A Project for the People

City protects people and properties from harmful stormwater runoff

By Hanna Heiss

Over 10 years ago the City of Fort Worth, Texas implemented their Stormwater Management Program (SWMP). The goal of the program is to protect people and properties from harmful stormwater runoff. The SWMP helps the city achieve one of its strategic goals to “make Fort Worth the nation’s safest major city” and the Stormwater Divisions mission to “protect people and property from harmful stormwater runoff.”

Prior to the initiation of SWMP in 2006, there was over $500 million in backlog for flood reduction capital projects, incomplete inventory, limited planning studies focusing only on water quality, 1967 era development services and design standards with limited enforcement, outdated equipment and technology and limited public education solely involving water quality.

Since 2006, over 130 projects, 75 major and 55 minor, have been completed under the SWMP. With successful partnerships with Fort Worth ISD, Tarrant County, Fort Worth T and other City departments, over 600 properties’ flood risks have been reduced, 190 flood-prone parcels acquired and roads with 255,000 average daily trips are no longer subject to overtopping.

The City aims to reduce backlog in a reasonable timeframe, implement a proactive, prioritized, schedules, effective maintenance program, maintain a complete inventory and conditioned assessment of facilities, set priorities with cost-effective solutions, have up-to-date hardware, software and field equipment and administer an effective education and outreach program on all aspects of stormwater issues.

In 2020, the City of Fort Worth, Texas implemented their Hazardous Road Overtopping Mitigation Program (HROM) as part of SWMP. HROM aligns with the City’s mission of protecting people and properties from harmful stormwater runoff and is focused on mitigating life safety risk as HROM was created in response to life-threatening and fatal incidents in association with flooded roads. HROM is an ongoing effort to identify hazardous road locations due to flooding, prioritize them based on risk and where feasible, develop solutions to make them safer. 

In a partnership with the arterial street group under the city’s Transportation and Public Works Department and also with state agencies such as Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), a majority of the hazardous crossings were improved by stormwater management. 

There were over 300 potentially hazardous road overtopping locations identified within the City. To address hazardous road overtopping, three general approaches are being used: modifying the stream crossing so less water flows over the road, adding or enhancing safety measures such as guardrails, signs, markings and lights and closing the roadway at the hazardous location.

On track to meet its original goal, a few adjustments were made along the way to manage the schedule and the budget due to competing priorities in other stormwater programs.

HROM is no stranger to challenge. Some of the challenges include limited funding availability, insufficient information to estimate the level of hazard/risk exposure at the crossing and insufficient information to estimate the feasibility of improvements. Solutions to these challenges are to secure revenue bond funds and leverage partnership opportunities to reduce the funding gap, perform high level engineering analysis and consider previous history of fatalities, rescues and citizen complaints and to perform project development which includes preliminary risk assessment and finding feasible, effective and affordable solutions to mitigate risk during implementation.

Environmentally conscious, one of the projects used culvert barrels that were already owned by the city thereby reducing the cost and the resources consumed to manufacture such large culvert barrels. Partnership opportunities were pursued to complete a project along with other improvements in the vicinity to not only efficiently utilize the existing resources but also to reduce environmental impact due to repeated construction activity. 

Other green aspects of the project include the continual evaluation of downstream impacts and the protection of erosion when a risk to adjacent infrastructure is estimated.

With highlights of using trenchless rehabilitation methods to improve the culvert crossing, an innovative technique to reduce the construction footprint and to reduce the disruption to traffic, the project has received positive feedback from the community stakeholders.

​​The team is particularly proud of developing an objective, scalable and repeatable process to prioritize locations along with developing a robust project development process. This process helps with finding feasible, effective and affordable solutions to greatly reduce the surprise element during the design and the construction phases of an improvement project. 

Looking ahead, the city is currently in the process of improving the Craven’s road crossing to a 100-year level of flood protection. Another regional mobility improvement project is the Las Vegas Trail crossing. This project will increase the capacity of the existing culvert from its current two-year to a 100-year level of protection. This is a multi-agency coordination and each agency is contributing from their limited resources to improve this crossing to greatly reduce the life safety risk to Texas Army National Guard and the citizens of both the city of Fort Worth and the city of White Settlement. 

Hanna Heiss is the assistant editor at American Infrastructure Magazine. She can be reached at hanna@builder.media.