Expect to go slow on parts of Rufe Snow Drive this year.
Plans are underway to smooth and widen one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares from just south of Northeast Loop 820 to Karen Drive, and north of Northeast Loop 820 from Mid-Cities Boulevard to .02 miles south of Ridgetop Road. Utilities, such as electrical and cable lines, are being relocated now.
The road projects are being launched to accommodate increased traffic, improve safety, provide smoother pavement and create sidewalks for walkers and runners on both sides of the road, officials said.
Rufe Snow Drive is a major conduit for North Richland Hills, Keller, Richland Hills and Watauga. The latest traffic counts on Rufe Snow south of Hightower Drive show 31,000 vehicles per day as of May 2014. The number is expected to climb to 39,900 by 2030.
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The road is mostly four lanes, two in each direction, from Karen Drive and then widens at the Rufe Snow frontage road to Northeast Loop 820. At that point there are five northbound lanes, and another five southbound, with two left-turn lanes, two center lanes and a right-turn lane at the frontage road.
At Karen Drive, the city plans to smooth the transition from the frontage road section into the four-lane roadway at a cost of $620,000, City Engineer Caroline Waggoner said. Construction is expected to begin this spring on the .15-mile, city-funded project, Waggoner said. Work is expected to be completed in six months, city spokeswoman Mary Peters said.
The Mid-Cities to Ridgetop project calls for expanding the 1.25-mile section of road from five lanes, including a left-turn lane, to seven lanes, including a left-turn lane. Construction is expected to begin in September with an expected completion date of July 2017. The city is expected to cover about 20 percent of the $11.8 million project. Federal grants will cover the rest, Waggoner said.
Drivers who travel on the right lane on Rufe Snow north from Loop 820 often have no choice but to turn right on Mid-Cities because of traffic in the other lanes. The three-lane road becomes a two-lane road at Mid-Cities. That issue will go away once construction is completed, Waggoner said.
Rufe Snow has been expanded in pieces over several years. In 2004, North Richland Hills leaders celebrated the completion of the $8.26 million expansion of the road to from five to six lanes from Loop 820 north to Mid-Cities.
Bob Powers, who lives off Rufe Snow, said parts of the frontage road-Karen Drive section are bumpy, and bottlenecks are common. “That part of Rufe Snow is poor,” he said. Going north from Mid-Cities, traffic is not so bad, he said.
“I drive it all the time, day and night,” Powers said. “They’ve already taken care of it from 820 to Mid-Cities. I think they’ve solved 90 percent of the problem. It’s still an issue there. That’s the only place that I’ve seen traffic building up. … From Mid-Cities north, I have never seen an issue with traffic.”
Waggoner said backups occur from Mid-Cities to Ridgetop, depending on the time of day. But expansion is also needed to accommodate future growth, she said.