University officials said Thursday that they support a proposal to close the Berry Street and University Drive intersection for much of the summer, because fast-tracking the project is a safer option for student and road traffic.
“We support the city's decision to complete work via closure of the intersection for two months over the alternative… as we are expecting an influx of campus visitors who will be attending various TCU events throughout the year,” university spokesman Lisa Albert wrote in an email.
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 doing the work over a 10 month time span would be too disruptive.
Last week, city officials publicly discussed the expedited plan, and Thursday evening they met with more than 60 people who wanted to know how they would be affected by the new plan. City Council members are expected to select one of the options at Tuesday night’s council meeting.
During Thursday’s meeting, officials talked about proposed detours and answered various questions from the audience. The crowd consisted of Fort Worth residents, local business, city and TCU representatives.
City official Michael Hobbs talked about how medians would be safer in the end by making them wider for students to stand on when crossing the intersection.
“We all know students [practically] stand in the middle of the street now,” Hobbs said.
Representatives from 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.
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.
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.
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.
Drivers will be able to reach all sides of the intersection up to the barricades and get around them to reach corner businesses like Shell and 7-Eleven. Access to all businesses and residences will be maintained 24 hours a day during this period, Wheaton-Rodriguez 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 for information on the decisions made at the meeting.
City Council Meeting: June 5, 7 p.m., City Council Chamber