Fort Worth-area motorists endured a lot of orange barrels on highways in 2013, and even more road work is planned for the coming year.
But now that the western part of the Metroplex is about halfway done with an eight-year barrage of highway construction projects, residents are starting to notice they’ve got a little more wiggle room on the roads.
The biggest change in Tarrant County during 2013 was the completion of the $1 billion DFW Connector project — a makeover of the eight-mile Texas 114/121 corridor in Grapevine that for about four years had clogged traffic on the north end of Dallas Fort Worth Airport.
Now that the work is done, traffic is essentially free-flowing — even during peak periods — in an area once known notoriously as the “Grapevine funnel.”
But other projects saw substantial progress as well, including North Tarrant Express, a $2.5 billion makeover of Loop 820 and Texas 121/183 in Northeast Tarrant County, and the Chisholm Trail Parkway, a 28-mile toll road connecting downtown Fort Worth to Cleburne. Also, the West Seventh Street bridge was completed, reconnecting downtown Fort Worth with the city’s cultural district.
“We’re at the point now where there’s certainly a lot more stuff being completed and opened, rather than closed and demolished,” said Robert Hinkle, North Tarrant Express spokesman.
North Tarrant Express is 80 percent done, and on course for its scheduled completion in June 2015. Motorists can expect several changes in the coming year, including completion of new pavement for main lanes and frontage roads, and the opening of new bridges and ramps.
Also, a new phase of the North Tarrant Express is scheduled to begin in 2014. It’s a $1.4 billion project that includes expansion of Interstate 35W from I-30 near downtown Fort Worth to the Alliance Corridor — and motorists can expect some of that initial construction to begin as soon as the spring, Hinkle said.
A schedule of the I-35W work hasn’t been publicized yet, but generally motorists can expect the initial work to begin at the I-35W/Loop 820 interchange, as well as the I-35W/I-30 connection, Hinkle said. Ultimately, the project includes rebuilding existing lanes, and adding two toll lanes in each direction from I-30 to north of U.S. 287 in far north Fort Worth, as well as improvements to access roads and ramps.
The 3.7-mile stretch of I-35W from I-30 to 28th Street in north Fort Worth is considered one of the most congested roads in the state, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. If traffic were able to move freely, traveling in that area should take only about four minutes, but during busy periods it’s not unusual for a trip to take 15 minutes or longer — or much longer if there happens to be a wreck in the area.
In southwest Fort Worth, the Chisholm Trail Parkway project is on schedule for completion by late June, North Texas Tollway Authority spokesman Michael Rey said.
“It’s going to be busy as we turn in to the new year,” Rey said. “You’re still going to see a lot of activity near downtown Fort Worth on I-30, toward the end of January and early February. You’ll see the eastbound lanes on I-30 are going to shift about 300 feet, and we will shift some westbound traffic onto the eastbound lanes as we do more construction. The bridge work is becoming more prominent over by I-30 near downtown Fort Worth.”
Other progress early in the year will be noticeable near I-20, Texas 183 and Bryant Irvin Road.
“Hopefully,” Rey said, “folks can be patient a bit longer.”