By Terry Evans
FORT WORTH -- Mac Churchill couldn't believe what he found in a Santa Fe, N.M., art gallery.
"This was a whole different world that I hadn't appreciated," said the Fort Worth auto dealer, also a history buff who minored in English and Greek civilization at the University of Texas.
What he found while shopping with his wife, Lu Jo, was an authentic, full-body set of 18th-century Samurai battle armor. It cost him $18,000 and is now the unusual focal point of his Acura showroom at 3125 Northeast Loop 820, displayed in a massive, custom-made glass case.
Many customers share his appreciation for the armor, and for the same reasons, Churchill said.
"First and foremost, it's a magnificent work of art," he said. "Even if there wasn't any historical background to the armor, it's worthy of being displayed because of the ornate metalwork, embroidery and design."
The fact that it does have history makes it better, Churchill said. "We know it was made for the Hosokawa clan, so the armor was worn by someone in the early modern Japanese upper echelon of the warrior elite," he said.
But Samurais weren't just warriors, Churchill said.
"They wrote poetry, drew monochromatic art with ink and calligraphy, some of them got into music," he said. "Owning the armor and becoming interested in the culture has given me a broader appreciation for other cultures in general."
When a visiting Japanese Acura executive saw the armor and discovered that it was from his hometown, things got a little awkward, Churchill said.
"He said this could be their last historical relic because of the tsunami," he said. "He almost teared up and asked if I could donate the armor to his city."
Churchill said he considered it, but declined.
Similar pieces have expanded the car dealer's collection, like a peach-pit-shaped helmet with very tall horns and a bronze breastplate that features billowing clouds and dragons.
"I built a cool pedestal for them that fit on a wall of a room in our home," he said.
Acknowledging that it's a "niche" collectible, Churchill is nonetheless proud that he probably has more Samurai armor than anyone else in Fort Worth. But he hasn't gone overboard.
"I've not yet been tempted to collect the swords," he said.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Terry Evans, 817-390-7620
By Anna M. Tinsley
Sean Willeford remembers going into stores on Sundays and seeing covers draped over tools, knives and other items that couldn't be bought that day.
Those covers -- and the blue laws that prevented certain purchases on Sundays -- are long gone for the most part.
But Willeford and others are frustrated by one of the few remaining restrictions -- the ban on car dealerships being open on both Saturday and Sunday.
"From a societal standpoint, it's ludicrous," said Willeford, 43, of Arlington, who was shopping for cars recently. "I can buy almost anything I want on a Sunday except for a car. It's really an inconvenience more than anything."
A state lawmaker proposed changing the law to retire the aging requirement that car dealerships keep their doors closed one day each weekend.
But his plan, which has drawn opposition from car dealers statewide, is expected to quietly fade away, especially since the dealer who initially asked about lifting the restriction is no longer interested.
"He had changed his mind," said Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands. "If no one in my area wants it, then it's not worth supporting.
"Personally, I'm not in favor of blue laws, but you need broad support to pass legislation in Texas."
The broad support that has come forward has been from car dealers, who say they'd like the law to remain.
Keeping a business open seven days a week boosts expenses, they say, and studies show that dealers wouldn't necessarily sell more vehicles if they were open Sundays.
"We have pushed to stay under" the blue law, said Mac Churchill of Mac Churchill Acura in Fort Worth. "Most of us are individuals working six days a week, working dawn to dusk.
"This gives us one day off a week," he said. "If the blue law didn't exist, we'd have to be open."
Blue laws in some areas date to the early 1600s and required people to attend church on Sundays.
Through the years, laws evolved to ensure that Sunday remained a day of worship or rest.
By 1961 in Texas, 42 items ranging from nails to knives -- even household items such as pans, pots and washing machines -- were banned from being sold on both Saturday and Sunday.
Many of those rules were repealed in 1985.
But today, blue laws remain that prevent sales at liquor stores on Sundays and vehicle sales on consecutive weekend days.
And the car rule is just fine with auto dealers.
"We had an opportunity to visit with the lawmaker who filed the bill, to show we are in support of the blue laws pertaining to" auto sales, said Danny Langfield, deputy director of the Round Rock-based Texas Independent Automobile Dealers Association. "This is protection for the smaller mom and pop store that can't staff the store seven days a week and still give employees a day off."
Toth, he said, "was certainly very gracious. He was very willing to listen to our concerns."
The blue law lets dealerships pick which weekend day they would rather be open. Most choose to work Saturday and close Sunday.
That, Churchill said, gives shoppers one day to browse car lots on their own and get an idea of what they want.
The rest of the week, employees at car dealerships work long hours.
"We are open until late at night, certainly accommodating everyone we can, six nights a week," Churchill said. "We are open until 8 p.m. officially, but, like anyone else, if someone is here buying a car, we might stay open until 11 p.m. or midnight."
Keeping dealerships open a seventh day could end up costing customers, said David Bakke, editor at Money Crashers Personal Finance.
"If a dealership had to absorb increased payroll and other operational costs associated with opening seven days a week, those costs could be passed on to the consumer," he said.
Willeford said he knows that people in the business work long and hard -- maybe 70 to 90 hours a week.
And he's glad that they can have some time at home with their family.
He said he used to walk lots on Sundays and look at cars because "you didn't have to worry about the vultures." But now that many dealerships have added barricades and other barriers, it's harder to park his car in a safe spot to browse.
"In the grand scheme of things, I don't care," Willeford said.
"But when I'm actively looking for a vehicle and I don't want to be up there late at night ... it would be a lot more convenient if I could go to dealerships on Sundays."
Ahmed Belmashkan, president and general manager of the new Rio Grande Motors in Fort Worth, said he supports keeping the blue law in place.
"It does not hurt my business to be closed one day. In fact, it helps keep me more focused," he said. "Often, Americans are said to 'live to work while others work to live.'
"I would encourage dealers to use the day off for quality time with family, especially if both parents work."
Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, said he understands why car dealers don't want their workdays to change.
"Anyone who has ever had to manage a workforce on a seven-day workweek, it adds that many more problems and issues," he said. "I understand why most auto dealers are opposed to having sales on Sundays. If one opens, they all have to open. No one wants to lose any business.
"It's kind of a 'don't compete' agreement among the dealers."
Toth filed House Bill 759, an effort to do away with the law, in late January. By mid-February, it had been referred to the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee.
And that is likely where the bill will stay until the legislative session ends May 27.
"Some have said that the greatest thing about Texas is that the legislative process is such that it makes it very difficult to create law. So if it's not supported, it dies a quick death," Toth said.
Sherri Plata, a Fort Worth woman who was car-shopping recently, said she didn't know that most dealers are closed Sundays -- or why.
But to her, it didn't really matter.
"It's no big deal," she said. "I'd probably look on Saturdays because Sundays are for family."
Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610
Acura was named the Best Premium Brand for 2013 by ALG, which recognizes the entire Acura lineup for exceptional vehicle quality, strong brand desirability, and long-term reliability. The all-new 2013 Acura RDX performance-luxury SUV also ranked highest in the Premium Compact Utility Vehicle category. Since 2000, Acura has earned six model awards and three overall luxury brand awards from ALG.
As the leading provider of residual value information to the automotive industry, ALG's annual Residual Value Awards honor the vehicles in each industry segment that ALG predicts will retain the highest percentage of their original price after a three-year period.
"We are honored by ALG's selection of Acura as Best Premium Brand for long-term value which helps demonstrate what's smart about our 'smart luxury' brand values," said Michael Accavitti, vice president of National Marketing Operations for the Acura brand. "With RDX earning a best in segment award for Premium Compact Utility Vehicle, ALG is confirming what our customers have been telling us by purchasing the all-new RDX in record numbers for the past six months."
ALG determines the award winners through careful study of the competition in each segment, historical vehicle performance and industry trends. Vehicle quality, production levels relative to demand, as well as pricing strategies are among the key factors that affect ALG's residual value forecasts.
"Acura receives the 2013 Premium Brand Residual Value Award through disciplined fleet and incentives strategies, along with intuitive packaging structure across the lineup," said Larry Dominique, President of ALG. "Acura has been bolstered with effective new products like the all-new ILX and redesigned RDX and continues to provide a strong proposition of value and luxury."
Based in Santa Barbara, California, ALG is a leading provider of insights and consulting services to the automotive industry. ALG publishes the Residual Value Guidebook ? the benchmark for residual value projections in North America, and has been forecasting automotive residual values for nearly 50 years in both the U.S. and Canadian markets. For more information, visit www.alg.com.
Acura offers a full line of technologically advanced performance luxury vehicles through a network of 272 dealers in the United States. The Acura lineup features seven distinctive models including the RL luxury performance sedan, the TL performance luxury sedan, the TSX Sport Wagon and sedan, the ILX compact luxury sedan, the RDX luxury crossover SUV, the MDX luxury sport utility vehicle and the ZDX four-door sports coupe.
Additional media information, including detailed pricing features and high-resolution photography of the 2013 Acura RDX is available at www.acuranews.com Consumer information is available at www.acura.com .
The production model of the all-new 2014 Acura RLX will debut on November 28, 2012, the first press day of the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show, it was announced today. The new Acura flagship sedan will employ an array of new technologies unique to Acura, including the Precision All Wheel Steer™ system, the next-generation AcuraLink® Communication System, and the all-new Jewel Eye™ LED headlamps to deliver an entirely new level of performance, sophistication and comfort.
The front-wheel-drive version of the 2014 RLX will utilize Acura 's new Precision All Wheel Steer™ system. This system automatically makes slight adjustments to the relative rear wheel (toe) angles by utilizing electrically controlled actuators to deliver an extraordinary level of cornering control and steering precision. The front-wheel-drive RLX will come equipped with an all-new 3.5-liter direct-injected VTEC® V-6 engine producing 310 horsepower (SAE net).
The RLX will feature the first application of the next-generation AcuraLink®, which incorporates built-in two-way cellular communication to deliver a variety of new convenience features, including airbag deployment notification, stolen vehicle tracking, remote locking and unlocking, security alarm notification and concierge service. Acura 's exclusive Jewel Eye™ LED headlamps use a dual-stacked array of multiple high-intensity LED lamps, with ultra-reflective optical lenses and high-gloss trim, to provide powerful down-the-road illumination, while simultaneously giving the RLX a distinctive and bright-eyed look in both daytime and nighttime conditions.
The Acura RLX will offer an extensive array of passive and active safety features. These include a Collision Mitigation Braking System™ and the first application of Acura 's Lane Keep Assist System. In addition, Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning will be offered as standard equipment on the RLX. Passive safety features will include front, side and side-curtain airbags for the driver and front passenger, and a driver 's knee airbag. The RLX also incorporates the second generation of Acura 's Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ (ACE™) body structure, with reinforced front frame members for further enhanced frontal crash energy management. The RLX is expected to achieve a 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score from NHTSA and the new TOP SAFETY PICK PLUS status from IIHS.
Press materials will be posted on www.acuranews.com immediately following the press conference.
Acura offers a full line of technologically advanced performance luxury vehicles through a network of 272 dealers within the United States. The Acura lineup features seven distinctive models including the RL luxury performance sedan, the TL performance luxury sedan, the TSX Sport Wagon and sedan, the ILX compact luxury sedan, the RDX luxury crossover SUV, the MDX luxury sport utility vehicle and the ZDX four-door sports coupe.
Ways to connect with Acura:
Media Information: www.acuranews.com
Consumer Information: www.acura.com
June 27-July 3, 2011 I FWBusinessPress.com
"Despite progress made during the 82nd Legislature, the Texas Transportation Commission's 2030 Committee delivered some sobering news during the session." Mac Churchill
With the 82nd Legislative Session behind us, it is a good time to reflect on the progress made. This session was one of the most challenging in recent history - legislators had to address major issues such as education financing, redistricting and transportation, while at the same time making major budget cuts across the board.
Financial obstacles aside, our representatives in Austin were able to advance several key transportation initiatives. Each of these initiatives is vital to the future economic vitality of the Tarrant County region - currently the fastest-growing area in the country. Tarrant County residents and businesses played a huge role in these successes, participating in advocacy efforts that yielded more than 3,000 letters to key elected officials.
Of significant importance was the reauthorization of Comprehensive Development Agreements (CDAs) or public-private partnerships that allow the upfront investment of private equity in critical transportation projects. A number of CDA projects were authorized as part of the TDOT Sunset Bill (Senate Bill 1420), most notably the remaining segments of the North Tarrant Express.
While construction is currently underway on this project on Interstate Highway-820 and State Highway 183/121 from IH-35W east to Industrial Blvd. in Euless, CDA authority for the project was set to expire in August, which would have delayed indefinitely the remaining NTE project segments including reconstruction and expansion of IH-35W between downtown Fort Worth and Alliance Airport.
IH-35W is the lifeblood of our region, providing the only north/ south continuous route between downtown, Alliance Texas and Tarrant County's fastest growing communities in the north. Approved legislation now ensures that this project will continue to move forward, which, once completed (scheduled for 2019), will have expanded capacity on both sides of the highway (additional free and managed lanes).
Achieving extended CDA authority to complete the North Tarrant Express project was the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition's and 35W Coalition's most important initiative during this session, and we applaud our elected representatives for making this a top priority.
In addition, the passage of House Bill 563 significantly broadens the ability of local governments to use transportation reinvestment zone (TRZ) financing to fund transportation improvement projects, and House Joint Resolution 63 will, subject to voter approval of a constitutional amendment in November, enable counties to bond against a TR2 revenue stream. These two measures give local governments an important additional tool in the proverbial transportation funding toolbox.
Finally, the state's budget (SB 1) authorizes the issuance of the remaining $3 billion in Prop 12 general obligation bonds (overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2007) and increases the TKDOT budget for the 2011-13 biennium to $19.5 billion (versus $17.6 billion in the 2009-11 biennium). This one-time infusion of bond revenue makes possible the continued funding of new capacity projects, including mega-bridge and connectivity projects, for at least two more years. In Tarrant County this money will be allocated for improvements along IH-30, and for the Trinity River and Chappel Creek bridge projects, among other projects.
However, despite progress made during the 82nd Legislature, the Texas Transportation Commission's 2030 Committee delivered some sobering news during the session.
In its most recent report, the committee concludes that years of neglect and inadequate funding are putting the state in a position where it will be unable to afford new roads and needed improvements.
Because most of Texas' roads were built more than four decades ago, they continue to deteriorate at a very rapid rate and are in need of major repairs. Exacerbating this problem is a transportation budget that has relied too heavily on debt financing for the last decade and lacks a stable, substantial and sustainable revenue source to fund new capacity. And, like many other things, the costs of maintaining and building new roads continue to rise. These issues, coupled with our unprecedented growth, is putting Texas on a collision course with an infrastructure crisis that will have a dire effect on our quality of life and curtail economic development as we know it.
While the achievements of the 82nd Legislature are important, the need for substantial new investment in transportation infrastructure remains. We must urge our legislators to identify and implement longterm funding solutions to sustain mobility and a healthy economy. Simply put, transportation must be one of our state's top priorities. The cost of doing nothing is staggering; we can no longer afford to kick the can down the road.
Mac Churchill is the president of Mac Churchill Acura in Fort Worth and the chairman of the nonprofit transportation advocacy group, 35W Coalition.
For Immediate Release - April 24, 2012
U.S. Department of Transportation Selects North
Tarrant Express for $415 Million TIFIA Loan North Tarrant Express Application
is Top Priority for TxDOT, Regional Leaders
AUSTIN - U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood
announced Tuesday that Texas' North Tarrant Express project has entered the
final stage to receive $415 million under the Transportation Infrastructure
Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) financing program, advancing a project that
will address safety and congestion.
The North Texas project includes improvements to
sections of I-35W and construction of an interchange at I-35W and I-820.
In addition, the project develops multimodal managed lanes to serve the
region's public transportation providers. The portions of I-35W slated
for improvement currently rank 5th and 25th on the list of Texas' most
congested roadways. The Texas Department of Transportation's (TxDOT) North
Tarrant Express application requested $537 million in Fiscal Year 2012 TIFIA
In recent years, TxDOT sought funding for North
Tarrant Express improvements from the U.S. Department of Transportation TIFIA
credit assistance, TIGER III and TIGER IV programs. Funds for the Fiscal Year
2012 TIFIA program were appropriated in the Transportation, Housing and Urban
Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for 2012.
"I'm thankful that Secretary LaHood and the
U.S. Department of Transportation will partner with us on the North Tarrant
Express with this significant award. This would not have been possible without
the constant support of the community's public and private sector
leaders," said Bill Meadows, a member of the Texas Transportation
Commission from Fort Worth. "The North Tarrant Express project will
address congestion in a corridor critical for national and international trade,
improving our region's transportation network and advancing the development of
multimodal managed transit lanes to serve our region's public transportation
"No words can describe how pleased we are with
this announcement. Countless partners from all levels of government, along with
hundreds of citizens and business leaders, have continued to fight the good
fight for I-35W. Today's news is a credit to the tenacity of all
involved," said Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price. "On behalf of the
people and businesses of Fort Worth, we thank the U.S. Department of
Transportation for its consideration and approval of our request. We also thank
the members of our Congressional delegation who've been champions of this
effort from the very beginning. This is a perfect example of how public/private
and public/public partnerships can work for the greater good of a community.
This $415 million removes significant obstacles to expanding I-35W, and it will
ultimately help us preserve the good quality of life and economic prosperity
that we've enjoyed here in North Texas."
TxDOT has planned extensively for I-35W improvements
with its local partners while aggressively seeking a funding award.
Construction could begin in 2013, subject to a final agreement with TxDOT's
project partners, and subsequent determination of legal sufficiency by the
Attorney General and Legislative Budget Board approval.
"The North Tarrant Express project leverages federal investment with significant state and private contributions," said Phil Wilson, TxDOT executive director. "This public-private partnership will improve the entire I-35 corridor and the ability to transport goods and services throughout the nation."
Mac Churchill Acura in Fort Worth Texas just made shopping for Acura OEM parts a lot easier for everyone. To view the Acura OEM parts catalog, visit http://www.AcuraOEMPartsDepot.com
There?s nothing you can do to lower your gas costs. Right? I mean, you could buy a more efficient car or search high and low for the lowest prices, but both of these options might lead to you spending more than you save in the short term. If only there was a way to somehow earn discounted gas?.
Oh wait, there is! There?s actually a whole segment of rewards credit cards that provides fuel benefits, and considering that prognosticators expect gas prices to top $4 per gallon by the summer, having such a credit card could save you as much as $250 per year, according to information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics about the average American?s gas expenditures.
However, you will not automatically garner such savings by simply opening any gas credit card. Instead, you must first carefully consider both savings and convenience factors before deciding which gas credit card ultimately best fits your lifestyle: one tied to a certain chain or one providing more flexible benefits.
Gas credit cards that are tied to particular stations tend to offer relatively significant rewards. However, these rewards are only maximized by the consumer who fills up exclusively at that chain. So if this describes you, open the card tied to your chain of choice. If not, consider how difficult it would be to limit yourself and whether doing so is worth the accompanying financial gain.
Some of the most rewarding credit cards in this category are the Exxon Mobil Credit Card and the BP Credit Card. Each offers lucrative rebates for gas purchased at its affiliated station as well as less significant rewards on non-gas purchases made anywhere Visa or MasterCard is accepted.
However, should you come to the conclusion that logistical variety cannot easily be sacrificed, you can direct your due diligence to cash back credit cards that provide extra savings on gas. Such products allow users to earn rewards on gas purchased at any gas station in the
Some of the best cash back credit cards that provide extra rewards on gas are the TrueEarnings® Card from Costco and American Express because it offers 3% cash back on gas purchases up to $3,000 and 1% thereafter, 3% on restaurant expenditures, 2% on travel-related purchases and 1% on everything else and the Capital One® No Hassle Cash Rewards Credit Card, which offers 2% cash back on gas and groceries and 1% on everything else.
Ultimately, the particular card you choose also depends on how you envision your gas rewards credit card fitting into your payment arsenal. Will it be your primary means of spending? If so, the overall rewards package that a card offers is quite important. However, if you foresee using your gas rewards credit card only for gas purchases, as more of a supplementary spending vehicle, you must concentrate on maximizing your gas rewards and avoid being distracted by the non-gas rewards that will be rendered irrelevant by your usage. Understanding the specific role your gas credit card plays and using it accordingly is the only way to truly maximize its benefit. In the end, doing so will help your gas reward credit card steal the show from rising gas prices and provide savings in a segment of your finances where costs are typically dictated solely by market forces.
This article was written by Odysseas Papadimitriou, CEO and Founder of CardHub.com, a website that helps consumers find the best credit card deals and buy discounted gift cards.
September 3-9, 2012 | FWBusiness Press
"There are no longer little 10-year-old boys selling special Saturday editions of the Star-Telegram with the game insert. We have been replaced by attractive coeds selling a slick 160-page program in full color." Mac Churchill
Texas Christian University's stunning new stadium rightfully deserves to be called the Camden Yards of college football. Amon Carter Stadium and I have a relationship that goes back almost 60 years.
I attended my first TCU home game as an 8-year-old with Billy Gumm and Bill Martin. The only way that I know the score from that day is that I looked it up online. TCU prevailed 24-8 over Texas A&M.
Growing up on the south side of Fort Worth, I loved everything purple. I recall being a fourth-grader at Alice Carlson Elementary. We played Gray-Y football in the fall on Saturday mornings and then went to the TCU games.
Well, I didn't just exactly "go" to the games. I worked them. I had a job selling the game-day program, which was a two-page spread inside the Saturday sports edition of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
We would sell our allotment of 15 copies of the paper and then go out and work the parking lots, selling the papers for 25 cents. If we could sell 25 papers we were rich! They would allow us into end zone free and give us some spending money for Cokes and baseball cards.
My favorite part of the games was when the final whistle blew. That's when hundreds of elementary school kids like us jumped over the end zone railing and ran onto the field. We had one goal in mind: chinstraps!
Back then, chinstraps were relatively inexpensive because they were for function, not comfort. A chinstrap consisted of two plastic slivers holding a thin leather cup for the player's chin. They didn't cost much.
Kids descended upon the players, yelling up at them, telling them what a great game they had played, and asking for their chinstraps. We felt that the more we praised the player, the better chance we had of him giving us his prized chinstrap. Sometimes it worked!
I remember chasing down the likes of Bob Lilly, Sonny Gibbs, Buddy Iles, Jack Spikes, Sherrill Headrick, Hunter Enis and Ronnie Bull. I am confident that any chinstraps that I did receive were most likely from members of the second, third or fourth string, but that didn't matter.
TCU Horned Frog football was an integral part of my life as a child, just as it is today as an adult living in Cowtown.
I admire the incredible job that Coach Gary Patterson has done in recruiting, getting the most out of his players in games and making sure that the Frogs always won the right way.
Today we are benefiting from the wisdom and vision of insightful chancellors and athletic directors combined with the financial generosity of many of Fort Worth's leaders and TCU's influential alumni who truly love their alma mater.
TCU was left at home when four members of the crumbling Southwest Conference went to the dance and formed the Big 12. Our Frogs wandered through the wilderness of three conferences (and became champion of each), and were en route to yet another in the Big East when the Big 12 came calling.
The Frogs received the invitation because Coach Patterson has always done his best to schedule the nation's toughest teams, even on their own turf if necessary, to play quality opponents. Powerhouses like Oklahoma and Wisconsin have learned that TCU plays an impressive and intense level of football, and they went home without the "W" that they were expecting.
On Sept. 8 we will all see the unveiling of the renovated Amon G. Carter Stadium ? "the Carter," as the team calls it. It will match the texture of the TCU campus while offering enhanced food options, a clean and contemporary environment, luxury suites, and ? get ready for this innovation, ladies ? plenty of restrooms.
There are no longer little 10-year-old boys selling special Saturday editions of the Star-Telegram with the game insert. We have been replaced by attractive coeds selling a slick 160-page program in full color. They're not 25 cents either.
One thing I can assure you: the TCU football team and the fans will walk away from that game knowing they have left their hearts and souls on the field.
To Coach Patterson, Chris Del Conte and Chancellor Boschini and their predecessors, I say, "Well done!"
Mac Churchill is the president of Mac Churchill Acura in Fort Worth and the chairman of the non-profit transportation advocacy group, 35W Coalition.
By A. Lee Graham
Motorists frustrated by Interstate 35W gridlock have some relief on the horizon, with the first phase of a $1.6-billion reconstruction effort expected to reach completion in 2017.
"The north section is still in its original configuration, which is kind of hard to believe," said Scott Hall, project manager with the Texas Department of Transportation, describing part of the freeway and its layout when opened in 1958.
Speaking at the April 10 quarterly meeting of the 35W Coalition in a hotel meeting room in north Fort Worth, Hall described freeway expansion as vital to accommodate the 270,000 vehicles expected to traverse the roadway each day by 2030. That's compared to 144,000 vehicles now using the freeway.
Construction is set to begin in May on one of two phases, a $244 million effort calling for expanding the freeway from North Loop 820 to U.S. 81-287, with the stretch expected to open for traffic in 2017.
The second phase is expected to expand the freeway from Interstate 30 to North Loop 820 by rebuilding existing lanes and adding two new managed toll lanes in each direction.
Construction for the $1.4-billion portion is expected to begin in mid-2013 and reach fruition in 2018.
Funding the project are TxDOT, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the North Central Texas Council of Governments, private activity bonds issued by project developer NTE Mobility Partners and private equity investors.
"We've all been waiting a long time for this. We're at the gateway," said Mac Churchill, coalition chairman.
North Tarrant Express
Meanwhile, progress continues along the North Tarrant Express, the $2.5-billion project set to widen North Loop 820 and the Texas 121-183 corridor.
"Things are certainly on the downhill side," said Robert Hinkle, director of corporate affairs for the TxDOT project.
"It is going to be a huge asset for the state of Texas," said Hinkle, describing construction as about halfway done for a project already under construction for three years.
The project is split into west and east segments, with the western portion between Interstate 35W and Texas 121, and the eastern portion between Texas 121 and the city of Euless just east of where Texas 121 veers north from Texas 183.
The project is about 50-percent complete and should reach completion in 2015, Hinkle said.
Meanwhile, a BNSF Railway official applauded the city of Fort Worth for helping fund Tower 55 improvements. BNSF and Union Pacific Railroad tracks meet at the intersection, located southeast of downtown near the I-30-35W interchange.
"It's a great project for the railroad, it's a great project for the community," said Aaron Hegeman, director of public-private partnerships with Fort Worth-based BNSF.
The $101-million project will add an additional north-south track through the intersection and improved signaling, as well as replace railroad bridges and improve city streets and intersections to support grade-crossing closures.
At its April 9 regular meeting, the Fort Worth City Council agreed to chip in $1 million for the Tower 55 project, with BNSF and Union Pacific Railroad ponying up $65.3 million collectively; TxDOT, $1 million; and a federal grant, $1 million. That's from the U.S. Department of Transportation's TIGER II (Transportation, Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant.
Work is expected to reach completion in late 2014.
"We're really running and gunning on it, Things will be a little crazy for the next year and a half or so," said Hegeman, referring to construction.
Meanwhile, a coalition leader bemoaned what he called an "orange cone problem."
"The [state] Legislature doesn't think we have a transportation problem," said Russell Laughlin, coalition president and senior vice president of Hillwood Properties, pointing to orange construction cones that sometimes lead observers to think all road construction needs are being met.
But that's not the case as coalition leaders lobby for transportation dollars as the 83rd Legislature convenes in Austin.
With the state facing a $215 billion shortfall in transportation funding in the next 20 years, according to the coalition, it described the need to ensure funding for existing and planned projects as vital.
To that end, it is lobbying support for several bills, including House Bill 479, aimed at stopping the practice of diverting gas taxes and other funds from TxDOT to the Department of Public Safety and instead directing those funds for transportation purposes. Funding to the DPS would be replaced by general revenue.
Also receiving coalition support is H.B. 3664, which would boost transportation funds by increasing vehicle registration fees by different amounts depending on vehicle type. Both bills were scheduled to be heard on Wednesday April 10 by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Budget Transparency and Reform.
"These are pretty good bills that need some light of day," Laughlin said.