It’s been three years since plans for a Bus Rapid Transit system were floated to the residents and businesses along East Lancaster Avenue, as a solution to their public transportation needs, but it’s no longer the sole option. 

The 2020 Transit Moves Fort Worth plan identified East Lancaster as a corridor that could benefit from the faster and more efficient bus system, a major reconstruction project that would run down the middle of the street in dedicated lanes, stations and platforms for easier boarding.

But plans are changing, and funding issues emerged.

“The idea coming from the transit authorities is ‘Hey, we think BRT is the best option for that corridor,’” said Chad Edwards, vice-president of planning and development at Trinity Metro, which oversees public transportation in Fort Worth and Tarrant County. “There’s other folks that don’t think that, which is why we’re doing a study to try to figure out ‘OK, what the best way to do that.’”

As the East Lancaster project enters its next phase, stretching from downtown to Handley, city transportation officials are focusing on revitalizing the street that used to be the main thoroughfare between Fort Worth and Dallas.

“This is how it’s come across, that this is a BRT project. It’s not. It’s really a complete street (project),” said Keller Porter, assistant director of Fort Worth’s transportation and public works department “The roadway is old, it’s gotta be rebuilt. And that has to happen regardless of transit or not and that’s kind of getting lost.”

There’s a consensus that Lancaster needs revitalizing

East Lancaster Avenue has a history as a vibrant roadway and highway with many names, dating back to the early 1900s when the region’s first mass transit project known as the Interurban – a rail-mounted electric streetcar – took people from Fort Worth to Dallas. As automobiles became more viable in the 1920s and ‘30s, Lancaster was lined with diners, hotels, full-service gas stations, auto repair shops and retail. 

But that began to change in the late 1950s when the Dallas-Fort Worth Turnpike (now Interstate 30) was built, siphoning cars off and causing an economic decline. 

East Lancaster is still lined with businesses and includes Trinity Metro’s busiest bus routes, but much of the area is run down and needs revitalizing, transportation and city planners say. 

Just exactly what that means is still being determined.

For starters, Edwards told the Fort Worth Report that Trinity Metro does not plan to tear down medians to create the dedicated lanes; instead, the transportation authority would be using the inside lanes and adding bus stops to streamline service. 

Right now, the buses running along East Lancaster are pulling up to their stops using the outside lanes, which are lined with driveways to businesses and residents – and that creates congestion.

“The sheer number of driveways and the people in cars pulling in and out of those driveways tend to slow the bus down,” Edwards said. “If you’re in a dedicated right of way, you don’t have that and so you can speed up a little bit more and feel safe about it.”

Some residents like Don Boren, president of the East Fort Worth Business Association, would like to see East Lancaster succeed in a similar way that other urban areas like South Main have. 

But Boren doesn’t necessarily see BRT as part of the solution.

“I’ve been dealing with BRT probably for 20 years, and the promise of BRT has never really hit home with me,” he said. “Fort Worth has been a car-driven city forever, and I don’t know that we’re ever going to embrace mass transit.”

The city’s East Lancaster Corridor and Subregional Plan is looking to improve road conditions with new pavement as well as streetscaping and better transit mobility. The plan will also revisit the area’s zoning and consider incentives to encourage economic development. 

Porter, with the city’s transportation department, said the study will determine what transportation and route are best suited for East Lancaster. He said every option still remains on the table, but that decisions about potential transit modes will be driven by data instead. 

“There’s no way to come to that determination without actually having the data and doing the planning and the work we’re doing now,” Porter said. “So it’s a bit premature to say … that we want center-running BRT because we haven’t really had the data to prove that that’s the most viable option.”

What studies have been done on East Lancaster so far?

  1. Between 2016-2017, the East Lancaster Complete Streets Project was submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation for a $25 million grant to help revitalize the area. 
  2. Initiated in 2019 and released in 2020, the city produced a study called Transit Moves Fort Worth to look at ways to increase transit’s role in the overall transportation system. East Lancaster was identified as a priority corridor. 
  3. In January 2021, the city of Fort Worth and Trinity Metro launched the Advancing East Lancaster project, working with the public to create a Transit-Oriented Development plan for East Lancaster, which was released in April 2022.
  4. Phase two of the Advancing East Lancaster project is now underway with the city of Fort Worth and other partners like Trinity Metro and TxDOT. The plan has now been renamed the East Lancaster Corridor and Subregional Plan.   

‘We’re not funding that vision’

The North Central Texas Council of Governments, which helps secure federal funding for transportation projects, said it won’t support a BRT plan that runs down the middle of the medians, should the city and Trinity Metro decide to go with that option.

“We’re not funding that vision,” said Michael Morris, director of transportation at COG.  “I’m not in the camp of putting dedicated bus lanes down the middle of Lancaster and tearing up the trees and closing some of the intersections.”

COG, however, is committed to helping revitalize the street. Morris said they already have between $60 and $70 million set aside for this project.

East Lancaster Avenue became the subject of a 2020 study to revitalize the corridor and bring economic development opportunities and better transit options to the residents there. (Courtesy photo | Trinity Metro)

Additionally, the agency’s Regional Transportation Council recently resubmitted an application for a $25 million federal grant for the project after being turned down for a $100 million grant it had applied for. Now, the idea is to ask for smaller, more frequent grants over the next four years.

If all four $25 million grants are obtained, the reconstruction of East Lancaster could begin in the next four years, Morris said. By then, the Texas Department of Transportation, which owns the roadway, will have completed its design and environmental assessment — and final transit plans will be solidified. 

“It’ll be an organic process with a known deadline,” Morris said. “The difference is, we went after $100 million and it’s possible we don’t get it and maybe Lancaster never happens. What we’re saying now is that Lancaster is definitely going to happen.”

The Regional Transportation Council will fund any remaining dollars needed for the project that doesn’t come through from federal grants, Morris said. 

Most recently, the Federal Transportation Administration awarded federal funding for BRT projects to three Texas cities, including Houston, San Antonio and Austin. 

‘We’re thinking big picture’

Some options for the East Lancaster Corridor project will go before City Council in the next six to eight months, Porter said. The goal is to develop the entire plan by the time TxDOT completes its study on the I-30 expansion project in west Fort Worth. 

“We want to get everybody on the same page and have a united voice to be able to get a really amazing project going. You will probably continue to see this very collaborative approach from transportation public works,” Porter said. “We’re thinking big picture and trying to bring everybody to the table to leverage different processes.”

Regardless of the final transit option selected for East Lancaster, if any, the project will still improve the roadway condition with new pavement, cleaner bus stops and updated streetscapes, officials said.

Edwards said he hopes all partners will come together and leverage the limited dollars available for the project not just for roadway improvements but also for future transit improvements. 

“What we’re trying to do is create an investment in East Lancaster that’s permanent, that people can see that,” he said. “Then they start saying ‘All right, the city is investing in East Fort Worth. So we want to invest in East Fort Worth, too.’ 

Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at or on Twitter at @ssadek19.

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.

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Sandra SadekBusiness Reporter

Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. Originally from Houston, she graduated from Texas State University where she studied journalism and international...