March 11, 2013

Two new bridges will make North Riverside an I-35W alternative

A pair of four-lane bridges on North Riverside Drive are expected to be under construction within a few weeks. One will span Northeast Loop 820, the other will cross over Big Fossil Creek.

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Many homes in the Stone Glen neighborhood in far north Fort Worth don't have fences.

Instead, back yards simply open up to the Big Fossil Creek green belt, where residents take advantage of a natural area that includes trails and a children's playground.

But a chunk of that green space is about to be cleared to make way for what city officials say is sorely needed traffic relief. A pair of four-lane bridges on North Riverside Drive are expected to be under construction within a few weeks and completed in a year or less.

One bridge will span Northeast Loop 820 and is being built as part of the North Tarrant Express project.

The second bridge will cross over Big Fossil Creek. It is being handled in a separate contract approved last week by the Fort Worth City Council.

When the two jobs are complete, North Riverside Drive will become a viable commuting route and alternative to Interstate 35W. It will be a continuous thoroughfare from Golden Triangle Parkway to Meacham Boulevard -- about 7.5 miles total, including a stretch on the northern end, where it is labeled Old Denton Road.

It's a bittersweet traffic solution for residents who want a better connection parallel to I-35W -- but not at the expense of their green space.

Residents who live closest to the planned bridge "would rather it not happen," said Tom Burke, president of the Stone Glen at Fossil Creek Homeowners Association.

"The city basically said, 'So what?' and went ahead and built it," he said. "It's going to dramatically change the makeup of the neighborhood."

Fort Worth Councilman Danny Scarth said he is trying to locate money to help the neighborhood build a brick wall to separate it from the creek bridge to provide residents some privacy.

The association estimates that it will cost at least $100,000 to build a wall, but the group has only about $15,000 available.

The city typically doesn't spend road money on such improvements, Scarth said.

People who buy land in the area are required to sign a document saying they're aware that the city owns right-of-way for a road, Scarth said. But even so, some residents were surprised to learn that their green space is about to be paved over.

"I wish I had some options," Scarth said. "We've got 150,000 people who have moved north of them since the subdivision was built. We've just got to deal with the traffic."

The bridges will be paid for with funds from the city's 2008 bond package as well as some regional toll revenue and possibly some other sources, officials said.

Loop 820 bridge

The developer building the North Tarrant Express project, a multibillion-dollar makeover of Northeast Loop 820 and Texas 121/183 in Northeast Tarrant County, has agreed to make the Riverside bridge over Loop 820 part of its project, spokesman Robert Hinkle said. That bridge will cost about $16 million to build.

The project coincides with work already taking place in the area between I-35W and North Beach Street, he said.

Some preparatory work is taking place.

"We're getting out the orange cones, and we're going to start outreach to area businesses," Hinkle said.

Big Fossil Creek bridge

The City Council last week approved a contract for up to $4 million with AUI Contractors LLC to build the bridge, sidewalks and lighting over Big Fossil Creek.

The project also includes construction of a few hundred feet of new roadway for North Riverside Drive between Redwood Creek Lane and Stone Creek Parkway.

Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796

Twitter: @gdickson

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