Freeway expansion proposal to be unveiled
Grapevine: Plan calls for new interchanges, lanes near D/FW Airport
03:13 PM CST on Saturday, February 18, 2006
By MARICE RICHTER / The Dallas Morning News
The proposal for a massive freeway expansion project spanning parts of Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties will be unveiled to the public at a meeting in Grapevine on Thursday.
Texas Department of Transportation officials have spent about three years designing the improvements that will be part of the Grapevine funnel project, one of the largest and most expensive endeavors for the state agency.
The project aims to provide relief for the overburdened freeway network near Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport by adding new freeway lanes – including toll lanes – and reconstructing or building five new interchanges for area.
Area residents will get their first chance to see the plan, including the proposal for property right-of-way acquisition to build the new facilities.
Local city officials and airport officials have been working with transportation planners on issues such as property acquisition and access to homes and businesses during and after construction.
"We think everyone will be satisfied with the plan," said Jerry Hodge, director of transportation for the city of Grapevine, the largest stakeholder in the funnel project. "We have worked hard to make sure there is a good, safe traffic environment during construction and that access to our cities is maintained throughout.
"We think they've done a good job," Mr. Hodge said.
Besides Grapevine, affected entities include Colleyville, Coppell, Southlake, Flower Mound and the airport.
"The major property owner that would be affected is the airport," said Curtis Loftis, project engineer for the transportation department in Tarrant County. "But there will be others, too."
The funnel project will stretch east and west along State Highway 114 from International Parkway to Southlake Boulevard/Wall Street at the Southlake-Grapevine boundary.
It will extend north and south from the convergence of State Highway 360 and State Highway 121 to just south of the Highway 121 bypass in Denton County.
The state has earmarked $760 million for the project, making it the largest for Tarrant County and one of the most expensive in the state. The bulk of the funding has been dedicated since 2001.
Construction had originally been set to begin in 2005 but that deadline was not met.
A piece of the project, the widening and removal of signal lights on Highway 121 between FM2499 and the Highway 121 bypass, has been separated from the rest of the project and reassigned to the Dallas district of the transportation department, officials said.
Construction of that section, estimated to cost about $100 million, is expected to begin this year.
"We were trying to get that on a fast track so we could do something about the traffic congestion due to the signal lights," Mr. Hodge said. "Having signal lights on a major highway is always a problem."
That area is within Grapevine but straddles the Dallas and Denton county lines.
The remainder of the funnel project will be managed by the transportation department's Fort Worth district. The project currently is scheduled for multiple phases with construction start dates in 2007, 2008 and 2009, officials said.
But transportation department officials said they are considering turning the project over to a private contractor to speed up the process.
"We think this might be one way to get it done faster," Mr. Loftis said. "Under that arrangement, we might be able to start it all in 2007."
Residents who attend Thursday's meeting will have the opportunity to review maps and other plan documents, hear a presentation from transportation planners and comment on the proposal.
"The public input stage is an important part of the process," said Michael Peters, a spokesman for the state transportation department. "We encourage people to attend."
Online at: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcont....22d138d9.html