In Hurst, making way for the freeway

HURST -- Hurst was Patsy Willingham's fairy tale town half a century ago.

Willingham said she felt like "Cinderella getting her glass slipper" in 1963 when she and her husband, Ralph, moved into their dream home in the Mayfair Addition. Now she feels as if the evil stepmother has caught up with her.

"They've ruined our neighborhood," she said.

"They" are the people cutting down trees that once graced the yards of Willingham's neighbors on Plainview Drive, just north of Airport Freeway.

Workers surprised Willingham and other residents Monday by clearing property -- and trees -- on right of way that was acquired for the expansion of Airport Freeway.

The project, called North Tarrant Express, will add toll lanes and improve frontage roads and ramps along Northeast Loop 820 in Fort Worth and Haltom City and Texas 121/183 in Bedford, Euless and Hurst. The $2 billion project is expected to be completed in 2015.

Lara Kohl, spokeswoman for Bluebonnet Contractors, which is doing the work, said it is critical to remove the trees now.

"There's a pretty short window during the year when we can take down trees to not interfere with migratory bird nesting times," she said.

Kim Cross, who lives a few doors down from Willingham, said the homes across the street have been gone at least two years. She, too, was dismayed when trees started falling.

"They had told us they weren't going to cut the trees down," Cross said.

That was true during the initial planning of the project years ago, Kohl said.

But as the plans evolved, the number of trees that could be spared dwindled.

"The plans we're working from now called for all of the trees to be cut down," she said. "We're totally reconstructing the frontage lanes and adding capacity for managed toll lanes."

Once construction is finished, Kohl said, "hundreds and hundreds of trees, bushes and other plants will be planted" along the freeway.

"That may not make up for some of the trees that are being cut down," she said. "But people should be aware that there will be trees along the corridor once construction is complete."

Terry Evans, 817-390-7620