Gary Fickes: Transportation advances in 2017 continue into 2018

Transportation improvements continue to drive smoother traffic flow on many of the roads in Northeast Tarrant County.

The DFW Connector and North Tarrant Express have provided relief from previous congestion points, yet they make one point crystal clear: Due to the constant growth of our community, we will always be working on one thoroughfare or another.

Tarrant County remains one of the most attractive and fastest-growing areas in the United States because of our exceptional quality of life, diversified economy and the value of our infrastructure.

Please also be aware that your Tarrant County Commissioners Court partners with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the North Central Texas Council of Governments and the Regional Transportation Council to plan for 20 and 30 years into the future for additional projected transit issues and to establish smart priorities.

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All six major mobility projects that impact our area are moving forward ahead of schedule. These include:

• Interstate 35W, which is six months ahead of schedule. This stretch of freeway from Interstate 30 in downtown Fort Worth extends north past Highway 287 just north of Loop 820 and south of North Tarrant Parkway. The northern portion from the I-35W/Loop 820 interchange to just past Highway 287 is substantially complete, and the southern portion from I-30 in downtown to the I-35W/Loop 820 interchange north of Fort Worth is 88 percent complete. We can look forward to completion of the entire project by fall 2018.

• The Midtown Express, which connects the North Tarrant Express in Euless from Airport Freeway to Loop 12 in Dallas, is 76 percent complete. The Euless Main bridge opened in June and Industrial Boulevard under Airport Freeway should be fully operational by the end of December. We expect the project to be completed by fall 2018.

• State Highway 360 South is 80 percent complete in providing a freeway between Arlington and Mansfield. This project should be substantially completed this spring. Drivers will see the new five-lane (up from the present two) at the I-30 interchange with 360 become fully operational in 2020.

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• Loop 820 on the east side will start construction in spring 2018 for the section between State Highway 121 and Randol Mill Road. This managed-lane project should be completed by 2021.

• Chisholm Trail Parkway has been completed and connects drivers from just west of downtown Fort Worth to Southwest Fort Worth and then on to Cleburne.

• TEXRail is on schedule to open its service between downtown Fort Worth and the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport by the end of 2018. This regional rail connection will have terminals in downtown Fort Worth, North Richland Hills and Grapevine and at DFW Airport. New terminals are being built in Grapevine and at DFW Airport and will provide a connection from DFW Airport to Dallas via the existing DART Orange Line. Local rail will remain a transit option that can reduce the number of vehicles on the road.

The driving factors in our transportation future will include the emergence of driverless cars, driverless local shuttles, battery-operated commercial trucks and possibly smart rail systems. All this is taking place while our nation is addressing the present and future shortage of commercial and transit drivers.

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Local rail will remain a transit option that can reduce the number of vehicles on the road.

And while flying cars are not yet here, Uber Elevate will launch the next best thing in 2020 with its Vertical Take-Off and Lift (VTOL) aircraft that will be able to shuttle us to key locations. Fort Worth-Dallas is one of the two original pilot locations, along with Los Angeles.

One of the most intriguing considerations is the Hyperloop One technology that is the brainchild of innovative Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk. The goal of this venture is to send you and me to our destinations inside a metal tube at 700 miles per hour. The product is in testing stages and serious investors are quite interested in this model. Now that’s putting some torque in your ride!

Technology steers us in more directions than we can imagine, with Apple, Google, Uber and more changing how, and what, we drive. Software is emerging as one of the most important differentiators in the automotive industry.

We will address those issues and more on Feb. 16 at our 9th annual Northeast Tarrant Transportation Summit at the Hurst Conference Center.

This year’s summit will focus on how emerging technologies, including Smart City initiatives, Uber Elevate, Hyperloop and autonomous vehicles, are impacting North Texas today and how transportation, innovation and technology will be balanced by energy sources to fuel them.

The program’s keynote speaker, U.S. Secretary of Energy and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, will discuss how energy and transportation will intersect in the future.

Our speakers will provide updates on the I-35W corridor construction and an overview of how TxDOT is managing current construction projects and preparing and funding those for the future.

This summit promises to be the can’t-miss transportation event of the year. Please visit for details and how to sponsor or buy tables. We’ll see you on Feb. 16.

Gary Fickes is the commissioner for Tarrant County Precinct 3.