Sansom Park’s city leaders hope the upcoming construction project on Texas 199 will breathe new life into the town of 5,000.
While the project has been discussed for decades, the road – also known as Texas 199 or Jacksboro Highway – has been neglected, the city’s mayor says.
Delays with the project are the “reason we have some undeveloped land on Texas 199 and haven’t been able to attract some of those retails, multifamily developers [and] strip centers,” Mayor Jim Barnett Jr. said.
Texas 199 stretches from downtown Fort Worth to northwest Tarrant County and beyond. The stretch of the roadway was infamous after World War II and well into the mid-1950s for its violence and illicit activities such as prostitution, gambling and loan sharking, bringing back memories of its days as “Hell’s Half Acre” near downtown.
Today, Texas 199 traverses Rockwood Park Golf Course, tire shops, industrial parks and gas stations before passing through the towns of Lake Worth, Azle, Springtown and eventually, Jacksboro.
While the corridor’s days as the rough and tumble part of town are behind it, the rapid growth of the neighboring cities has forced the Texas Department of Transportation and other partnering agencies to reevaluate the roadway’s role.
The number of vehicles traveling from downtown Fort Worth to Loop 820 daily is over 36,000, the North Central Texas Council of Governments notes. Daily traffic from Loop 820 to Azle Avenue in Lake Worth is about 43,000.
The agency projects between 50 to 60,000 cars a day traveling on Texas 199 inside the loop over the next 20 years. North of Loop 820, forecasts estimate up to 120,000 cars a day.
“What we don’t want to do is run off the residents or businesses that are there today. That’s not the point of it,” said Dan Kessler, assistant director of transportation at COG. “It is to try to make the area more attractive from a commercial economic development perspective. It’s more than just about moving traffic.”
For Sansom Park’s Barnett, the city has almost 43 acres of undeveloped land around just one mile of Jacksboro Highway that could bring opportunities for mixed-use development.
“The biggest obstacle for us has always been ‘What’s the highway going to look like?’” said Barnett, who has been mayor for more than 20 years.
Widening and improving Texas 199 will occur differently for portions inside Loop 820 and outside Loop 820, Kessler said.
Work done on Texas 199 from Loop 820 going toward downtown will turn the four-lane road into a six-lane parkway with sidewalks and bicycle and pedestrian improvements. The goal is to allow the traffic toward the city to flow in an organized manner while attracting more businesses and mixed-used opportunities along the way.
“It’s going to make it a lot safer. Right now, it’s a fairly dangerous pedestrian-bicycle corridor because traffic can move in and out wherever it wants,” Kessler said.
Construction is expected to start by 2026, he said.
The second half of the project, from Loop 820 toward Azle Avenue/Merrett Drive, will focus on improving mobility, capacity and safety along the interchange, said Val Lopez, TxDOT’s public information officer.
This includes improvements to the connecting ramps, entrance and exit ramps as well as the frontage roads and cross streets.
That phase is expected to start in 2030, Lopez said.
What makes this second part different is its proximity to Lake Worth’s major commercial corridor, Kessler said, which makes up a large part of the city’s tax base.
“A lot of their tax base sits adjacent to Texas 199 in that section so we’ve got to come up with a way to move traffic but also preserve the accessibility and the attractiveness of those businesses for the city,” he said.
Ahead of the start of the project, Sansom Park took it upon itself to reconstruct its arterial roads and prepare them for future traffic diverted from Jacksboro Highway during the construction.
The two main roads are Skyline Drive and Biway Street.
“When the traffic starts diverting through, the city will have basically a thoroughfare – wider roads, sidewalks and curbs – that will be able to handle that kind of traffic and not bogged down,” Barnett said.
As more development pops up west of Fort Worth, traffic will want to follow, Kessler said, following forecast trends of fast growth in northwest Tarrant County, southern Denton County and Wise County. That means finding ways to handle all that growth and offering the road capacity for it – in all directions.
“Part of the Texas 199 question is if you can provide alternative corridors to the west that would allow not everyone to have to use Texas 199, that will help reduce the burden on that particular quarter,” Kessler said.
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.
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.