Transportation group celebrates 10 years, sets future priorities

35W Coalition

Roadway improvements continue a decade after North Texas business leaders, elected officials and developers banded together to tackle congestion and plan for the future.

But the effort has only begun.

- FWBP Digital Partners -

“Our advocacy job is not over yet,” said Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price.

Speaking Feb. 24 at the 35W Coalition’s annual meeting to celebrate the groups 10-year anniversary, Price congratulated the nonprofit agency for helping push through state legislation that unlocked freeway improvement funding while urging elected officials and local businesses to join the cause.

Many of those individuals joined Price in applauding strides made since Fort Worth car dealer Mac Churchill became chairman of an agency founded in 2006 to advocate for transportation improvements.

Since then, it has drummed up voter support for Proposition 1 and Proposition 7. The former constitutional amendment authorizes annual disbursements from the state’s oil and gas production tax collections to the State Highway Fund for non-tolled roadways. Those dollars, also known as the severance tax, promise the State Highway Fund $1.1 billion in the current fiscal year, $594 million in fiscal 2017 and $740 million in fiscal 2018, with the state comptroller projecting the latter two amounts based on collections from years prior to 2017 and 2018, respectively.

- Advertisement -

Meanwhile, Proposition 7 dedicates some taxes collected on car sales to the State Highway Fund for transportation projects.

The coalition also beat the drum for North Tarrant Express, the $2.5 billion effort to expand frontage lanes and main lanes and the addition of TEXpress managed lanes, along Loop 820 and Texas 121-183 between Interstate 35W in Fort Worth and Industrial Boulevard in Euless.

Equally important has been alleviating congestion along I-35W north of Fort Worth. Those efforts continue, with reconstruction ongoing from downtown to U.S. 287 expected to reach completion in 2017-2018. Especially important, according to the agency, is securing funding for the segment between U.S. 287 and State 170 and north to Denton.

Promoting passage between Fort Worth and Denton, as well as pursuing commuter, high-speed and freight rail also are high on the group’s prioritization list, Price said. So is planning for a new population of motorists expected to commute from Walsh Ranch and other developments in west Fort Worth — and west of Fort Worth — to downtown.

- Advertisement -

“That was the single biggest focus,” said Price, referring to issues raised at a recent town hall meeting attended by she and District 7 Councilman Dennis Shingleton.

For years, District 3 Councilman W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman and others have emphasized the need for freeway improvements in west Fort Worth as far North Fort Worth seemed to grab more attention.

“Each and every one of us has to focus on east-west connectors. That’s next on our list,” Price said.