I recently spoke to members of the East Fort Worth Business Association about a project critical to their community, the city as a whole and the Fort Worth-Dallas region: the redevelopment of East Lancaster Avenue.
This road has lived two lives, first as part of the Bankhead Highway, one of the earliest east-west roadways to traverse the United States, and second as a thoroughfare street.
For years, the Bankhead Highway was an essential artery allowing people to move across the Southern U.S., through some of the region’s major cities. It started in Washington, D.C., carving a path right through Fort Worth on its way to San Diego, California.
The advent of the Interstate Highway System beginning in the 1950s altered the Bankhead Highway and its individual segments. Use patterns changed drastically, as drivers turned to the Bankhead Highway not to go long distances, but for local trips to work, school, shop or to visit the doctor.
In North Texas, we have a unique opportunity to preserve part of our transportation past in a way that honors our heritage and serves the needs of a modern, growing population. We can reshape part of this historic corridor to promote a reknitting of the community surrounding it.
The East Lancaster corridor of the future will be a roadway accessible to all, whether they drive, take transit, choose more active transportation or need access to broadband.
The North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) recently submitted a $100 million federal grant application in partnership with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), city of Fort Worth and Trinity Metro to help rebuild Lancaster and prepare it for the future. Imagine a corridor with sidewalks with lighting, transit porticos and enhanced-technology, dedicated bike lanes to protect cyclists from vehicle traffic. This project also provides us the opportunity to connect people virtually, through the increased use of broadband technology, which has become a lifeline for many. Not everyone enjoys the same access to this technology.
We can build the first “safe street,” enhancing the Texas Transportation Commission’s goal of safety, while maintaining automobile access, safer automobile lanes and intersections. NCTCOG’s Regional Transportation Council (RTC) has stepped forward to help, approving $3 million to increase the availability of broadband internet for residents and businesses in the Lancaster and Rosedale corridors in southeast Fort Worth.
A team approach will move East Lancaster forward. TxDOT, the city of Fort Worth, Trinity Metro, the RTC, and the neighborhoods will develop a solution that will modernize the corridor. I expect the project to be fully funded soon.
The most important member of the team is the public, who over the next several months will be asked to weigh in to help determine how exactly the new East Lancaster should look.
NCTCOG and our public-sector partners worked together to develop a plan and line up funding for the new East Lancaster Avenue. But residents and businesses that call this area home know it better than anyone. They use it every day. They can now step forward to help ensure what is implemented will meet the needs of the community today and continue the work of organizations such as the East Fort Worth Business Association to help the area prosper. East Lancaster is moving into its third life.
We can preserve the heritage of this great roadway while ensuring it meets the needs of today’s users and stitches together a vital part of Fort Worth. I look forward to working with our valued partners and the community of Fort Worth on a new East Lancaster that both honors the past and prepares us for a bright future.
Michael Morris, P.E. is director of transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments.