ARLINGTON – Caught up in yet another year of playoff baseball with their beloved Texas Rangers, North Texans may find themselves in the uncomfortable position of rooting for the rival New York Yankees. At least for one day – on Thursday.
Why? The Texas Department of Transportation has announced plans to shut down Texas 360 at Division Street – a major access point for Rangers Ballpark in Arlington – from 8 p.m. Friday until 3 p.m. Saturday. It’s part of an ongoing freeway construction project, and the closure is necessary so that crews can hang bridge beams. The problem is, the Rangers may be playing baseball on that day – and if Texas 360 is closed, fans and other commuters likely will encounter a traffic headache fatter than Adrian Beltre’s bat.
Here’s why: The Rangers have already won a playoff divisional series and are waiting to find out who their next opponent will be. It will either be the New York Yankees or Detroit Tigers, who are scheduled to play a deciding fifth game in their series Thursday. If the Yankees win that game Thursday, the Rangers would then travel to New York this weekend to start the American League Championship Series – no problem, from a Metroplex traffic point of view. But if the Tigers win, the Rangers would then host the first game of that series on Saturday – and all that construction at Texas 360 and Division Street would suddenly come into play.
Such a major freeway closure likely would cause massive traffic congestion on other roads that are typically used to get to the ballpark, including Interstate 30 and Collins Street. Rangers playoff games typically draw close to 50,000 fans. On top of that, pop/country sensation Taylor Swift is scheduled to play a concert Saturday next door to the ballpark at Cowboys Stadium – and Division Street is a popular route to that facility, too.
Yikes! Did someone say “Go Yanks?”
Despite all that, the transportation department is planning to go ahead with the closure. Major League Baseball hasn’t announced a game time for the potential Saturday game. But if it happens to be a day game, the transportation department and its contractors can tweak their schedule and get the project completed hours ahead of time, a spokesman said. For now, officials plan to watch the Yankees-Tigers game with interest, and based on the outcome of that contest be prepared to adjust their work. “We’ve committed to maneuver around whatever game pops up,” department spokesman Val Lopez said. “We’re thinking it should be done before the game starts. We’re prepared to work around it. In this part of the Metroplex, we’re not unused to working around large events. We could work very hard to get ourselves out of there before the event is started.”
Why not wait until another weekend to close the freeway? Well, that could throw the $56 million highway project off schedule, Lopez said. Besides, who’s to say the defending American League champion Rangers – with their eyes on the prospect of another World Series appearance – won’t be playing again next weekend, or the weekend after that? Then November comes, and the weather becomes less certain – inviting more delays. In short, in a region with about 6 million people, there’s never a good time to close a freeway.
Whether or not there’s a baseball game in Arlington this weekend, motorists are urged to avoid Texas 360. Detours will be posted. Northbound traffic will exit at Abram Street, and divert to Great Southwest Parkway. Southbound traffic will exit at Division Street, to Stadium Drive. It’s part of a $56 million project that includes construction of a new Division Street/Texas 360 interchange, Union Pacific Railroad bridge, continuous frontage roads and improved freeway ramps. Completion is expected by summer.