The federal bucks continue to roll in for Dallas Area Rapid Transit, which received a nearly $18 million advance for the Green Line light rail project from the Federal Transit Administration, officials announced this week. The new line opened this month in Carrollton, where next year it will connect with Denton County's A Train. The Green Line extends to the southeast about 11 miles to downtown Dallas, then another 10 miles to Buckner Boulevard. By 2025, it is projected to carry nearly 46,000 riders on weekdays. Overall the project is expected to cost $1.4 billion, with a federal New Starts share of $700 million.
FORT WORTH -- Construction of the new West Seventh Street bridge near downtown Fort Worth will begin early next year. The project will last until fall 2012, but motorists won't have to worry about many lane closures for the first year, officials said.
However, there will be a period of up to 150 days in mid-2012 when the bridge is completely closed, according to a $22.7 million contract approved Thursday by the Texas Transportation Commission.
The contract offers lots of incentives for workers to minimize the headache on motorists, and to get the project completed before the 2012 Christmas shopping season, commissioner Bill Meadows of Fort Worth said.
"It's a contract that has lots of incentives to discourage long delays," he said.
Construction of the signature bridge, which links downtown Fort Worth to the city's cultural district on its west side, will be handled by Tradeco Infrastructura Inc. of Houston. The contractor will get started in early 2011 and complete the project in fall 2012, Texas Department of Transportation officials said.
The long-awaited project includes replacing an aging, decaying bridge that was originally built in 1913, and extended in 1953 when the Trinity River was re-channelized.
The signature design will include six arch spans across the river, four main lanes and 10-foot-wide sidewalks for enhanced pedestrian access.
“The current bridge used to connect downtown to car dealerships and department stores. Today, a renaissance is under way," Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief said. "Seventh Street is about both residential and commercial development. It’s a vibrant, pedestrian friendly atmosphere. The new bridge matches that character."
The contractor will build 12 precast arches -- two per span -- off-site, to minimize traffic disruptions, transportation department spokesman Val Lopez said.
Motorists won't have to worry about many lane closures in 2011, he said.
In spring 2012, the bridge will be reduced to one lane in each direction, Lopez said. Then during the summer, the bridge will be full closed for no more than 150 days, according to the contract -- and during that time the old bridge will be removed and the new deck will be put in place.
ARLINGTON -- The Regional Transportation Council on Thursday will consider chipping in $188,000 to offset the cost of providing transportation during Super Bowl week.
The sale of Super Bowl transit passes is expected to offset about $50,000 of that amount.
These are funds needed to provide everything from buses, wreckers and the Trinity Railway Express to and from the Feb. 6 game, and the numerous events during the week before.
The total estimated cost is really $360,000, but the Super Bowl Host Committee is covering $172,000, according to the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
Agencies involved in providing the transportation include the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, Dallas Area Rapid Transit and the city of Arlington.
The RTC is the Dallas-Fort Worth region's congressionally recognized planning agency. RTC not only helps cities and counties apply for and spend federal grants for transportation, air quality and other programs, but also gets to allocate millions of dollars a year in federal grants independently.
The Trinity Railway Express will operate on Super Bowl Sunday, and the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, also known as the T, will be responsible for shuttling people from CentrePort Station to Cowboys Stadium -- a trip of about five miles each way.
"Our employees will be working a time a time when they normally wouldn't be working," T senior vice president Nancy Amos said, adding that much of the funds will pay employees' salaries.
Racing fans go to Texas Motor Speedway to watch drivers swerve and try to avoid pileups, but on Texas 114 just outside the speedway that sort of dangerous driving is the last thing most motorists want to see.
But despite massive growth in the far north Fort Worth area, Texas 114 remains a dangerous, two-lane choke point. However, some Denton County officials will announce Wednesday that they’ve given the green flag to a plan that aims to make the highway safer.
"This stretch of road has a rather high level of truck traffic, lots of gravel trucks, and we need to separate that traffic and have more lanes," said Denton County Commissioner Andy Eads, who spearheaded the effort to fix Texas 114.
Eads and other dignitaries will announce their plans for Texas 114 at 2 p.m. today outside the speedway.
A two-lane stretch of Texas 114 from Interstate 35W to Farm Road 156 will be expanded to four lanes during the next 27 months, Eads and other political and business leaders explained. The $15.3 million project is being paid for mostly with Denton County bond funds, and the county’s portion of regional toll revenue from the Sam Rayburn Tollway project in the Lewisville-Carrollton area.
The improvements on about two miles of Texas 114 immediately south of the speedway are the first of three phases of improvements planned for the corridor. The second phase, which officials hope to launch next year, involves expanding Texas 114 to four lanes even further west – from FM 156 to the Wise County line – and a third phase involves the reconstruction of the Texas 114/FM 156 interchange, including removal of BNSF freight railroads tracks in the area.
Fort Worth-based BNSF has already agreed to move its tracks over the next couple of years, Eads said. Other officials credited Eads with advancing the project by holding monthly meetings with property owners, utilities, the speedway and others to ensure the work got underway before the end of the year. The Texas Department of Transportation, which owns Texas 114, also was involved in the talks and is on the hook for most of the estimated $40 million that will be needed to buy right-of-way for road expansion.
But it’s not too steep of a price to pay for road safety, officials said.
For speedway officials, the great concern was getting the project done without making traffic more of a headache for people traveling to events there, especially on busy race weekends.
Part of the negotiations involved the contractor, Mario Sinacola and Sons of Frisco, agreeing to schedule construction around major events such as NASCAR races, officials said.
Have you seen a Texas license plate with a shocking, goofy or borderline offensive or obscene word or phrase on it? I've got a call in to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles to find out if phrases such as WTF -- which in the mobile phone-enhanced world of text messaging is an acronym for a curse phrase -- are allowed on Texas plates. Meanwhile, let me know what you've seen on the road.