Arlington breaks ground on $22 million Abram Street rebuilding project

A $22 million project is underway to transform a 16-mile stretch of Abram Street between downtown and the eastern city limits, one of the largest street rebuilding projects in Arlington’s history.

City and community leaders celebrated with a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday morning in east Arlington, where construction will begin. Over the next several years, Abram Street will be rebuilt from Great Southwest Parkway west to Cooper Street.

The project will bring new sidewalks, landscaping, water and sewer line upgrades and drainage improvements. Street lights, some which have been standing since the thoroughfare was built 50 years ago, will be replaced, city officials said.

“This is another step forward and a long-time goal,” Mayor Pro Tem Kathryn Wilemon said. “The Abram Street rebuild project is a strategic and important investment in the future of Arlington.”

As one of the major gateways into the city, Abram Street provides access to the entertainment district, General Motors Truck Assembly Plant, downtown, the University of Texas at Arlington and other destinations.

East Arlington Renewal Sue Phillips said she feels the Abram Street rebuild will be “a real shot in the arm” for an aging section of town.

“I think it will be a spark plug for redevelopment. I hope that our storefronts will improve and people will feel inspired to fix up their front doors,” Phillips said. “Then I hope to see other developers come in and do some major redevelopment.”

But while some residents applaud the bond-funded rebuild as a much-needed public investment to stimulate revitalization, others say they’re concerned that plans to narrow the street through downtown will negatively impact traffic flow and their businesses. Arlington plans to reduce Abram between Cooper and Collins from five lanes to three lanes to free up space for wider sidewalks and landscaping and other amenities to make downtown a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere, which officials say they hope will lure more shoppers and diners.

Shipley Do-nuts owner Billy Tran, however, said he’s afraid the plan will make it harder for customers to access his drive-thru, especially if they have to make a left turn across oncoming traffic.

Tran, who has owned the shop at 501 E. Abram St. since 2002, is also concerned he’ll lose the parking spaces that front Abram Street if the city adds a wider sidewalk.

“I have a lot of loyal customers. How can they get donuts without parking spaces?” Tran said. “Without parking spaces, I don’t think any business can survive.”

‘Not in great shape’

Keith Melton, Arlington’s Public Works and Transportation director, said the city has not yet hired a consultant to design the downtown section of Abram and determine where turning lanes, on-street parking and sidewalks will be located. Melton said the city has met with Tran to hear his concerns and will work with him and other business owners during the design process to address their problems.

The Abram Street rebuild is part of $80 million worth of street improvement projects in progress throughout the city.

“This street is not in great shape and hasn’t been for some time,” City Manager Trey Yelverton said.

Arlington has spent about $5.8 million acquiring right of way needed to rebuild Abram from the eastern city limits to Stadium Drive, said Keith Brooks, Public Works engineering operations manager. Construction will begin this summer on that section.

The section between Stadium Drive and Collins Street is expected to be bid in early 2015 and will take about two years to complete, Brooks said. The downtown section will be the last phase built.

This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.