After underestimating the cost of construction related to the Central City / Panther Island flood control project, the city of Fort Worth is searching for millions of dollars to fund immediate work along Grand Avenue on the Northside.
The city’s plan is to pull $14.1 million originally set aside for 11 flood mitigation projects not related to Central City / Panther Island. Those funds came from Fort Worth’s 2020 stormwater bond and the city’s Pay-As-You-Go fund for capital projects.
The Tarrant Regional Water District will reimburse the city for any invoices paid before Aug. 1, according to water district spokesperson Matt Oliver. The reimbursement payment should arrive in September, with money coming from $250 million in TRWD bonds approved by voters in 2018, he said.
But some of the city’s stormwater projects may be delayed depending on how quickly crews can finish construction related to Panther Island, which will affect the reimbursement timeline, said Jennifer Dyke, assistant stormwater management director. Dyke, who declined an interview but answered questions by email, didn’t elaborate on which projects could expect delays.
Several of the affected projects are part of the city’s program to reduce the number of roads that frequently flood and put people and property at risk. Some funding will not be returned because some projects are already considered completed by Fort Worth’s stormwater department, according to an informal report that will be presented to City Council members on April 18.
Under the current plan, more than $4.6 million will be pulled from the stormwater department’s hazardous road flooding mitigation program, while $2.25 million will come from a program to acquire homes and replace them with green space in the Central Arlington Heights neighborhood.
About $1.7 million in funds to three projects near Lake Worth, Westcliff and Fairmount will not be returned to those projects, Dyke said. The Fairmount project could be scrapped entirely as it was identified as a lower priority than other storm drain projects.
District 9 council member Elizabeth Beck, who represents Central Arlington Heights and Fairmount, said on Friday she did not have time to read through the entire informal report yet. However, she is concerned about any reallocation of funds away from stormwater projects in her district.
“To the extent any project, particularly related to stormwater, is going to be removed or delayed in District 9, I will fight to prevent that from happening,” Beck said. “I think that the Central City project is important to the city of Fort Worth, but the residents we have now that are suffering from flooding when it rains are also important.”
11 stormwater projects affected by funding move
- Road Flooding at Shore View Drive near Lake Worth
- Drainage project near Westcliff in southwest Fort Worth
- A storm drain project at Fairmount Avenue and Morphy Street in Fort Worth’s Fairmount neighborhood.
- Road flooding mitigation at Quail Road near Lake Arlington in southeast Fort Worth
- Road flooding mitigation Cunningham Road near Crowley Road in south central Fort Worth
- Overall road flooding mitigation program
- Road flooding mitigation on Haltom Road near Texas 121 in east Fort Worth
- A stormwater channel restoration project, which improves channels to protect nearby property
- Utility relocations at University Drive in west Fort Worth
- Utility relocations at Viola Street in north Fort Worth
- Property acquisitions for flood mitigation in Arlington Heights in west Fort Worth
Dyke said the plan is necessary because of the timelines set by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency responsible for constructing two bypass channels and surrounding infrastructure that will make Panther Island a reality.
Before the Army Corps of Engineers can move forward with its part in the Panther Island project, Fort Worth must relocate 14 stormwater and water lines to make way for the bypass channels. The city’s first priority is moving storm drains along Grand Avenue, near Rockwood Park.
The city must complete utility relocations within the north bypass channel by summer 2024 and within the south bypass channel by fall 2024, said Clay Church, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Cost of 14 utility relocations could soar to $60.5 million
City staff originally estimated that Grand Avenue construction would cost $10 million, according to the April 18 informal report. That cost has ballooned to $22.8 million.
As recently as May 2022, city staff estimated that the total budget for all 14 utility relocation projects, including Grand Avenue, would be $22.9 million. The city now estimates it will need between $53.8 million and $60.5 million to complete all necessary work for the Central City / Panther Island project.
“The project is complex and challenging,” Dyke said in a statement. “There are limited contractors who can do the work, and costs are impacted by competing projects, inflation and material and labor shortages.”
City will face similar scenario with Main Street construction
To stay on schedule with the Army Corps of Engineers, city staff need City Council members to approve the Grand Avenue construction contract at their next meeting on April 25. Fort Worth won’t receive funding from its stormwater bond until June 15, forcing staff to find an alternative path to finance construction.
Fort Worth will be in the same position when it approves a construction contract for moving drainage infrastructure along Main Street. Construction should begin before the June bond funding becomes available, so city staff expect to pull about $10.9 million from other stormwater projects so Fort Worth can move forward with Main Street, according to the informal report.
Between the time Fort Worth receives bond funds in June and the time the water district reimburses in September, the city will put all funds it’s not using for Central City construction – about $24.65 million – to advance high-priority stormwater projects. The city is also considering long-term financing solutions to provide the upfront money the stormwater department needs to complete capital projects.
Correction: $4.62 million is being pulled from the stormwater department’s hazardous stormwater overtopping program. A previous version of the article misstated that the funds would be pulled from the NE 28th St and Decatur Avenue project in the Northside’s Diamond Hill neighborhood. Sections about the Diamond Hill neighborhood have been removed.
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.
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