In a tree-filled section of northeast Arlington, two new bridges on the River Legacy Parks hike and bike system were installed this week.
By Sept. 20, the new $1.3 million trail extension, which runs eastward to the Grand Prairie city limits, should be open.
The 7-mile trail is currently the largest continuous section in the regional hike and bike Trinity Trail system, going along the western edge of Riverside Golf Club to the Texas 360 right-of-way.
But the new section of trails also brings the entire Dallas-Fort Worth area closer to having a 64-mile system that links the region's two largest cities.
That trail system will travel eastward from Fort Worth through Arlington — followed by another section of Fort Worth to the CentrePort Trinity Railway Express Station — then through Grand Prairie and Irving before reaching Dallas.
With the new Arlington extension, 59 of the 64 miles of trails between Fort Worth and Dallas will either be in place, under design or construction, said Kevin Kokes, principal transportation planner for the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
"We have five miles remaining," Kokes said.
And those last five in Fort Worth may be the most challenging and expensive.
Current estimates place costs at $1 million for each mile, said David Creek, an assistant director with Fort Worth’s Park and Recreation Department.
Those sections are only in the conceptual stage and there's no funding at this time. The original concept had the trail going under Texas 360, but there's also been discussions about a bridge next to the rail line traveled by Trinity Railway Express.
Another concept has involved the trail crossing Trinity Boulevard by American Airlines headquarters.
The alignments need to get nailed down before preliminary design work can start, Creek said.
"These trail designs get very complicated," Creek said.
American Airlines has expressed some interest in helping out, Creek said. American has reconfigured Trinity Boulevard and their entrance to the new headquarters under construction that is supposed to make traffic flow more easily off Texas 360.
With North Central Texas Council of Governments funding, Fort Worth will design Grand Prairie’s portion of the trail system, but Grand Prairie will pay for the construction. While Irving already has the southern end of its trail system complete, Grand Prairie must still complete its section to connect with Arlington.
“At the edge of Fort Worth, it gets us out of Tarrant County,” Creek said, “At some point in the near future, you should be able to get from 377 in Benbrook all the way over to the eastern edge of Tarrant County.”
Fort Worth and Arlington also have plans to connect their trails on the western edge of Arlington and eastern edge of Fort Worth.
Arlington is expected to include $2.5 million in a November bond election to extend westward to the Fort Worth city limits. That bond election is expected to be called by the City Council in August.
Fort Worth voters approved $4 million in the May bond election to connect the Trinity Trails from River Trails Park to River Legacy Park at the Arlington city boundary.
To get there, the Fort Worth will have to complete the trails in two phases, roughly from Handley-Ederville and Loop 820 to River Legacy.
One of the goals will be to connect the trails to public transportation options to provide more ways to travel without ever getting in a car, Kokes said.
Despite the obstacles that remain, Kokes remains optimistic the full 64 miles will be completed in the next five years.
"I think that's a reasonable timeline," Kokes said. "We've made a lot of progress in the last few years."
There's also a much more ambitious plan to have a regional Veloweb by 2040 that could include thousands of miles of trails.
The portion connecting Arlington to downtown Fort Worth could happen much more quickly.
"Imagine being able to ride your bike from River Legacy all the way to downtown Fort Worth," said Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams. "And for Fort Worth riders, they'll be able to start in an urban setting like downtown Fort Worth and travel eastward into a natural, canopied section of the trail in River Legacy. It's a win for both cities and all Tarrant County residents."