Trinity River Trail expands to fill gaps

Arlington resident Jim Sipiora looks over the West Fork Trinity River on Feb. 6 at River Legacy Park. Sipiora often goes to the park to birdwatch.

The Trinity River Trail in River Legacy Park is being extended to fill in the trail’s gaps of what is expected be a 60-mile trail system through the Metroplex.

The $1.3 million project when finished will connect the Trinity River Trail from a Fort Worth portion of Trinity River to State Highway 360 in Grand Prairie, as part of Arlington’s efforts to increase regional mobility throughout Arlington and the Metroplex.

The River Legacy Park Trinity River Trail extension is expected to finish in mid-September.

Arlington residents have expressed that trails are one of their top requested amenities, and the city recognizes the importance of building such infrastructure, Arlington communication coordinator Susan Schrock said in an email.

Connections such as the Trinity River Trail are critical to the Metroplex in regards to regional connectivity for jobs and schools, said Taner Özdil, landscape architecture associate professor and the Center for Metropolitan Density research associate director. 

The North Central Texas Council of Governments has a master plan to develop the trail network they call “Veloweb” to enhance mobility through the Metroplex and provide safe routes for pedestrians.

The plan will enhance mobility by providing off-street hike and bike trails and on-street bike networks to accommodate all types of travelers’ safety, according to the council’s website.

According to the AARP’s Bicycling and Walking United States 2016 benchmark report, 39 percent of those who walk to work have low income.

Özdil said it is important that these trails connect through Metroplex neighborhoods to meet the issues of growth and congestion in the area during the next 20 to 30 years.

“Whether we like it or not, we are going to face the challenge of growth,” Özdil said.

If the Metroplex continues to grow at its current rate, much of the agricultural land in the area will be used for development if existing infrastructure isn’t optimized to meet the demand the during next few decades, Özdil said.

Seeing the pattern of growth in the Metroplex, municipalities are optimizing existing land throughout urban and suburban centers by providing these trail connections for those who are willing to use the trail systems to get around the area, Özdil said.

Such measures give residents options in how they get to a destination such as work, school or the store allowing them to be less dependent on a vehicle, Özdil said.

“The less we use vehicles, actually, it gets better for our collective future,” Özdil said. “We still try, always, to get into our cars because we have a lot of obstacles.”

According to the AARP’s 2016 benchmark report, 1.7 percent of Arlington residents commute to work by walking and 2.2 percent walk, bike or use public transportation.

The AARP report also shows the more people who commute by bike or on foot in an area, the less susceptible the area is to pedestrian related fatalities.

It will be difficult to establish an interconnecting trail system given the multiple municipalities in the Metroplex around the two major cores of Dallas and Fort Worth, Özdil said.

Özdil said public transportation and hike and bike trails are critical to mobility in the region and the Metroplex needs to be better connected.

It’s up to the cities to decide where connections end and begin, Özdil said.

Bedford resident Scott Fleming, 52, a cyclist for three years who frequents the Trinity River Trail to exercise, supports the extension.

He likes the trail because he doesn’t have to deal with vehicle traffic, making his route safer, Fleming said.

The extension would also make continuous biking more practical, rather than biking back and forth on the trail to get to a desired mileage, he said.

While he likes the idea of connecting the trail system, he struggles to see how it would be possible given there will be points where trails will have to crossover streets, he said.

@KyleRCotton

news-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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