An outdated stretch of Airport Freeway in Euless and Irving is about to join the 21st century.
An $847 million project on Airport Freeway known as Midtown Express kicked into high gear in Euless over the weekend with the closure of two access points — an on-ramp from Ector Drive to westbound Texas 183 and an off-ramp from the freeway to Ector Drive. Workers began to remove parts of a bridge that will be expanded.
The project includes rebuilding Texas 183 main lanes, modernizing ramps and access roads, and adding one toll lane in each direction. Midtown Express will serve as an extension of the $2.5 billion North Tarrant Express project just to the west in neighboring Bedford and Hurst.
Texas 183 became an extremely popular commuting route beginning in the 1970s with the opening of nearby Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. But by 1985 the freeway had more traffic than it was designed to handle, and gridlock ensued.
Even though the six-lane highway was used by as many as 200,000 vehicles per day by the late 1990s — and continues with that level of traffic today — funding wasn’t available to add any lanes, or even to rebuild crumbling bridges in the Texas 183 corridor south of DFW.
The weekend work “is really the kickoff of some of the really big work,” said Selma Stockstill, spokeswoman for Southgate Constructors, the main contractor.
200,000 Number of vehicles that use Airport Freeway on a typical weekday
Big ol’ project
Motorists should get used to orange barrels and detours. Work is expected to continue until 2018 in Euless, Irving and Dallas.
Midtown Express affects 28 miles of road in all, including the 15 miles of Texas 183 from Euless to Interstate 35E in Dallas. The project also includes improvements for Texas 114 and Loop 12 in Dallas County, including the roads surrounding the former site of Texas Stadium — once home to the Dallas Cowboys — in Irving.
Once the work is complete, the entire 28-mile corridor of Loop 820 and Texas 121/183 will have been modernized between I-35W in Fort Worth and I-35E in Dallas — and motorists can use either toll-free main lanes or toll express lanes (also called TEXPress lanes) to travel between the cities.
We have a database of about 160 businesses in the immediate area that will be impacted, but the reality is it will affect many businesses beyond the immediate construction zone.
Betsy Deck, Euless city spokeswoman
Access to businesses
For the initial weeks of the road work, disruptions are expected to be minimal for freeway traffic passing through Euless, Stockstill said. But motorists within Euless can expect delays and detours.
In particular, motorists who normally use Ector Drive will be diverted along the freeway frontage roads to Main Street or Industrial Boulevard.
Some area businesses are concerned about losing access to their customers, both in the short and long term.
“All we are asking for is another parking space,” said Carolyn Parra, who is losing one of only two parking spaces outside her Parra Car Care. The tiny car repair shop and dozens of other businesses — many of them restaurants, but also a veterinary clinic and a Methodist church — will be difficult to access between Ector Drive and Main Street and the surrounding area.
During a recent Euless Small Business Association meeting, Parra told Midtown Express officials that her shop’s business cards and marketing efforts tout how easy it is to get to her business from Ector Street. But now customers will have to take detours of a mile or more.
All we are asking for is another parking space.
Carolyn Parra, owner of Parra Car Care
Euless officials said they’re sensitive to businesses’ needs and will make a concerted effort to keep owners up to date on construction work.
“There are 36 businesses that are located along Airport Freeway or have direct access to the frontage road east of FM 157,” city spokeswoman Betsy Deck said. “We have a database of about 160 businesses in the immediate area that will be impacted, but the reality is it will affect many businesses beyond the immediate construction zone.”
Southgate’s Stockstill added: “We host monthly construction update meetings focused solely on the business community. We rotate it to different areas of the corridor to ensure all businesses affected by construction are helped through the process.”
Demolition of bridges
For many other motorists, the real disruptions likely will begin in June, when demolition is tentatively scheduled for the Main Street bridge and a nearby pedestrian bridge connecting Euless Junior High on the north side of Texas 183 to neighborhoods south of the freeway.
The Main Street bridge consistently scores poorly in routine bridge inspections, according to records at the Texas Department of Transportation. The structure was built in 1970 but is considered functionally obsolete and structurally deficient. During a 2010 visit, inspectors found longitudinal cracking on the bottom side of the bridge slab and leaching — intrusion of water into the bridge material.
Other bridges in the project can be removed and renovated in phases, but the Main Street bridge must be demolished all at once, Stockstill said.
“For the safety of the traveling public, we must completely remove and replace this bridge,” she said. “The earliest this bridge will be removed is June 2016. It will take approximately 18 months to reconstruct this bridge.”
Euless’ bridge at Industrial Boulevard will also be replaced.
In all, Midtown Express includes rehabilitation of 44 bridges, construction of 28 new bridges and four direct connectors.
The work will take place in five cities spread across Tarrant and Dallas counties.
Some options for residents to keep up with road work on the Midtown Express project.
Toll-free hotline: 844-418-3114
E-alert: Sign up on the website
Social media: Twitter @DriveMidtown and Facebook “Midtown Express”
Meetings: You can attend any of the frequent business owner meetings, or visit one of two storefronts at 2220 Chemsearch Blvd. and at 7651 Esters Blvd.
Smartphone: Watch for the launch of a Midtown Express app, possibly by late spring.
Source: Southgate Constructors