One day, it will be possible for motorists to connect between Interstate 30 and Texas 360 without taking confusing, winding ramps and waiting at traffic signals.
But first, the Texas Department of Transportation needs to rebuild the massive I-30/Texas 360 interchange, a process that is expected to take up to four years and cost at least $233 million.
On Wednesday, that work officially got underway.
State and local officials gathered in a field along Six Flags Drive in Arlington — essentially at the southeast quadrant of the peculiar interchange — to celebrate the beginning of construction.
“When we work together it’s amazing what we can do,” Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams said before he and other dignitaries were ceremoniously photographed moving shovels of dirt to kick off the project. He noted that city and county elected leaders teamed with state legislators to push through funding for the project.
It opened in 1957 and essentially, without the toll booths, it still looks exactly the same as when it opened.
Texas Transportation Commissioner Victor Vandergriff
The money is coming from Proposition 1, a program approved by voters statewide in 2013 that allows a portion of Texas’ oil and gas revenues to fund Texas Transportation Departmentprojects. The money must be used on nontoll projects, and the I-30/Texas 360 job is the single largest beneficiary of the funds in the state, officials said.
The project includes reconstruction of existing lanes and removal of outdated ramps and access roads.
For example, motorists wishing to travel from south Arlington or Mansfield to east Fort Worth will no longer have to exit northbound Texas 360 at Six Flags Drive, wait for a green light and take a nearly mile-long access road to westbound I-30 — a process than can take several minutes. Instead, they will be able to exit on a direct-connector ramp, which likely will make it possible to transfer from Texas 360 to I-30 in fewer than 30 seconds — without stopping.
Although Arlington stands to be the main beneficiary of the work, several leaders noted that neighboring cities and major employers will benefit too.
“We are sitting at the gateway to our international airport [DFW], the geographic center of the North Texas region and next to the greatest special events center in the world [AT&T Stadium],” Williams said.
No detours, yet
Although initial work on the project will begin immediately, motorists shouldn’t expect too many headaches until at least the summer, said Brian Barth, the Transportation Department’s Fort Worth district engineer. Utility removal and other side work will dominate the first few months, he said.
But once summer rolls around, motorists can expect lane closures and lots of detours, as workers struggle to rebuild a highway interchange used by more than 100,000 vehicles per day.
Relic of old turnpike
The I-30/Texas 360 interchange is one of the last remnants of the old Dallas Fort Worth Turnpike, one of the first toll roads in Texas, which opened in 1957. The road features access ramps that by today’s standards are unusually long and out of the way — because in the early days of the road those ramps were used to provide a place for vehicles to queue up while drivers waited to pay tolls.
The bonds for the DFW Turnpike were paid off in 1977, and the road was converted to a freeway — and eventually became I-30.
But few improvements of any kind have been made in the intervening years.
“It opened in 1957 and essentially, without the toll booths, it still looks exactly the same as when it opened,” said Texas Transportation Commissioner Victor Vandergriff of Arlington. Vandergriff’s late father, former Arlington Mayor and Tarrant County Judge Tom Vandergriff, also was a strong proponent of transportation-related growth and economic development in the southern portion of the region.
Once the project is done, Arlington will benefit not only from better mobility but also from new highway frontage opening up for development, city officials said.
For example, after the cloverleaf ramp from Six Flags Drive to I-30 is removed, Six Flags Drive will be extended to Avenue H near the Crowne Plaza Suites hotel, opening up an area that is now difficult to access. The Six Flags Drive bridge over I-30, now two lanes wide, will be expanded to five lanes.
The corridor also includes managed toll lanes connecting Arlington and Dallas, and more I-30 main lanes in future years as funding becomes available, according to the plans.
The state already owns most of the land for the project, although about 17 acres of additional right of way is needed. Most of the property in the area is entertainment and retail.
Area businesses are concerned about maintaining access to their properties, especially if the road work continues through 2020.
But the long-term benefits will make it worth the headache, said Rob Matwick, executive vice president of business operations for the Texas Rangers baseball club, which plays at Globe Life Park.
Another huge project in the area was completed less than five years ago. That work, known as the Three Bridges project, included an overhaul of I-30 in Arlington that lowered the main lanes by more than 20 feet to make room for modernized bridges.
During that work, officials with the Rangers, Six Flags Over Texas and other area destinations coped with daily problems related to detours and traffic delays. But once the work was completed — just before the February 2011 Super Bowl at what is now called AT&T Stadium — the city’s entertainment district enjoyed unprecedented access.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.