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In addition to involving the community in the North Tarrant Express project, NTE Mobility Partners is committed to giving back to the communities of Euless, Hurst, Bedford, North Richland Hills, Haltom City and Fort Worth, as well as Tarrant County. The partner organizations in NTE Mobility Partners have a long history of supporting local communities through volunteerism and other contributions.
The North Tarrant Express (NTE) project team and Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) hosted 125 second-graders from Binion Elementary School in Fort Worth on April 25, the day of the public open house.
The children rotated through a series of stations that showed video animation of the NTE project, "before and after" photo boards, and 4-D modeling of bridge construction; demonstrated work zone safety tools and discussed safe driving habits, including not texting and driving; and invited kids to show off their coloring skills using work zone safety art.
More than 400 community members turned out to the North Tarrant Express public open house on April 25. The event highlighted the significant progress and milestones being achieve along Loop 820 and Airport Freeway construction (segments 1 and 2 of the North Tarrant Express) and also included schematics and information on the $1.6 billion I-35W reconstruction project, which is now underway north of Loop 820.
"Every week, we are seeing significant progress along the first two segments of the North Tarrant Express," said Robert Hinkle, director of corporate affairs for NTE Mobility Partners, the project developer. "We heard loud and clear at the open house that people are impressed with the progress and eager for the project to be completed, because it will drastically increase the road capacity along this highly congested corridor."
Some of the recent milestones include the completion of the Hurstview bridge, final demolition and reconstruction of the Denton Highway 377 bridge, and the opening of new westbound main lanes along Airport Freeway. More milestones are imminent, with the opening of the on-ramp to eastbound Airport Freeway from Precinct Line Drive and the opening of the exit to Murphy Drive from southbound SH 121, both of which will take place in the next few weeks.
In the last year, the project logged more than 3,000 lane closures and completed the demolition and partial reconstruction of 10 bridges and overpasses. Fully 100 percent of the corridor is under construction now, and approximately $800 million has been spent to date.
The open house also highlighted plans for the reconstruction of 10 miles of I-35W from downtown Fort Worth north to the US 81/287 juncture. Utility relocations and preliminary ground excavation is underway in preparation for full construction. Lane closures will begin along I-35W next week, starting Sunday, April 28, when traffic will be reduced to one lane in either direction during the overnight hours through Friday, May 3.
"This project has been on the drawing board for decades, and to see construction activity finally happening has reassured residents and businesses that relief is on the way," said Hinkle.
The I-35W segment north of the I-820 interchange is expected to be under construction for four years; the segment south of the interchange is expected to begin construction later this year with a 2018 completion date.
"The commitment of our many partners, including the Texas Department of Transportation and the City of Fort Worth, has kept the momentum going and kept this project in front of state leaders, ensuring they remained focused on improving mobility along this essential north-south corridor," added Hinkle. "This project will transform this region, and the state."
In recognition of National Work Zone Awareness Week, April 15 -19, NTE officials want to remind drivers to pay attention and observe the reduced speed limits while driving through the NTE corridor or any other active road construction zone.
"People need to eliminate distractions and stay alert while driving through work zones, especially when those construction areas change regularly," said Robert Hinkle, director of corporate affairs for NTE Mobility Partners, the developer of the project. "Excessive speed and distractions of all kinds such as cellphones are the primary causes of crashes in work zones. Put it down, pay attention and save a life."
Each year in Texas, there are approximately 15,000 crashes and more than 100 people killed in highway construction and maintenance zones. In 2012, there were 3,962 distracted driver crashes in Texas work zones, involving 8,407 vehicles. Those distracted driver crashes resulted in 46 fatalities.
"We just passed the halfway point in construction, so we are at the height of activity in the corridor," said Lara Kohl, public relations manager for Bluebonnet Contractors, which is managing the project construction. "We have lanes opening and closing, and traffic shifts occurring on a near-daily basis, so drivers need to exercise extreme caution while they're driving through these areas. No meeting, text or phone call is so important to risk someone's life."
The 13.3-mile corridor reconstruction project began in late 2010 and is on track for completion in 2015. To learn more about the project please go to http://www.northtarrantexpress.com. For more details on National Work Zone Awareness Week, go to http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/wz/outreach/wz_awareness.htm.
The second year of the NTE project team's support of Haltom High School's Advanced Placement (AP) math and science program kicked off with great fanfare on September 6.
An early-morning science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) roundtable discussion brought together more than 90 Haltom High AP students and NTE project engineers for the second time to talk about career choices, educational tracks and how STEM and advanced road design and construction fit together in the real world.
Following the breakfast roundtables, the Haltom High Buffaloes turned out in mass for a huge pep rally to celebrate students' AP exam scores from last spring and kick off the AP program for the 2012-2013 school year. Administered by the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) and AP Strategies (APS), the program is focused on increasing student enrollment and success in AP math, science and English courses, which is correlated with success in college.
In the first year of the program (2011-2012), Haltom High's AP program - which was funded through a five-year, $476,750 grant from NTE Mobility Partners and Bluebonnet Contractors in May 2011 - resulted in a 15 percent increase in enrollment in AP courses. The increase in passing scores by students in the new program was 21 percent, nearly three times the national average. The high school's color guard, drill team, cheerleaders, choir and band all participated in the festivities, recognizing the success of the school's AP students, who received more than $11,000 in scholarships as a result of their 2011 exam scores.
"This is where the rubber meets the road," said Robert Hinkle, director of corporate affairs for NTE Mobility Partners. "We are helping these kids set a positive course for their future, while showing them firsthand how incredibly valuable math and science education can be."
On April 24, 2013 the North Tarrant Express (NTE) project team, together with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the LBJ Express project team, hosted a press conference to discuss work zone safety.
April 23-27 is National Work Zone Awareness Week and provided an important opportunity to highlight for the media and the community the critical need for safety when driving through active work zones. "With hundreds of workers on the road, it is imperative for the safety of our project team and corridor drivers that people slow down, stay alert, and put down the phones when they see orange cones," said Robert Hinkle, corporate affairs director for NTE Mobility Partners, the NTE project developer.
TxDOT's Brian Barth urged drivers to "Drive Smart and Arrive Alive!" Barth reported that there have been an average of 3,500 work zone accidents during the last three years; in 2010, there were more than 3,000 accidents and 14 fatalities.
The many factors in the majority of the accidents are alcohol and drug related, excessive speed or distracted driving. Nearly one in four accidents resulted from a driver who was distracted by a mobile device.
"Safety is paramount," said Hinkle. "We urge people to follow the 50 MPH speed limit and be extra aware of lane shifts and traffic signage." The Beat the Traffic feature on the home page of the NTE website provides real-time traffic conditions as well as information on lane closures.
In May 2012, the NTE project team announced a five-year, $476,750 grant to Haltom High School in the Birdville Independent School District. The grant is funding the implementation of a nationally recognized Advanced Placement (AP) math, science and English program - the Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program (APTIP) - in partnership with the National Math and Science Initiative and AP Strategies. The goal of the program is to help drive student enrollment and achievement in rigorous, college-level courses, which are correlated with success in college.
Progress to date in the program includes:
- APTIP campus administrator team training took place in August 2011
- APTIP "kick off" pep rally took place in September 2011
- AP teacher training sessions initiated in August; 17 teachers have attended so far
- "Catalyst" mentors (experts from around the country in specific subjects) have been assigned
- Materials and equipment have been ordered using $10,000 mini-grants
- Saturday student prep sessions began in December; more than 75 students have participated so far
- AP campus coordinator training took place in early February.
In March, NTE project staff will participate in a serious of roundtables with Haltom High AP math and science students, allowing them to learn more about the professionals' educational background and career experiences and how those have led to their current roles on the NTE project.
Approximately 15 students from the University of Texas at Arlington's student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ACSE) had the opportunity to visit with the NTE project team in January.
Accompanied by civil engineering professor Dr. Jim Williams, the students were given a tour of the full 13.5-mile corridor, riding along with the project's independent engineers, CH2M Hill, and members of the project safety team. The students and Dr. Williams had high praise for the opportunity: "Most of our coursework is geared towards analysis and design; construction issues such as sequencing, traffic control, and so forth are difficult to cover in a class. So, the best way for students to get an idea of what is happening is through presentations at ASCE meetings and especially through field trips such as this one."
This opportunity is one of many provided to students in the community as part of the NTE project team's commitment to furthering science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in the region.
NTE Supports Community Revitalization Project
Recently, the NTE project team helped support 6 Stones, a nonprofit organization that facilitates much-needed community revitalization projects. As part of its Community Powered Revitalization (CPR) project, 6 Stones helps elderly, handicapped and disabled individuals with home repairs in the cities of Hurst, Euless and Bedford.
In January, NTE provided resources for a 6 Stones project, donating dirt excavated from the project to help an elderly widow in Bedford fill up a concrete pool that was in complete disrepair and coming out of the ground.
For more information on these projects, please visit 6 Stones.org.
On Thursday, September 8, Haltom High School held a school-wide pep rally to launch its new Advanced Placement math and science program, which is being funded by a $476,750 grant from the NTE project team. Project staff, along with representatives from the Birdville ISD school board, TxDOT and AP Strategies (which is administering the program), were on hand for the celebration. The special event included performances by Haltom High band members, cheerleaders, singers and high-steppers, along with remarks by Texas State Representative Kelly Hancock and NTE corporate affairs director Robert Hinkle.
Photo: Haltom High Principal Clarence Simmons gratefully accepts the check from NTE Mobility Partners.
On Monday, May 23, the North Tarrant Express project team awarded a five-year, $476,750 grant to Haltom High School in the Birdville Independent School District. The grant will fund the implementation of a nationally recognized AP math, science and English program - Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program - in partnership with the National Math and Science Initiative and AP Strategies, to help drive student enrollment and achievement in rigorous, college-level courses. Success in AP courses is directly correlated with both success in college: receiving a passing score on an AP exam makes students up to three times more likely to graduate from college.
Photo: Haltom High Principal Mike Jasso (second from left) and Interim Superintendent Dr. Jay Thompson (center) are presented with the grant by Robert Hinkle (left) and Belen Marcos (second from right) from NTE Mobility Partners and Jose Carlos Esteban (right) of Bluebonnet Contractors.