• Image
    Before: A levee system built in the early 1900s segmented downtown Fort Worth into discrete sections, isolating the city's neighborhoods from each other and making it difficult for the city to unify growth efforts.After: A bypass channel will link the formerly discrete sections of downtown Fort Worth, provide flood control, and create a beautiful lake for developers to build around.

Like so many U.S. cities, Fort Worth, Texas, was transformed between 1940 and 1970.

As residential and retail growth shifted to the suburbs, local industries—meat packing, oil, and gas—began to decline. Sites were abandoned. A levee system that had been built in the early 1900s to prevent flooding was expanded.

While the levees worked, the system threatened to stifle the city's long-term growth by blocking access, both visually and physically, to Trinity River, which had enabled the city's growth since the mid-1800s. A valuable 400-acre tract of land adjacent to downtown Fort Worth lay depressed and under developed.

In 2001, the Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) launched the Trinity River Vision Plan (www.trinityrivervision.org) in association with Fort Worth; Tarrant County; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and Streams and Valleys Inc., a local nonprofit organization dedicated to the river's improvement.The resulting master plan for 88 miles of the river and its tributaries includes a flood-control and riverfront-development project designed to spur redevelopment in the central district of Fort Worth.

Funded in large part by federal flood-control and highway grants, the $435 million plan uses a segment of the river and its tributaries to connect the city's discrete neighborhoods and create a multiuse waterfront adjacent to downtown Fort Worth. A portion of the levee system will be removed to create an urban lake (see image), while a new bypass channel will divert flood waters around the lake and provide additional access to the river.

Though its primary purpose is flood control, the plan also is designed to bring residents and visitors closer to the river.

“The goal is to preserve and enhance the Trinity River corridor with greenways, trails, wildlife habitats, and recreation areas,” says Jim Oliver, general manager of TRWD. “It will completely reshape how the city relates to the river.”

Partnering For Prosperity

To enhance collaboration among project sponsors, the Trinity River Vision Authority (TRVA) was launched last October so representatives from the TRWD, Fort Worth, Tarrant County, and Streams and Valleys Inc. would work as one agency on funding and implementation.

Accordingly, TRVA is performing overall program management, real estate acquisitions, and environmental remediation of contaminated properties, while Fort Worth coordinates infrastructure improvements for roads, bridges, and utility systems. The Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for the federally authorized project elements that include the flood-protection facilities.

This vertical management structure establishes a high level of accountability that has brought the plan ahead of schedule. In fact, its proposed budget for the year had to be amended to accommodate initiatives that were planned for next year.

“We looked at what made projects across the country a success or a challenge, and horizontal management is typically the way work is performed,” says J.D. Granger, the authority's executive director. “That's dangerous because you're always relying on another partner to finish their portion of the project on time.

“Once we became a combined authority, we began operating as a single entity to get this project done.”

Infrastructure Resurgence

The plan is being implemented along two parallel paths: one centered on infrastructure improvements and the other on urban design.

The planning effort was divided into eight river segments. Because it encompasses a 3-mile stretch near the confluence of the river's Clear and West forks adjacent to downtown Fort Worth, one segment in particular (see “Trinity Uptown Plan” in the image) offered unique opportunities for revitalization.