Key contracts to design and construct elements of the Panther Island / Central City flood control project are headed toward approval by the end of May.
Partners met to discuss progress on several infrastructure projects – including the reconstruction of a portion of University Drive – related to Panther Island at an April 6 Trinity River Vision Authority meeting. Fort Worth officials, along with representatives from the Tarrant Regional Water District and Tarrant County, sit on the TRVA’s board.
Government agencies are working simultaneously to stay ahead of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency charged with constructing the north and south bypass channels — the core of the 1.5-mile channel that will direct a portion of the Trinity River to create a downtown riverwalk.
Woody Frossard, the water district’s environmental director, celebrated an additional $20 million allocation of federal funds to the project. The additional funding will also allow the Corps of Engineers to finish the design of isolation gates and a stormwater pump station, a key element of flood control. The project’s completion date is officially set for 2032.
Contracts to design the north and south bypass channels will be signed by the end of May, Frossard said. The city and water district’s effort to raise a portion of University Drive will also begin in early 2024, Frossard said.
Construction will be limited to a section between White Settlement Road and Jacksboro Highway, near Rockwood Park and Fort Worth ISD’s administrative building. Officials involved with the University Drive work, which will create more storage for flood water, recently met to discuss their concerns about the project, Frossard said.
“One of the issues we had collectively was: ‘Are you going to shut down University during construction? Are you going to keep it open?’” Frossard said.
The Corps of Engineers, which has provided $423 million in federal funds to the project, will commission a traffic study to determine the best path forward for diverting traffic or closing parts of the road during construction. That study should be complete by August, Frossard said.
The city of Fort Worth also hired consulting firm HR&A Advisors Inc. in January to create a real estate development strategy for the 440 acres of land that compose Panther Island. HR&A staff are making their first site visits to Fort Worth the week of April 10, said Kate Beck, assistant program director for the water district.
Consultants have in-person meetings scheduled with leaders of the three government agencies funding Panther Island, including the city of Fort Worth, Tarrant Regional Water District and Tarrant County. HR&A is scheduling more meetings with owners of significant properties and neighborhood associations that will be affected by Panther Island, Beck said.
“When they come to town, they will get a site tour, including a tour of neighboring areas and districts, including the Cultural District, the Stockyards, downtown, to understand and meet with those folks about strengths and weaknesses and ideas,” Beck said.
City makes progress on utility relocations
Assistant City Manager Dana Burghdoff updated board members on the progress of storm water, sewer and utility relocations. While the Corps of Engineers is focused on the construction of the bypass channels, it’s up to the city to prepare the area by moving utilities out of their path.
Initially, cost estimates for sewer and stormwater relocations in the north bypass channel came in three times the predicted amount, Burghdoff said. The city rejected that bid, reworked some details of the project and accepted new bids on those contracts.
“Luckily, it was only double our estimate, so we’re moving forward,” Burghdoff said. “Of course, cost increases are affecting all of us.”
Fort Worth City Council will vote on one construction contract for water and sewer relocations Tuesday, April 11. Construction is scheduled to be completed in May 2024. A separate storm drain contract that will require the city to go through an existing levee will head to council on April 25.
Some utility construction may be ongoing as the Corps of Engineers starts work on the north bypass channel, but the two projects should not conflict, barring any delays due to weather, Burghdoff said.
“These are tight schedules and we’re all acknowledging that acts of nature (happen) and we’ll have to work to mitigate that as we go along,” Burghdoff said.
After switching to a less frequent meeting schedule last year, the TRVA board will meet next on May 25.
Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com 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.