Look for an easing of traffic congestion in southeast Arlington Friday after an $11.6 million extension of Center Street over Interstate 20 opens to the public.
Officials will celebrate completion of the 28-month project extending Center south to Bardin Road with a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday morning, and the new road and bridge were opened around noon.
“It absolutely increases connectivity and mobility and probably makes it safer too,” said Val Lopez, spokesman for the Department of Transportation’s Fort Worth office, which managed the city-funded project.
The bridge spans 593 feet across the highway. It’s part of a three-quarter-mile project extending Center from its previous end near Highlander Boulevard, about 400 feet north of the highway, southward to East Stephens Street enroute to Bardin Road.
“We’re able to alleviate some of the congestion on Matlock and Cooper, those corridors,” said Bob Watson, a city civil engineer and Center Street project manager. “I’d say it’s another key chip in the eventual extension of (Center) all the way to Green Oaks, the city’s ultimate plan.”
At this time, there’s no funding for it, he said. “But Center Street now extends all the way to north of I-30, and with this project extends to south of I-20. It’s definitely a major arterial.”
Construction started in October 2014 with a projected $10.4 million pricetag and was supposed to be finished last summer. Most of the delay was caused by having to redo incorrectly installed infill materials behind retaining walls. That and rain delays pushed the contract amount to $11.6 million, Lopez said.
“We just wanted to go in and do it correctly,” he said. “It was never a safety concern.”
Design work began in 2007, but funding for construction hit roadblocks.. The city twice submitted the project for federal funding, and twice it didn’t make the cut, said Watson.
Ultimately, funding came through a tax increment reinvestment zone, a special taxing district created over a decade ago, mainly to build infrastructure to kick-start development of the Arlington Highlands shopping center.
The Center Street project waited its turn while the Highlands’ quickly growing property values generated tax revenues to replenish the district’s coffers, said Bruce Payne, the city’s economic development mangaer.
The Center bridge is a “flyover,” meaning it provides no additional direct access to the interstate, but it does make connections with the service roads. And the patients and staff of the Kleiman/Evangelista Eye Center can’t wait to use them, said James Tanner, regional director of refractive services for the three eye centers, including ones in Dallas and Plano.
The flagship center in Arlington moved two years ago from its previous home, on Matlock Road north of I-20, to a facility on the eastbound service road, just east of Matlock. People wanting to go west after leaving the eye center have to take the service road east to Collins and cross the bridge to double back. Traffic backups are common on that route, making for a frustrating “customer experience” Tanner said.
Now, Center connects immediately east of the eye center, which will make for a shorter turnaround for west-bounders, likely with less congestion, he said.
“The way we look at it is the customer experience includes the commute to and from the facility,” he said.