DALLAS — With an unprecedented number of projects underway or in planning, the North Texas Tollway Authority expects to get a Fort Worth turnpike completed six months later than expected in 2011 as it copes with rising costs on the controversial downtown Trinity Parkway in Dallas.
The delay on the $1 billion Southwest Parkway in Fort Worth is due to a lack of agreement with Union Pacific Railroad on construction of an overpass at the Davidson Railyard. Railroad officials say they are still reviewing the effect of the project on their traffic and are not ready to sign an agreement.
If an agreement cannot be reached, the issue would have to be settled by the federal Surface Transportation Board. Otherwise, construction on the tollway could begin in the second half of this year, officials said.
Southwest Parkway, a joint project of the NTTA and the Texas Department of Transportation is one of eight so-called “legacy projects” that were given top priority last week by the Regional Transportation Council, which is made up of local government representatives throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Others in the category include the “DFW Connector” or “Grapevine Funnel” on State Highways 114 and 121 that carries traffic to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport from the north. The project will include new toll and non-toll lanes.
State Highway 161, the NTTA’s $1 billion north-south toll project, was also given top priority. Area officials want the project built by the time the 2011 Super Bowl is played at the Dallas Cowboys new stadium in Arlington. SH 161 is seen as a conduit for traffic from the area’s northern suburbs to the stadium halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth.
State Highway 121, which will link up to SH 161, is a $5 billion NTTA project that was also given legacy status. The authority issued $3.4 billion of short-term debt for the project late last year and plans to issue long-term bonds this year.
Another NTTA legacy project is an extension of the eastern end of President George Bush Turnpike from the Dallas suburb of Garland to Rowlett. The turnpike arcs across the northern suburbs of Dallas and Fort Worth, channeling traffic to DFW Airport and eventually to SH 161 and the new Cowboys stadium.
The NTTA’s planned Trinity Parkway, a $1.3 billion tollway along the banks of the Trinity River on the edge of downtown Dallas also earned legacy status. Voters in Dallas rejected a ballot initiative to halt the project last November.
Technical challenges are driving up the cost of the Trinity toll road, threatening to drain dollars from other NTTA projects, Dallas officials learned last week. Design changes required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect the levees are expected to delay completion from 2013 to 2014, with annual inflation of at least 10%.
The last project granted legacy status is the Interstate 635 Lyndon B. Johnson Freeway that is one of the most congested expressways in the Dallas area. The NTTA will be building toll lanes in the North Dallas section.
The estimated $1.5 billion LBJ Corridor calls for eight main lanes plus six toll lanes with pricing varying according to time of day. A congested interchange with Interstate 30 in east Dallas will be improved to accommodate 10 main lanes plus toll lanes and continuous frontage roads. Funding will come from federal, state, and local sources.
While the prioritizing of the legacy projects is intended to speed the progress of the delayed roadways, other projects will be pushed back, RTC officials acknowledged.