Two more years.
The 28-mile Chisholm Trail Parkway is on schedule and expected to be under construction through mid-2014. It's a project that promises to continue irritating motorists in southwest Fort Worth and northern Johnson County.
But residents and business owners say the North Texas Tollway Authority deserves some credit for trying to mitigate the gridlock, particularly on Hulen Street, where the construction zone for a bridge over the Union Pacific Railroad's Davidson Yard and the Trinity River has become a well-known bottleneck.
And the tollway authority is taking steps to minimize traffic problems next week, when thousands more drivers will be in the area for the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Country Club. Rogers Road will be temporarily reopened to two-way traffic between West Vickery Boulevard and Colonial Parkway. It is now open only to northbound traffic in the work zone.
"We're trying to do anything we can to help the area have as little impact as possible from this project," tollway authority spokesman Michael Rey said.
Signs of development
The $1.6 billion project, which extends from Interstate 30 near downtown Fort Worth to U.S. 67 in Cleburne, is expected to open up large swaths of land for development.
Signs of that development are already visible. Just south of the Hulen Street bridge, crews are building the Clearfork Main Street automobile/pedestrian bridge, which will help connect Hulen Street to Bryant Irvin Road. The new road will be an extension of Stonegate Boulevard.
In far south Fort Worth, a parade of trucks hauls dirt and rocks each day through the fast-growing residential area near Summer Creek Drive and West Risinger Road.
Some residents there and near Dirks Road have complained about dump trucks losing their loads on the streets, Fort Worth Councilman Jungus Jordan said.
"We've had to police the area, with rocks coming off vehicles," Jordan said. "It's a constant issue. But NTTA has been very responsive making sure the contractors are obeying the law."
The Summer Creek area is expected to eventually become a thriving commercial and residential zone, complete with a TEX Rail commuter train station that officials hope to open in 2016.
Earlier this year, the focus of frustration was on the Hulen Street bridge, which has been reduced to one lane in each direction. Drivers reported delays as long as 20 minutes.
"It's amazing they had to start every single construction project at the same time," said Allison Williams, who often gets caught in the work zone traffic on Hulen Street on the way to her job at Yogi's Bagel Cafe. The west Fort Worth resident also recently dealt with the Rosedale Street expansion.
Yogi's and dozens of other businesses have lost customers in the past two years during the bridge work.
Many customers simply stopped patronizing the area.
But this year, the tollway authority responded to residents' complaints and created extra turn lanes on the north side of the bridge months ahead of schedule. That dramatically opened up the bottleneck.
Traffic waiting to go over the bridge still backs up, but the wait is typically less than five minutes.
"There's a little bit of a lunch rush, and then it gets crowded again at 5 o'clock," said Brant McMullen, a manager at the Trader Joe's grocery store scheduled to open June 15 at 2711 S. Hulen St. This week, McMullen and his colleagues have been interviewing prospective employees under a canopy outside the store, with a good view of the construction and traffic backups.
"The main issue is it goes from three lanes to one," he said, "and people don't see the signs."
Headaches old and new
The lane closures on the Hulen Street bridge will likely continue through the spring. It took years to negotiate an agreement with Union Pacific to build the new bridge and the toll road over the railroad tracks, and one of its stipulations is that the bridge is a staging ground for construction to minimize the work in the yard below.
At the north end of the project, drivers can expect more nighttime lane closures and other changes on I-30.
For example, the right lane and shoulder of westbound I-30 at the Summit Avenue exit ramp will be closed from 8 tonight to 5 a.m. Friday.
Also, the speed limit along I-30 between Forest Park Boulevard and the Trinity River will be reduced to 55 mph.
Tollway authority officials say that in mid-2014 they hope to open the entire 28-mile corridor at once.
That would be a dramatic end to a 50-year effort to make Tarrant County's southwest quadrant more accessible and open for development.
Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796