Although a yet-to-be signed agreement between Benbrook and Fort Worth says both cities want “to forever prohibit” public access to a planned emergency access bridge over the Clear Fork of the Trinity River, opponents of the project say they are still not convinced that’s the case.
Fort Worth council members on Friday received a copy of a proposed agreement that spells out strict conditions for the construction, operation and maintenance of the planned one-lane, 15-foot wide gated bridge that would connect the access road north of Interstate 20 to Bellaire Drive South at Meadowpark Court.
The council is expected to vote on the agreement in March. Benbrook will hold a public hearing on the agreement in the meantime.
Benbrook has argued it needs the bridge to improve fire and police response time to the northeast portion of its city. Right now, emergency vehicles take Bryant Irvin Road or Vickery Boulevard, where officials say they are slowed by heavy traffic. The bridge will be in Benbrook, but the city needs Fort Worth’s support because several neighborhoods objected to the project.
The two cities said they will ask the Texas Department of Transportation for an easement for the bridge that will go to Fort Worth. Under terms of the agreement, Fort Worth will grant the easement to Benbrook. In return, Fort Worth will have final say on the bridge design, ensuring that it provides no pedestrian, bike or other traffic access.
Residents in southwest Fort Worth and northeast Benbrook contend that too much traffic would spill into their tranquil neighborhoods if the bridge is ever expanded or opened for public access. They said the bridge is a way to gain access to commercial property on the other side of the river.
Carol Guarnieri of Fort Worth, who once led the opposition Save Our Neighborhood Coalition, said that’s still the case. She said many residents still feel that someday public access will be granted.
“The agreement is what angers so many of us,” Guarnieri said.
Councilman Brian Byrd said Monday he feels Benbrook could meet emergency response times without a bridge through mutual service agreements, but that the agreement with Benbrook “puts that to bed. Overall, I feel pretty good about it. This gets us there.”
Benbrook is asking Fort Worth to first sign the agreement, said Andy Wayman, Benbrook’s city manager. In December, the Benbrook council approved moving ahead with engineering design of the bridge, estimated to cost $1.6 million.
“It’s a good agreement,” Wayman said. “Our council’s on board.”
According to the agreement, Benbrook will withdraw an application made a year ago to the North Texas Council of Governments asking for money for a pedestrian and bicycle bridge “in a similar location” to the emergency access bridge. Fort Worth also will have the right to revoke the license if Benbrook allows pedestrian, bike or other traffic on the bridge.