With the expectation that traffic on SH 121 near Grapevine Mills will nearly double by 2025, work began in 2013 to widen about 2 miles of the roadway to relieve a years-long problem of bottlenecks in the area.
After four years of construction, there is an end in sight for drivers on Grapevine’s stretch of SH 121. The roadway between Stars and Stripes Way in Grapevine and the Business SH 121 split in Lewisville is expected to be complete in December.
Tarrant County Commissioner Gary Fickes, whose precinct includes Grapevine, Colleyville and Southlake, said SH 121 is a huge connector for Grapevine drivers to be able to hop on the highway and travel south to Fort Worth or north to Allen.
“This road goes all through Tarrant County, and although the entire SH 121 is far from being completed, every little bit that gets done is a big win for our area,” he said.
Michelle Releford, Texas Department of Transportation spokesperson, said the project, which is known as
SH 121 Segment 13, was scheduled to be complete in September but has been delayed due to rain.
“It looks like December is the more reasonable estimate for substantial completion considering the wet summer we’ve had and the rainy season we’re going into,” she said.
Releford said earlier in construction the contractor also experienced some flooding at Denton Creek where crews were working on the bridge.
“The equipment was staged in the creek area below the bridge, and it got flooded,” she said. “Then the ground remained muddy for at least a month, which hinders the movement and operation of the equipment. There were some scheduling challenges that the contractor had to work through as well. All in all the project has gone very well, and our contractor is working like crazy to get the new lanes opened as soon as possible.”
When complete the $58.6 million TxDOT project will widen SH 121 from four lanes to 10 lanes between FM 2499/Grapevine Mills Boulevard and the Sam Rayburn Tollway/Business 121 split. The project also includes improved frontage roads, two overpasses—Grapevine Mills Boulevard/Sandy Lake Drive and Freeport Parkway—and widening of the Denton Creek bridge.
Impact on nearby businesses
With the completion of the transportation project on the horizon, Grapevine Economic Development Director Bob Farley said he hopes more people will visit the businesses near Grapevine Mills.
Since the project commenced in 2013, businesses along Grapevine Mills Circle, such as Cozymel’s Coastal Mexican Grill, Golden Corral, Papa’s Cajun Crab and Seafood, and Love and War in Texas, have closed.
“When things stay torn up for a while, that slows everything down,” he said. “And every time there’s major construction like we’ve been through, it has an impact on restaurants and retailers. People have a tendency to avoid an area that is overly congested or when they can’t quite figure out how to get where they are trying to go.”
Love and War in Texas owner Tye Phelps said the construction played a huge role in his decision to close the restaurant in 2016 after being open since 2005.
“We were one of the last ones to leave,” he said. “Chain restaurants are quick to leave, but as a locally owned restaurant you tend to stay in there longer and try to tough it out.”
Phelps said even with a loyal core clientele, the restaurant still struggled with sales.
“We had those people that would visit us frequently, but you still have to rely on people’s time,” he said. “If you have a 45-minute lunch break and it takes you 45 minutes to get here even though you are five minutes down the road, you probably aren’t going to come. It was just hard to overcome.”
The buildings that contained Love and War in Texas, Cozymel’s Coastal Mexican Grill, and Papa’s Cajun Crab and Seafood are still vacant.
Farley said the size of the buildings is also a factor in why restaurants might not be interested in the location.
“Regardless of location, you don’t have as many very large footprint types of restaurants looking for new places to locate,” he said. “The buildings in that area are between 10,000 to 15,000 square feet, and a much more common footprint for a restaurant today is probably anywhere from 4,000 to 9,000 feet. They would almost rather build something new than try and remodel a building that is maybe a third bigger than it needs to be.”
Farley said overall, the city continues to see restaurant revenue grow.
“Restaurant sales in general are doing quite well; we have some of the best-performing restaurants in the Metroplex,” he said. “We are still growing; our revenue grows 8 to 10 percent a year.”
Farley said it might be a while before the buildings find new tenants, but the city will continue to work to help attract businesses there.
“We are going to continue to have the door opened and our hands extended out,” he said. “We have corporations who bring jobs, and those people have to go eat and buy things so we’ve got quite a bit of companies left that could take advantage of that kind of use.”
The North Central Texas Council of Governments projected in its 2009 federal funding application that the SH 121 project would boost the economy.
The application detailed expectations that the expansion project could have a net positive benefit on the local economy of $26.8 million annually and create 292 jobs once complete.
The application said most of those permanent employees are expected to serve the nearby Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, but it is expected the improved corridor will also support new investment in Dallas-area private-sector production.
SH 121 work to continue
Although the SH 121 project near Grapevine Mills is nearing completion, motorists will still see work on the state highway continue.
TxDOT Public Information Officer Michael Peters said earlier this year, the Texas Transportation Commission approved $370 million in congestion relief funding for the SH 121 interchanges at I-635 and FM 2499.
“The [I-635] project is the next big piece of the DFW Connector and is estimated to begin construction in 2019,” he said. “The remaining segments of the DFW Connector total to approximately $500 million for various turnaround bridges, a direct-connecting ramp at FM 1709 and all the direct-connecting ramps at International Parkway leading in and out of the airport.”
Fickes said once work is complete on the Connector it will be a long time before work is done again.
“I think we are going to have to look at some form of transit, whether it be rail, a bus or some type of vehicle that will move people,” he said. “We are going to have to start preserving the right of way corridors that we currently have to accommodate that. I think the Northeast Tarrant cities are going to have to come together from a transportation standpoint and facilitate some type of transit to move people. It’s going to have to interconnect with [Dallas Area Rapid Transit] or be part of [The Fort Worth Transportation Authority].”