FORTWORTH - Billions of dollars in North Texas Highway upgrades are moving forward.
Work will begin next year on a facelift for LBJ Freeway, which will include regular and toll lanes from Central Expressway to Interstate 35.
In February, crews will start work on the DFW Connector, rebuilding highways 114 and 121 near Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. In Fort Worth, stretches of I-35 and Loop 820 will get a makeover through the North Tarrant Express.
Now, there is new hope for the Southwest Parkway/Chisholm Trail Parkway.
Two months ago it looked like the embattled project, which would link Cleburne to Fort Worth, might once again be dead in the water. The money just wasn't there. But, late Thursday afternoon came a unique solution.
Southwest Parkway/Chisholm Trail is key to Cleburne's survival. Traffic congestion is pushing the town further from Fort Worth; the proposed parkway that would cut through rural Tarrant and Johnson county would change that by linking I-30 to Highway 67.
It changes the drive time from 45 minutes to Fort Worth to 20 to 25 minutes, said Chester Nolen, Cleburne City Manager.
But, the project appeared to be a victim of the recession.
We were told we've got an impasse; we can't get the partners to agree, said Jungus Jordan, Fort Worth City Council.
Representatives of the council, TxDOT and the North Texas Tollway Authority have been working on the problem, and came up with a possible solution Thursday. To move on with the project, the state would co-sign to get a cheaper loan.
Huge savings in finance cost, probably $400 million, and that money could be spent to get the road built, said Paul Wageman, NTTA's board chairman.
Second, money would be pooled for the parkway with the Highway 161 extension project.
So, if there's surpluses in one we can bring that into the other, and if there's negative deltas in one, we can cover that with the positives in the other, said John Matthews, Johnson County Commission.
Lastly, the partners suggest building the project in phases with some connectors built later to save money. If each organization can agree to the plan, drivers could be using the parkway as early as 2012.
We're much further along than we ever have been, Matthews said.
The Regional Transportation Council director suggested raising tolls on the parkway and 161 during peak hours, to make it easier to repay the bonds, but it's too soon to say whether that suggestion will be seriously considered.