Fort Worth City Council members today will get an update on a plan to put Forest Park Boulevard on a "road diet." What's that mean? Well, as the nickname suggests, it involves trimming the number of main lanes on the road, and making it more pedestrian and cyclist friendly. But some commuters who use Forest Park Boulevard to get to and from downtown say the plan is all sizzle and no steak.
A popular bridge connecting west Fort Worth to downtown is about to finally get its long-awaited makeover.
Workers on Tuesday began the slow process of moving 12 giant arches - each weighing a whopping 300 tons - into place for assembly of the new West Seventh Street bridge.
The new structure is scheduled to be completed before Thanksgiving - providing the city with an artistic new look for its transportation grid and its downtown skyline.
The first arch was scheduled to be moved Tuesday afternoon about 500 feet just from its construction site just east of the Target at Montgomery Plaza. The arch will be parked for approximately two and a half days near the intersection of West Seventh Street and Stayton Street, just across the road from Chuy's Mexican restaurant.
It will be positioned parallel to West Seventh Street, so that workers on Friday morning will be able to more easily roll it over to the bridge itself. Once the first arch is moved into place and secured on its supports, workers will move a second arch into place on Friday or Saturday, weather permitting, officials said.
The movement of the arches may be a reminder to motorists who normally use West Seventh Street to get to and from downtown Fort Worth probably that should get into the habit of using alternate routes over the next several months. On Friday and Saturday, the bridge over the Clear Fork Trinity River will be closed so that workers can move the first two of the 12 arches into place. During the rest of May, the remaining arches will be installed into their proper place with giant cranes along the river.
"The first one we're going to be quite methodical and careful," Lopez said. "But after the first one, the others should move quicker."
Then beginning sometime in June, the bridge will be entirely closed for up to 150 days so workers can demolish the old structure and put in place a new one.
Bus routes in west Fort Worth also are being rerouted during the construction of the new West Seventh Street bridge. Bus riders who normally use Route 2 to get to the Montgomery Plaza and West Seventh areas will instead use Route 10 - which is adding service frequency to accommodate the extra passengers.
Route 2 will still go to west Fort Worth, but will bypass West Seventh Street by using West Lancaster Avenue instead.
The T anticipates these schedules to be in place at least through the end of September, spokeswoman Joan Hunter said.
Photo 1: Workers prepare to move the first arch Tuesday in west Fort Worth (Gordon Dickson/Star-Telegram).
Photo 2: The vacant lot on West Lancaster Avenue where the first arch will remain until Friday morning's installation (Gordon Dickson/Star-Telegram).
Photo 3: Detours for the T's bus routes during West Seventh Street construction (Fort Worth Transportation Authority).
How should we pay for roads, rails and other components of the United States' infrastructure going forward? I'll be attending the International Transport Forum May 22-24 in Leipzig, Germany, and the focus of the get-together is how the developed and developing nations of the world should pay for the improvements they need to ensure their people can get around (preferably without harming each country's natural resources).
In the U.S., motor fuels taxes clearly aren't sufficient to keep up with population and job growth (not at the current tax rates, at least). So there are other options, including raising taxes, building more toll roads, private development of roads, etc.
Or there's the do-nothing option - just let the infrastructure decay, and let our grandchildren deal with it.
Before I head over to Germany to cover this event, along with journalists from China, New Zealand and a couple dozen other places, I'd like to cobble together your thoughts on the broad topic. To join the conversation, post a comment to this blog or send an emal to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beginning Thursday, four bus routes with nearly 800,000 combined riders annually will serve the new Sierra Vista Transit Center.
But southeast Fort Worth advocates hope the new facility at East Berry Street and Riverside Drive is much more than a glorified bus stop.
Instead, their goal is for the $500,000 transit center - paid for mostly with a federal grant - to become the centerpiece of a grander plan to convert the worn-down sector of Fort Worth into an urban village.
"There's still a way to go on that, but with this transit center and opening of a Wal-Mart up the street we're starting to get that synergy going," Allen Smith, executive director of Southeast Fort Worth Inc., said Wednesday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new center. "There's a great need in this area."
The Berry/Riverside neighborhood is one of about 16 areas identified by city officials as an urban village. The long-term goal is to create transit and pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods with a mix of commercial and residential uses that is attractive to developers.
Berry/Riverside has a lot going for it - including its geography. It rests just below the Rolling Hills neighborhood, with Cobb Park nearby and plenty of vacant land available for whatever uses might be suitable - perhaps another grocery store, a pharmacy, clothing shop or restaurants and family entertainment.
A developer, Vertex Asset Partners, L.P., plans to redevelop the former Oak Brook Mall site across the street from the transit center into modernized retail development, according to information on the city's urban village page.
But it's also a neighborhood that more than its share of run-down buildings - and a reputation, deserved or not, for crime and vagrancy.
"We certainly have the challenge of bringing in small businesses that can stay," said Andre McEwing, board secretary of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, also known as the T, and a long-time advocate for the area. "This community needs basic services."
But with Thursday's first official full day of service at the new Sierra Vista Transit Center, bringing foot traffic to the area shouldn't be a problem.
The area will be served by four bus routes, T president Dick Ruddell said. They include: Route 3 Riverside/TCC South campus; Route 5 Wichita/Glen Garden; Route 8 Riverside/Evans; and Route 24 Berry St.
Those four routes carry a combined 775,000 riders per year, T spokeswoman Joan Hunter said.
The bus transfers now to take place at the Sierra Vista Transit Center previously were handled at various stops along Riverside Drive, between Glen Garden and Berry, she said.
The plaza was partially funded by a $400,000 federal grant administered by the North Central Texas Council of Governments. Also, in 2006, Berry/Riverside urban village received an $823,571 federal grant to master plan the area and make street improvements along East Berry Street between Yuma and Sycamore Creek.
The Sierra Vista Transit Center will feature numerous pieces of public art, some of which are scheduled to be installed later in the year. The place also features a marker in memory of Monique Pegues, the T's longtime government affairs director who died unexpectedly in 2010.
Fort Worth's new bike-sharing program kicked off Monday, and cyclists are hoping it will gradually change the city's car culture - two wheels at a time.
"All of you resonate the message that there is an acceptance of bicycles as an alternative," Mike Brennan, Fort Worth Bike Sharing board chair, told about 300 volunteers who gathered Monday morning at Burnett Park in downtown Fort Worth.
After a few remarks by Brennan and other leaders, the cyclists from various riding clubs then hopped on the 300 shiny, red Trek touring bikes and rode them to the city's 28 new bike-sharing stations. Brennan noted the eclectic mix in the crowd - whose clubs include colorful names such as Bicycle Betties, Night Riders and Manly Bulge Bike Club.
"There's a group for every type of rider out there," Brennan said.
Bicycles are available for rent at 28 stations mostly in downtown, the Near South Side, the cultural district and at Texas Christian University. More stations will be added during the summer, officials said.
Riders typically use a credit card to rent the bikes. Regular users can pay an $80 annual fee for unlimited use. Others can pay various rates that start at $8 per day, with additional fees for rides lasting more than 30 minutes.
The idea is to rent the bike at one location, and return it to a bike-sharing rack at the end of your trip.
The Fort Worth Transportation Authority - also known as the T - created a non-profit organization to run the program and accept donations.
The effort was boosted by a $1 million Federal Transit Administration grant awarded in July to set up the stations.
Among the volunteers who rode the bikes to their new stations was Don Koski, director of planning and project delivery for the Federal Transit Administration's Region 6 office in Fort Worth.
"We see bike-sharing as an extension of the transit system," Koski said. "There are people who ride the bus or the TRE (Trinity Railway Express) and use a bike for the final leg of their destination."
Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns predicted that the ready availability of bicycles will motivate people who work in the central part of the city to get out of their "dim, flourescent-lit rooms" and go for a ride.
"There's an incredible community spirit," Burns said, "and a focal point for us to get together."
Top photo: Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and about 300 helpers kick off Fort Worth's new bike-sharing program by riding bicycles to their racks.
During the Cold War, West Berlin residents who wanted to go from one end of their city to another could take subway trains that briefly cut through portions of East Berlin. The trains were allowed by the East German government to pass without stopping, although armed guards kept a close watch to ensure nobody got off the trains (or, perhaps more importantly, to ensure no East Germans got on). As the trains made their way through East Berlin, they would pass through trains stations that had been closed since the Berlin Wall was built. These train platforms - ratty, creepy and abandoned except for the presence of the guards - became known as "ghost stations." If you ever saw one of these stations up close, I would very much like to talk with you for a news story.
Please call 817 390 7796 or send an email to email@example.com Whether you lived in East Berlin or West Berlin, or just visited, I would like to talk with you about your experiences. Please include a phone number or email address so I can get in touch with you.
Also, if you have experience riding the modern trains of reunified Germany, including the InterCity Express trains that today go 200 mph-plus, I would like to speak with you.
Again, please call 817 390 7796 or send an email to
Last year, I was fortunate to attend the International Transport Forum, an annual event held in Leipzig, Germany featuring renowned goverment officials and transportation experts from around the world.
That trip introduced me to Germany's passenger rail system. (Some of those Cold War "ghost stations," by the way, have been dramatically rebuilt and are now hubs of modernity in Berlin.) Today, I'd like to do a story comparing the German experience to the United States' effort to develop a more effective rail system. I am planning a return trip to this year's International Transport Forum May 22-24 in Leipzig, and I hope to explore the issue of passenger rail more in depth while I'm there.
But before I go, I need your help ...
Please spread the word to anyone you know who spent time in East Berlin, West Berlin or more recently in reunified Berlin. I would very much like to talk.
- Gordon Dickson.
Photo: Berlin Wall Memorial