GRAPEVINE –– At a gas station at the corner of Highway 114 and Texas Trail on Monday, Sam Barnes filled up the shiny red pickup truck he’s been stuck in for many a mile trying to get through “the funnel.”
But construction on the eight mile stretch of highways 114 and 121 through Grapevine (now called the DFW Connector) is all but finished.
“That sounds great. I can’t wait,” Barnes said. “Smooth sailing.”
He speaks for about a quarter million drivers a day who’ve suffered through nearly four years of construction. The $1 billion project will be declared “substantially complete” in the next four to six weeks, meaning no more detours and lane shifts.
The connector project adds new access roads, free lanes and toll lanes in the center. In some areas, it will be 20 lanes wide.
The federal government kicked the project into gear with a quarter of a billion dollars in stimulus spending. Longtime Grapevine Mayor William Tate said businesses have paid a high price for construction that cut them off from customers.
“We’ve had five or six that closed, and some that might still close because of changing access,” he said.
Still, Tate says it’s worth celebrating that work on the project will be completed nine months ahead of schedule by Grapevine-based Northgate Constructors. State and federal officials will do just that on Wednesday.
Tate says the city will launch a promotional campaign to bring back visitors who avoided the construction and congestion. But he warns that the funnel will just fill up again in years to come if North Texans don’t change their ways and embrace mass transportation.
“We can’t afford another project like this,” he says.
On Monday, traffic flowed freely through the connector, just north of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.