For motorists in far north Fort Worth and Saginaw, the completion of Basswood Boulevard can’t come soon enough.
Basswood Boulevard is a major east-west thoroughfare connecting far north Fort Worth on the east side of Interstate 35W to cities such as North Richland Hills and Watauga, where the road is known as Hightower Drive. But the Basswood Boulevard corridor comes to an abrupt stop about two-thirds of a mile west of Interstate 35W, dead-ending at a fledgling residential area along Big Fossil Creek.
The creek creates only about a 1,200-foot-long gap in in the road, which then picks up again east of the creek near the borders of Fort Worth, Blue Mound and Saginaw — where it is again an important east-west thoroughfare, connecting a blossoming residential area near Saginaw High School.
Drivers say the Basswood corridor could become a regionally important, 8.5-mile corridor that provides sorely-needed traffic relief on I-35W and Western Center Boulevard — if only Fort Worth officials would complete that 1,200-foot gap in the road.
“I am so tired of all of this,” said Cristian Alcocer, a Keller-area teacher who lives near Heritage Trace Parkway in far north Fort Worth. “Fort Worth shares the blame, too, for not providing an alternate route — for example, Basswood not going through to Blue Mound.”
Fort Worth officials say they recognize the need for the completion of Basswood.
Construction on a bridge over Big Fossil Creek could begin this summer, said Doug W. Wiersig, Fort Worth transportation and public works director.
“It’s in the final stages of design,” Wiersig said, adding that if construction begins in the summer the road could be complete by the end of 2016.
When asked why the road had not been built sooner, Wiersig said the project is more complicated than it appears at a glance.
“It’s a major bridge over Fossil Creek,” he said. “This is not just a road extension. We had to do the bridge design, and then get the permitting from the Corps of Engineers to build over the creek.”
A ‘major issue’
A price tag hasn’t been determined for the Basswood Boulevard extension, but Wiersig estimated the cost will be roughly in the $6 million-plus range.
The city will pay for the project from its transportation impact fees, which are charges assessed to developers to offset the cost of extending city services to their properties, Wiersig said.
The lack of continuity on Basswood Boulevard has been an issue in far north Fort Worth for several years, said Councilman Sal Espino, whose district includes the area.
“Residents north of Loop 820 are frustrated [by] how long it is taking them, utilizing roads to and from their homes into and out of I-35W,” Espino said. “Traffic congestion on Western Center Boulevard continues to be a major issue.”
I-35W is being widened and modernized as part of a $1.4 billion project, under the direction of a firm known as North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners. The road work is expected to continue through 2018, and motorists have been warned that traffic headaches are likely to continue throughout the construction.
The orange-barrel madness has been especially difficult for motorists at I-35W’s intersection with Western Center Boulevard, which has been reduced to two lanes in each direction, with dedicated turn lanes temporarily taken away to make room for work crews.
Workers at major employers such as BNSF Railway, which operates its headquarters out of a campus along Western Center Boulevard, have reported delays of about 25 minutes getting to and from work.
About 122,000 people live in far north Fort Worth neighborhoods — enough to be the third largest city in Tarrant County, if the area was separate from the rest of Fort Worth.
The area from Loop 820 to Texas Motor Speedway is rich with job opportunities, including more than 30,000 jobs in the AllianceTexas development near Alliance Airport. But roads and other infrastructure haven’t kept pace with growth.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796