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Solutions to Move People, Goods Develop from Ground Up

Photo: Kent Penney  

Kent Penney, Director, Fort Worth Aviation Department

What challenges does the aviation community face when it comes to ground transportation? Aviation is a component of the transportation system with the primary purpose of delivering high value goods/people to accommodate tight time constraints. Aviation, in a sense, delivers time, but we know the location of the airport is generally not the ‘doorstep’ origin or destination of these goods/people.

The true ‘doorstep’ origin and destination can only be accessed by ground transportation. Aviation then relies upon ground transportation to contribute positively to the time savings that is already achieved through aviation. A deficient ground transportation system will negatively impact those expected time savings.

How does ground transportation impact your airport system and its employees?
Impediments to ground transportation limit options for employees looking for a place to live. In addition, congestion clearly impedes the growth of the airports. An analogy: An airport is an economic engine, and if ground transportation is impeded, it is as if fuel is starved from this economic engine.

Alliance Airport, for example, in the northwest area of the Metroplex, is impacted on a daily basis due to overwhelming congestion on Interstate 35W, State Highway 114 and the road network in the immediate vicinity. The free flow of goods/people to and from the airport, as mentioned before, impacts the total trip time and can result in a choice to locate somewhere else – even outside of the region.

  Photo: Alliance Airport

How can these challenges be addressed?
The challenges are being addressed through long-term surface transportation planning, but there is a current lack of any concerted effort to provide strategic short-term solutions. The entire road network needs to be considered as we look for strategic solutions. Greater cooperation and planning involving all municipalities would provide positive solutions for all goods and people,
not just those who use the airports.

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How do you foresee synergies between ground transportation and air transportation evolving in the future?
There are natural synergies that exist with all forms of transportation because where one ‘port’ stops other forms of transportation continue the trip.  Since transportation requires a substantial investment of resources, it is best for all modes to share as much information as possible regarding volume and details of activity and plans for maintenance and improvements.  This sharing of information is done to a great extent at this time and will continue to be needed to create the most functional transportation network for all users.  The planning will still need to occur with modal specialists due to the differences in geometry and economics, but sharing raw information about demand and general issues will be helpful to planners in other modes.

What ground transportation elements would benefit airport access the most in the near term?
Identifying ground transportation constraints in specific regions and addressing them  with strategic, short-term solutions and long-term planning would improve airport access. There has been a lack of focus on strategic short-term solutions, but these short-term solutions, while not ideal, can create momentum that essentially primes the pump of these economic engines.

I mentioned Alliance Airport and would like to point out the problem on I-35W from N.E. 28th Street to Golden Triangle. This road is extremely congested and the efforts have focused greatly on how to increase the capacity of I-35W. That is a good thing, but the question should be: Why is it congested? The answer is evident when the road network in the region is studied from a macro perspective. There is an outrageous bottleneck at Beach and Loop 820, Riverside stops at Loop 820 and at Western Center, Blue Mound FM 157 is inaccessible from the east between Western Center and Golden Triangle, no through frontage road exists along I-35W and US-287 traffic is merged together at a point where I-35W is reduced to two lanes in each direction. Therefore I-35W is the symptom of a much bigger road network problem, with the resulting bottleneck being evident every day.

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The contents of this report reflect the views of the authors who are responsible for the opinions, findings, and conclusions presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration or the Texas Department of Transportation. This document was prepared in cooperation with the Texas Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Trasnportation, Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration.

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