Since its creation 70 years ago, Interstate 30 West has divided Fort Worth’s mostly white and affluent neighborhoods from its racially diverse and lower-income neighborhoods.
Now, with the Texas Department of Transportation’s proposed expansion and work on I-30, Fort Worth advocates hope to use this opportunity to join communities previously separated by the interstate and create opportunities for economic growth across the city.
TxDOT’s 12-mile corridor study of I-30 West will allow the transportation department to consider potential express lanes and improve the frontage roads, ramps and cross streets on various interchanges. The $1.8 billion dollar project is split into two phases, with the first recommendations to be announced in early 2023.
The first phase of the project will include the area between I-820 and Chisholm Trail Parkway, extending through portions of Fort Worth and White Settlement.
Community Design Fort Worth, a nonprofit organization of designers and planning professionals, sent a letter to TxDOT with its suggestions and comments on May 18 regarding the I-30 proposal.
TxDOT has not yet responded to the letter, Executive Director Ann Zadeh said.
“Urban planners are looking at highways across the entire country, and seeing the impacts that that car-centric approach had for building those, not taking into consideration other users,” Zadeh said. “Now people are saying, ‘What can we do to do this better going forward?’ You live and learn and hopefully, you don’t repeat things that brought on negative consequences and take the opportunity to do better when you know better.”
Landmarks and communities
Although there’s little concrete cause-and-effect evidence, highways have long been connected to dividing communities based on income and therefore racial identity, said Fort Worth Assistant City Manager Dana Burghdoff.
“In most of the freeways, some of that’s likely racism and other -isms related to income, other biases. But it’s also likely where the land value was lower so in terms of acquiring right of way, that would have come in as a financial issue, as well as the socioeconomic impacts of that decision,” Burghdoff said.
Christina Brooks, chief equity officer and director of diversity and inclusion for the city of Fort Worth, said the expansion of I-30 could hurt Western Hills Elementary, a school with predominantly Black and Hispanic students.
The close proximity of the proposed construction to the physical school could impact several disparity indicators typically related to transportation projects, she said. This includes the rates for traffic accidents and fatalities for pedestrians, bikes and automobiles in that area.
There are also concerns about potential health issues of students like asthma and other breathing disorders because to the increased highway traffic patterns and auto exhaust pollution.
The potential expansion also could decrease green space and increase impervious surfaces that make nearby neighborhoods hotter, increasing cooling costs for nearby homes and businesses. Finally, the project could destabilize housing for neighborhoods within the footprint of the proposed highway expansion — thus decreasing student attendance and learning.
The residential neighborhoods off of Dale Lane and Glenrock Drive — areas with lots of affordable housing — could suffer from the expansion, Brooks said.
“You’ll note that the pathway of I-30 runs along the red ‘hazardous’ and yellow ‘definitely declining’ of the 1940 Redline map. I-30 cut through historically Black neighborhoods, similar to I-35 splitting the Historic Southside. Butler Place is probably one of the most prominent examples of how highway systems (I-30, 287, etc.) surrounded and cut off Black neighborhoods,” Brooks said in an email.
The increased traffic congestion along the western part of the interstate has nearby residents worried about its impact on the quality of life. Air quality, safety, economic and social impacts are top of the list.
For Streams & Valleys, a nonprofit organization that focuses on preserving and advocating for the Trinity River, the I-30 expansion proposal has to be mindful of the surrounding communities while making it more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly. Most importantly, the expansion has to work with the proposed Bomber Spur Trail project, which would turn a former World War II rail line into a cycling and walking trail.
“Our organization strongly believes that the crossing of an interstate like this really needs to be a grade-separated crossing that would go across the interstate, clearly keeping pedestrians fully separated from vehicular traffic both on SH 183 and on I-30,” said Paxton Motheral, board president for Streams and Valleys.
Lydia Guajardo Rickard, executive director of the Camp Bowie District Inc., said Camp Bowie Boulevard is one of the oldest major corridors connecting the west side of town with the business community downtown.
Because this corridor is very linear, the businesses there are often affected by roadway expansions, she said.
“The boulevard also has been home to a number of small and locally-owned businesses. More than half of our businesses on the boulevard, especially the stretch that Camp Bowie District oversees, are all family-owned or small businesses. So that survival of those businesses are equally as important to the economic base that is the Fort Worth retail-restaurant world,” Guajardo Rickard said.
It is not the first time that these historic sites have been impacted by highway construction and expansion. In the early 1950s, the construction of the East-West Freeway (now I-30W) resulted in the destruction of at least one Botanic Gardens lagoon, as well as some related trails, Zadeh said.
Conversations for the construction of I-30 began in 1944, just four years after the publication of the Fort Worth Redline map. This map, put together by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, a government agency created to stabilize the real estate market as part of the New Deal. The origin story of I-30 mirrored emerging trends across the U.S. in a post-World War II world, Brooks said.
As the government invested much more in highways rather than other forms of transportation, suburbs grew while inner cities declined.
“During this time period, planning and development of transportation systems contributed to maintaining residential segregation established through discriminatory housing policy and practice,” Brooks said.
The I-30 origin story in Fort Worth mirrored trends seen nationwide in post-WWII America.
- Disproportionate investment in highways
- Exclusionary zoning ordinances
- Home owners’ loan corporation ratings impacting housing and mortgage markets
- Relocation of job centers from cities to suburbs
- Highway construction practices through Black, Asian and Hispanic neighborhoods and communities
- Erosion of fragile micro-local economies
- Increased environmental impacts like noise and pollution, to neighborhoods split by highways and interstates
- Increased health impacts like respiratory diseases because of residents in proximate neighborhoods.
Source: City of Fort Worth
Timeline and proposals
TxDOT is conducting its I-30W corridor study, between I-820 and Chisholm Trail Parkway. Three alternatives to the mainline are being evaluated. This is expected to be completed in early 2023.
The goals of the proposal include easing congestion, improving operations, enhancing safety, providing transportation options and coordinating future Metropolitan Transportation Plan revisions.
The transportation agency will begin a full environmental study once the corridor study is completed — this will likely take place from mid-2023 to mid-2025. This second study will help the agency draft schematics and come up with a preferred alternative. No more than 30% of the plans can be done until the environmental study document is approved, TxDOT said.
Potential alternatives to the mainlanes include additional general-purpose lanes, adding concurrent express lanes, adding reversible express lanes or doing nothing.
For the SH 183 and Spur 341 interchange, several configurations are being analyzed based on their engineering, traffic impact, environmental impact and cost.
No draft preliminary schematics or corridor recommendations have been approved. Two public meetings were conducted March 22 and 24. TxDOT public information Val Lopez said the agency plans to have another public meeting next year.
Stacey Pierce, executive director at Streams & Valleys, said TxDOT seems receptive and focused on trying to make I-30 a usable, workable connection.
“If we don’t get this right now, we won’t get to take another pass at this for likely another 50 years,” Pierce said.
No funding sources have yet been identified for the billion-dollar project. TxDOT said the I-30 proposal will likely be divided up into smaller components as funding becomes available. While no start date for the construction has been determined, the full plan buildout is expected to take four to five years once construction starts.
In the meantime, those nearby are watching carefully to be sure any I-30 changes preserve the history and heritage of the city.
“I-30 is having to be adjusted with established neighborhoods all around,” Guajardo Rickard of the Camp Bowie district said. “It’s very important and serious that we look at the effect of this improved infrastructure on the existing communities, because we’re talking about communities that have been in existence for some of them 100 years.”
Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter at @ssadek19.
Lydia Guajardo Rickard is a member of our Reader Advisory Council. 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.