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Progress North Texas 2015

   

Improving Your Commute

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Congestion costs North Texans $4.7 billion a year. This translates to hours of lost business productivity, delays in the delivery of goods and services and time away from home, families and recreational activities.

To improve commuting for the nearly 7 million residents and thousands of visitors in North Texas, a flurry of construction activities and service enhancements have occurred throughout the region. 

Roadways

A flurry of construction activity and service enhancements are improving commutes.

 

On major roadway projects $10 million, North Texas is spending just over $14 billion on projects that will be completed or underway by 2015 or soon after, according to the North Texas Tollway Authority and the Texas Department of Transportation. Together with smaller projects that enhance intersections, improve safety or operational features, and increase access to existing and new developments, these changes are improving the transportation system. 

 

Despite continuing uncertainties in the availability of dedicated infrastructure revenue sources at all levels of government, public-private partnerships, toll financing, value engineering, environmental streamlining and other initiatives are moving these projects forward. 

 

This expanded transportation toolbox has made possible the expedited delivery of some of the region’s most anticipated infrastructure projects, including the Chisholm Trail Parkway and the North Tarrant Express. 

The 27-mile, $1.4 billion Chisholm Trail Parkway between Fort Worth and Cleburne debuted in May 2014 after more than 50 years of planning. The project provided an alternative to the congested Interstate Highway 35W, helping save commuters time.

The $2.1 billion North Tarrant Express project, opened in October 2014, introduced tolled, managed TEXpress Lanes in a completely reconstructed and modernized IH 820 and State Highway 183 corridor between north Fort Worth and the Mid-Cities. TEXpress Lanes use congestion pricing to provide an alternative to drivers when traffic in the non-tolled general-purpose lanes is moving slowly. They are also open to solo commuters.

NTTA’s advance payment of $3.2 billion to the region in 2007, which enabled accelerated development of the Sam Rayburn Tollway (SH 121), continues to make substantial, positive impacts. The ongoing expansion of IH 35E in Dallas and Denton County, the widening of US 75 in Collin County, and the reconstruction of numerous local thoroughfares and farm-to-market roads in between have benefited from these funds. 

 

Additional momentum was created in November 2014 with the statewide voter approval of Proposition 1, which enables annual disbursements of tax collections from Texas oil and gas production into the State Highway Fund for additional maintenance activities and construction efforts on non-tolled roadways. This new funding source provided the state with approximately $1.7 billion in 2015 for numerous projects that may otherwise not proceed to construction for many years. 

 

Locally, Proposition 1 funds will help move two long-sought projects toward completion: expansion of IH 35E to six lanes through all of Ellis County and the upgrade to the IH 30/SH 360 interchange in Arlington.

 

Passenger Rail

 

Significant milestones for passenger rail users were achieved in 2014, helping improve commuting in North Texas. The August 2014 opening of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Orange Line light rail extension to Terminal A at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport allows the state’s first direct mass transit connection for air travelers to and from points throughout Dallas, Denton, and Collin counties. 

The extension increased the size of the DART light rail system to 91 miles. 

DART’s system is the largest of its kind in North America; but there is more expansion to follow. 

By December 2016, DART is scheduled to complete the 2.7 mile extension of the Blue Line to the University of North Texas at Dallas, providing new growth opportunities for the southern part of Dallas County. 

 

A more recent breakthrough for the state and city of Dallas was the April 2015 arrival of the first modern streetcar facility. Thanks in part to funding from the federal government’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, the Dallas streetcar now operates along a 1.6 mile on-street starter line between Union Station in downtown Dallas and Methodist Dallas Medical Center in Oak Cliff. 

 

In Tarrant County, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, also known as FWTA, continues work on the 27-mile TEX Rail project from downtown Fort Worth to DFW Airport. With the help of federal and local funds, construction is expected to begin soon. The commuter rail line could be open by 2018.

 

At that point, the combined rail transit services for the DFW area, including the existing Trinity Railway Express and Denton County Transportation Authority’s A-train, will extend nearly 180 miles through four counties.

 

Map: DFW Road and Rail Improvements

Bus 

 

Other benefits for commuters are also occurring throughout North Texas as a result of improved suburban bus connections for job access. In 2014, bus service from Allen, Arlington, McKinney and Mesquite provided more than 130,000 rides connecting to regional transit services at DART, FWTA, and the TRE, funded as pilot projects with federal transit grants. These connections provide residents living in the suburbs and low-income workers with no other options an additional transportation choice when commuting. This can be appealing to people who may otherwise spend a lot of time behind the wheel in day-to-day traffic. Using transit to connect to work can reduce the stress of a daily commute and allow people to make better use of their time. 

 

From Allen and McKinney, trips are provided to DART’s Parker Road Station in Plano. In Arlington, the MetroArlingtonXpress links the TRE’s CentrePort station with Lincoln Square shopping center and The University of Texas at Arlington. The MAX allows commuters from Fort Worth and Dallas (using FWTA, DART, and the TRE) to access UTA and connects students to the rest of the region. Mesquite commuters can catch the Mesquite COMPASS at the Park & Ride at Hanby Stadium to DART’s Lawnview Station, where riders can take the Green Line into downtown Dallas. 

Graphic: New Bus Services Improve Connections
In 2014, bus service from Allen, Arlington, McKinney and Mesquite provided more than 130,000 rides to existing rail stations. These services improved connections to the Trinity Railway Express and DART, providing more people access to passenger rail.

Bicycle-Pedestrian 

North Texas’ bicycle-pedestrian network also continues to expand. The region currently has a 1,000-mile network of off-street trails and 82 miles of on-street bikeways, including dedicated bike lanes and shared lanes.

It is important to understand how many people are using the trails and bikeway facilities. The North Central Texas Council of Governments has launched a program that will help determine the popularity of the region’s trails and where money can best be spent. 

The Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian User Count Program will collect data at various locations throughout the DFW area, giving planners actual non-motorized travel volumes.

Permanent counters are being installed at strategic locations in Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties. Mobile counting equipment will also be available through NCTCOG to conduct short-term counts in important regional locations.

Regional counts are underway to determine where money can best be spent on active transportation.

 

 

10/31/2016 06/15/2012 JS

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