Thursday, December 14, 2006

TxDOT is 'open for business' on proposed "North Tarrant Express" toll road

Moncrief urges I-35W pressure

December 14, 2006

We've been able to focus our efforts on our priorities, and because of that, we've got a lot of stuff going on

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2006

FORT WORTH -- Mayor Mike Moncrief on Wednesday asked business owners to keep pressuring the state to expand Interstate 35W, which he called the city's front entrance.

Speaking to the Interstate 35W Coalition, a group of Alliance-area businesses that officially formed a year ago, Moncrief also said that future economic growth in Fort Worth depends on better highways and regional freight and passenger rail systems.

'We know it's a part of how people will perceive our city, our region, as they enter our front door,' Moncrief said during a meeting at the Coca-Cola plant on Fossil Creek Boulevard.

Moncrief and other elected officials praised business leaders for pushing the issue of I-35W at the state level. For decades, the freeway, which has only two lanes in each direction north of 28th Street, was left off the state's lists of funded highway projects.

Then about two years ago, the 35W Coalition began taking shape, and government and business officials began lobbying for the state to do something about I-35W.

Last week, the Texas Department of Transportation announced that it was ready to take bids from contractors to build toll lanes on I-35W, Loop 820 and Texas 121/183. Existing lanes would remain free. Construction could begin in 2009, said the agency's Fort Worth engineer, Maribel Chavez.

Moncrief wants work to begin in 2008.

State officials also said that the 36 miles of toll lanes would be considered a single project, under the name North Tarrant Express.

'I appreciate that name,' Tarrant County Judge-elect Glen Whitley said at the coalition meeting.

Whitley also credited the formation of the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition three years ago to represent the western Metroplex's transportation needs within the North Texas region.

'We've been able to focus our efforts on our priorities, and because of that, we've got a lot of stuff going on,' he said.


Roadway priorities

Tarrant County's 2007 transportation priorities:

Ensure that the state follows through on North Tarrant Express toll lanes.

Start the environmental study for the local portion of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

Push for help easing rail traffic at Tower 55 in Fort Worth.

Push for state funding of a regional rail system.

Make sure the planned expansion of the Grapevine funnel stays on course.

Keep as many projects as possible on the region's Transportation Improvement Program, a list of projects scheduled to receive funding over the next two to three years. (Projects that languish on the list are likely to fall off.)

Go to Austin in January with a legislative agenda that promotes Metroplex unity.

SOURCE: County Judge-elect Glen Whitley

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