Every day at lunchtime, co-workers Ben Paredes and Keith Nguyen leave work to get in a short walk. Even though their office is just a stone's throw from beautiful downtown Fort Worth, they're limited to just walking around their building at the corner of Vickery and Hemphill.
That's because there's a lack of safe, walkable ways to cross from the booming Near Southside and downtown, and vice versa, the men say.
"If we did have access to explore without getting hit by a train or vehicle, that’d be nice," Paredes says.
Their hopes finally appear to be coming to fruition in the form of the long-awaited Hemphill-Lamar Connector. It's been 15 years since the project was first proposed, according to city of Fort Worth publications.
"The last update I received said we’re beginning construction, and that was early August," says councilwoman Ann Zadeh.
Construction had started back in 2015, but when the cost more than doubled, the work was halted. Zadeh says the city since found funding partners to complete the $53-million project. The project will create a road connecting Hemphill and Lamar from Vickery to Lancaster.
"A complete street that has wide sidewalks, bike lanes and there’ll be a public art component as well," Zadeh describes.
The current options for bikers and walkers to move between downtown and the Near Southside are limited to dark tunnels, which are loaded with trash. Many in the area say they avoid the tunnels altogether. Zadeh says the design of the new connector will be well-lit, and won't lend itself to the disrepair seen in the tunnels.
"It will be a pleasant place to go. A connection from downtown to the Near Southside that is pleasant for all users," she says.
"Oh, that'd be awesome," Paredes says, as he thinks of the opportunities the connector would open for lunchtime and beyond.
The work is expected to be completed by Fall 2020.