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Fort Worth City Council discusses naming I-35W frontage roads in Atatiana Jefferson’s honor

Last month, city council adopted a resolution, supporting the designation of a portion of I-35W for Atatiana Jefferson, who was killed in her home in 2019.

FORT WORTH, Texas — During their pre-council meeting Tuesday, Fort Worth City Council briefly discussed designating a portion of Interstate 35W in Fort Worth in Atatiana Jefferson’s honor.

Tuesday marked exactly four weeks to the two-year anniversary of Jefferson’s death.

Jefferson was shot and killed in her home by now-former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean after a neighbor called for a welfare check.

“This happened two years ago, and we're just now at a point that we're doing something about it,” Fort Worth District 8 Councilman Chris Nettles said. “This one thing will help people know that when something terrible happens to Fort Worth, that we’re going to take a stance as leadership and representation and make sure that we will remember her for years and days to come.”

At the end of 2020, the Fort Worth City Council voted to rename the stretch of road near Jefferson’s home Atatiana Jefferson Memorial Parkway.

Last month, city council adopted a resolution, supporting the designation of a portion of I-35W for Jefferson. Nettles told WFAA Tuesday that the portion “should be a good amount of stretch from [Interstate] 20 to [Loop] 820.”

Tuesday’s roughly six-minute discussion about designating part of I-35W happened during pre-council, which is an informal work session.

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In 2019, Nettles was not serving as councilman for District 8, which is where the shooting happened. But he’s in that leadership position now.

“The people of Fort Worth want to know: Has Fort Worth really changed with the new council? Is this a different council? Is this a different representation? And I want to make sure that people really feel like their voices are heard,” Nettles said.

But the city's plans to designate part of I-35W for Jefferson hit a road block after they talked to TxDOT representatives. 

I-35 is also known as the “Purple Heart Trail.” Due to this existing designation, TxDOT told the city “the existing designation would not allow TxDOT to approve an additional designation and post any signage on the I-35W main lanes,” according to an informal report.

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However, the city does have the option of renaming the frontage roads. This would require roughly 700 property owners to change their addresses from North/South Freeway to Atatiana Jefferson Freeway. It would include about 229 property owners in Nettles’ District 8.

I understand people say it’s going to cost the city money. Well, her life is worth more money than the city will ever pay for changing that name,” Nettles said.

The City would cover the cost of frontage road sign replacement, which is estimated at $75,000. Council members briefly discussed this cost during Tuesday’s pre-council meeting. 

Also on Tuesday, the City talked about the option of potentially getting the Texas legislature involved because the Texas legislature is able to add designations to existing ones on highways. The next regular legislative session is scheduled to begin in January 2023.

No action on the matter was taken during Tuesday’s pre-council meeting by Fort Worth City Council.  

Nettles asked for more information on how much it will cost property owners to change their addresses.