Will Fort Worth’s proposed bond end your nightmare commute?

April 24,2022


See full Fort Worth Star-Telegram article by Harrison Mantas here.

 

The region’s explosive growth is clogging roads and overwhelming Fort Worth’s ability to maintain streets, sidewalks and intersections. The signs are everywhere, from the booming suburbs on the city’s edges to the old neighborhoods inside Loop 820.

On West Bailey Boswell Road near Saginaw, families struggle to find a safe way to school after hundreds of homes filled nearby fields in recent years.

Streets in south side neighborhoods crumble as maintenance is delayed.

Roads like South Riverside Drive have become dangerous speedways with few options to slow traffic.

The city of Fort Worth hopes to fix these problems and more with part of the $560 million in bond proposals on the May 7 ballot. Early voting starts Monday. While city leaders hope the projects ease traffic congestion and make roads safer, they acknowledge more needs to be done than what they have proposed.

The city says it won’t have to raise taxes to pay for the bonds.

If voters reject any of the measures, the city can find other ways to pay for specific projects if it determines there’s still a need, city manager David Cooke said in a meeting with the Star-Telegram’s editorial board.

Municipal bonds are the most fiscally responsible way to fund major city projects, he said, noting that other kinds of borrowing have high interest rates, leading to additional costs.

ROADS

The majority of arterial projects are north of Loop 820. This includes West Bailey Boswell Road, where the September 2021 death of two teenagers was partially attributed to poor road conditions.

Cars regularly speed along West Bailey Boswell and rarely stop for children on nearby neighborhood roads, said Lana Stephens, a pediatric nurse and president of the Twin Mill Farms home owners association.

The sidewalk on West Bailey Boswell Road ends at the western boundary of the Kroger shopping center near Wind River Drive. Boswell High School students walking along that stretch have to traverse through a mile of drainage ditches and grass medians to get to school.

Some walk along a similarly dangerous stretch on Old Decatur Road, where motorists pass mere feet from pedestrians.

The bond dedicates $29 million to update West Bailey Boswell between Boat Club Road and Wind River Drive. The section will have street lights, a gutter and a shared path with room for pedestrians and cyclists, said a spokesperson for the city’s department of transportation and public works.

The city estimates 14 arterial projects listed in the 2022 bond program will cost $370 million, however, a little less than $207 million will be funded, meaning not all will be completed with this bond. Roughly $145 million would come from the city’s bond with the rest from Tarrant County, the 2018 bond and specialized taxing districts.

The bond is a step in the right direction, but there are roads that should be on there that likely won’t be on a bond proposal for another 10 to 15 years, said Ryan Smith, president of the Northwest Fort Worth Alliance.

Smith advocated for the city to do more with transportation impact fees, which are charged to developers to help offset the effects of additional traffic. The money could be used to widen roads, build sidewalks or add other necessary improvements to increase how much traffic a road can handle due to new growth.

The city charges about a third of what it could collect for these transportation impacts, but is studying possible updates that would go into effect January 2023.

Some expressed skepticism about the city’s ability to take on the new slate of projects.

Construction on the proposed bond projects won’t start for a few years, and by then the roads won’t be able to meet the area’s traffic needs, wrote Adam Allfree, president of the Dorado Ranch home owners association in an email. Dorado Ranch is in far north Fort Worth off of U.S. 287 and West Bonds Ranch Road.

Allfree acknowledged the need for new road construction, but worried delays would make the completed roads obsolete and would be a waste of the money invested to improve them.

Money for Cromwell Marine Creek Road was included in the 2018 bond, but only 20% of the design has been completed. Portions of North Riverside Drive originally funded by the 2014 bond won’t be completed until later this year.

The city in the past has run into roadblocks with right-of-way acquisitions, when it had to slow a project while it negotiated with landowners, however, transportation and public works assistant director Lauren Prieur said the city is speeding up that process by buying up rights-of-way when a project is 30% designed.

The city is also dedicating $81.1 million to fix 110 neighborhood streets mostly concentrated inside the loop. This money could be used to resurface old roads, put in lights, sidewalks and driveways.

Two roads on that list, East Harvey Avenue and Ash Crescent Street, have no sidewalks, street lights, and pavement that is either cracked, pock marked or missing entirely. Cars are parked in grass or dirt shoulders, and in some cases overgrown trees hide stop signs.

Road safety is also top of mind for the $5 million allocated to the city’s Vision Zero Program. This program studied and enumerated the top 10 city streets for vehicle, pedestrian, and cyclist crashes and fatalities.

Roads like South Riverside drive between East Berry Street and Rodeo Street are like raceways, said Oscar Sutphen, who’s lived in that neighborhood for 13 years.

The city is exploring the use of “speed tables” to reduce reckless driving. Unlike speed bumps, these tables are elongated in a way that does less damage to the underside of a car while forcing a driver to slow down.

POOLS

Proposition B allocates $124 million to improve pools, parks and trails across the city. The largest chunk of funding is going to build new pools at Forest Park and in Stop 6.

Funding for the pools was increased after residents objected to a proposed design for Forest Park. The city added $3.5 million to keep the eight-lane and 50-meter design for Forest Park. Another $1.2 million will be for the Stop 6 pool.

Fort Worth lags behind other similar-sized cities in the number of public pools. The city has only two pools while neighboring Arlington has five.

PARKS

Proposition B also sets aside funds to revamp old parks and develop new ones.

Heritage Park just north of the courthouse in downtown will get $13.5 million to redo the landscaping and make it more pedestrian friendly.

This is part of a proposed $40 million redevelopment of the park co-managed by the business and downtown advocacy non-profit Downtown Fort Worth Inc., Streams and Valleys, and the Amon G. Carter Foundation.

The parts of the project funded by the bond will be managed by the city, wrote Andy Taft, president of Downtown Fort Worth Inc. The council voted in April 2020 to award the group $1 million from the 2014 to kick start design on updates to the park.

The bond also dedicates $5.5 million to develop or improve eight neighborhood parks across the city. Three are north of Loop 820, one is in the north side, two are in east Fort Worth, one is in west Fort Worth and one is in southwest Fort Worth.

Some will be developed on vacant land owned by the city. All will be given updated amenities such as playgrounds, lights, picnic areas, trails and potentially practice fields.

Data from the Trust for Public Land found that 40% of Fort Worth residents live more than a 10-minute walk from a neighborhood park. The data showed a correlation between lack of park access and poor mental health for Fort Worth residents.