Matt Perkins calls it the Lake Arlington S curve.
Other commuters call it names that can’t be printed.
His 42-mile one-way drive from Waxahachie to downtown Fort Worth includes fighting through three interchanges — Loop 820 and U.S. 287, Loop 820 and Interstate 20 and U.S. 287 and I-20 — in southeast Fort Worth and southwest Arlington. That’s the Lake Arlington S and it has evolved into a daily traffic migraine for commuters who make their homes in southeast Tarrant County and beyond.
For the last 20 years, Perkins has seen gridlock steadily grow as the population booms.
“I was comfortable with an hour-long commute,” Perkins said. “As Mansfield and south Arlington have grown, the drive has become longer and more stressful. You now have pretty heavy traffic from Walnut Creek in Mansfield all the way up to Wilbarger in Fort Worth.”
Now, the Texas Department of Transportation has a $1.16 billion plan to fix it. Officials said construction on the Southeast Corridor project could began as early as 2021.
The project could include could include additional main lanes, express lanes, entrance and exit ramp adjustments, frontage road intersection improvements, and bicycle and pedestrian accommodations, said TxDOT spokesman Val Lopez.
“The development of the this project is a priority for TxDOT, and we are looking for opportunities to accelerate the process,” Lopez said. “We expect to have the first public meeting for this project late spring/summer.”
‘It will make a difference’
In September the North Texas Council of Governments Regional Transportation Council identified that section of highways as one of the DFW’s next three big projects. The other two were in Dallas County and included the third phase of the Interstate 635 expansion and adding highway capacity near downtown Dallas.
Early plans for the Southeast Corridor show it stretching from North East Mall in Hurst to downtown Mansfield, but no final decisions have been made, Lopez said.
Mansfield Mayor David Cook said he deals with the abrupt lane changes every time he makes the trip from Mansfield to downtown Fort Worth. He is hopeful something will finally happen with project
“I think there is some optimism it may be pushed forward,” Cook said.
Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams said the project could improve traffic for large portion of southern Tarrant County.
“It will make a difference for residents of Arlington, Fort Worth, Mansfield and Kennedale but it means much more than that,” Williams said. “That interchange will impact drivers all the way over to the Hulen area in Fort Worth and and as far east as Grand Prairie.”
‘No way to bail out’
Along Loop 820 just south of U.S. 287 interchange, traffic counts show that 140,339 vehicles a day use that stretch and then climb to 217,770 along I-20 just east of Loop 820. The counts, which were recorded in 2016, are a 24-hour average at a given location.
For commuters like Perkins, revamping the interchanges can’t come soon enough.
The lengthy stoppages are unpredictable and the lane changes required to make it through all three interchanges can be harrowing.
Perkins hasn’t seen an accident firsthand but there have been plenty of close calls as drivers try to change lanes to get where they’re going.
“There is no way to bail out once you’re in there.” Perkin said. “It’s a cattle chute. Everybody is trying to do the same thing. There have been many, many, many near-misses.”
But Perkins, an XTO employee, won’t dealing with the traffic headache for much longer. Like many XTO employees, he’s moving to the Exxon/Mobil campus in Spring, north of Houston.
Instead of an hour-long commute, he’ll be renting an apartment within walking distance of his new office.
“Literally, I’ll be walking 1,500 feet from bed to desk,” Perkins said.