Arlington weighs options on underpass funding
ARLINGTON, Nov 21, 2012 (Menafn - Fort Worth Star-Telegram - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --The Arlington City Council is waiting to hear whether Union Pacific will chip in 1.7 million for the proposed Stadium Drive underpass at a key railroad crossing that has grown about 15 million more expensive than originally projected.
A Union Pacific contribution was among the funding sources that city staff members suggested to the council Tuesday to make up the shortfall for the estimated 35.3 million project.
The plan is to widen Stadium Drive to six lanes between Division and Abram streets and to build an underpass beneath the two railroad tracks, with the aim of reducing traffic congestion in the entertainment district.
The council was not ready to decide whether to move forward with the underpass.
"There are a lot of projects we could spend that on," Councilman Jimmy Bennett said. "I need to get much more comfortable that this is the highest priority for this 15 million."
Stadium Drive is one of eight at-grade crossings in Arlington along the Union Pacific line, which cuts through the city.
Arlington voters approved about 15 million in the 2008 bond election for the underpass, which also received 4.6 million in bond funding from Tarrant County. But the price tag has grown since Union Pacific asked the city to build a wider bridge to accommodate future rail lines.
Arlington has only five roads that cross over or under the rail line -- West Green Oaks Boulevard, Forest Edge Drive, Fielder Road, West Street and Texas 360.
Councilwoman Kathryn Wilemon said an underpass would alleviate congestion in the growing entertainment district, reduce air pollution from idling cars caught at the crossing and provide a better route for emergency responders.
Plus, the project will only become more expensive as time goes on, she said.
"This is a thing for the future. Think about 10 years from now. It could be astronomical and probably could never be done," Wilemon said. "I feel very strongly about this project and its importance to the city and the future of the city."
Originally, the city planned to elevate Union Pacific's two rail lines, but now the company is requesting space for a third and fourth rail line and wants to place the tracks farther apart.
Public Works Director Keith Melton told council members that the city could tap 7 million in surplus bond funds from street projects that came in under budget. The city could also use street maintenance sales tax funding instead of bond funds for a few capital improvement projects to free up 6.1 million.
"There is no delay, no change in any scheduled street-bond-funded projects," Melton said.
Arlington has about 4.8 million in unallocated street maintenance sales tax revenue, and administrators had been considering moving up some road repair projects scheduled for fiscal 2014.
Melton said the at-grade crossing does not pose too much of a problem, except for brief delays, for motorists leaving events at Cowboys Stadium or Rangers Ballpark.
But the city wants to reduce the risk of train and vehicle collisions or congestion that could develop if trains are stopped.
"I can't say today that for event traffic this roadway is critical," Melton said. "The at-grade crossing does work."
This year, a Union Pacific train jumped the track downtown, shutting down several thoroughfares.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Susan Schrock, 817-709-7578
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