After nearly 50 years of planning, the 28-mile Chisholm Trail Parkway project is now officially underway.
Motorists will be asked to endure traffic delays, narrow lanes and other mostly minor traffic annoyances for the next two-and-a-half years along routes such as Interstate 30, Interstate 20, Vickery Boulevard and Bryant Irvin Road as the planned 28-mile toll road from near downtown Fort Worth to Cleburne cuts diagonally across southwestern Tarrant County and into northern Johnson County. Some of the work along I-30 near Summit Avenue, and Vickery Boulevard near University Drive, could begin in the next week or two, a project official said. A large swath of land on the south side of I-30 between University and Summit has already been cleared of trees and other obstacles to make way for the work.
But on Tuesday, dozens of officials were all smiles as they commemorated the beginning of a $1.6 billion project (including $1.4 billion in construction costs alone) first envisioned in 1962.
"I think I speak for a whole lot of people when I say, it's about time," said Kenneth Barr, a former Fort Worth mayor and current chairman of the North Texas Tollway Authority, the lead agency on the project. Barr noted that Johnson County boasts a Chisholm Trail museum, where visitors can learn about the historical cattle trail for which the toll road is named. And, Barr quipped, "I recently learned the artifacts in the museum are older than the plans for this parkway."
Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley and state Sen. Wendy Davis hold up commemorative Chisholm Trail Parkway road signs after a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday morning at the Lockheed Martin Recreation Center on Bryant Irvin Road.
The project is unusual in that it follows a mostly undeveloped pathway diagonally through Fort Worth's southwestern quadrant, but intersecting many highly-traveled roadways that have been in place for decades, and are frequently used by residents of some of the city's oldest neighborhoods. For many motorists, the traffic changes won't be a huge surprise. Some of the intial Chisholm Trail Parkway work actually began in early 2010, when North Texas officials dedicated about $140 million in federal stimulus funds to kick-start the construction of the Chisholm Trail Parkway's intersection with I-20 in southwest Fort Worth, and U.S. 67 in Cleburne. Also, a new Hulen Street bridge over the Davidson railroad yard in west Fort Worth is under construction to make way for the toll project.
But with the beginning of full-blown project work this month, residents of many well-established neighborhoods along the Chisholm Trail Parkway route are expressing worry about how the work will affect their day-to-day lives.
During a meeting with tollway officials Monday night at the Botanical Gardens, Overton Woods neighborhood resident Geoffrey Sieber asked why the decision had been made to reduce northbound Hulen Street traffic to one lane -- and eliminate the cloverleaf turn to Vickery Boulevard. The result, he said, is long waits for motorists, who often can't get across the bridge while trucks attempt to make a hairpin turn to Vickery.
"Is that what you had in mind?" Sieber asked tollway officials. "That whole thing has turned into a disaster."
The tollway authority is working with the city to increase the green light timing for northbound Hulen Street traffic, and perhaps add temporary pavement to the north end of the bridge to make turning easier, said Elizabeth Mow, the tollway authority's interim assistant executive director for project deliver.
Marc Rogers, who tracks noise issues for the Mistletoe Heights Neighborhood Association, said he still can't get clear answers about why a different type of sound-absorbing material isn't being used on a planned soundwall near his home.
But many of those concerns were hashed out in years of negotiations between the city and tollway authority, who jointly came up with a Chisholm Trail Parkway development plans that will include design features not seen on any other roadway in North Texas.
For example, the northern end of the parkway will include an engineered speed limit of 50 mph, to ensure tire noise is minimal. Such details may be overlooked by residents who moved to Fort Worth after the tedious details were worked out.
"During the past 30 years, Fort Worth's citizens, businesses and institutions have been intimately involved in deciding what kind of a road it's going to be," said Bill Meadows, a Texas Transportation Commission member and former Fort Worth councilman who has worked on the Chisholm Trail Parkway project for more than two decades. "From the Mistletoe Heights Neighborhood Association, to the Citizens Advisory Committee, to the 7,000-tree landscape plan, our citizens traveled the country to see how we could make this road the very best it can be."
The plan is to open the entire 28-mile road by mid-2014, Mow said. The precise date of lane closures and other such events isn't yet known, but residents can expect some of the changes possibly in a week or two, she said.
Some of the traffic challenges motorists will face include:
- Closure of Westbound West Rosedale Avenue between University Drive and Lovell Avenue, with a detour at University drive.
- Narrow Lanes on I-30 from Summit Avenue to University Drive.
- Occasional lane closures at eastbound I-30 and Summit Avenue.
- West Vickery Boulevard closed east of University.
- I-30 westbound frontage road turnaround closed at the Fort Worth & Western Railroad.