Motorists who use North Main Street to travel between downtown Fort Worth and the Stockyards should be prepared to use a detour — for roughly the next three years.
North Main Street closed Saturday afternoon in both directions between Northeast Seventh and 11th streets — not far from LaGrave Field and the Coyote Drive-In theater. Traffic will be detoured to Commerce Street and delays for drivers are expected to be minimal.
The reason? Workers will be building a new bridge as part of the nearly $1 billion Panther Island project that will eventually carry North Main Street traffic over a re-routed portion of the Trinity River.
The bridge will be built over dry land so that when the money is available to re-route the river, the road will already be in place.
The closure of the four-block stretch of North Main Street is expected to last until some time in 2020, officials said.
“Access to local businesses on North Main Street will be maintained, and the detour will continue through the duration of the project,” Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Val Lopez said.
Panther Island is a massive effort to create a walkable, mixed-use community with a riverwalk flair north of downtown Fort Worth. The new island would include a town lake and encompass 800 acres — possibly creating a new mega-neighborhood that could rival the existing downtown area in size, economic impact and cultural relevance.
Essentially, when the project is complete the portion of North Main Street between Northeast Seventh and 11th streets will be underwater, according to officials from the organization overseeing the work, the Trinity River Vision Authority. LaGrave Field, the now-vacant former home of the Fort Worth Cats pro baseball club and Coyote Drive-In, will be on an island.
The project is many years from completion, but the North Main Street closure is needed so that workers can begin building the piers that will form the main supports for one of the bridges.
Four V-shaped piers will be built to support the new North Main Street bridge, said Matt Oliver, spokesman for the Trinity River Vision Authority.
The Panther Island project will not affect the existing 103-year-old North Main Street bridge — also known as the Paddock Viaduct — which is adjacent to the Tarrant County courthouse and serves as a major entrance to downtown.
Lots of work to do
Meanwhile, work continues on the two other bridges needed for the Panther Island project. Those bridges will span White Settlement Road and Henderson Street, near the new roundabout on the northwest side of downtown.
The bridges will have 10-foot sidewalks, bicycle facilities and enhanced landscaping. And, all three structures will be flat-top bridges, with the emphasis on designing a walkable community built along the river underneath them.
Work on the three Panther Island bridges was kicked off in November 2014. Back then, local delegates gathered near the Trinity River banks to celebrate the project with pyrotechnics.
But work slowed down as the state transportation department wrangled with contractors over the unusual design of the bridges, including the V-shaped piers. But state officials say those concerns have been addressed and the project can move forward.
The bridges, which are being financed with state highway funds, were originally expected to cost $65.5 million, although that cost could go up because of the delays.
Fort Worth-based Freese and Nichols is handling much of the design work.
Funding coming together
Panther Island is on a short list of projects nationwide that are considered by Congress to be priorities for flood control and economic development. Last year, Congress authorized $520 million to cover more than half of the project’s cost, although the money likely will become available over a number of years.
The private sector is interested in investing in the project. Last year, a Dallas company confirmed that it had bought nearly 2.5 acres on what will become part of Panther Island at Fourth and Main Streets for a 300-unit apartment community that is expected to cost $55 million. The development, Encore Panther Island, would be the first privately-funded development for the project.
It would be built along the first segment of canal running through the island’s interior.
The project is expected to include a water taxi stop and places for kayaks and paddle boards to launch.
More than 10,000 residences are planned for the Panther Island District, which will feature 12 miles of urban waterfront, J.D. Granger, executive director of the Trinity River Vision Authority, has said.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.