Fort Worth Drive businesses have felt the sting of road-widening construction that began in October and is scheduled to continue until late 2020.
The $43.6 million project, which will expand the road to six lanes from Interstate 35E to a quarter-mile south of Country Club Road while replacing and upgrading underground utilities, has greatly impacted traffic and businesses on Fort Worth Drive, also known as U.S. Highway 377.
Smokehouse BBQ has been particularly affected as a restaurant that depends on lunchtime customers for a significant amount of its business.
“Our customers can’t get here and get back on time,” Smokehouse owner Janet Koelzer said. She estimates her restaurant has managed only a quarter of the lunchtime business that it did before the construction started.
But increased traffic congestion is just one of the construction’s effects. “Even at nighttime, it’s hard for people to find our driveway,” Koelzer said. The restaurant’s water and gas have also been cut multiple times.
Mr. Frosty has fared better. Patrick Webb, who runs the old-fashioned American eatery with his father, said that while the lunch rush has been affected as well, the restaurant has taken the construction in stride.
“We have a pretty good customer base,” he said. “We’re rocking and rolling.”
Webb thinks the project will be worth it in the end.
“It will be a net positive, for sure. ... It’s something you have to be willing to live through for a few years,” he said.
La Azteca Meat Market and 7-Eleven have had their Fort Worth Drive entrances removed as the northbound side of the road is being widened. Currently, the two businesses are accessible only via other entrances, including driveways off the I-35E southbound frontage road.
La Azteca manager Jimmy Mejia said the restricted access has made it difficult for customers, especially first-time shoppers, to get to the store.
“The weekends have been steady, but on weekdays we’ve noticed a drop,” Mejia said.
It’s been worse for 7-Eleven. “It’s 50 to 60% of our business that’s gone,” manager Miko Galan said. “It’s been a headache, in all honesty.”
Contour Engineers project manager Angel Karr said the project is currently estimated to be completed in December 2020, in accordance with its original 27-month construction schedule.