Debut of 360 Tollway makes south Arlington, Grand Prairie and Mansfield more connected than ever

Debut of 360 Tollway makes south Arlington, Grand Prairie and Mansfield more connected than ever

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MANSFIELD — Boom times continue on the western side of Joe Pool Lake, where residents in new $300,000 homes and upscale apartments will gain connectivity Friday as the ribbon is cut and the 360 Tollway is opened.

The North Texas Tollway Authority’s 9.7-mile project will extend the highway along the Arlington and Grand Prairie border from Camp Wisdom and Sublett Roads south to U.S. Highway 287.

The tollway service roads have been open for years and will remain as the official State Highway 360.

"Residents certainly still have the opportunity for driving at no cost," said Mansfield Mayor David Cook. "It’s a win-win."

Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams said the road will provide connectivity to business areas and the Tarrant County College’s Southeast Campus. It has taken decades for the area’s leaders to secure the limited access highway.

"The main lanes would not be built if it were not a toll road," Williams said. "It’s a very congested frontage road."

Grand Prairie officials say the $300 million freeway extension opens up 1,200 acres for development. Farthest south on the 360 Tollway is an area Mansfield leaders call the "Triangle," an undeveloped area between Broad Street, the highway and U.S. 287 that has attracted 4,500 nearby home plats and, with a quicker connection to DFW International Airport, maybe something more.

"I would say the opportunities are endless as far as what’s going to be the final makeup," Cook said. "Certainly corporate headquarters are on our radar."

Grand Prairie officials are excited about what could happen at or around three new freeway exits. The increased traffic will also reinvigorate the city’s SH360 southeast corner at Interstate 20, where a theater was planned but didn’t develop.

"It sets the stage for some parcels, some hard corners, to have the visibility," said Marty Wieder, Grand Prairie’s director of economic development. "For people to pull over and show and eat or be entertained."

A view of Mansfield ISD’s Vernon Newsom Stadium next to the 360 Turnpike in Mansfield. (Nathan Hunsinger/The Dallas Morning News)

There’s aren’t as many large undeveloped areas along the highway in Arlington, where neighborhoods are more fully developed around Timberview High School. But infill in the area on the west side of the 360 Tollway is now more inevitable.

Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams (pictured), Grand Prairie Mayor Ron Jensen and Mansfield Mayor Jeff Williams will be among those to take the podium Friday as the North Texas Tollway Authority cuts the ribbon on the 360 Tollway. (Rose Baca/The Dallas Morning News)

"There is great opportunity for economic development," Williams said.

Following a ribbon-cutting, the tollway will open in segments starting Friday afternoon. NTTA says the 9.7 miles will be fully driveable by Saturday morning.

NTTA has taken 2 1/2 years to build the project. Drivers with a TollTag will pay $1.62 to travel the full length of the highway extension.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation naming the northern portion the Rosa Parks Memorial Parkway in memory of the civil rights legend, and the southern portion the Sen. Chris Harris Memorial Highway to honor the longtime legislator from Arlington who pushed hard to make the highway a reality.

Tie-in to other projects

The 360 Tollway also ties in to projects happening on other main thoroughfares in the area. On the Arlington-Grand Prairie border, TxDOT started construction in February to add southbound and northbound lanes on SH360 from Interstate 20 to Jefferson Boulevard. That will link with another project to improve SH360’s interchange at Interstate 30.

Those improvements north of I-20 are scheduled to be complete by the end of 2020.

At the southern endpoint, the Texas Department of Transportation plans to open an overpass in early June, allowing through traffic on U.S. Highway 287 to skirt traffic lights.

Having doubled in size in the last 17 years to 70,000 residents, with a push from the 360 Turnpike, Mansfield could become the region’s next city to hit 100,000. A decade ago, it started drawing family-friendly amenities like a championship golf course, Hawaiian Falls water park and the Big League Dreams ballfields to anchor the southern end of SH 360.

While it has capitalized a great deal on what it calls the "Grand Peninsula" between the arms of Joe Pool Lake, the U.S. 287 corridor is an undeveloped frontier for Grand Prairie, a city that plans eventually to grow farther south into Johnson County.

Grand Prairie has the experience of having witnessed and helped manage development in one of the more recent highway corridors, the State Highway 161 extension of the Bush Turnpike. That area has drawn the likes of Ikea and the Epic Waters indoor water park.

While, unlike the Bush Turnpike, Grand Prairie has only one side of the 360 Tollway, the affluence and newness is undeniable on both sides of the new roadway. Wieder said the region sometimes gets lost as North Texas’ economic development buzz focuses on growth to the north and east.

"Those are all tremendous projects on the North Dallas Tollway, [State Highway] 121 and other places," he admitted. "Yet the opportunities we’re going to have with populations to the south, now that they’re going to be able to travel more easily, are going to get recognized."

Construction workers put finishing touches on the $300 million 360 Tollway. The 9.7 miles of limited access highway will be open by Saturday morning. (Nathan Hunsinger/The Dallas Morning News)

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Ben Holland