Slowdown: TRV bridges delayed; businesses struggle with access

🕐 6 min read

A quick Google search of Angelo’s Barbecue yields a spate of 4-plus and 5-star reviews from trusted publications and national restaurant guides about the melt-your-mouth brisket and ribs.

The headline of a Dallas Observer review said, “Angelo’s BBQ is so good it should probably be illegal.”

The stalwart Fort Worth institution that Angelo George and his family opened in 1958 with a walk-up counter and four dining tables has grown into a destination for locals and posses of barbecue lovers who venture across Texas in search of the best.

But despite its reputation and loyal following, Angelo’s has fallen on challenging times – through no fault of its own. Its location at 2533 White Settlement Road has put the 60-year-old business in the path of sluggish construction on the bridges for the Panther Island project.

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Just after news reports from the Jan. 15 Tarrant Regional Water District meeting revealed that completion of the bridges was pushed back again, Angelo’s posted on its Facebook page that the restaurant is open and reachable via University Drive and White Settlement or Carroll Avenue and White Settlement.

“Officials say the bridge should be open on White Settlement Road by late summer 2020,” the Facebook post said. “We can only hope.”

Angelo’s is only one of many businesses in the path of bridge construction that have been impacted by the ongoing construction that has been delayed and caught in a quagmire over design.

“It’s been very hard on our customers,” said Lowell Brown, a manager and 30-year employee at Angelo’s. “A lot of them come from come downtown and it’s hard for them to get through the traffic on West 7th to get here, have lunch and get back within an hour.

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“Some of regulars still find their way over but our dinner business is almost non-existent,” Brown said. “Nobody wants drive over here through the construction in the dark.”

Brown said business has been down about 20 to 30 percent since bridge construction began back in 2014. At that time, construction was anticipated to be complete by 2018.

“We’ve cutback as much as we can,” Brown said. “If (an employee) leaves, we don’t replace them. We can’t justify it.”

The bridges that will eventually cross the Trinity River and connect mainland of Fort Worth with the-to-be created Panther Island are in various stages of construction. The City of Fort Worth and the Texas Department of Transportation are responsible for this portion of the $1.16 billion Trinity River Vision project.

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Kate Beck, an engineer with the city and project manager for bridge construction, told the TRWD board that “a lot of progress has been made on all three bridges.”

But then came announcement of the new schedule: the White Settlement bridge, furthest along, has a completion date of summer 2020. The North Main Street bridge is expected to be completed in “late winter” of 2021 and the Henderson Road bridge is targeted to be finished in late spring of 2021.

“It’s not good news but that’s where we are with the bridges,” said Greg Cedillo, construction director for the Texas Department of Transportation.

Cedillo said building custom “unique” design structures, highlighted by large V-pier supports, is a continuous challenge of sizing and fitting the steel supports.

At various points, there have been do-overs.

“We have a total of 20 V-piers and all are unique,” Cedillo said. A uniform size for the V-piers would make the job easier and the process faster, he added.

Construction of the bridges has been a thorny issue and a contributor to mounting concern that the project could be in jeopardy.

The TRV project is now facing its stronger scrutiny as a comprehensive review is being launched to determine why it has failed for three straight years to draw the federal dollars it is dependent on to complete.

With more than $500 million in federal appropriation on the line, the review will examine all aspects of the project, including oversight and management, escalating costs and bridge construction delays.

A design flaw detected in 2016 sent the bridge design back to the drawing board for reconsideration. At the time, TxDOT officials said the design could not be translated from paper to reality.

Media reports indicate that consideration was given to scraping the V-pier design for to the arch design of the West 7th Street bridge but that did not happen.

At that time, the bridges were estimated to be competed in 2017-18 at a cost of $74 million.

For commuters who must follow detours through dusty, makeshift construction zones, bridge construction is an ongoing nuisance that some have opted to avoid whenever possible.

But for those businesses, some of them Fort Worth institutions, bridge construction has been a menace that they are surviving through determination and grit.

“We’re like everyone else, we just want it do get done,” said Paul Teague, co-owner Teague’s Lumber, established in 1944. “Fortunately, we have been around 74 years and have a reputation that still brings us customers.

“We don’t really advertise because we don’t have to,” Teague said.

But Teague, other co-owners and employees constantly deal with the frustrations of customers who have to follow detours and deal with traffic and delays to get to the lumberyard at 2501 White Settlement Road.

“We want it to be over with and get the road open again so no one’s in peril trying to get here,” he said.

Omaha’s Surplus was founded in 1953 to sell Army-Navy surplus goods, including military and tactical collectibles, with some items dating back to World War I.

The business used to have prominent storefront on White Settlement Road. Now, the business is located at 1214 Whitmore St.

“We had to build a new parking lot and storefront,” because of the bridge construction, said Charlie Williams, a co-owner of Omaha’s Surplus. “Now our storefront is on a side street.”

Like other local businesses, an entrenched reputation and authentic and unique merchandise, keep customers coming back.

“We don’t like facing a side street because we have less visibility,” Williams said.

The traffic hassles for customers and inconvenience of an unanticipated remodeling project as a consequence of bridge construction does not sit well with Williams.

“We feel like this has all been swept under the rug and we are a forgotten subject,” he said. “But were going to stay here.

Fort Worth city and TxDOT officials are working with Texas A&M Transportation Institute to improve messaging and signage in the vicinity of bridge construction to help make it easier on drivers.

“Our goal is to make it as easy and possible for drivers and minimize delay,” said Scott Cooner, an Arlington-based research engineer with the institute. “We’re doing all we can.”

As for the local businesses, they are doing all they can to survive.

“We have been here 60 years and we are not going anywhere,” said Storm George, wife of current Angelo’s owner, Jason George.

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