SOUTHLAKE -- Grapevine and Southlake are neighbors, but sometimes traffic between the cities is so bad they might as well be long-lost cousins.
But conditions on roads connecting them are about to improve, officials say.
The bridge connecting Northwest Highway in Grapevine with Farm Road 1709/Southlake Boulevard in Southlake is scheduled to open no later than Monday morning. It's the latest sign of progress in the DFW Connector project, the $1 billion makeover of the 8-mile Texas 114/121 corridor in Grapevine.
While much of that project is aimed at improving regional mobility for the hundreds of thousands of motorists who navigate the area daily on the north end of Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, this bridge opening will particularly benefit local drivers, who use Farm Road 1709 and Northwest Highway as pathways across Texas 114, which divides Grapevine and Southlake.
"This is actually the widest bridge in the project," said Kristen Schropp, spokeswoman for NorthGate Constructors, which is overseeing the road work. "We will be opening six lanes for now, but ultimately the bridge will be nine lanes wide, including the Texas U-turn on the east side."
The new bridge will replace two smaller bridges: one connecting Farm Road 1709 to Wall Street, the other connecting Northwest Highway to Gateway Drive.
To make room for the bridge opening, NorthGate was scheduled to shut down both smaller bridges at 8 p.m. Friday.
Detours were to be posted. Drivers on the Northwest Highway/Gateway Drive bridge are urged to use Kimball Avenue, and motorists on Farm Road 1709/Wall Street are diverted to the Texas 114 frontage road.
Frontage roads are reduced to one lane in each direction.
If all goes well, the new bridge could be open tonight, although the official opening time is 6 a.m. Monday to leave room for weather delays or other unforeseen problems, officials said.
Once the bridge is open, crews will periodically close the Texas 114 main lanes to begin gradually demolishing the two smaller bridges.
Texas 114 is scheduled to be closed from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, 8 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Aug. 13, and 8 p.m. Aug. 24 to 6 a.m. Aug. 27.
During those closures, freeway traffic will be detoured to the frontage roads.
Happy about progress
Merchants are just as happy as motorists to hear about DFW Connector progress, said Bob Price, Southlake public works director. Since January, both of the older bridges have been one-way, making it very difficult for motorists to weave their way in and out of the retail areas.
"You know how confusing that area can be with both the Wall Street bridge and the Gateway bridge, and I think the connection of [Farm Road] 1709 directly to Northwest Highway is going to help reduce overall driver confusion in that area," Price said. "It's going to keep the majority of the traffic on the main thoroughfare."
To align the new bridge with existing roads, some unusual moves had to be made. For example, Gateway Drive will no longer connect directly to Texas 114, near Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation. Instead, the road will connect with Farm Road 1709 near Bank of America.
Shoppers trying to get to the area anchored by Kohl's will still be able to get to retail parking off Gateway Drive, and they will also have access from the Texas 114 frontage road.
Another unusual twist in the project: The Gateway Drive/Northwest Highway bridge is being demolished even though it is only 10 years old. The bridge opened in 2002 as part of the Texas 114 extension in Southlake, Westlake and Roanoke, and eastbound motorists are greeted with a "Welcome to Grapevine" sign on the overpass.
When the bridge was built, it was needed for traffic control in the Grapevine/Southlake area. That was before the DFW Connector project final design work had begun, officials said.
If officials had wanted to keep the Gateway Drive bridge, they would have had to take additional private property to make the alignment work, said Val Lopez, a spokesman for the state Transportation Department. So officials decided to demolish the bridge instead.
The bridge gained attention in 2002 for the hand-painted murals by Siberian artist Victor Puzanenko on the surrounding retaining walls. Each piece of art is about 3 feet wide.
The art will remain on the retaining walls after the bridge is demolished, Schropp said.