Piece by piece, trails along the Trinity River are coming together to connect downtown Fort Worth to downtown Dallas, a long-awaited dream of outdoor enthusiasts, cyclists and long-distance runners.
In September, Irving and Grand Prairie celebrated the opening of the Campión Trail/Lone Star Trail connection, a critical piece of the puzzle.
Funding has been secured to fill in many of the remaining gaps along the river in Fort Worth, Arlington, Grand Prairie, Irving and Dallas. Construction on many of those trails is scheduled to start in the next four years.
Other sections, such as River Legacy Parks in Arlington, have been around for a decade or more, but people may not have realized there was a bigger master plan in place.
The roughly 60-mile trail system could be completed in the next decade or even sooner, depending on when funding can be secured.
“I feel like I see the end now,” said Casey Tate, director of capital improvements for the city of Irving. “As opposed to 20 years ago it was a pretty pie-in-the-sky attitude with all these pretty drawings.”
The initiative really picked up momentum in December 2013, when the mayors of the five cities involved agreed to work together.
“That got everyone on the same page and made this happen,” said Kevin Kokes, project manager at the North Central Texas Council of Governments. “That’s some serious mileage as we start to close those gaps.”
Cities are tapping state funds, called Transportation Alternative Program grants, to help pay for many of the trails. As the network comes together, the grants are living up to their name as these concrete paths become bicycle highways.
“It opens up the potential for people to use this for more commuting,” Kokes said.
David Creek, Fort Worth’s assistant director of parks and recreation, said the city has been building trails since the 1970s and now has a significant network in place. But the path forward will have challenges. The average trail costs $1 million a mile to acquire land, design and build. And the cost goes even higher if bridges are needed.
“The easy trails were completed a long time ago,” Creek said. “Now we’re working on the final connections points. You have to work through private property rights, trail easements, state and federal highways, and railroads.”
Fort Worth trails heading east
Fort Worth’s Trinity Trails currently end at Quanah Parker Park, but the city plans to start construction next year on a 1.9-mile extension to Handley Ederville Road. A separate spur will head north to the Richland Hills TRE Station.
The $2.6 million project will include a low-water crossing over an existing spillway.
Also next year, Fort Worth will start designing the next phase, a 3.1-mile trail from Handley Ederville Road to River Trails Park. The $2.8 million project is funded. It extends the trail east of Loop 820 but still 3.5 miles short of the existing trails at River Legacy Parks in Arlington.
That final connection to River Legacy Parks will go through the Trinity Lakes mixed-use development, where the route hasn’t yet been defined.
When completed, Fort Worth’s trail system will go from south of Interstate 20 in Benbrook, through downtown to Arlington, and will continue in far northeast Fort Worth at Texas 360 at CentrePort.
The city’s also looking for trails northwest to Lake Worth and north to AllianceTexas.
“They’re all starting to link together,” Creek said. “We started with four miles, which was significant in the 1970s.”
Extending River Legacy Parks
Arlington’s 7-mile River Legacy Parks trail is one of the largest continuous sections of the trail, nearly stretching from the western city limits to the eastern boundary.
That last half-mile stretch on the east part of the trail to Texas 360 is funded, and construction could start by spring 2017, said De’Onna Garner, park planning manager for the city of Arlington.
The $870,000 project will include bridges over the tributaries for the Trinity River.
Construction could be completed by 2018.
River Legacy’s western terminus is close to the city limits and would probably be built through an interlocal agreement with Fort Worth, Garner said.
Trails to TRE, American Airlines
Fort Worth wants to make it easy for employees at the future American Airlines headquarters to jump on the trail. When the city extends the trail under Texas 360 it will also build a spur going north to the headquarters of the world’s largest airline at the intersection of American and Trinity boulevards.
The trail would also connect to the CentrePort/DFW Station so people can catch the TRE. Park planners would obviously prefer to go under the tracks rather than have to cross them for safety reasons.
There’s a drainage culvert that the trail could use to get under the tracks, Creek said. Officials from the various cities and the North Central Texas Council of Governments will meet to discuss options this month.
Fort Worth expects to start construction by 2018.
Grand Prairie’s trail plans
A route between Fort Worth and Grand Prairie is still being ironed out, said Ken Unkart, park planner for the city of Grand Prairie. Grand Prairie would prefer to follow Roy Orr Boulevard north to Trinity Parkway, where Fort Worth would continue the trail.
But that could change depending on what Fort Worth does with its connection to the CentrePort Station and where it crosses the railroad tracks, Unkart said.
Grand Prairie’s share could cost an estimated $4.5 million.
The trail would connect to the north end of the Good Link Trail at Mike Lewis Park.
Grand Prairie also has plans to extend the Lone Star Trail west from Belt Line Road to the south end of the Good Link Trail. Most of that section will actually be built by Crow Holdings Industrial as part of the Wildlife Commerce Park, Unkart said.
The section along Wildlife Parkway will be built when Dallas County widens and extends the road west to Carrier Parkway. That will include a new bridge over the Trinity River where the trail will go.
This project could be finished by 2018 or 2019.
Irving plans to follow pipeline
Irving plans to fill in the large gap in the Campión Trail and extend it north to Cypress Waters and Coppell.
Campión Trail South now ends at Trinity View Park in Irving. The trail extension will continue north along the Elm Fork of the Trinity River following the Trinity River Authority right-of-way, Tate said.
The project has been delayed because the TRA is putting in a 108-inch diameter pipeline. Work on the pipeline ground to a halt when the Trinity River flooded earlier this year.
“They’ve been shut down literally since April, and they haven’t been able to finish the project,” Tate said. “Our plan is to follow on top of the pipeline. It will already be cleared. We work with the TRA very well. We maintain their corridor, so they like that. Plus, they can go on our trail with their vehicles to check the pipeline.”
It could take another year for TRA to finish the pipeline. At that point, Irving could start construction on the 6-mile trail. The $12 million project includes two huge bridges over the Trinity River and an elevated boardwalk through a wetlands area.
That project would stop near Wildwood Drive/Tom Braniff Drive.
A future phase would go through L.B. Houston Park, which required permission from the Dallas Offroad Bike Association, and connect with Campión Trail North at California Crossing Park in Las Colinas, Tate said.
Finishing in Dallas
For Dallas, the final piece of the puzzle will be a 4.5-mile section from Sylvan Avenue west to the Irving city limits at Trinity View Park. The $5.7 million project will follow the West Fork of the Trinity River and will include at least one bridge where it connects to Campión Trail in Irving.
Currently, the project is going through Texas Department of Transportation approval. Design will start in 2016, and construction could begin in 2017 and be completed by early 2018, said Jared White, bicycle transportation manager for the city of Dallas.
When all trails are completed, it’s a straight shot to downtown Dallas, Victory Park, Uptown, the Katy Trail from Fort Worth, assuming you’ve got the endurance to ride that far.
“This is something I’ve been involved in for probably close to 15 years,” White said. “All of a sudden it seems we’re almost there.”