Toll lanes mean less congestion but higher cost on I-35W
North Texas planners now have the funding they need to build a 64-mile hike and bike trail connecting Fort Worth to Dallas, and get it open to the public by fall 2023.
“It’s a milestone,” said David Creek, Fort Worth assistant parks and recreation director. “In a few years, you’ll be able to go all the way from highway 377 in Benbrook to Dallas using the trails.”
And, in an unusual twist, some of the funding is coming from federal grant credits that are made available to cities such as Fort Worth that have invested in toll roads.
The Regional Transportation Council, North Texas’ official planning body, on Thursday is expected to approve a $10 million package to build sections of the trail near the Fort Worth-Arlington border, as well as in Grand Prairie. In all, a 53-mile section of the trail from roughly Panther Island near downtown Fort Worth to east Dallas — and also passing through Arlington, Grand Prairie and Irving — is expected to cost about $39 million.
Including other existing trails in those cities, the distance of continuous trails for walking, running or cycling will be 64 miles.
(To view a PDF map of the planned trail, click here.)
Most of the money is traditional federal transportation dollars, and local voter-approved bond funding.
For example, Arlington voters on Nov. 6 will be asked to approve a bond package that includes $19.1 million for trails, including a $2.5 million piece connecting the city’s River Legacy trails to Fort Worth’s trails. Arlington voters overwhelmingly approved the city’s last bond election in 2014.
As for Fort Worth, the city is using a fairly new federal funding vehicle known as transportation development credits for nearly $1 million of its cost. The credits are offered to cities who apply for them as a way to offset the construction of toll roads within a community.
In other words, Fort Worth leaders agreed in recent years to the construction of toll lanes on roads such as Interstate 35W and toll roads such as Chisholm Trail Parkway — and they did so mainly because federal and state money wasn’t available to build those projects as toll-free roads. So in return, federal credits are a way to give the city something back.
The arrangement requires the federal government to pay its own share of a project plus the local share, which for trail construction typically amounts to an 80 percent/20 percent split of the total cost.
“The city has qualified for the use of those credits,” said Kevin Kokes, a principal transportation planner at the North Central Texas Council of Governments. “Those credits can be used for all types of transportation. They (Fort Worth leaders) requested that those credits be applied to this project.”
Fort Worth route
Planners also settled on a route for the piece of the trail connecting Arlington to Fort Worth. The trail will extend to American Airlines’ new corporate headquarters along Trinity Boulevard. The pathway will then proceed south to the north shore of the Trinity River, where it will cross under Texas 360 and proceed north to the Trinity Railway Express CentrePort Station and on to Grand Prairie, Irving and Dallas.
Lots of other local dollars have been put into building a region-wide trail system.
Fort Worth voters in May approved $4 million to connect the Trinity Trails from River Trails Park to River Legacy Park at the Arlington boundary. That work will be done in two phases, from Handley-Ederville and Loop 820 to River Legacy.
And, the Cottonbelt Trail is coming along nicely. Much of the work on that trail has already been completed in Northeast Tarrant County. Meanwhile, a planned extension of the Cottonbelt Trail further northeast to Plano also will be addressed by the Regional Transportation Council on Thursday.
It’s all part of a region-wide, comprehensive trail network known as the Veloweb, which if all goes as planned could be completed by 2040.
This report includes information from the Star-Telegram archives.