncrief said, although he added that “our work is far from over” in addressing the need for roads.
The bond proposal is intended to address the pressing need for streets, particularly in places like north and southwest Fort Worth, where dozens of new subdivisions have been built without adequate arterial streets. But the same residents who were clamoring for streets were upset when the city included $10 million for two bridges that are part of the Trinity Uptown project, a long-range plan to divert the Trinity River and redevelop the near north side.
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A loosely organized coalition, including the North Fort Worth Alliance, the Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods and the East Side Sector Alliance asked the city to either remove the Trinity bridges or allow a separate vote on them.
It was the closest bond election in Fort Worth since voters turned down a plan to renovate the Will Rogers Center in 1990. Turnout was low — less than 4 percent of voters citywide, compared to 6 percent in the last two bond elections.
The last bond election in 2004 included five propositions, which passed with 71 to 79 percent of the vote.
“I think the reason for the margin of victory was because most people saw — even if didn’t agree with 10 percent of the bond program they agreed with the other 90 percent,” Moncrief said. “It made a good deal of sense for us to address these infrastructure needs now, not later when the price goes up for steel, concrete and labor.”
Spending money on the Trinity Uptown bridges will save money in the long run, too, Moncrief has argued. The $10 million in the bond package will leverage about $50 million in state and federal money, and allow the bridges to be build before the river is diverted.
The bond package also includes: --$81 million for 20 miles of multilane arterial streets --$33 million for 33.4 lane-miles of neighborhood streets --$5 million for traffic signals citywide --$2.5 million for intersection improvements --$12 million to pay the city’s share of replacing the Seventh Street bridge over the Trinity River. --$3.3 million to use as matching funds for state and federal grants --$3 million for public art
City staffers estimate that Fort Worth has about $1 billion in street needs, at a time when tax revenue is starting to taper off. The bond package was the most that could be approved without raising the property tax rate.
Moncrief said the council will look for other ways to pay for new roads, including money from natural gas drilling on city land and street impact fees assessed against new homes and businesses.