Where I-30 and I-20 meet in west Fort Worth, there is an oasis of country life away from the city. But even Walsh Ranch residents can’t escape the traffic of the Metroplex.
Savannah Crawford is a University of North Texas student who works in the Walsh Ranch development at the Village Market at 13801 Walsh Ave. In her job, she talks with a lot of residents who come into the store. Some of those conversations include people upset about traffic congestion and the prospect of more development, she said.
One of the possible developments is the Rivian electric car plant. If Fort Worth is selected, the $5 billion deal could create the second-largest employer in the city by 2027. Officials say it would not only be one of the largest projects in the city’s history, but in the state’s as well.
“I know that a huge issue is carbon emissions, those people who live out here are not exposed to as much as people who live in the city,” Crawford said. “It’s just so open and to have a huge manufacturer here constantly producing and having that assembly that is going to introduce some emissions.”
Walsh Ranch spokesman Greg Miller said the company works with Parker and Tarrant counties and the city of Fort Worth to give updates and data needed for the Texas Department of Transportation.
Even before Rivian emerged as a project, traffic in west Fort Worth was on the map for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, which directs most of the transportation planning and funding in the region.
“This would be the big deal,” said Michael Morris, director of transportation for North Central Texas. “And, the good news is, we have a project that’s already funded and slotted.”
That project is construction of ramps from I-30 to I-20 both east and westbound. The $6 million TxDOT project is estimated to be complete in January 2025. Additionally, there is a $140 million project for I-30 to expand from four to six main lanes from Spur 580 to I-820, reconstruct a four-lane discontinuous frontage to six lanes, and reconstruct the Spur 580 interchange.
Transportation Department upcoming projects for I-30 in 10-year plan
I-30 from I-20 to Tarrant/Parker County Line (Walsh Ranch Parkway is within these limits.)
Project: Construct westbound ramps to FM 1187, construct eastbound ramps to I-30 and I-20
Funding: $6 million (TxDOT)
Schedule: September 2022 – estimated environmental clearance; January 2025 – Estimated let date, which is when the department issues public notice of the intent to offer work, issues and received proposals, publicly opens bids and executes contracts.
I-30 from Spur 580 (East of Linkcrest) to I-820
Project: Reconstruct four to six main lanes; reconstruct four-lane discontinuous frontage to four- to six-lane continuous frontage roads; reconstruct Spur 580 interchange
Funding: $90 million from the Regional Transportation Council and $50 million from the Texas Transportation Commission
Schedule: January 2022 – estimated environmental clearance; September 2024 – estimated let date
I-30 from I-820 to Chisholm Trail Parkway
Project: Reconstruct from six to eight main lanes; reconstruct lanes for mainlane and frontage road improvements to improve mobility and relieve congestion.
Funding: Currently unfunded
Schedule: April 2024 – estimated environmental clearance, September 2025 – estimated let date
Morris understands the congestion on I-30 already is difficult to navigate.
“And, it’s for that reason, we’ve already funded the Interstate 30 improvements,” he said. “Again, those improvements are funded long before any of us had any knowledge of a large development.”
Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said it’s an exciting time to live in the county because of the many different ongoing developments. Because of that, he said, the county is constantly looking at how to improve.
“West Tarrant County is really the big area for continued growth and development,” Whitley said. “What we’ve got to do is not only work on I-20, but at the same time we also need to make sure that we’re trying to find the other east-west arterials that will bring people in from Parker County.”
When considering what areas need attention, Whitley said, a lot of long-term planning goes into play.
“First, we put together a regional study, western-side study probably about five or six years ago,” he said. “We asked all the cities to kind of talk and to coordinate their master plans, and we begin to look at other roads, not freeways but arterials, four-lane, six-lane roads that would bring folks in from the west to the east, maybe, north, south, but primarily looking for other ways to bring people in, other than just I-20, because once you go from 20 and you head north, the next one that comes in is Jacksboro Highway 199.”
Farm-to-Market Road 730 east of Decatur could be a prospect for a freeway if connected with FM 3325, Whitley said. Doing so would relieve traffic coming off I-35 without going downtown.
But improvements cost money, and Morris said transportation needs more.
The department is in an uphill battle to get the money to meet the need of mobility improvements, he said. Congress could approve an infrastructure bill that would bring billions of dollars to the Fort Worth-Dallas region later this month.
North Central Texas Council of Governments Transportation Department spokesman Brian Wilson said the cost estimate for the I-30 from I-820 to Chisholm Trail Parkway project that currently is unfunded is estimated to cost about $130 million.
The department recently asked the Texas Transportation Commission to consider funding it, but it was not picked up this year, he said. It is too early to say whether the federal infrastructure bill will help the project, he said.
That revenue source could have a great impact on the area. On the state level, Morris said, TxDOT is funding projects on I-45 in Houston and I-35 in Austin that are stalled. At the end of the month, a commission could put some of those funds that are not being used into other areas, such as Fort Worth-Dallas.
Through collaboration, Whitley said, improvements can happen.
“The key to success is the collaboration with TxDOT, with the region to the (Regional Transportation Commission), and with the various cities, and just making sure that nobody is in their own little silo and is developing something that’s not going to connect or is not going to be a barrier to traffic movement as you’re coming in,” Whitley said.
The I-30 projects will not permanently solve congestion issues, Morris said. It would help only for a few years.
About a million more people are coming to the region every eight years,” Morris said. “And a lot of those people are moving to western Tarrant County, eastern Parker County, and the fact that we don’t print money, we’re not adding transportation improvements faster than people are wishing to come to our region.”
The bottom line: There is not enough money to solve the congestion problems in Tarrant County, he said. The current funding does not allow for long-term solutions.
“We can improve them, or mitigate them,” Morris said. “We can improve the safety of the system. But I’m not here to say that when we make freeway improvements … we may solve it, maybe, for a few years.”
Kristen Barton is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.