It’s been a little more than four years since TxDOT approved the funding of more than $250 million for one of the most extensive Interstate highway projects in Texas or, for that matter, anywhere.
As everyone knows who has passed through that area, or anywhere near it, the massive project seems to be taking forever. We’ll take a look at that progress in a minute or two. But first, a little history is in order.
The Arlington intersection of I-30 and State Highway 360 is the last of the interchanges between Fort Worth and Dallas to be upgraded from the original cloverleaf design of the old DFW Turnpike that opened to traffic in 1957.
The entire 30-mile toll road back then was built for about $200 million less than this one intersection is costing today.
When the ribbon was cut on what was then one of the most dramatic improvements to the region’s mobility, the scene at that crossroads looked like it was in the middle of nowhere.
That’s because it was in the middle of nowhere.
Considering what is at that location today, it’s hard to imagine that the land in every direction from where those two roads crossed paths back then was not within the boundaries of any city.
You could take the 360 exit, pay your toll, and proceed several miles north to connect to one of 97 scheduled daily commercial flights from Amon Carter Field with about half of them having Dallas as their destination. Yeah, that’s right, you could fly from Fort Worth to Dallas.
Or, you could turn south and make your way to where General Motors was building cars at its new plant on the southeast side of the fledgling community of Arlington.
There weren’t many other reasons to exit there unless you were among the smallish populations of Arlington and Grand Prairie — and even then, you might prefer the old route of U. S. Highway 80 and avoid the tolls to ride on the new superhighway.
After all, they were charging 50 cents to travel the entire length of the turnpike, even less if you got off somewhere along the way.
At around the time when the new highway was being completed, a visionary developer stood in the vicinity of that intersection and imagined Dallas and Fort Worth growing together and meeting right there.
So, Angus Wynne, Jr., who had built the first strip shopping center in Southern Dallas, gathered together a group of investors, including five New York Rockefeller brothers, who partnered in what was then the largest real estate deal in Tarrant County’s history.
That venture built what became the Great Southwest Industrial Park that included, in 1961, the opening of the Six Flags Over Texas amusement park.
The rest, as they say, is history and today the Arlington tourism industry is welcoming some 15 million annual visitors to experience all that is accessible from that big interchange.
Or, it will be, when it’s finally completed. In the meantime, it takes a lot of sign reading and careful navigating around all the construction equipment creating detours and roundabouts in reaching your destination.
Originally scheduled for completion in 2020, we are now told it will be sometime in the following year before it’s done.
To help motorist deal with it all, the city of Arlington provides constant updates on its website and another, www.keep303360.org, does a great job of connecting anyone to the very latest information including names and phone numbers for the project coordinator and the TxDOT public information officer.
When it’s all done, it will be amazing. In the meantime, be prepared for all kinds of challenges approaching the work zone as far away as a mile or two before you actually arrive at the place where the two big mega-highways actually cross each other.