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.
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 ...
Updated at 2:15 p.m.
Getting Texas 360 extended from Arlington to Mansfield beginning in 2015 became a lot more realistic Friday, after the North Texas Tollway Authority approved a deal to develop the toll project in a partnership with another agency.
Texas 360 will be extended as a toll road from Sublett Road/Camp Wisdom Road to U.S. 287, with the Texas Department of Transportation doing the initial design and construction and then turning over the road to the tollway authority, to be operated and maintained as part of the region's now-vast tollway system.
The state transportation department can pay for the initial work with project-backed debt, a federal transportation infrastructure loan (TIFIA loan) or cash from the state's highway fund, according to the agreement.
The agreement calls for four main lanes as far south as Broad Street, and two main lanes from Broad Street to U.S. 287. Frontage road improvements are also in the mix. The project is expected to cost about $600 million.
Any toll revenues left over after the debt, operations and maintenance expenses are paid will be split evenly between the two agencies. The state transportation department will focus its share of the funds on improving the Texas 360 corridor north of the project. For example, some of the funds could eventually be used to improve the Texas 360/Interstate 30 interchange, although a timetable for such work isn't spelled out.
Depending upon how the environmental study of this route goes, a realistic goal is to get the project under construction by 2015. Under that scenario, the road could be open to traffic by 2017, said Texas Transportation Commission member William "Bill" Meadows of Fort Worth. Meadows worked closely with tollway authority officials to reach an agreement.
The Texas Transportation Commission will consider approving the deal during a meeting in late February. Pending that approval, both sides would then need to put the final touches on a development agreement by March.
The tollway authority has dramatically expanded its role in providing mobility options for North Texas motorists during the past decade, beginning with the Sam Rayburn Tollway in Denton and Collin counties. The tollway authority also extended the President George Bush Turnpike into Grand Prairie and Irving, and inked a deal to build the Chisholm Trail Parkway from downtown Fort Worth to Cleburne.
But arranging all that work has come at a whopper of a cost. The tollway authority is now servicing $9.5 billion worth of debt and, although it probably could have issued more, didn't want to go deeper in the red to build the Texas 360 extension. So, the next best thing was to tap into the borrowing power of the Texas Department of Transportation, and that's the essence of the agreement reached Friday.
"It preserves our funding to use on future roads as they come up," said tollway authority board member Victor Vandergriff of Arlington, who will be leaving the board at the end of the month.
The tollway authority gets to add Texas 360 to its growing portfolio of toll roads. The Texas Department of Transportation gets the benefit of traffic relief at essentially no cost - the agency does pay for Texas 360 expansion up front, but will get its money back.
"We get it back over time," Meadows said.
And Texas motorists will get the immediate benefit of a road expansion that, were they left to use only traditional forms of funding, they might not be able to afford for another 20 years.
“Traffic congestion on SH 360 is a serious quality of life, economic, and safety issue for families and businesses in southeast Tarrant County," state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, said in an email. In 2009 and 2010, Turner organized community leaders in Arlington, Grand Prairie and Mansfield to work together and see the Texas 360 project through to completion.
"Today's decision by the NTTA," he said, "is a significant step forward in solving this problem."
Motorists can expect detours Tuesday night and early Wednesday in the Texas 183/Interstate 20 corridor, where an interchange for the planned Chisholm Trail Parkway toll road is under construction.
The affected area includes eastbound 183 - also known as Southwest Boulevard - from Crossland Plaza to Hulen Street, and the Bryant Irvin Road on-ramp to eastbound Texas 183. The switch is scheduled between 9 p.m. Tuesday and 5 a.m. Wednesday.
During the switch, eastbound Texas 183 traffic will be detoured to eastbound I-20 via Bryant Irvin Road. The Bryant Irvin Road entrance ramp to eastbound Texas 183 will be closed until a new, permanent ramp is completed in the spring.
Traffic must be moved so the permanent lanes in the area can be completed, Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Val Lopez said.
Three years after the Fort Worth Transportation Authority bought land for a park-and-ride lot and transit center near Alliance Town Center, officials say they're a bit behind schedule in getting bus service to the property up and running but they're hopeful it can be done by 2013.
View Planned transit station at Alliance Town Center in a larger map
The Texas Department of Transportation has just announced that workers will be closing both directions of U.S. 287 off and on in Mansfield tonight for construction of turnaround bridges at Walnut Creek Drive.
Motorists can expect delays between 12:01 and 6 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday. Vehicles will be detoured to the frontage roads, and can get back on the main lanes after passing Walnut Creek Drive.
Continuous frontage roads were completed in the area in August.
The $10.8 million project includes new frontage roads and bridges over Walnut Creek, sidewalks, two Texas turnaround bridges at Walnut Creek Drive, one Texas turnaround bridge north of Broad Street and the continuation of a hike and bike trail under the bridges, Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Val Lopez said.
The agency that is soon to begin full-blown construction of the Southwest Parkway/Chisholm Trail Parkway toll road project in Fort Worth is undergoing yet another round of internal upheaval. The North Texas Tollway Authority this week will conduct a job review of executive director Allen Clemson, who could be axed for what some board members say was a mishandling of attempts to restructure the organization’s relationship with consulting firms.
If Clemson loses his job, the Plano-based agency would begin a search for its fifth chief executive in the past six years. Clemson, the former long-time Dallas County administrator, is under fire for pushing to change the agency’s long-standing practice of relying on a small number of engineering and legal firms to conduct day-to-day business. He did not return a call Monday to comment.
The tollway board is scheduled to meet Wednesday in Plano. Some board members say they support spreading the tens of millions of dollars in consulting contracts to new firms – and not relying so heavily on a small number of firms that have been on the rolls for decades – but they oppose switching contracts solely for the sake of change.
Board member Kenneth Barr, a former Fort Worth mayor, is concerned that projects such as the $1.8 billion Southwest Parkway/Chisholm Trail Parkway could be delayed by changing consultants so close to construction time. He also says some of the consultants have world-renowned experience in planning toll roads, and it would be foolish to replace them with less prestigious firms. “If there’s a bone of contention between Allen and the board it’s over the process and timing of those decisions, not whether we do them or not,” Barr said. “You don’t change a horse in midstream, and in this case midstream is about $3 billion worth of projects under construction.”
Portions of Southwest Parkway/Chisholm Trail Parkway are already being built with federal Recovery Act funds, and full-blown construction is expected to begin later this year. The 28-mile toll road from Interstate 30 near downtown Fort Worth to U.S. 67 in Cleburne is scheduled to open in 2013, assuming no further delays. The tollway authority is the lead agency for the Southwest Parkway/Chisholm Trail Parkway project, which is being built in a partnership with Fort Worth and the Texas Department of Transportation.
Clemson was brought aboard in mid-2009, after the board accepted an abrupt resignation from executive director Jorge Figueredo, a Florida toll road expert who himself lasted only two years at the agency and didn’t seem to win the trust of board members from Tarrant, Collin, Dallas and Denton counties. Figueredo replaced Allan Rutter, a former Federal Railroad Administration executive and transportation policy advisor to George W. Bush who led the agency from 2005 until he clashed with the board in 2007. Rutter was criticized for his handling of the Texas 121 project – now known as Sam Rayburn Tollway – which the Texas Department of Transportation initially awarded to a private developer, only to reverse itself and grant the project to the tollway authority in exchange for a payment of $3.2 billion for other Metroplex projects. The last executive director to serve long-term was Jerry Hiebert, who was at the tollway authority helm from 1998 until his retirement in 2005.
The fate of Clemson likely will be viewed as a leadership test for Victor Vandergriff of Arlington, who took over as tollway authority chairman last year and has encouraged Clemson to aggressively pursue a change in the agency’s relationship with consultants. Vandergriff said on Monday that Clemson’s performance would be discussed in open session, and that although he hoped the board would not act hastily, “I’m sure we’re going to have a good discussion.”
-- Gordon Dickson, email@example.com
Interstate 20 ramps to northbound Loop 820 will be closed at various times in both directions 7 a.m. to midnight Saturday, weather permitting, so crews can perform milling and overlay. During that time, various lanes will also be closed In Loop 820 in southeast Tarrant County from the I-20 split to U.S. 287.
Eastbound I-20 motorists can take the Business 287 exit, and crossover at Bowman Springs Road.
Westbound I-20 motorists can take the Anglin Drive exit.
If weather on Saturday prohibits construction, the work will be done Sunday, Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Val Lopez said.