The Fort Worth City Council voted this week to spend $6.63 million toward building three bridges across a channel that doesn’t yet exist.
But it was a wise move.
The signature bridges on Henderson Street, North Main Street and White Settlement Road are the beginning phase of the Trinity Uptown project, a $909 million development and flood control plan that will change the face of downtown Fort Worth, the near north side and the Trinity River itself.
Plans call for an urban waterfront community that will include a 33-acre lake, an 800-acre island, canals and riverwalks lined with shops, restaurants, museums, residences and businesses.
The bridges crossing the 1.5-mile bypass channel will connect downtown to what is now called Panther Island, and Mayor Betsy Price stressed that building the bridges now — on dry land — will be cheaper than constructing them over water after the channel is created.
The total cost of the bridges project is $73.7 million, which, along with the city bond funds approved this week, includes money from regional toll revenue and federal and state sources.
For such a mammoth project, dependent on Congress to provide about half the funding, it is moving ahead with great speed. Although dreamed about for decades, it has been only about 10 years since the council approved the “Trinity River Vision” in cooperation with the county and the principal partner, the Tarrant Regional Water District.
The Trinity River Vision Authority is the management agency under the water district.
The water district has already acquired about 95 percent of the property needed for the development, with 75 businesses having been relocated, 80 percent of them remaining in Fort Worth.
Public improvements will double the size of downtown and generate more than $600 million in economic development activity during the first decade alone, the Trinity River Vision Authority says on its website.
Although it has had some opposition, due in part to rerouting a section of the river, this project is very important to the future of Fort Worth. And unless federal funds dry up altogether, it will be completed.
Building those bridges is an important early step in the process.