In many ways, being neighborly is synonymous with being a Texan. From the “Howdy, Partner” to the “Y’all come back now,” Texans exude friendliness. Thus, in true Texas spirit, we look to our neighbor, Fort Worth, and see bustling growth and extensive renovation, and we applaud the progress.
As with every change-good or bad-there are growing pains, a need for planning and speculation. Inside Dallas editor Aimee br-rabee recently spoke with Fort Worth Mayor Bob Bolen about five subjects that are vital to the growth of Fort Worth in particular, and the Metroplex in general: the lnterstate-30 controversy, mass transit, commercial and residential growth, the image of Fort Worth and the relationship between Fort Worth and Dallas.
I-30, the former toll road between Fort Worth and Dallas, narrows to a four-lane overhead freeway that cuts through the southern section of downtown Fort Worth. With more than 100,000 vehicles using the thoroughfare each day, there is little argument about the need to widen the thoroughfare to eight lanes from Camp Bowie Boulevard to Riverside, and to six lanes from Westridge (just past Ridgmar Boulevard) to Camp Bowie (in all, about six miles of freeway). The debate, however-one of the hottest in Fort Worth-is over the means of widening and the funding of the project. Some residents say that the existing overhead should be widened; others want the thoroughfare to be underground or depressed, claiming that the overhead puts a physical barrier between two segments of downtown.
D: Where do you stand on the 1-30 controversy? What can be done?
BOLEN: I have, at the [City] Council’s direction, talked to everybody from the Secretary of Transportation to the majority leaders in Congress, both senators, two governors, our representatives and the Speaker of the House, and in every instance, we’ve come up with the same problems. Legally and financially, we couldn’t achieve what we tried to do and get [the highway] depressed. I feel, as I did a year ago, that there’s a point at which we’ve got to get on with improving the transportation of the city; we can’t continually just wait. In the past two years, we’ve spent practically no major funds on our highway system in the city. 1-35 was stopped in a court case; 1-30 was stopped in a court case. The overhead was stopped in a court case. We’ve lost two years in a situation where funding is very crucial-very short anyway. The chance of recovering from those without losing tht two-year gap is a major concern of mine and many others’.
I thought originally, years ago, when we raised [1-301 that it should be depressed. I think that still there is no question that the majority of the people-everything else being equal-would like that. If I had my druthers, the original concept I like best is a one-way Victory [Street] and a one-way Lancaster [Street]. Then you wouldn’t have to expand that corridor at all. You wouldn’t run into the tremendous traffic problems that we’re going to have no matter what they do-the traffic problem is going to be horrendous for a multi-year period, whether they depress it or raise it.
I hope we can draw all this community back together. [The controversy] has been one of the most divisive things I’ve seen-certainly the most divisive since I’ve been here. The worst scenario is to do nothing. If we sit back now, we’ll have the same congestion problems North Central Expressway [in Dallas] has. We’re not that far behind Dallas’ problems.
D: Since Fort Worth declined membership in the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) system, what are the city’s plans for mass transit?
Bolen: We just passed a transit authority in November. Ours, unlike DART, is a very small step-dedicating a one-fourth cent sales tax to basically running the transportation system we have and enhancing that by roughly one-third over the next five years. The funding could go to a half [cent] in five years.
D: What about a transportation link between Fort Worth and Dallas?
Bolen: With 45,000 to 50,000 people running back and forth every day between Dallas County and Tarrant County, obviously you’re going to have some [congestion]-we have some now. The first utilization of [a route] from Dallas proper to Fort Worth proper is the Rock Island Right of Way [a railroad line between the two cities]. There’s not a more utilized corridor in this area, unless maybe it’s the old toll road. I don’t imagine this tomorrow, [but] there’s no question there will be some transportation utilization in that corridor in the next 10 years. Of all the things that Dallas and Fort Worth have done in the last 80 years -this century-there have been a handful that have made a tremendous impact on the area -not Dallas, not Irving, not Fort Worth, but all of them. The toll road was one, then the airport; the third one, in my opinion, would be the Rock Island Highway. It’s a communication corridor that’s irreplaceable.
D: What are the major commercial growth areas in Fort Worth?
Bolen: Unlike Dallas, Fort Worth will have most of its commercial growth in downtown. In Dallas, of course, a lot of it is north around LBJ. In Fort Worth, it is centralized-you can go downtown and be the center and the nub. We have the livability to be [downtown] without being so congested. Downtown Fort Worth will continue to be [the hub] for the next decade or so. The biggest need-and the one we’re working on the hardest- has to be the southwest because that’s a fast growing part of the city, and it’s the one [in which] we have the least capability to handle major traffic increases.
D: What about residential growth?
Bolen: The frightening, staggering thing is that we’re growing on the north side, east side, west side and south side at the same speed, although the Southwest is probably the fastest-growing area. And our next great major challenge is how to fund the infrastructure to support all these things, and at what rate. Everybody has acknowledged that Fort Worth is going to grow. Now, do we want it to grow like Houston-just any way-or do we want a controlled, planned, quality growth. That’s what I want to try and achieve-and it’s not that easy.
D: What is the image of Fort Worth, and how do you see that image changing as the city grows?
Bolen: There are only a handful of unique cities in America. There’s a lot of vibrance and dynamics in Houston and Dallas, but they don’t have a uniqueness that I think we have the opportunity to have. The only city in the state of Texas that has that, I think, is San Antonio. It’s bicultural, [has] the Hispanic flavor, the Mexican influence. Fort Worth is what people sincerely believe-and I hear this all the time-that Texas is. And the old heritage we have of where the West begins-the stockyards, Billy Bob’s, the Pickin’ Parlor, the White Elephant Saloon, the Exchange, the Chisholm Trail Days, The Pioneer Days-all that Western flavor that make us Cowtown still.
The best of all tax bases (to go along with a good, stable commercial and industrial base) is tourism. Our city benefits enormously by bed tax, sales tax, restaurants and all the business that they bring here. We didn’t burst like a bunch of cities did in the Sixties and Seventies; we were behind them. In many cases, that did handicap us, but one of the benefits we got there [was that] we could see other mistakes and we’ve had many people from many cities tell us that they made a real error tearing down some of their old buildings. Dallas has told us that, so has Houston.
D: How would you describe the relationship between Fort Worth and Dallas?
Bolen: We’re very friendly competitors.I’ll fight for Fort Worth, but there is noquestion that there are some items thatadd a continuity to the area that both ofus, and the Metroplex, can achievewhere one of us alone can’t. We couldhave three airports, but you would neverfeel the strength we have today. We’retogether far more than a lot of peoplethink we are. I don’t want to give up FortWorth for area government-we’re notready for that, and I wouldn’t do it, butthat doesn’t mean we can’t cooperate.We can achieve far more hand-in-handthan we can fighting each other all thetime. I’m very competitive; competition ishealthy, as long as it’s done aboveboardand we’re competing to enhance the area.