Fort Worth Neighborhood says I-35W Expansion is Too Close to Home

Anyone who drives on I-35W knows the gridlock is, virtually, constant. TxDOT is getting ready to expand, but some in Fort Worth say the plan comes too close to home.

"It's peaceful and it's just home," said Lazell Banowsky, who lives in Fort Worth's historic Oakhurst Neighborhood.

Many in the neighborhood have watched the city's growing pains, literally, out their front door.

"Most of us look to see if the traffic is heavy, and then we go the other way," laughed Banowsky.

"The roar from the highway is something you learn not to hear," said homeowner Samuel Hudson, standing on a rooftop deck. From that deck, Hudson has a clear view of the Fort Worth skyline in the distance, and I-35W about a football field's-distance away.

The first draft of the expansion, would have had the new lanes growing to the west. However, that land isn't open land. Over the past five years, Chesapeake Energy developed ten active gas wells, with an eleventh on the way.

"We are working with all the stakeholders, up and down the I-35 corridor, to come up with an alignment that will have the least amount of impact in property on each side of the roadway," said Michael Peters, a spokesman for TxDOT.

When Chesapeake's Dusty Anderson learned of the plan, during a public meeting a year ago, he shot TxDOT a letter.

"Interested partners and royalty owners are expected to receive a total of about $85 million from the wells on this pad site. Additionally, eliminating the Mercado natural gas wells would cause the state to lose approximately $9.4 million in tax revenues," explained Anderson in the letter.

"I don't know what that cost would have been. It would have been expensive," said Peters. Peters would not say if TxDOT plans to have an independant analysis of the cost to aquire the property.

Now, the original plan has changed. Peters said the current plan would move I-35W fourteen feet closer to the Oakhurst neighborhood.

"It's not going to be pleasant, particularly because our bedroom is on the side of the house facing the highway," said Hudson.

"We would so much rather see it not be on the east side, because it'll be closer. The noise will be so much worse.," said Banowsky.

TxDOT claims that new proposal reduces the right of way width, on the west side, by 88 feet of property. Still, it would need to buy some of Chesapeake's land here. TxDOT would not say how much land, or how much it would cost the state. Peters insisted, the new plan "minimizes the impact" on stakeholders on both sides of I-35W.

"Our engineers will continue to work with the stakeholders to continue to analyze this alignment," said Peters.

TxDOT says it will be mid-to-late 2012, at the earliest, before the plan is finalized.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times