Businessman Scott Mahaffey was elected chairman of the newly reformed Fort Worth Transportation Authority board.
The nine-member board - meeting on its own for the first time Monday afternoon - held a paper ballot. Six members voted for Mahaffey, two for Carter Burdette and one for Neftali Ortiz.
Mahaffey pledged to be an active leader, and to be accessible by phone or in person to other board members. "We will be an inclusive board, where everybody has a seat at the table," he said. "We have a massive job in front of us. A lot is expected of us from citizens. A lot is expected of us from the City Council."
Before the vote, Mahaffey and Burdette made brief comments of less than a minute, touting their business and civic experience. Ortiz took another tact, using a 10-minute Power Point presentation that laid out how he would restructure the T and accomplish goals years ahead of schedule.
In all, choosing a chair took nearly 25 minutes, with board members going through an unusual paper ballot procedure. The matter was further delayed when some board members realized they had the wrong agenda folders.
The T board, with eight new members appointed by Fort Worth and the ninth member appointed by Tarrant County, then took about another hour to go through a regular agenda.
Items approved by the board included:
"One bright source for us is the majority of our funding is secured and not affected," Russell told the board. She did say it was possible that the T's application for federal funds for TEX Rail could be stalled if the federal cut affect staffing at the Federal Transit Administration, which is currently reviewing the T's application.
Roads throughout the Texas Panhandle are closed because of blowing and drifting snow, the Texas Department of Transportation warns. Interstate 40 is closed from Amarillo to the Texas-New Mexico state line, and U.S. 87.287 from Amarillo to the Texas-Oklahoma state line.
Wind is gusting to 60 mph and visibility is zero - as in zilch, nada, etc.
More information is available at www.drivetexas.org ...
Texas legislators are ready to snip the Texas Department of Transportation's credit cards. They say the agency has borrowed too much money - nearly $18 billion - because the state lacks the cash to build the projects needed to keep up with growth.
AUSTIN – Some of the best transportation thinkers in Texas and across the United States are being upstaged this week by a car that drives itself.
About 1,400 people are attending the eighth annual Texas Transportation Forum through Tuesday in Austin. But while those experts meet in Hilton conference rooms and grapple with tough issues such as how to handle an increase in freight-hauling trucks on the roads, or how to pay for highways under a tightened state budget, it’s the Google “self-driving car” parked outside the downtown Austin hotel’s entrance that’s getting the most hubbub.
“It would probably do a better job driving than we do,” quipped Linda Thomas of Longview (pictured above), who on Monday afternoon took turns shooting snapshots of the Google car with her husband, Charles.
The car is among a fleet of about 10 vehicles developed during the past eight years by researchers at Google and Stanford University. Google representatives said that on Tuesday they plan to take the car, a Lexus hybrid, for a spin on Austin-area roads, including infamously congested Interstate 35.
Lawmakers and selected other state officials will be offered demonstration rides in the car, as part of Google’s effort to get the public sector more comfortable with an automobile that needs no driver. Although Texas and most other states don’t have laws specifically banning self-driving cars, only three states – Nevada, California and Florida – have passed laws specifically allowing them.
Officials said it’s too early to say whether Texas lawmakers would be asked to consider such as law during the ongoing legislative session.
Typically, a person sits in the driver’s seat, but the car does its own acceleration, braking and steering and can even change lanes. It “sees” the road using laser technology, and has a maximum speed of about 85 mph, although Google officials assured onlookers Monday that the vehicle wouldn’t be pushed to its limits during the Texas demos.
A member of the Google team will sit in the driver’s seat during demonstrations, although that person won’t operate the car controls unless there’s an emergency, one company official said.
On Tuesday, Google product manager Anthony Levandowski is scheduled to take part in a panel discusssion about how transportation is reshaping transportation options.
Glen Hiemstra, a futurist and author of several books on long-term trends, told forum attendees on Monday that the self-driving car technology is advancing quickly. Just three or four years ago, he said, Google’s small fleet of test cars could only travel a few city blocks, but now they can traverse California highways and even San Francisco’s famously curvy and steep Lombard Street. “I think it’s going to be one of the more significant developments in the next 10 to 15 years,” he said.
The forum is hosted by the Texas Department of Transportation. Guest speakers include elected officials, industry leaders and cutting-edge scientists and researchers.
On Monday, the impact of increased shipments through the Panama Canal, which is undergoing a $5.2 billion expansion, was a featured topic. Experts disagree whether the expansion will increase container shipments to Texas, with many predicting that Los Angeles ports will still be preferred.
But Silvia Marucci, a senior specialist with the Panama Canal Authority, said the expansion will make it much easier for natural gas companies in Fort Worth’s Barnett Shale and many other shale plays to export their products through Texas gulf ports.
“The development of the shale plays in the United States has taken us all by surprise,” she said during a panel discussion. “We expect to see the major trade routes develo from the U.S. Gulf to Asia, The Panama Canal is becoming part of the energy supply chain.”
Some residents of Fort Worth oldest neighborhoods are feeling a bit less connected to the city these days after the Chisholm Trail Parkway project cut off their access to Interstate 30.
- @gdickson and @fwstevans
HURST - Motorists will once again find it easier to move north and south through Hurst.
The new Hurstview Drive bridge over Texas 121/183 will open at 10 a.m. Saturday, officials with the North Tarrant Express project said.
The bridge had been closed since April, as part of the $2.5 billion freeway makeover known as North Tarrant Express.
Officials also announced Friday that the North Tarrant Express project, which began in January 2011, had reached its halfway point. The developer has promised to complete its work by the end of June 2015, according to its contract with the Texas Department of Transportation. With the announcement that the work had reached its halfway point, it would appear that construction is roughly six months ahead of schedule - but officials with the project declined to discuss specifics, other than to say they were on schedule to meet their deadline.
North Tarrant Express is a $2.5 billion makeover of Northeast Loop 820 and Texas 121/183 in Northeast Tarrant County. The developer is NTE Mobility Partners, which is a team of companies led by the U.S. subsidiary of Spain-based Cintra.
NTE Mobility Partners spokesman Robert Hinkle announced the opening of the Hurstview Bridge and the project's 50 percent completion Friday morning during a Northeast Tarrant Transportation Summit held by Tarrant County Commissioner Gary Fickes.
Speaking to an audience of several hundred people in Hurst, Hinkle quipped that Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley had been asking him about twice a week for many months when the Hurstview Bridge would re-open.
"Judge Whitley lives on the north side of the bridge, and his church is on the south side," Hinkle said. "He's been telling me it's my fault people are not getting to God. I'm waking up in the middle of the night thinking about that."
While the opening of the Hurstview Bridge likely will be cheered by motorists trying to get from one side of Hurst to another, it may not make much of a difference for traffic passing through the city.
The eastbound frontage road between Precinct Line Road and Cavender Drive will be closed for up to three months - meaning drivers using the Hurstview Bridge won't have a direct connection to Texas 121/183.
"You can go north and south across the bridge, but you won't be able to turn east onto the frontage road," said Lara Kohl, spokeswoman for Bluebonnet Constructors, the firm overseeing construction. "This is a local access bridge only, not connected to the main lanes of the expressway, and it never was. We anticipate three months to reconstruct the frontage roads in that area."
Correction: This post has been corrected from an earlier version. Ribbon-cutting for the Golden Triangle project was Wednesday.
Work crews will remove the orange construction cones and open a widened Golden Triangle Boulevard from I-35 to U.S. 377 Thursday and Friday, taking an old two-lane rural road to four lanes and easing traffic flow from the interstate to Texas 114 at Southlake.
The 3.4-mile, $29 million project – a partnership of the city of Fort Worth, Tarrant County, and the Texas Department of Transportation – took more than two years to build and was years in the planning.
Golden Triangle connects to FM 1709 at Keller and the road runs through Southlake to 114, raising its importance as a major east-west arterial in the area. It joins Heritage Trace Parkway, North Tarrant Parkway, Basswood Boulevard and Western Center Boulevard as other improved east-west arterials in the Alliance Corridor.
"This is a big piece," Rusty Fuller, president of the North Fort Worth Alliance, an umbrella group of more than 20 far North homeowner associations that’s pressured the city for more roads in the fast-growing I-35 corridor. "This is the one major thoroughfare that goes from 114 all the way to 35W."
Thursday, crews will complete striping on the two new eastbound lanes – now roadblocked for construction – and open the road, Ricardo Gonzalez, North Tarrant County engineer for TxDOT.
Friday, crews will restripe the two westbound lanes – one of them has carried eastbound traffic pending construction completion of the whole project – and open the road, Gonzalez said.
Over the next few months, crews will install permanent signs and finish median work, Gonzalez said. Some of that work will require daily lane closures between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., he said.
Money for the project came from three sources: $10.7 million from Fort Worth bond elections in 2004 and 2007; $7.3 million from Tarrant County; and $11 million from the federal government. The city’s portion comes from leftover voter-approved money that Fort Worth is rapidly spending to get ready for its next bond election, tentatively set for May 2014.
Doug Wiersig, Fort Worth’s transportation and public works director, said the road will handle 30,000 cars a day.
For future growth, the road has wide medians that can be converted to another two lanes, he said.
"You don’t have to mess with any of the drainage, or buy right of way," he said.
Councilman Sal Espino, whose North Side district includes the road, has pressed for its completion and called on council members to find more ways to finance badly needed roads in the area. He called the new Golden Triangle "a first-class road for a first-class part of town for a first-class city."
Espino’s district gives up the area later this year under the city’s new council redistricting map. Councilmen Danny Scarth and Dennis Shingleton, whose districts share the far North with Espino’s under the new map, joined Espino for a ribbon-cutting of the new road Wednesday.
Neighborhood leaders and public officials said the pending completion of the Golden Triangle project has already brought in new commercial development, including a 7-Eleven, Golden Chick, and car wash at the intersection with North Beach Street.
"This will open up a tremendous amount of commercial development," Fuller said.
The widened Golden Triangle is the first of more major road projects that need to be done in the area, Fuller said.
Timberland Boulevard to the north dead-ends at Alta Vista Road, and Fort Worth wants to extend it east to U.S. 377, in partnership with the city of Keller. Fort Worth’s share is among the projects vying for the 2014 bond package.
The road extension would easily link Keller to Timber Creek High School, which is on Timberland in Fort Worth and the Keller school district, Wiersig said. Keller residents currently must circumnavigate Keller Haslet Road and other similiar roads to get to the high school, Wiersig said.
Extending North Beach Street to Texas 170, from its dead-end north of Timberland, also has high priority among projects jostling to be in Fort Worth’s bond package, Wiersig said.
- Scott Nishimura, Star-Telegram Fort Worth City Hall reporter