Test driving the new Chisholm Trail toll road

Photo courtesy North Texas Tollroad Authority

Photo courtesy North Texas Tollroad Authority

By Kathryn Jones


They built it. Now will they come?

The statement and question concern the anticipated influx of people to Johnson and Somervell counties now that the Chisholm Trail Parkway is open. Or most of it, at least.

The project took more than 50 years and $1.4 billion to go from an idea to 27.6 miles of concrete extending from downtown Fort Worth to Cleburne.

It also required a massive logistical collaboration between the North Texas Tollway Authority, Texas Department of Transportation, North Central Texas Council of Governments, Tarrant and Johnson counties, and the cities of Burleson, Cleburne and Fort Worth, not to mention the Western and Union Pacific railroads.

The parkway officially opened last month, although work will continue through the fall.

Last week my friend Linda Rowe, advertising sales executive for the Glen Rose News, and I gave the new toll road a test drive. We left the Glen Rose city limits on U.S. Highway 67 at 11:50 a.m. and drove to the Nolan River Road/Highway 171 exit where the toll road begins.

Linda’s tire pressure light had come on and so we drove several miles farther east to air up her tire and come back to the toll road entrance.

When we got on the Chisholm Trail Parkway, it was 12:20 p.m. Traffic was very light. The speed limit until we got to Fort Worth was 70 mph the entire way.

“It’s just as smooth as it can be,” Linda commented. “It’s nice not to have merging traffic and not a lot of big trucks.”

Be aware that there are very few gas stations along the way, although there are 19 exit/entrance points so motorists can get on and off for services.

We entered the Burleson city limits at 12:30 p.m. Then we crossed the Tarrant County line five minutes later.

Workers were still painting barrier walls and construction continued on ramp interchanges. By the time we passed the Overton Ridge Boulevard exit to the Cityview and Hulen Mall areas, the time was 12:40 p.m. It had taken us only 20 minutes to get from Cleburne to the shopping and dining hub of southwestern Fort Worth.
“It’s such an easy drive, too,” Linda said.

Artists had been commissioned to decorate columns with mosaic designs in the center of the parkway. Decorative columns on the bridge over the Trinity River had been designed in Art Deco style to complement the architecture at the nearby Will Rogers Coliseum.

We drove as far as Montgomery Street, where the toll road ended. Workers are still busy with construction to extend the parkway to downtown Fort Worth and some lanes still aren’t open, meaning drivers have to weave around orange cones.

By the time we hit the end of the concrete trail, it was 12:50 p.m. Even with our detour to air up Linda’s tire, it had taken us just an hour to drive from Glen Rose to the heart of Fort Worth.

That shorter, easier commute eventually could bring more residents and business south to Johnson and Somervell counties and create more demand for services and resources, such as water.

“The commute to the Metroplex will become easier,” the Texas Water Development Board said in a report on the Somervell County Water District. “And that means communities like Glen Rose will likely experience an increase in population.

Right now the route from U.S. 67 to the Tarrant County line runs through mostly undeveloped areas; we saw a lot of open land covered with mesquite.

What we didn’t see on the Chisholm Trail Parkway were toll booths. Electronic tolling systems will be used to assess charges, which are based on length of travel on the toll road.

Drivers can purchase a TollTag or use NTTA’s ZipCash, pay-by-mail system, although it’s a higher rate. To calculate the rates and compare payment options, visit the Chisholm Trail Parkway website, www.ntta.org/roadsprojects/projprog/ChisholmTrail. Aerial maps and a brochure also are available.





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