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April 17, 2014

New ramp changes precede Chisholm Trail opening

Chisholm Trail Parkway is scheduled to open in a little more than three weeks, but motorists are already seeing changes in west Fort Worth.

The opening of the new, 28-mile Chisholm Trail Parkway toll road is still more than three weeks away, but changes to surrounding roads are already being made.

Weather permitting, one is scheduled to take place Friday, when on- and off-ramps are to be reconfigured and a new frontage road is to open along Interstate 30 just west of downtown Fort Worth. The area is the site of a planned intersection for I-30 and Chisholm Trail Parkway.

In that area sometime Friday evening — after rush-hour traffic has subsided — a new westbound frontage road will open from Summit Avenue to University Drive. To make room, a westbound I-30 entrance ramp at Summit Avenue and an exit ramp at Forest Park Boulevard will be permanently closed.

Once those ramps are closed, westbound traffic headed for Forest Park Boulevard will have to go down the I-30 frontage road. Motorists also will be able to access westbound I-30 from the Parkview Drive entrance ramp.

The changes come as the North Texas Tollway Authority, the lead agency in charge of building the toll road, scrambles to meet a self-imposed May 11 deadline to get the toll road at least substantially open. The opening could be delayed by a few days if the region receives large amounts of rainfall.

A weekend of events, including a bicycle race, a half-marathon and appearances by local elected leaders and dignitaries who helped see the project through to completion, is scheduled for May 9-10. Those events, some of which have been planned for nearly a year, will take place regardless of whether weather causes any delays in construction, tollway authority spokesman Michael Rey said.

For motorists, the May 11 toll road opening will provide a sample of how the road could be used in their daily lives. But the road will by no means be complete. Work on the Chisholm Trail Parkway will continue into the fall, officials said.

“As construction comes online, you’ll start to see a prettier road emerge,” Rey said.

For example, motorists who enter Chisholm Trail Parkway at its southern terminus, U.S. 67 in Cleburne, will be able to drive northbound uninterrupted to the interchange with I-30 near downtown Fort Worth. But along the way, they won’t be able to use three of the four interchanges at Interstate 20 in southwest Fort Worth because the connections aren’t yet complete.

Also, southbound motorists on the north end of the corridor near downtown Fort Worth won’t yet be able to use a direct connector to Chisholm Trail Parkway from I-30. A planned flyover ramp in that area isn’t built. But southbound motorists will be able to use Forest Park Boulevard, West Rosedale Street and other area roads to access the toll road.

Finally, much of the landscaping planned for the road, including more than 5,000 trees, won’t yet be in place.

But drivers will get a good feel for the final product. For example, they’ll notice the hills and curves engineered into the northern eight miles of the toll road from Texas 183 to I-30 to ensure the speed limit would be no higher than 50 mph.

The speed limit increases to 60 mph south of Texas 183 to Altamesa Boulevard, and to 70 mph from Altamesa Boulevard to U.S. 67 in Cleburne.

And motorists may notice the deep green ornamental fencing over Union Pacific Railroad’s Davidson yard.

City officials say that even if the toll road isn’t 100 percent complete, the partial opening of Chisholm Trail Parkway, which has been planned for more than 50 years, will be a historic moment.

“I think you’ll agree that 2014 is starting to look like a landmark year for transportation improvements in Fort Worth, and I think that progress is going to come into sharp focus in the next few weeks,” Fernando Costa, Fort Worth’s assistant city manager, told City Council members during a recent meeting.

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