Fort Worth

Trinity River Vision Costs Could Climb Over $1 Billion with Bond Referendum

Trinity River Vision is one of the biggest and most expensive projects in Fort Worth and now taxpayers may be asked to approve $250 million more to build it.

It's a long-term master plan centered on Panther Island, near downtown. It re-routes the Trinity River, to help with flood control and create a new urban waterfront community, roughly the same size as downtown.

Construction has started, building a series of three bridges over the Trinity's new channels that will be dug next.

The cost is split between the city, county, the Tarrant Regional Water District, Tax Increment Financing and federal matching funds.

Now next week, the Water District could decide to ask voters for a new bond referendum that would bring the total project cost over a billion dollars.

Roy Watkins owns Bluff Street Radiator near Panther Island. The road to his repair shop will be shut down for three years to make way for Panther Island construction.

"If some rich person wants something done, they get it done. Us common people, we just live with it," said Watkins.

The project has evolved tremendously since the first phase was approved in 2004. Back then, when Clyde Picht sat on the city council, the total estimated cost was $360 million dollars. By 2009 that had nearly tripled to more than $900 million.

Picht has been fighting it from the sidelines, since leaving the council in '05.

"I think there's been an element of dishonesty in accounting for this project, really knowing what it's going to cost," Picht said. “We are paying an arm and a leg for a project that we don’t even know where it’s going. We don’t know how much it’s going to cost and we don’t know what they’ve spent the money on so far because there’s very little public accountability.” 

Now, the main funding body behind the project, the Tarrant Regional Water District, is considering asking taxpayers to let them borrow an additional $250 million in a bond referendum, bringing the total project cost to over $1.1 billion.

Current Councilman Jungus Jordan has asked for a council update on the project status and the money spent so far. That will happen later this month.

"The promise of the project is gigantic and we just want to keep track of how all the dollars are being spent," said Councilman Jordan.

While folks like Roy Watkins are still waiting for the promise to come true.

"The rate they’re going, to do a half a mile of road is going to take three years, it's going to take longer than 25 years to finish it," Watkins said.

At a recent Trinity River Vision meeting, administrators said they need the extra $250 million because their revenue projections from natural gas reserves are coming in much lower than expected.

They say that with that bond money, they can secure federal funds that were already authorized, and finish the project by 2028.

A spokesman from the Tarrant Regional Water District told NBC5 the price tag grew so much from 2004 to 2009 because two existing projects merged into one.

Trinity River Vision administrators also cite additional infrastructure for utility and environmental remediation, a “trued up” split between local and federal funding, and added costs for project modifications for the overall increase in cost.

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