Motorists seeking a shortcut or alternate route around the seemingly never-ending construction on Interstate 35W and Loop 820 now have a new option.
And driving between north Fort Worth and Saginaw-Blue Mound just got a lot easier.
A small but long-awaited stretch of Basswood Boulevard quietly opened to traffic Tuesday just west of I-35W. The 1,200-foot length of roadway, including a new bridge over Big Fossil Creek, promises to dramatically decrease travel times between I-35W in Fort Worth and Farm Road 156, also known as Blue Mound Road, in Saginaw.
On Wednesday morning, two lanes of the new, four-lane Basswood bridge were open to traffic. The other two lanes remained coned off as workers put the finishing touches on the project, a process that likely will continue for several weeks.
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Several area resident rejoiced as news of the project spread.
“The Basswood bridge is opened as of this afternoon! 20mph, single lane each direction as of 7pm. A godsend for folks W of 35w,” Cristian Alcocer, a Keller-area teacher who lives near Heritage Trace Parkway in far north Fort Worth, wrote on Twitter.
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 for years, residents complained that the Basswood Boulevard corridor came to an abrupt stop about two-thirds of a mile west of I- 35W, dead-ending at a fledgling residential area along Big Fossil Creek.
Fort Worth officials said they recognized the need for the completion of Basswood, and pushed to get construction underway by summer 2015. Back then, Doug W. Wiersig, Fort Worth’s transportation and public works director, said the project took a long time to reach the construction phase because it was more complicated than it appeared.
“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.”
The cost of the bridge was estimated in the $6 million range, although a precise figure couldn’t be determined Wednesday. The city aimed to pay for the project from transportation impact fees charged to developers to offset the cost of extending city services to their properties, Wiersig said.
Whatever the final tab, motorists looking for a way around the I-35W mess — including extremely long lines of traffic on Western Center Boulevard just to the south, near the BNSF Railway headquarters — may consider it money well spent.
How much faster?
Even with only two of its four lanes open, and speed limits reduced to 20 mph in the work zone, the Basswood bridge was already providing benefits Wednesday. For example, a trip from Saginaw High School on FM 156 to the Home Depot at the intersection of I-35W and Basswood Boulevard took only 3 minutes Wednesday using the new bridge — a journey that likely would have taken 12 to 15 minutes or more during weekday traffic using either Loop 820 or Western Center Boulevard.
About 122,000 people live in far north Fort Worth neighborhoods — enough to be the third-largest city in Tarrant County, if the area were separate from the rest of Fort Worth.
The area from Loop 820 to Texas Motor Speedway is also rich with jobs, including more than 30,000 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.