More than 16 months after putting the brakes on the Hemphill-Lamar street connector, the Fort Worth City Council is ready to restart the project this fall now that funding to complete the work appears to have been found.
The Fort Worth City Council is scheduled Tuesday to approve accepting $23 million from Tarrant County for the project, a four-lane street and pedestrian tunnel connecting Lamar Street from Lancaster Avenue on the south end of the downtown, to Hemphill Street at Vickery Boulevard on the near south side. The tunnel will go under Interstate 30 and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and is expected to alleviate traffic issues.
The project was put on hold in fall 2015 after the city learned that costs to finish the long-awaited project were millions of dollars higher than initially planned. A few months later, in January 2016, the North Central Texas Council of Governments, which had promised money to the project but didn’t follow through, told the city it would find the money.
Jay Chapa, Fort Worth assistant city manager, said Monday the city’s been told that money for the project from the Regional Transportation Council, NCTCOG’s transportation planning body, will flow to the city through Tarrant County.
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As a result, Chapa said the city will put the project back out for bid in April. By June, it should know final costs. Chapa said he anticipates those costs to be even higher than what they were when the project was halted. Construction costs keep rising locally in a healthy market, he said.
Work, though, should finally start this fall, Chapa said.
The connector was projected to cost $26.6 million, but at last look, costs had ballooned to $44.9 million.
The project dates to 2002, when the highway portion over Lancaster Avenue was moved to the south. Voters approved paying for the connector in the 2004 bond program. The project also received millions of dollars in certificates of obligation the city sold in 2013.
The connector was to have been completed this summer. A ground-breaking ceremony was held April 2015.
At one point, the city said it was ready to look into whether the project was worth the added cost and was prepared to stop the program completely if the additional funding wasn’t found.