The city is beginning to educate the public, starting with the new City Council members, on a $500 million bond it wants to pass in 2022. City officials say the goal of the bond is to maintain and improve existing infrastructure, provide mobility and city services in areas that are growing, and enhance transportation. They say they’re also trying for the first time to think of equity, and they’ll be good financial stewards by partnering with Tarrant County on some projects and finding grants for others. Although the city staff say there is not a “one size fits all” for how much debt a city should carry, multiple financial rating organizations have found the city’s credit worthiness to be high.
How did the city come up with its list of bond projects? Department heads submitted $1.3 billion worth of projects. The city tried to whittle it down to $500 million worth of projects because that is the amount of bonds its revenue can support. To do so, they asked themselves the following questions:
- Does the project address service deficiencies?
- Is there an opportunity to partner with others like Tarrant County to get funding?
- Does the project align with the city’s approved master plan and strategic goals?
- Does it improve existing infrastructure, public health and safety or economic development?
“These are pretty typical and traditional criteria,” said Roger Venables, the city’s aviation director who helped with the 2022 proposed bond package. “Equity — and we took this straight from the Fort Worth task force on race and culture — asks, ‘Does this project address and help to reduce or eliminate racial and cultural disparities consistent with recommendations from that task force? Is it located within a super majority-minority area or a majority-minority area?’”
What are some of the projects? Most of the money, or 64%, will go to streets and pedestrian mobility infrastructure, followed by parks and recreation improvements at 17% and community center facilities at 6%.
The top 10 most expensive projects are:
- Arterials, $110.1 million
- Cromwell Marine Creek Boulevard, Boat Club Road to Marine Creek Parkway, construction of 2.18 miles of four-lane divided thoroughfare
- Meacham Boulevard-Phase 2, FM 156 to IH-35W, design and construction of 1.72 miles of five-lane undivided thoroughfare
- Ray White Road North, Wall Price Keller Road to bridge north of Camrose Street, design and construction of 0.75 miles of five-lane undivided thoroughfare
- Ray White Road South, Mirage Drive to Wall Price Keller Road, design and construction of 0.23 miles of five-lane undivided thoroughfare
- Trinity Boulevard-Phase 2, Salado Trail to Thames Trail, design and construction of 0.51 miles of four-lane divided thoroughfare
- W J Boaz Road West Half, Boat Club Road to Elkins School Road, design and construction of 1.03 miles of four-lane divided thoroughfare
- Avondale Haslet Road, Willow Creek Drive to east Fort Worth city limit at John Day Road, construction of 2.43 miles of four-lane divided thoroughfare
- Bonds Ranch Road and Wagley Robertson, US Hwy 287 SB SR to Wagley Robertson Road, design and construction of 1.03 miles of four-lane divided thoroughfare
- Park Vista Boulevard, Keller Haslet Road to 415 feet north of Timberland Boulevard, design and construction of 0.47 miles of 2 additional lanes of traffic to complete the ultimate four-lane divided thoroughfare designated by MTP
- Keller Hicks Road, Lauren Way to Park Vista Boulevard, design and construction of 0.64 miles of three-lane undivided thoroughfare
- Heritage Trace Parkway 1, Wagley Robertson Road to Saginaw Boulevard, design and construction of 1.20 miles of four-lane divided thoroughfare
- One hundred and twenty-three neighborhood streets, $70 million
- Grade separated railroad crossings, $30 million
- Northwest Patrol Division Facility, design and construction of a 32,000-square foot facility to consolidate operations and eliminate lease expenses, $18.6 million
- Stop Six Hub Community Center, design and construction of a 28,000-square foot replacement for the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, which will have a library, gym and a space for social service providers, $17.5 million
- Sidewalks, $16 million
- Intersections, $16 million
- Jacksboro Highway at West Northside Drive/North University Drive
- Camp Bowie Boulevard at Bryant Irvin Road
- Camp Bowie Boulevard at Horne Street
- Bryant Irvin Road at Oakmont Boulevard
- North Tarrant Parkway at North Beach Street
- Trinity Boulevard at Euless South Main Street
- South Hulen Street at West Risinger Road
- McCart Avenue at Westcreek Drive
- Altamesa Boulevard at Woodway Drive
- Forest Hill Drive at Royal Crest
- East Berry Street at South Riverside Drive
- Main Street – Downtown Signal Corridor
- Traffic signals, $15 million
- Established corridors, $15 million
- East Lancaster Avenue, Jones Street to South Handley Drive, $10 million local match for a federal infrastructure grant to make improvements that focus on pedestrian, bicycle and transit elements to increase safety, accessibility and connectivity to the surrounding community
- West Berry Street, IH-35 to Martin Luther King Freeway (US 287), $2.5 million for design only of complete street renovation
- McCart Avenue, IH-20 to Sycamore School Road, $2.5 million for design only of complete street renovation
- Open space conservation, acquisition and improvements of land citywide to conserve sensitive environmental features, provide environmental education opportunities and environmental benefits that support economic development and enhance the livability and desirability of Fort Worth, $15 million
Other projects under discussion include a youth sports complex, an African American cultural center and a Tex Rail expansion.
When did Fort Worth voters last approve a bond, and what are the status of previous bond projects? Fort Worth voters approved a $400 million bond in 2018 and a $292 million bond in 2014. As with the 2022 proposed bond, a majority of the funds were dedicated to streets.
City staff expect that by the time voters are asked to approve the 2022 bond, 100 street projects from the 2014 bond will be completed and 59 street projects from the 2018 bond will be completed. That’s a majority of them.
Park and facility projects are a bit more of a mixed bag.
For example, the Reby Cary Youth Library, part of the 2014 bond package, has its grand opening on Aug. 14 while a Fire Station No. 43 in far west Fort Worth will only be about 80% complete by May 2022. Fourteen park projects from the 2018 bond will be completed by then with another 10 under construction.
“We generally try to have one (bond) every four years, and our goal is to get all the projects delivered in that four-year period. Now, as you’re going to see, there are sometimes exceptions,” Assistant City Manager Dana Burghoff said. “There are things that often relate to real property, for us to be to acquire property, acquire rights-of-way easements, whatever it may be that sometimes is out of our control and slows us down a little bit.”
How can I participate in shaping the 2022 bond program?
Go to one of the city’s open houses this month to learn more and ask staff questions. The open houses are at:
- 6 p.m. Thursday, July 29, at Future City Hall, 100 Energy Way
- 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 5, at Dunbar High School, 5700 Ramey Ave.
- 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 12, at Heritage Church of Christ, 4201 Heritage Trace Parkway
- 10 am. Saturday, Aug. 14, at R.D. Evans Community Center Gym, 3242 Lackland Road
- 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 19, at Doxology Church, 4805 Arborlawn Drive
The city is expected to finalize the list of projects based on those meetings and City Council input by December. The City Council is expected to set the bond election by January or February, and voters will be asked to approve it May 7, 2022.
Jessica Priest is an investigative journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.