City looks to NCTCOG, TxDOT for help in funding Hemphill-Lamar Connector

Hemphill Lamar

Rising project costs prompted the city of Fort Worth to consider halting the Hemphill-Lamar Connector project last November, but a potential funding partnership may keep the project alive.

“In my mind, it was never dead,” District 9 Councilwoman Ann Zadeh said.

The city is discussing collaboration with the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to fund the connector. The project was meant to be a four-lane roadway and pedestrian tunnel under Interstate 30 and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, but when estimated costs came in higher than expected, the project was put on hold.

The city, NCTCOG and TxDOT have not settled on how much each entity will contribute, Zadeh said.

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Tarrant County may also contribute funding, according to a city staff report.

But before any partnership is settled, the city plans to reassess the cost and figure out what factors led to the high prices. According to a city staff report, those factors include the cleanup of possible soil contamination, the relocation of underground utilities and the inflation of construction costs.

The city will consider keeping McCarthy Building Companies as construction manager and have McCarthy review the project’s design and study the area’s soil conditions and underground utilities. McCarthy will then use its findings to come up with a revised cost estimate for the Hemphill-Lamar Connector.

The City Council is expected to vote March 1 to have McCarthy proceed with the study and come up with the updated estimate.

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The Hemphill-Lamar Connector is meant to give commuters easier access to the Near Southside from downtown and Interstate 20. Currently, the Near Southside is connected to downtown through Jennings Avenue, South Main Street and a pedestrian underpass from the T&P Rail Station.

The project broke ground last April but could not move forward due to rising costs, mostly in construction. In 2013, the project was estimated at about $26.6 million. According to a report presented to the Council in November, the cost jumped to about $45 million – an increase of about $18.4 million.

City Manager Jay Chapa then suggested that the city hire consultants to study traffic and consider other ways to improve mobility in that area. The Council was supposed to vote in December on an agreement with two consultants but decided to postpone the vote.

“I still was interested in trying to figure out a path forward for the connector itself,” Zadeh said.

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On Feb. 9, city staff held a meeting with NCTCOG and TxDOT to discuss partnering to fund the project. The group decided to wait until a new cost estimate is made before determining how much each party will fund.

Chapa said conversations with NCTCOG and TxDOT have “gone well.”

“We’re optimistic,” he said. “That’s why we’re recommending going forward.”

Trinity River Vision work continues underground

Water and sewer work for the $909.9 million Trinity River Vision project continues, as the city council approved two measures associated with the incoming bypass channel.

The city council authorized a $1.6 million contract with design consulting firm Kimley-Horn and Associates, which will design the relocation of water and sanitary sewer mains among other tasks.

In addition, the city council approved the purchase of about 1.8 acres of sanitary sewer easements, water easements and temporary construction easements. The purchase price is more than $211,000.

The city is relocating utilities in preparation for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ building of the bypass channel, which will run underneath three bridges connecting to Panther Island. Those bridges, positioned along Henderson Street, White Settlement Road and North Main Street, are currently under construction.

Chapa said all bridges should be finished by 2018 or 2019. After that, dams will be built and construction of the channel itself will begin.

City partners with TxDOT to fund Chapel Creek bridge project

Funding is lined up for the expansion of the Chapel Creek Boulevard bridge over Interstate 30.

The city council passed a funding agreement with TxDOT to help fund the nearly $14 million project. TxDOT will be contributing $591,924, while the city is contributing about $4 million. The rest of the funding comes from the Federal Highway Administration.

The city plans to expand the bridge on Chapel Creek Boulevard from two lanes to four lanes and also add two left turn lanes and a U-turn lane. Construction is expected to begin in the fall and finish in Spring 2018.