The reconstruction of the Texas 114/121 corridor in Grapevine, a project known as the DFW Connector, is on course to be completed by mid-2013, according to the latest report from Nicholas Sakelaris.
ARLINGTON - A new stretch of the President George Bush Turnpike is NOW open, giving motorists who are willing to pay a toll a true alternative to congestion on Texas 360 in the Arlington-Grand Prairie area.
“It will be a vast area connecting to south Arlington and Mansfield. It has been a long time coming, and it feels great spending all these years working to get projects done,” said Victor Vandergriff of Arlington, a North Texas Tollway Authority board member.
The new 6.5-mile western extension of the turnpike from Egyptian Way – which is just north of Interstate 30 – to Interstate 20 is open for Monday morning rush hour, tollway officials said. The extension was originally known as Texas 161, but in 2010 the tollway authority took over construction of the project from the Texas Department of Transportation.
The speed limit initially will be 70 mph, although tollway officials say they’ll conduct a speed study to determine a permanent speed. Speed limits will be lower in construction areas, as workers put the final touches on the project by spring. For example, the frontage roads are still under construction at the railroad crossings between Main and Jefferson Streets in Grand Prairie, and scheduled to open by the end of the year. Also, interchange with I-30 eight direct-connector ramps, but only five will be completed by this weekend, with the other three scheduled to open by spring.
The Bush Turnpike western extension is a north-south road, running parallel to Texas 360 about two miles to the east. It gives motorists willing to pay a toll a legitimate alternative to sitting in congestion. On Texas 360, traffic regularly grinds to a halt at Division Street in east Arlington, and at Texas 183 in Irving. With the opening of the western extension, the Bush Turnpike will now be 52 miles long, stretching across the northern half of the greater Dallas area.
Get ready to rev those cars and trucks to 85 mph. Check out this video of Seguin, Texas Mayor Betty Ann Matthies announcing that the new Segments 5 and 6 of State Highway 130 from Austin to Seguin will open Wednesday, Oct. 24 - and motorists will be allowed to use the road for free until Nov. 10.
Catholic Charities has taken over transportation services for the needy in the Fort Worth-area, a responsibility previously held by the American Red Cross.
"Our job in this community is to help families in poverty," said Heather Reynolds, chief executive officer and president of Catholic Charities Fort Worth. (Pictured above)
Reynolds and other dignitaries (Pictured below) held a news conference Thursday morning at Catholic Charities' south Fort Worth campus to announce the completion of a transition that began in September.
Services will include:
The American Red Cross wanted to transition away from providing transportation services, and began looking for a partner many months ago. The agency settled on Catholic Charities, which has the ability to not only take over these services but to expand them, said T.D.Smyers, regional chief executive officer for the American Red Cross North Texas region.
"We weren't going to do this until we found a partner to make this work," Smyers said.
The transition began in September, with the blessing of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, the United Way of Tarrant County and other entities that provide funding for the transportation services.
In its first month, Catholic Charities provided 5,100 rides for needy residents, officials said. The agency is a regular form of transportation for more than 800 people.
"We understand the importance of people getting to work, doctor appointments, and to do the things they need to do," said Tom Stallings, Tarrant County chief of staff.
The Texas Department of Transportation has reached a tentative, $1.6 billion deal with a private developer to expand Interstate 35W in north Fort Worth. The work is expected to begin in mid-2013 and be completed by mid-2018.
The stretch of I-35W in northern Tarrant County is the most congested roadway in the state, according to a report released by the state transportation department in late August.
A draft version of the agreement between the transportation department and the developer, North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners, will be available for public inspection at 6 p.m. Thursday at the TxDot Fort Worth District Regional Training Center, 2501 Southwest Loop 820, Fort Worth (map below).
The developer, also known as NTE Mobility Partners (or NTEMP), is currently developing the $2.5 billion North Tarrant Express project, which includes expansion of Loop 820 and Texas 121/183 in Northeast Tarrant County.
If the agreement is finalized, NTE Mobility Partners will add I-35W to the North Tarrant Express work. The new arrangement will be titled NTE Mobility Partners Segments 3 LLC (NTEMP3).
The new work would include rebuilding existing lanes and adding two managed toll lanes in each direction of I-35W from Interstate 30 near downtown Fort Worth to the U.S. 287 split south of Alliance Airport.
The public meeting Thursday is "a very important step" in trying to get the I-35W improvements designed and under construction by mid-2013, transportation department spokesman Tony Hartzel said. After hearing from the public, the transportation department will then finalize the agreement and submit it to the Legislative Budget Board and attorney general's office.
The transportation department annually produces a report on Texas's "100 Most Congested Roadways," and this year's edition concluded that the I-35W stretch in north Fort Worth was the worst in the state - causing motorists to collectively waste more than 2 million hours.
The improvements to I-35W proposed in the draft agreement would cut that delay by more than a third, officials said.
"Texans have better things to do than to sit in traffic, and that's why we're proud to partner with the private sector to speed up a critical transportation project," Phil Wilson, transportation department executive director, said in a statement.
The developer would build and maintain the portion of the road from I-30 to Loop 820 until 2061 - and keep tolls generated on the managed toll lanes during those years. The state transportation department would build the portion of the road from north of Loop 820 to U.S. 287 at an estimated cost of $234 million, but then turn over that portion of the road to the developer, too.
Funding for the work comes from several pots. The North Central Texas Council of Governments has committed $89.5 million, as well as a possible additional $40.5 million for project contingencies, according to the state transportation department.
The U.S. Transportation Department has invited the developer to apply for a federal loan of up to $537 million under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA). The developer would then chip in $273 million in private activity bonds and $446 million in equity.
The agreement would also cover maintenance costs.
If the final agreement is reached by early 2013, the construction could begin by mid-2013 and be substantially completed by mid-2018.
“We have been working together with the state for the past three years designing and building the first phase of the North Tarrant Express project, and look forward to getting this next segment along I-35W in Fort Worth underway,” Nicolas Rubio, president of Cintra US, said in a statement released by the state transportation department. “This is one of the most traffic congested areas in the United States, and we are proud to further serve the cities, region and state through our involvement in this public-private partnership as we all strive toward better mobility and a greater quality of life.”
Arlington's image as the largest city in the U.S. without mass transit could be making a dramatic turnaround. A bus service to UT-Arlington is scheduled to being next fall, and it could lead to the creation of a rail line from the campus to CentrePort, just south of DFW Airport. And, as if that's not enough, Arlington is in a position to win a stop on the region's high-speed rail line - yes, that's 200 mph trains - planned for 2020.
I'm at the University of Texas at Arlington this morning, covering a mobility forum sponsored by the Arlington Chamber Foundation. There's a strong list of speakers advocating for more attention to, and funding for, transportation improvements in North Texas.
Here's a pretty cool video that was just shown by Lawrence Olsen, executive VP of Texas Good Roads, showing attendees what expenses they could avoid if they would agree to a $15 hike in annual vehicle registration fees. See what you think:
Updated at 1:15 p.m.