Midway through a public hearing about closing the intersection of Berry Street and University Drive for the majority of the summer, the project manager asked the crowd or residents and businesses affected area how they felt about the proposal.
The crowd broke into applause. Their positive response was crucial to city officials who plan to ask City Council members to decide between the closure or a 10-month construction schedule. A vote is expected at Tuesday night’s council meeting.
The accelerated plan was first discussed several weeks ago when Fort Worth officials asked the project’s contractor, Dan McClendon of McClendon Construction Co., how fast he could finish the intersection with a complete closure. McClendon said officials were concerned that the 10-month time span would be too disruptive and not as safe.
Last week, city officials publicly discussed the expedited plan, and Thursday evening they met with more than 60 people from the 109 who wanted to know how the closure would affect the community compared with 10 months of construction.
During Thursday’s meeting, officials explained proposed detours and answered various audience questions. The crowd consisted of Fort Worth residents, local business, city and TCU representatives.
Martha Jones has lived on Wabash Avenue since 1988. Jones said she was worried about cut through traffic since Wabash was the only street open to the median on Berry Street.
Project manager Arty Wheaton-Rodriguez said the city might consider having a blockade to suggest residential passage only if the plan is approved. Wheaton-Rodriguez is the senior planner for the Fort Worth Planning and Development Department.
McClendon told the gathering that the proposal has met with skepticism. “The initial gut reaction is “hell no” followed by a “well, wait,” McClendon said.
Representatives from local businesses like Kroger and Fuzzy’s Taco Shop were concerned the detours would sidetrack customers into residential areas and impede deliveries. City officials said they would talk with the businesses one-on-one and find a way to make it easy for the trucks to reach their destinations on time.
In suggesting the expedited option, officials with the city planning and development department noted that:
- the project would be finished before the fall semester begins for TCU and Fort Worth schools.
- construction would be finished prior to the fall when special events, such as Big 12 sporting events, are expected to flood the area with traffic
By comparison 10 months of construction would mean significant congestion on roads that estimated 35,000 vehicles use daily, according to planners. The approach would mean:
- street parking on Berry Street would be banned so that two lanes of traffic in each direction could be kept open.
- during the first four months University Drive would be narrowed to two southbound lanes and 1 northbound lane.
- While the final six months would see University Drive down to one lane in each direction.
If the accelerated plan is approved, detours will be put into place and Rogers Avenue, Cockrell Avenue, West Bowie Street and Bellaire Drive North will have no on-street parking. City officials said they are working with TCU to see if the university will allow people to park in on-campus parking lots during the closure.
TCU spokesperson Lisa Albert said that nothing is official but the university will try and assist the city.
Drivers will be able to reach all sides of the intersection up to the barricades and get around them to reach corner businesses such as Shell and 7-Eleven. Access to all businesses and residences will be maintained 24 hours a day during this period, Wheaton-Rodriguez said.
Working with the intersection closure would also speed up the overall project by 90 days, McClendon said.
“This is the fairest, best, quickest way to get this done,” McClendon said.
At Tuesday’s Fort Worth City Council meeting, council members are expected to choose between this proposal or the 10 month plan. Stay with TCU 360 and the109 for information on the decisions made at the meeting.