Cargo will be trucked more efficiently from Alliance Airport if a 2.43-mile stretch of Avondale Haslet Road is increased from a two-lane to a four-lane divided thoroughfare.
That road project is among 33 that Tarrant County will fund if voters approve a bond election next month, county officials say.
Cities had until April 16 to submit road projects for Tarrant County to consider. At $19.3 million, Fort Worth’s Avondale Haslet Road project is the most expensive funding request that cities made and Tarrant County accepted. It is also among 11 arterials included in the city of Fort Worth’s bond package set to go before voters in May of 2022. If both bonds pass, the city and county will split the costs of the project 50-50. In fact, all 24 cities that submitted road projects for Tarrant County to consider as part of its bond package had to commit to funding 50% of their submitted projects.
The 33 projects selected will accommodate the growth Tarrant County has experienced since its last county transportation bond passed in 2006, as well as prepare for more, County Administrator G.K. Maenius said.
Tarrant County’s population grew by 16.7% in the past decade.
“Now is a time when we need critical road infrastructure, and our plan is one where we want to team with the cities because we will probably get a return of greater than one to one. And then, finally, important to our taxpayers is that we as staff have made a pledge to the Commissioners’ Court that if this bond package passes, we will not sell debt which will increase the overall tax rate,” Maenius said.
The average tax bill from Tarrant County for a single-family home is currently $545.73, and if the bond passes, Tarrant County commissioners intend to maintain the county’s current property tax rate of 0.229000 per $100 valuation, Maenius said.
“We will just have to manage it so we issue debt whenever we have available revenues to pay for it,” Maenius said, later adding, “The only reason it (a residents’ Tarrant County tax bill) would go up is if the value of their home increased.”
He said the average value of a Tarrant County home increased from $222,786 in 2020 to $238,312 in 2021. That translates into almost a 7 percent increase in the valuation.
A committee of 16 (each commissioner appointed three members to the committee and the Commissioners’ Court as a whole voted on who should chair it) met three times during the summer, determining in August which projects to fund.
The committee worked with Freese & Nichols, a private engineering firm hired by the county, to evaluate and rank all 196 projects submitted. Projects that received funding and were ranked based on their ability to ease congestion, improve air quality (Tarrant County does not meet national ambient air quality standards for ozone or smog) and enhance safety. The committee also judged projects based on whether they connected to major highways or other cities and were adjacent to work centers, hospitals and schools. The projects also had to be started by 2025.
Maenius said the ranking offers guidance on how the projects should proceed if the bond election passes, but it is not binding. If one project is shovel ready before another and is lower on the list, it could get bumped up.
The county and Trinity Metro also disagree on whether public transportation projects can be included in the county's bond.
"Tarrant County does not have the statutory authority to expend its funds, including bond funds, on transit," Maenius said.
However, Trinity Metro Chairman Jeff Davis said the regional transportation authority "had shown conclusively to the county attorneys that they could issue bonds for transit."
"We furnished a supporting memo," Davis said. "The county said they'd look at it and get back to us and we asked them about it in February and March and really have not heard from them. They just haven't returned our calls since then, so that's kind of where it stands."
Andre McEwing, chairman of the Tarrant Transit Alliance, said he was appointed by Precinct 1 Commissioner Roy Brooks to be on the committee that evaluated these projects and he considered how Trinity Metro could benefit from them.
“We can’t just talk about building roads without talking about transit. That will always be my focus given my past experiences on the Trinity Metro board,” he said.
The total bond amount is $516 million. About $400 million will be set aside for transportation projects, half of which haven’t been determined yet, while $116 million will go toward building the district attorney a new office on land across from where she and her staff currently work at Tim Curry Criminal Justice Center on Belknap Street. The county already owns the land. It is currently being used for parking.
“But the building has not been designed yet. When the bond passes or if it passes, we’ll begin those processes,” Maenius said.
Election day is Nov. 2. Early voting is Oct. 18-29.
Jessica Priest is an investigative journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.