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March 17, 2014

Fort Worth’s Trinity Blvd. closed, but for how long?

A section next to the $3.3 million bridge project being built to replace it fell prey to weekend storms, which have caused problems in the areas of east Fort Worth for years.

Phil Bertram fumed over the orange-and-white barricades that stopped his truck on Trinity Boulevard Monday morning.

“Time is money,” Bertram said. “This is costing me time and money.”

Bertram and his crew from United RV Center were on their way to an auto auction in Euless when they — along with hundreds of others — were stymied because a section of the road collapsed the night before, making it impassable.

Trinity is now closed from Norwood Drive to Bell Spur, creating a traffic headache for the thousands of motorists who use the east-west road between Texas 360 and Loop 820 as an alternative to Airport Freeway.

Just exactly how long it will remain closed is still in question.

Fixing that section — the band-aid approach — would take about a week, city officials said. But the city may decide to take another option, city spokesman Bill Begley said.

Option B would let McMahon Contracting workers leave the stretch of Trinity closed for the next three months or so. That’s how long it should take to finish the $3.3 million bridge project that was destined to replace that section of road anyway.

Doing a quick-fox repair on the collapsed road section not only would delay completion, but would also add to the overall cost of the 9700 Trinity Boulevard Drainage Improvements project.

“They haven’t decided yet,” Begley said.

A flood of problems

The area in question, which is south of Bell Helicopter, has long been a problem when it rains, which is what caused Sunday evening’s collapse.

Trinity Boulevard, especially at Riverlakes Drive, Precinct Line Road and Norwood, has seen major flooding in recent years, resulting in two deaths and repeated high-water rescues. There has also been flooding in subdivisions off Trinity, which sits just south of the railroad tracks used by the Trinity Railway Express.

A bridge will eventually replace the existing segment of Trinity Boulevard, which will be high enough to avoid being covered with water during the area’s frequent floods, said Linda Sterne, spokeswoman for the city’s storm-water division.

But another part of the problem will also be resolved when six 48-inch storm culverts running under the roadway are replaced by much larger ones that already are waiting beside the old drainage channel, Sterne said.

“The roadway was very low going across the Valley View branch,” she said. “Normally it’s just a trickle, but when it rains it becomes high-speed water that frequently over-tops the road. That caused two fatalities in March of 2000, and emergency rescues at that exact location in 2009, 2011 and 2012. This has been a high-priority project since the storm-water utility was formed in 2007.”

Making adjustments

City administrators and engineers met Monday with officials from Bell Helicopter, the Hurst-Euless-Bedford school district, residents and others who use the road to explain the arguments for and against each option, Begley said.

While it’s inconvenient, the detour around the closure is only 1 1/2 miles. It takes eastbound Trinity traffic north on Norwood Drive to Texas 10 and then south on Bell Spur back to Trinity Boulevard. Westbound traffic must do the opposite.

The closure is an inconvenience to some Bell Helicopter employees, but in no way affects the company’s operations, said Brian Bianco, communications manager.

“We heard that it will be closed for up to three months,” Bianco said. “It sounds like they’re expecting that’s what they’ll have to do.”

Officials with the H-E-B school district said some bus drivers will use alternate routes to avoid the stretch that is closed.

Considering that the road section has survived numerous storms, there is conjecture that excavations south of the road in preparation for the new culverts contributed to the road’s collapse.

“We’re looking at any and all factors that could have contributed to the collapse,” Sterne said. “The project manager is meeting with the contractor and the engineering firm [Jacobs] to get to the bottom of this.”

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