New DFW Connector project to reduce SH 121 bottleneck

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With the expectation that SH 121 traffic near Grapevine Mills will nearly double by 2025, work begins in July to relieve bottlenecks that commonly occur along 3 miles of the roadway.

The $370 million Texas Department of Transportation project includes rebuilding and widening SH 121 north of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to accommodate new interchanges at I-635 and FM 2499. The Bass Pro Drive bridge in Grapevine will also be widened to six lanes and reconstructed along with the frontage roads of Bass Pro Drive, SH 121 and FM 2499.

The project is expected to be complete in 2022.

Tarrant County Commissioner Gary Fickes, whose precinct includes Grapevine, Colleyville and Southlake, said this project is a big piece for Grapevine drivers to easily access the highway and travel in all directions.

“This will help everybody,” he said. “In the afternoons and in the mornings with traffic backed up on [SH] 114 trying to go north on [SH] 121, … or people going into the airport, it’s just a chokepoint that when it gets full it’s thousands of cars at any one time.”

Part of the DFW Connector

The upcoming interchange project and several other unaddressed projects were originally part of the 2010 DFW Connector project, which completed work in 2014 and overhauled and widened SH 114 and SH 121. The projects were delayed when only $1 billion was made available for the $1.6 billion Connector.

In 2015, Gov. Greg Abbott called on the Texas Transportation Commission to develop a focused initiative—called Texas Clear Lanes—to address the most congested chokepoints in Texas. Texas Transportation Commission chair J. Bruce Bugg, Jr. then met with transportation leaders and elected officials in the state’s five major metropolitan areas. Those listening tours and collaborative efforts with metropolitan planning organizations and TxDOT districts helped shape this Texas Clear Lanes initiative.

Through the Texas Clear Lanes initiative, funding was found for the interchange project in 2017.

Bugg said the project will improve mobility and safety for many drivers who travel through the SH 121 bottleneck between I-635 and FM 2499.

“Projects like the SH 121 project will improve drive times, reduce costs and improve quality of life for our Texas drivers,” Bugg said. “Texas’ legislative leadership and TxDOT’s Transportation Commission are committed to reducing congestion.”

Fickes said funding for the project came with restrictions specific to free lanes. He said no toll lanes will be developed with this transportation project.

Effect on drivers

Fickes said once this project is complete in 2022, it will probably be the last major transportation project in Tarrant County for some time.

However, several area residents said they are unhappy about having to endure four more years of construction after continuous work since 2010 on SH 121, which many motorists use to reach Dallas.

One of those residents is Henry Lambert of Colleyville, who drives this route to work.

“I travel that every day. I thought the never-ending construction nightmare was finally at an end—guess not,” he said.

SH 121 between Stars and Stripes Way in Grapevine and the Business SH 121 split in Lewisville was recently widened to 10 lanes. The project began in March 2014 and was substantially completed in January of this year. Businesses in this area told Community Impact Newspaper in August that construction had hurt them during this time, but Grapevine Public Works Director Bryan Beck said he anticipated the construction this time to have a more minimal effect.

“This particular segment that they’re going to be working on, I don’t think the widening is as extensive as the original connector was, which I think should facilitate quicker construction,” he said.

Grapevine Economic Development Director Bob Farley said this project will help businesses in the long run, as some businesses in this area did not have easy entry points.

“It’ll actually help bring more accessibility to that side of town,” he said. “… At the end of the day you’re left with better accessibility and greater flow—that’s another thing, is you’ve got more people able to get in and around there now than you’ve had at any point in the past. So it’ll take a little bit of pain to get the
long-term value.”

Beck pointed out that in recent years, TxDOT has held a monthly business owners taskforce meeting, where TxDOT staff communicate with business owners in the area what the construction impacts are and what they can expect in coming weeks during a construction project. It also provides the opportunity for business owners to communicate any issues to TxDOT, such as access signage so customers can still find their way to the business during construction.

“It makes a big difference,” Beck said. “… I think TxDOT continues to get better at being mindful of how their construction impacts the local communities.”

An alternate route

With 119,000 vehicles per day traveling on this segment of SH 121, TxDOT spokesperson Michael Peters said drivers will more than likely be looking for alternate routes to get to work or home.

TxDOT does not have any suggested alternate routes to avoid construction, Peters said, but the state agency will limit its impact as much as possible on drivers.

“There will be lane closures necessary for construction,” he said. “To minimize the impact to the traveling public, lane closures will not be scheduled during commute times, but instead will be scheduled at night or off-peak travel times. When necessary, traffic will be detoured to an
alternate route.”

Peters said TxDOT will also coordinate with holidays and major special events to limit impact.

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  1. It would be nice if the state and county looked at the section of 121 between 114 and 183. After the widening and construction of both 183 and 121 everyone uses that as the passthrough between 183 and 635/114. At this point that section of 121 is worse than the section up by the mall.

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Sherelle Black
Sherelle joined Community Impact Newspaper in July 2014 as a reporter for the Grapevine/Colleyville/Southlake edition. She was promoted in 2015 to editor of the GCS edition. In August 2017, Sherelle became the editor of the Lewisville/Flower Mound/Highland Village edition. Sherelle covers transportation, economic development, education and features.
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