Like many motorists, Kurt Homan of Burleson is frustrated that Interstate 30 and Texas 360 — two of the busiest highways in North Texas — don’t directly connect.
Instead, drivers wishing to travel from either road to the other must exit and wait their turn at traffic signals. They must then traverse long, winding access roads that are a throwback to I-30’s historical beginning in the 1950s as the Dallas-Fort Worth Turnpike.
Back then, long access roads were needed so cars could queue up and wait their turn to pay tolls. But the tollbooths were removed in 1977, and today the delay is wasteful and unnecessary, Homan said.
“I think the most frustrating part is, it was designed in the 1940s and ’50s, and built as a turnpike exit ramp,” said Homan, a project manager at a hospitality company. “It inevitably lost its usability in 1977, when the toll was paid, and yet nothing has really changed since then.”
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But after years of delays, state and local officials are getting serious about finally connecting the two highways at their merge point, near the northeast edge of Arlington’s entertainment district.
The Texas Department of Transportation, which owns and manages both roads, is in the planning stage of a massive makeover for the interchange that could begin within a couple of years — if funding for the project can be found. They hope to get the project built by 2018.
Details of the plan, which could cost roughly $200 million, will be discussed during a public meeting Tuesday evening in Arlington.
The project boundaries stretch for several miles, from Cooper Street in Arlington to the President George Bush Turnpike in Grand Prairie. From north to south, the boundary along Texas 360 stretches from Avenue K/Brown Boulevard to Road to Six Flags.
But a key component of the project is connecting both directions of I-30 to both directions of Texas 360, so motorists can move seamlessly between the highways.
In addition to providing those new toll-free connections, the project would include converting existing two-way managed toll lanes into a reversible two-lane managed toll lane system connecting Arlington to Dallas.
To make room for the improvements, state officials say, they need about 17 acres of new right of way in the area. That stretch of highways is mostly surrounded by entertainment and retail-type businesses.
And before work can begin, there is a catch — a big one. The Transportation Department hasn’t identified where the roughly $200 million to complete the project would come from.
But the agency is pressing ahead with its environmental study of the corridor, which it aims to complete next year.
“The interchange is a high-priority project for the DFW region, and TxDOT will complete both the design and environmental process in 2015 so that the project will be shovel-ready when funds become available,” agency spokesman Val Lopez said. “The project, currently estimated at approximately $200 million, would replace the existing cloverleaf design with direct connections between I-30 and 360. It is accurate to say that funding is currently not identified, but we will be ready when it is.”
The intersection of the two highways is a major crossroads in Arlington. Not only are both roads commonly used by motorists to get to destinations such as AT&T Stadium, Globe Life Park and Six Flags over Texas, but they’re also vital commuting routes for the city’s residents.
Texas 360 is Arlington’s main route to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, as well as the growing Mansfield area. I-30 connects Arlington to Fort Worth and Dallas — and also is being studied as a high-speed rail route.
“The city of Arlington has the utmost confidence that TxDOT will be able secure a funding source for the construction of the IH-30/SH360 interchange project in the near future,” said Keith Brooks, Arlington engineering operations manager. “The city of Arlington is looking forward to the rebuilding of the old interchange to improve traffic capacity, access and mobility through this vital corridor for our residents and business community.”