Last week’s groundbreaking ceremony launching the redevelopment of the intersection of Texas 360 and Interstate 30 heralded the future.
The $233 million project is a big deal and will produce an interchange as remarkable as can be found anywhere — as it should, smack in the middle of the fourth largest urban area in the country.
State transportation officials tell us it will take about four years to finish, resulting in greatly improved mobility for all who regularly encounter it in their daily commute.
Then there are the 10 million visitors who arrive every year to access the wonders that await just beyond the off-ramps.
Even more significant is the history of what has happened there over the past 60 years that defined the middle of the Metroplex.
Headlines in 1956 told of a “fantastic” land deal that would launch the region’s future as imagined by a visionary developer whose name today identifies Texas 360 as the Angus G. Wynne Jr. Freeway.
Accompanying those news accounts of the then-largest real estate deal in the history of Tarrant County are photos of the two very proud mayors of Arlington and Grand Prairie who recognized the possibilities.
The ceremony transferring the first 2,400 acres of prairie land from its owners to the newly formed Great Southwest Corp. took place in the front yard of the groundskeeper of the old Arlington Downs Racetrack.
Dallas and Fort Worth are going to grow together and they will meet right here.
Angus G. Wynne Jr., 1956
That property was included in the transaction, since horse racing had been shut down by the Texas Legislature some 20 years earlier.
Members of the Wynne family told me of what he had envisioned when we named the highway for Angus during my tenure as Arlington mayor.
Standing with a view of the construction underway for the then-Dallas-Fort-Worth Turnpike and pointing to what would be its intersection with then-Watson Road (Texas 360), he declared, “Dallas and Fort Worth are going to grow together and they will meet right here.”
By the time of the big announcement, Angus had convinced his bankers, local investors and even five brothers of the famous New York Rockefeller family to support his ambition to develop a vast industrial park in the path of all the growth that would be made possible by the new turnpike.
Angus was right. Today that industrial park is the largest in North Texas, with more than 82 million square feet of office and warehouse space sitting on 7,000 acres, driving much of Arlington’s and Grand Prairie’s economic success.
But the demand for such a development didn’t happen as soon as Angus thought it would. Financially strapped in the beginning, he needed to come up with something that would produce some quick cash flow.
Imagining on a much smaller scale what Walt Disney had proven to be a success in California, Angus produced the Six Flags Over Texas amusement park in 1961.
It was to be a “temporary” solution to prop up the fledgling industrial park. Instead, it became an industry of its own, now in its 55th year of operations.
Just about everyone knows the rest of the story of all that has happened, which can be viewed from that same high knoll where the Arlington Downs groundskeeper’s house used to stand.
It’s the current site of Punch Wright Pavilion, just south of Globe Life Park in Arlington.
It will be a great place to view the new interchange being built.
And to recall all that has made for such an extraordinary journey — and a phenomenal work in progress.
Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.