A. Lee Graham firstname.lastname@example.org
As motorists cast a hopeful eye toward North Tarrant Express improvements, another project could soon command their attention. In early design stages is a redesigned Interstate 30-Texas 360 interchange in North Arlington, which would allow two of Dallas-Fort Worth’s most-traversed motorways to connect and provide commuters a more seamless traveling experience. “We’re hopeful that should the state of Texas decide to pass Proposition 1, that some of that money could go to this project,” said Brian Barth, district engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation’s Fort Worth office.
Speaking at the Aug. 6 monthly meeting of the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition in Fort Worth, Barth emphasized that funding has not been confirmed. Nor have detailed been disclosed – at least publicly – for an interchange that would allow those traveling east or west along I-30 to veer north or south on Texas 360 without needing to exit to secondary roadways first. If voters approve the measure in November, Proposition 1 would authorize annual payments from the state’s oil and gas taxes to the State Highway Fund. That could total $1.4 billion in the first year without levying new taxes or debt, points raised by those supporting the measure. “We’ve got some funding to do,” said Barth, pointing to an estimated construction cost of $206 million. Conceptual renderings have been drawn by TxDOT, according to the Southeast Tarrant Transportation Partnership, an Arlington-based group that advocates for area transportation improvements. Improved safety helped planners consider a redesign, according to Jody Hodges, a TxDOT spokeswoman. “The existing interchange is designed as a cloverleaf,” said Hodges, describing the improved interchange as one of many unfunded – albeit important – projects that her department is pursuing.
“There are a lot of needs in North Texas, just not a lot of funding,” Hodges said. Also at the TRTC meeting, Barth provided a construction update on North Tarrant Express. North Tarrant Express continues to be ahead of schedule, with the $2.5 billion freeway improvement project 96 percent complete and expected to wrap up sometime this fall. “It will be complete and open in the fall, six to nine months ahead of schedule,” Barth said. The project, which will widen North Loop 820 and Texas 121-183, is split into west and east segments, with the western portion between I-35W and Texas 121 and the eastern portion between Texas 121 and the city of Euless. Since construction began in November 2009, motorists have grappled with traffic slowdowns, roadway re-routing and other headaches required for crews to bring architects’ plans to fruition. According to civil engineers, the project has employed 2,100 workers from 160 local companies, spurred new economic development in the project corridor and prompted consumers to spend about $1.5 million a day in area businesses.
Motorists currently squeezing by on two narrow lanes coursing past North East Mall in Hurst can expect wider lanes when the project reaches fruition, Barth said. “That’s just a temporary condition for traffic handling during construction,” Barth said. Project financing came from a $573 million investment from the Texas Department of Transportation, which was leveraged through $400 million in private activity bonds, $426 million in equity from NTE Mobility Partners and $650 million in loans through TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act), which in 1998 established a federal credit program for such transportation projects.