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Mobility Matters - Images of a freight truck traveling on a highway, downtown Fort Worth, a TRE locomotive, downtown Dallas skyline and highway traffic; Celebrating 35 Years of Regional Transportation Excellence, 1974 - 2009

$1 Billion DFW Connector Project Wraps Up TEXpress Lanes to Open in Early 2014
Construction Headaches Will Pay Off for D-FW Commuters
                 A Message from Michael Morris, Transportation Director

Commissioner Eads Sees True Value of Mobility
                 Member Profile, Andy Eads, Commissioner, Denton County
Planners Working to Address Blacklands Needs
Arlington Welcomes Dailey Transit Service, Thus Closing the 'Hole in the Doughnut'

Help Us Celebrate Turning 40

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$1 Billion DFW Connector Project Wraps Up
TEXpress Lanes to Open in Early 2014

dfw connector


Whether headed to Dallas/Fort  Worth International Airport or across the region on State Highways 114 and 121, residents are noticing more pavement and smoother rides. After almost four years of work, the DFW Connector is complete – about six months ahead of schedule. A ribbon cutting was held in August symbolizing the conclusion of the $1.1 billion improvement, and the project reached substantial completion in November.

The last remaining piece of this project, TEXpress Lanes, will welcome motorists for the first time early in 2014. These tolled, managed lanes will allow solo travelers to pay for a more reliable, congestion free ride through a portion of the corridor. Carpoolers will be eligible for peak-period discounts.

Motorists are indeed seeing a dramatically different corridor. At its widest point, between Main Street and International Parkway, the Connector will have 24 total lanes, substantially improving traffic into and out of DFW Airport. Another visible change is the splitting of SH 121 from International Parkway. Before work on the DFW Connector began in 2010, the two were combined.

This design-build project was the first public-private partnership completed in North Texas by the Texas Department of Transportation, which provided more flexibility, sped up construction timelines and saved money.

Commuters and business leaders alike are welcoming the changes. RaDonna Hessel, CEO of the Grapevine Chamber of Commerce, said the DFW Connector project’s business owner task force was crucial in helping the business community endure the challenges that come with construction. Many companies are now gearing their marketing around the fact that the DFW Connector is finished.

"There’s nothing like having construction gone from your doorstep to improve the business climate," Hessel said. "It was a difficult four years, but they made it as painless as possible." The completed project means better access to the airport, but the additional capacity also will be an improvement for travelers trying to get to Grapevine, Southlake and other nearby towns.

Southlake resident Don Aydon said the improvements have cut his commute to the airport significantly and have allowed him to spend more time at family events even when he has a flight to catch. He recently watched his son finish a cross country race at Meadowmere Park in Grapevine just minutes before a flight. As soon as his son crossed the finish line, Aydon ran across the parking lot, got in the car and drove to DFW Airport to catch a flight to San Antonio. An experienced traveler who knows the airport well, Aydon was in his seat some 30 minutes after leaving the race, he said. That could not have happened without the improvements.

"The extra lanes and the widening of 114 have been great," he said. The DFW Connector required coordination of many different agencies and stakeholder groups, including the cities of Grapevine and Southlake, DFW Airport and Baylor Medical Center, as well as residents and businesses.

Perry Leonard, president and chief operating officer of Blagg Tire and Service in downtown Grapevine, said the business owner task force was important because it brought people together and allowed businesses, especially retailers and restaurants, to plan their marketing campaigns around the closures. With the help of the task force, even if traffic was slow at times, customers could still eat and shop at any business they chose during the project.

plane
Photo: DFW Connector

Cars travel on eastbound SH 114 at Texas Trail, north of DFW Airport. Major work on the DFW Connector was completed in November.

"The key for that project is the model of getting the businesses involved," he said. "I think that’s critical. I think one of the biggest things was the businesses never lost their access. And I don’t think that happens without the business owner task force." “The key for that project is the model of getting the businesses involved.” — Perry Leonard, President and COO, Blagg Tire and Service Leonard, who served as liaison to the business owner task force, said his customers have reported a much easier time getting to his store since the completion of the project.

TxDOT and NorthGate Constructors learned many lessons during this mammoth construction project. Among them was the importance of a diverse community outreach strategy that included traditional media, social networks, email and regular meetings with affected stakeholders.

With the DFW Connector wrapping up, work on Farm-to- Market 2499 in Grapevine is beginning. The $90 million project will result in the addition of main lanes built below grade, allowing drivers to bypass traffic lights at Stars and Stripes Way and Grapevine Mills Boulevard. The current lanes will become frontage roads. TxDOT has started a business owner task force for FM 2499 and has implemented many of the strategies that helped it communicate with those affected by construction of the DFW Connector.

Resources
DFW Connector
LBJ Express
North Tarrant Express
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Construction Headaches Will Pay Off for D-FW Commuters
A Message From Michael Morris, Transportation Director

Drive between here and Austin, and no matter what time it is, you’ll likely find an abundance of orange and white. Cones. Barrels. Flags. Lane-narrowing markings. Concrete barriers. depending on your perspective can be a headache or sign of better times ahead. It is critical that these intercity improvements don’t stop at our regional front door, but continue through the region as a system of transportation improvements.

cone

Resources
TEXpress Lanes
Horseshoe Project
North Tarrant Express
TxDOT

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While road construction is hard on drivers and businesses in the short term, I choose to look at it in a positive light. To those of us in the transportation business, it means the culmination of many years of planning and tireless efforts to coordinate construction activities across many agencies, which is not an easy task. Fortunately, in Dallas-Fort Worth, we are blessed with good leaders who understand the importance of partnership and have worked together well to see that projects are not just talked about, but are completed in a first-class fashion.

Along both IH 35E and IH 35W, preparations are being made to greatly expand capacity so North Texans can travel one of the state’s most congested roadways more freely, and freight bound for Dallas, Fort Worth and points beyond can be delivered on time. The result will be a system of improvements to, from and through the region.

Both are undergoing $1 billion- plus renovations that will greatly improve the flow along a roadway built to accommodate a far smaller population, in terms of those living here and passing through to other cities.

The addition of free general- purpose lanes, frontage roads and tolled managed lanes, or TEXpress Lanes, will give the roadway a new look. Drivers will feel it, too, especially when they realize they can get home earlier and enjoy more time with family and friends.

On both sides of the region, IH 35 stands as the gateway to the rest of the nation, and continent, making its expansion a top economic priority. On the west side, a 10-mile stretch of 35W will see capacity enhanced. NTE Mobility Partners, the group tapped to complete improvements to State Highway 121/183  in Northern Tarrant County, has undertaken a 6.5- mile portion of 35W from IH 30 through the interchange with IH 820, expected to be complete by 2018. FWTAexas Department of Transportation is working on the segment to the north, continuing through to US Highway 287.

Thirty miles of IH 35E spanning two counties and eight cities will be rebuilt by 2017. The entire IH 35E project will cost an estimated $4.8 billion, but the first phase will result in tangible improvements, including TEXpress Lanes, an additional general-purpose lane in each direction, construction of a new bridge across Lewisville Lake, a new shared bike-pedestrian path across the lake and additional upgrades.

Between these two projects, more than $2 billion will be poured into this notoriously busy freeway before the end of the decade. And don’t forget the $800 million Horseshoe Project, which will result in the modernizing of the IH 30/35E interchange, which will also become much safer. This is welcome news for anyone who has crawled through this area of Dallas.

In a time defined by both explosive growth and scarce resources, a team effort, consisting of local, state and federal officials, as well as private-sector partners and an innovative financing approach, was needed to deliver the IH 35 projects. And that’s exactly what we got.

While the improvements are just in the beginning stages of construction, the identification of financing means we’re closer than ever to an improved IH 35.

When added to the changes being made in other parts of the corridor, improvements on both sides of the Dallas-Fort Worth area will boost quality of life by making trips along the interstate easier. This is why I don’t mind seeing a little orange and white on the highway, even if it takes a little longer to get where I’m going for a while. What about you? After all … mobility matters.


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Commissioner Eads Sees True Value of Mobility
Member Profile - Andy Eads, Commissioner, Denton County

Andy Eads grew up in Lewisville, a block from Interstate Highway 35. A fifth-generation resident of Denton County, Eads was intimately familiar with what needed to be done to get traffic moving between Denton and Dallas long before he assumed a key role in determining IH 35E’s future.

Eads’ father, Sidney, watched IH 35E being built, and Eads himself remembers work being done on it as a boy.  It was a project that would continue Eads’ whole life, he thought. At least that‘s what his father told him.

 

andy

The end of major construction could be in sight, following the announcement of the $1.4 billion first phase of the 35Express project to rebuild IH 35E between LBJ Freeway in Dallas and US Highway 380 in Denton and a proposal to rebuild part of IH 35W in Fort Worth. By the latter half of the decade, both freeways, which converge in Denton, will be much more capable of handling the thousands of cars and trucks that travel them daily.

“Now, I believe we’re at the beginning of the end of construction of I-35 as it goes through Denton County,” Eads said. “This is really a legacy project. … It’s a special honor to get to work on a project of this magnitude that will outlive us.”

Mobility is high on Eads’ priority list. “I believe mobility is a family value, and that an improved commute elevates your quality of life.” Eads said. “Mobility is about more than safety, air quality and economic development. It’s about quality of life.”

Eads played an important role in the project, both as a county commissioner and member of the 43-person Regional Transportation Council. He lists 35 as his most important accomplishment on the RTC, first helping the body adopt the roadway as the top regional priority and later being involved in funding the different parts of it. 

Eads holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Howard Payne University in Brownwood. Later, he earned a Master of Public Administration from the University of North Texas as he set out for a career in the public sector. “I thought I wanted to be a city manager when I grew up,” he said. He landed an internship with the town of Addison and worked in various departments for six years. He left the public sector in 2001 for a career in real estate.

Then, in 2006, he ran for county commissioner, hoping his experience in both the public and private sectors, together with his background, had prepared him for elected office. He was elected to represent Precinct 4, which includes parts of IH 35E and 35W. Since the RTC is a regional body, each entity must wait for funding. It is important to be patient and vigilant, he said, pointing to IH 35 as an example of what can happen when regional partners work together.

The new road will include both free lanes and tolled TEXpress Lanes. “I think we did a good job of providing a revenue stream to construct and maintain the road while providing free additional capacity,” he said.

As work on the road begins, Eads and others are encouraging the public to stay involved and informed. One source that will help is the 35Express website, 35Express.org, where people can sign up for notifications and learn the details of the massive project.

“We want people to continue to travel the corridor, even though it’s under construction,” he said. “We don’t want people to avoid it.”

IH 35 construction is just beginning, but Eads can see a day when capacity will finally be adequate for the booming region. And he is happy to have played a part.

Resources
Denton County
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Planners Working to Address Blacklands Needs

blacklands

Resources
Blacklands Corridor Feasibility Study
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North Central Texas Council of Governments is studying an area known as the Blacklands Corridor to determine if any transportation options should be considered in the area, which includes parts of Collin, Dallas, Hunt and Rockwall counties.

NCTCOG has conducted two public meetings in the corridor to discuss the Blacklands Corridor Feasibility Study and reiterate that planners have made no decisions of what transportation options – if any – to pursue to accommodate the area’s future growth. Residents, property owners and businesses in the area are being asked to help the study team reach a conclusion.

The study area in question consists of a wide swath of land from Interstate Highway 30 in Greenville to the President George Bush Turnpike in Garland. It stretches from US Highway 380 in the north to IH 30 in the south. The corridor is 440 square miles. It represents a transitional zone from urban land use in the west to more rural use in the east.

NCTCOG commissioned the feasibility study to examine the need for transportation improvements in this corridor and identify potential projects that could enhance access, reduce congestion, address safety and be integrated with the regional transportation system. This multimodal analysis will determine if there is a demonstrated need for transportation projects based on current and projected levels of congestion in this growing part of North Central Texas. If a need is determined, the study will proceed with the development of conceptual multimodal transportation improvements.

As part of this multimodal analysis, the study team will examine improvements to existing roadway corridors, development of new or enhanced transit and the construction of new transportation facilities. The feasibility study will elaborate on conceptual transportation projects through the documentation of potential impacts to existing and planned roadways, and the identification of potential impacts to the natural and built environment, and the determination of potential impacts and benefits to property owners, residents and businesses in the corridor.

The feasibility study is scheduled to be complete, with a report detailing its findings, in December 2014.  NCTCOG and its consultants will also analyze the Texas Turnpike Corp.’s private-sector proposal for a toll road between US Highway 69 in Greenville and State Highway 78 in Lavon. This element of the feasibility study is expected to be complete in April 2014.

Involvement of the public and elected officials is crucial to the success of the Blacklands Corridor Feasibility Study. For information on the study or to provide your thoughts on the future of the Blacklands Corridor, visit NCTCOG.org/Blacklands.

To find out how the region is doing meeting the goals of Mobility 2035, visit www.nctcog.org/ourregion. For copies of the print edition, contact Brian Wilson at bwilson@nctcog.org.   

Arlington Welcomes Daily Transit Service, Thus Closing the 'Hole in the Doughnut'

 

max

Metro ArlingtonXpress, or MAX, pulled into Arlington in August, providing students and commuters a connection to the rest of the region. MAX makes multiple trips Monday through Friday between downtown Arlington and the TRE’s CentrePort/DFW Airport Station. In November, an entertainment district destination was added.

Arlington Mayor Pro Tem Kathryn Wilemon was smiling broadly. For years, she and other city officials had talked about closing “the hole in the doughnut” by connecting Arlington to other parts of the region via public transportation. A week before classes began at The University of Texas at Arlington, Wilemon joined officials from the city, university and transportation agencies to celebrate the beginning of Metro
ArlingtonXpress, or MAX.

 

 “The hole in the doughnut is now closed,” she told officials and others from the community gathered to commemorate the beginning of service. MAX is a two-year pilot project that provides multiple daily trips between CentrePort/DFW Airport Station and downtown Arlington. The service is provided through a partnership involving Arlington, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, UTA, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority and the Trinity Railway Express.

It began with two stops, but in early November, an Entertainment District destination was added, giving students, residents and commuters access via public transportation to shopping, restaurants and other options such as the city’s sports venues.

Wilemon, who serves as chair of NCTCOG’s Regional Transportation Council, worked as co-chair of the last public transportation initiative in Arlington, which did not pass.

“We now connect with the region, and that’s most important,” Wilemon said, “because in the past we have not. … It also means the region is connected to us, and they have another opportunity to come into Arlington from the regional transportation that goes on around us: from DART, FWTA, from DCTA. That all connects.”

For $5 a day or $80 a month, commuters can connect to points throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area from Arlington using the region’s growing public transportation system. The service, which runs between 5:30 am and 11:30 pm Monday-Friday, offers half-price fares and monthly passes to students, people with disabilities and those 65 and older.

Mayor Robert Cluck was happy his city was able to shed the image of the nation’s largest city without mass transit service, a distinction mentioned more than once before a bus carrying VIPs and media departed for the CentrePort/DFW Airport Station. From there, riders will be able to connect to transit across the region or catch a flight at Dallas/Fort  Worth International Airport by boarding a bus bound for the airport.

Those who want access to points not directly tied together by transit can take their bicycles, which are allowed on buses and trains run by all three of the region’s public transportation systems, as well as MAX.

“If I’m asleep and dreaming, don’t wake me up because I like this dream,” Cluck said. He was wide awake, and the dream was coming true. Cluck said he wants MAX to grow and allow people to travel around the region with ease and in comfort.

“I can’t wait to get on that bus, and I probably won’t get off,” he said. About 9:30 am that first day, a bus marked with the MAX logo pulled out of the parking lot across the street from UTA’s College Park Center and rolled north. It made its way into the TRE station 20 minutes later. It will complete many of these trips during the pilot project, bringing North Texans to and from Arlington, providing an option that will help take cars off the roads and give those without their own transportation more mobility.

Although Wilemon and her colleagues have worked for many years to bring public transportation to Arlington, she considers this the beginning of something that could grow much larger. As the ridership numbers are analyzed, the future of MAX will take shape. And figures for the first three months of the service show a positive trend. “I’m very hopeful it will lead us further, upward, to more connections,” she said.

Resources
Ride the Max
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Help Us Celebrate Turning 40

The North Central Texas Council of Governments was designated the metropolitan planning organization for the Dallas-Fort Worth area in 1974. That means we are reaching a milestone in 2014. We’re turning 40. To mark the occasion, we have planned a yearlong celebration to illustrate how regional planning has helped Dallas- Fort Worth become what it is today.

We plan to look back at the way things were, remembering key events and developments that have helped define the region over the past four decades, and peek into the future. We will even share old photos and hold regular trivia contests. So put your thinking caps on.

Stay tuned throughout 2014 to see what we have in store. You can provide content, too. If you have old photos or stories related to transportation, send them to us. Email your photos and stories to transinfo@nctcog.org, or just share them on social media with the hashtag #DFWMPO40.

Mobility Matters is prepared in cooperation with the Texas Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration. 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.

10/18/2016 03/17/2009 JS

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