Additional funding needed for Panther Island project in Fort Worth

Fort Worth's Panther Island development project does not have the money it needs to continue.

Federal funding needed to reroute the Trinity River and build a new "island" was rejected and TxDOT said Tuesday unfinished bridges for the project need an additional $20 million.

The project has been in the works for more than a decade. The bridge plan has been going on since 2015, but construction is behind schedule.

Mechanic Steve Metcalf says ever since White Settlement Road was closed in 2015, business for his shop and others nearby has been slow.

“We’ve had a lack of traffic in our area and several businesses have gone out of business, Some have moved away from the area and some are just suffering,” Metcalf said.

But Tuesday, Metcalf said he finally heard the words he’s been waiting for.

TxDOT engineer Loyl Bussell said all three bridges for the ongoing Panther Island Project should be finished by the end of 2021. But the White Settlement Bridge on the south side of the project should be done by the end of 2020.

“TxDOT is not going to build anything that is not safe. And we want to make sure of that,” said Michael Morris, Director of Transportation, North Central Texas Council of Governments.

He said construction setbacks were largely due to the unique design of the bridges.

“It complicates how you make the form, it complicates how the rebar is, it complicates lots of things in the design,” Morris said.

The new timeline shifts from a five-day workweek to a seven-day workweek. But it also needs $20 million more in funding. That’s on top of the nearly $70 million already allocated for this portion of the project.

“These are very unique bridges, and very unique bridges cost more than very not unique bridges,” Morris said.

But the overall development project, in which the Trinity River would be rerouted so the bridges have water going under them and creating a new “island,” has continued to hit roadblocks. The project itself is out of money and federal money that was expected for the project this year is no longer coming.

But Morris says he’s confident when the bridges are done, economic development will follow.

“I think when people see them and the roadway is open and the water channel is underneath, they are going to say oh I see why these V-Designs reflecting off the water was a really good choice,” Morris said.

Metcalf said after hearing the plans, he has faith that this time the schedule will stick.

“This falls under the build it and they will come,” Metcalf said.

NCTCOG will vote on whether or not to approve the additional funding, which comes from existing grant money, as soon as the end of March.