Thursday, November 08, 2007

Toll road to Dallas Super Bowl triggers bureaucratic version of hurry-up offense

Officials want toll road on the fast track


Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2007

Regional planners are desperately looking for ways to get the Texas 161 toll road open before the 2011 Super Bowl.

The long-planned toll road, which would run parallel to Texas 360 in Arlington, would provide relief on one of North Texas' most congested north-south corridors.

And on game days, the road in Grand Prairie and Irving would be a major route to the new Dallas Cowboys stadium in Arlington, particularly for people coming into Tarrant County from north Dallas.

But, officials say, it's now doubtful that the road will be ready for the stadium's 2009 debut -- and the push is on to get it built by 2011.

"We're losing time," said Michael Morris, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments. He said the Regional Transportation Council will discuss getting the project on track during a meeting today.

One idea would be at least to get the frontage road lanes and key bridges built from Texas 183 in Irving to Division Street in Arlington.

The RTC, North Texas' official planning body, could pool state and federal highway funds from other projects to fast-track Texas 161 -- but that money would need to be repaid.

Why the delay?

The Texas Department of Transportation originally planned to hire a private company to build the road and was soliciting bids when the Legislature passed a law this year giving the Plano-based North Texas Tollway Authority the right of first refusal to build it.

Now the tollway authority must decide whether it's worthwhile to build the project. Part of that process includes establishing a long-term value for the road -- a market valuation -- and determining how much money can be generated from the road to build other Metroplex projects.

If the tollway authority decides not to build Texas 161, the Transportation Department could resume seeking private bids.

Nothing personal

Clayton Howe, tollway authority assistant executive director, and Maribel Chavez, Fort Worth district engineer for the state Transportation Department, said their agencies are committed to getting the road built quickly.

They briefed area officials on the project Wednesday during a meeting of the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition in Fort Worth (

Sounds like the bureaucratic version of a hurry-up offense.

Project details

Texas 161 would be a 12-mile toll road, with six lanes from Texas 183 to Interstate 30 and four lanes from I-30 to Interstate 20.

Estimated cost: $525 million for construction. The state already owns the right of way.

Original completion date: August 2009 north of I-30, December 2011 south of I-30.

More: The project will be discussed during a Regional Transportation Council meeting today at 1:30 p.m., 616 Six Flags Drive, Arlington.

GORDON DICKSON, 817-685-3816

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