Your Commute

How to dodge traffic on way to Fort Worth’s Parade of Lights

The annual Parade of Lights celebration this weekend in downtown Fort Worth promises to be impressive and festive.

In fact, the event is so popular it creates a byproduct that is not quite as much fun — a veritable parade of traffic on roads leading to downtown.

But don’t let the crowds spoil your seasonal cheer. The traffic will be worth it. (We promise.)

A weekend of events is scheduled, beginning with the opportunity to take photos with Santa in Sundance Square starting at 11 a.m. Saturday. Also, the Sundance Square Annual Christmas Tree Lighting at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Then on Sunday, the XTO Energy Parade of Lights begins at 6 p.m.

So whether you plan to attend just one or two events, or perhaps stay all weekend, here are some tips for getting in and around downtown:

1. Spurn Spur 280

The most important thing for motorists to know is that Spur 280 is closed. You may not know Spur 280 by its name, but it’s among the most popular ways to drive into downtown Fort Worth. It’s that little stretch of roadway that connects I-35W, westbound I-30 and northbound U.S. 287 into downtown — dumping traffic onto Fourth and Sixth streets. It’s closed for the next six months as part of the ongoing I-35W expansion, so don’t even think about entering downtown that way.

2. Try a new route

For those coming from the north and east, a great way to get into downtown is to take Sylvania Avenue to Fourth Street just east of downtown (near Martin House Brewing Co.). You can also exit at Belknap Street, but be ready for long lines.

From the south, three roads go under I-30 and make access pretty easy: South Henderson Street, South Jennings Avenue and South Main Street.

From the west, I-30, West Lancaster Avenue and West Seventh Street are options, although all will likely be heavily traveled. Remember not to mess with White Settlement Road, which has been closed for about a year at Henderson Street to make way for the Trinity River/Panther Island project.

3. Take the train

The Trinity Railway Express, which normally operates Monday through Saturday, will have special Sunday service. Trains will leave Dallas between 2:35 and 10 p.m. For Tarrant County residents, the TRE can be caught from CentrePort, Bell Station (near Hurst), Richland Hills and T&P Station. Visit TRE online for more information.

4. Hop on a bus

Fun-seekers can avoid the parade traffic altogether by catching a special shuttle bus from Farrington Field at West Lancaster Avenue and University Drive.

Fares are $3.50 for adults and $1.75 for children, seniors and those who qualify for reduced fares. Children 4 and under are free.

The Fort Worth Transportation Authority will operate the buses beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday.

“We will have transit ambassadors and supervisors at Farrington Field to offer assistance to anyone planning to ride the bus to the Parade of Lights,” said Shawn Donaghy, the authority’s chief operating officer and vice president. “Parking is free at Farrington Field and it’s a convenient option for avoiding traffic congestion.”

5. Early bedtime for ‘Molly’

The downtown Molly the Trolley circulator is a terrific way to travel within downtown. But it’s important to know that the green trolley-like buses will stop operating at 4 p.m. Sunday because of parade-related street closures and expected traffic congestion.

So after 4 p.m., if you want to move within downtown, be prepared to walk or rent a bicycle.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Gordon Dickson: 817-390-7796, @gdickson