Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Texas Road Network

Due to the polycentric character of the DFW conurbation, the urban area has a very extensive motorway network. Both Dallas and Fort Worth have a radial system with a ring road, however, there are many more suburban connections than in Atlanta, Boston, or Washington, for example. Historically, Dallas’s highways were narrower than Houston ‘s, although in recent years some highways have been significantly widened to accommodate the explosive population growth. Typically, Dallas has fewer continuous frontage roads than Houston, for example.

According to topschoolsoflaw, there are 4 major east-west connections in the form of I-20, I-30, I-635 and the George Bush Turnpike. Three highways form the main north-south connections, the 2 branches of I-35, namely I-35E and I-35W, and I-45. The agglomeration also has a number of shorter connecting roads. Most highways have no more than 2×4 lanes, and there are still bottlenecks with only 2×2 lanes, especially around Fort Worth. In addition to the Interstate Highways, there are a number of US Highways and toll roads that supplement the highway network.

The High Five Interchange between US 75 and Interstate 635.

In the bigger picture, the Metroplex is a major interchange, with I-35 from the Mexican border and San Antonio to Oklahoma City and Kansas City running through it, and is one of the busiest interurban highways in the United States. I-45 connects the metropolitan area with the ports of Houston and Galveston. East-west traffic uses I-20, which runs from El Paso to several cities in the southern states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, and I-30, which begins here and runs to Little Rock in Arkansas, where the highway connects on Interstate 40 which runs to the east coast. The conurbation is also an important hub for regional traffic with several US Highways that usually have at least 2 lanes in each direction, and often have freeway features. There is no ring road with which to bypass the entire conurbation, there are 2 roads that qualify for ring road, I-635 and I-820, which, however, only run around Dallas and Fort Worth respectively. Via the I-35, the I-35W through Fort Worth is the fastest. The conurbation has 7 radiating highways and 11 radiating US Highways.

Striking in the agglomeration is the prominence of stack nodes. There are also a number of SPUI connections, and various nodes have a layer for local traffic crossing at the same level from the underlying road network. The highways have long remained toll-free, but a number of toll roads have recently been built, such as the President George Bush Turnpike, the Sam Rayburn Tollway, and the Chisholm Trail Parkway. Other cities such as Austin and Houston also have toll roads.

The auto-dependency in the metropolitan area is not significantly different from elsewhere in North America. Public transport is only poorly developed and, like everywhere in North America, plays a secondary role. Also, existing public transit is poorly integrated, with some suburbs offering services only to Fort Worth or Dallas, not both cities. However, the road network is well equipped for high car use, and the grid pattern ensures that traffic is well distributed over the various access roads. It should be noted that the agglomeration often uses a somewhat larger grid network, with major trunk roads at some distance from each other, containing an area of residential streets with little traffic, unlike some other cities that use a fine-mesh grid pattern. As a result, the larger roads are busier, but these are also designed with 2 or 3 lanes in each direction. Some main roads also have grade separated intersections at busy intersections.

Overview freeways

The interchange between I-20 and I-35W in Fort Worth.

The I-35E (Stemmons Freeway) in Dallas.

The SH 121/I-35E.

The I-30 in Dallas.

Road name length first opening last opening max AADT 2015
Lyndon B. Johnson Freeway 124 km 1958 1967 210,000
Tom Landry Freeway 74 km 1957 1975 150,000
Richard L. Thornton Freeway 40 km 1961 1966 191,000
Richard L. Thornton Freeway 90 km 1959 1965 180,000
Stemmons Freeway 64 km 1953 1963 273,000
South Freeway 82 km 1949 1976 166,000
North Freeway 55 km 1960 1969 141,000
Julius Schepps Freeway 31 km 1972 1976 157,000
Interstate 345 2 km 1973 1973 189,000
Lyndon B. Johnson Freeway 56 km 1967 1981 250,000
The Loop 57 km 1963 1982 158,000
J. Elmer Weaver Freeway 35 km 1969 1983 104,000
Central Expressway 60 km 1949 1958 277,000
US 80 31 km 1956 1959 84,000
US 81 / US 287 24 km 1976 1989 41,000
CF Hawn Freeway 51 km 1956 1972 82,000
US 287 69 km 1963 1982 73,000
Walton Walker Boulevard 16 km 1969 1980 153,000
International Parkway 11 km 1973 1973 92,000
John W. Carpenter Freeway 17 km 1971 1973 133,000
Northwest Parkway 15 km 1985 2006 125,000
Airport Freeway 12 km 1964 1969 176,000
State Route 121 23 km 1981 2006 193,000
Sam Rayburn Tollway 40 km 2006 2009 146,000
State Route 161 13 km 2001 2010 154,000
President George Bush Turnpike 13 km 2001 2005 119,000
Alliance Gateway Freeway 10 km 1992 1992 43,000
Airport Freeway 24 km 1959 1973 184,000
President George Bush Turnpike 50 km 1998 2011 161,000
Jacksboro Highway 19 km 2019 43,000
State Route 360 29 km 1976 2018 189,000
Woodall Rodgers Freeway 3 km 1983 2012 196,000
Clark Road 7 km 101,000
Chisholm Trail Parkway 44 km 2014 2014
Dallas North Tollway 51 km 1968 2007 174,000

North Texas HOV System

In 2013, Dallas had 110 miles of freeways with HOV lanes, all in and around Dallas. There are no HOV lanes around Fort Worth. There are three types of HOV lanes in Dallas;

  • interchangeable lanes: (I-30 west from downtown & I-35E south from downtown)
  • zipper barrier interchange: (I-30 east of downtown)
  • regular HOV lanes: (I-35E north of downtown, US 75 north of I-635 and I-635 between I-30 and US 75).

In the future, most HOV lanes will be converted into express lanes because in most cases they are underused, and dynamic tolls allow better use of existing road capacity. The first HOV lanes to be discontinued were the HOV lanes of Interstate 635 along the north side of Dallas, which were incorporated as express lanes of the LBJ Express project in 2014.


It stacks between I-35E and the George Bush Turnpike.

The first plans for highways date from the 1940s. Construction began on the first highways in both Dallas and Fort Worth in the mid-1940s. Dallas prioritized the Central Expressway, today’s US 75 from Downtown to the north, while Fort Worth added the South Freeway (I-35W) and the West Freeway (I-30).) prioritized. The first freeway to open was the first section of the Central Expressway on August 20, 1949. Three weeks later, Fort Worth opened its first freeway, I-35W, on September 14, 1949. At that time, cities were still responsible for the cost of the highway. land acquisition of new highways, resulting in a very slow construction pace. In 1952, Fort Worth was the city with the largest highway “network” in Texas, with eight miles of highway in use, more than Dallas or Houston. That changed during the 1950s, but new highways were being built in both cities during that time. In 1957, the region’s first toll road, the Dallas-Fort Worth Turnpike, now opened toll-free Interstate 30.

Before the creation of the Interstate Highway system in 1956, the following highways were completed:

  • West Fort Worth I-30: 10 miles
  • South Fort Worth I-35W: 11 kilometers
  • I-35E north of Dallas: 12 kilometers
  • US 75 between Dallas and Richardson: 21 kilometers
  • US 80 east of Dallas: 11 miles
  • US 175 in the south of Dallas: 3 kilometers

In 1956, the Interstate Highway system was created, with the federal government taking on 90 percent of the cost of the land acquisition. The same applied to State Highways, which relieved local governments of the sometimes high costs of obtaining a right-of-way, since the highways that were most needed ran through already built-up areas, which meant that many buildings had to be purchased. The construction of the highway network went much faster after that, especially in the 1960s many highways were opened. During that time, the region also began to grow strongly, particularly between Fort Worth and Dallas, and north of Dallas. The Texas government had no money for additional projects in the mid-1960s, but one was deemed necessary, and was eventually used as a toll road. This is the Dallas North Tollway (DNT), which opened in phases in 1968, and is also one of the most claustrophobic freeways in the region, with 2×3 lanes on a 100-foot (30-meter) right-of-way.

In the 1970s, highway construction went into crisis, TxDOT was running out of money, delaying construction of some projects, most notably the construction of Loop 9 around Dallas. In the early 1970s, I-20 was built along the south side of Dallas. Notable here were the “cookie-cutter interchanges”, the six consecutive nodes are all identical stack nodes that were built over a period of 4 years. Highway construction slowly picked up again from the 1980s, especially in the periphery, but construction did not really resume until the 1990s, when much of the President George Bush Turnpike was constructed. The construction of most of the new highways followed the expansion of the urban area, mainly northwards. A typical example of this is the continuous extension of the Dallas North Tollway, which today extends more than 50 kilometers from downtown. Not many large-scale road widenings were implemented until 2010, the most significant was the conversion of the Central Expressway in Dallas. The newest long highway is the Sam Rayburn Tollway (SH 121) which runs diagonally through the northern suburbs and opened in 2009. The George Bush Turnpike west of Dallas is also being extended southwards, and was extended east of Dallas to I-30 in 2011.

As of 1 October 2013, 130 kilometers of HOV lane in the DFW region has been taken over by road manager TxDOT. Before that, the HOV lanes were managed by the public transport authority DART. In time, the HOV lanes will be converted into toll express lanes. On September 10, 2015, the LBJ Express megaproject opened with express lanes on I-35E and I-635 on the north side of Dallas.

Number changes

With the construction of the highways, the road numbering has also changed here and there. Before the creation of the Interstate Highway system, most Interstates were as US Highways numbered, I-45 was US 75, I-35E US 77 and I-35W US 81. Because the I-20 was completed relatively late through the region, the number I-20 was first assigned to the current I-30 from Fort Worth to Dallas, then ran on US 80 from Dallas to Terrell. In the 1970s, I-20 was moved to the new route south of the cities, but both west of Fort Worth and east of Dallas were still missing links, only since 1989 has I-20 run east of Dallas on its current route, before that it followed US 80. Part of I-20 was also marked as I-635 in the 1960s. Also on the east side of Downtown Dallas is the unofficial I-345, signposted north as US 75 and south as I-45.

Speed limits

In 2000, the speed limit in the entire region was reduced to 60 or 65 mph to improve air quality. However, the effect was negligible and since 2014 speed limits have been increased again, especially in the more suburban areas where the speed limit is back to 70 mph. In addition, air quality will be improved through improved traffic lights, left-hand driving bans for freight traffic and effective source policy.


In order to meet the increasing demand for mobility, which is the result of the rapid population growth and spatial developments, continuous improvements and new construction are needed in DFW. However, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is running out of cash, causing all new highways to be built as toll roads. Road widening also often involves toll lanes, but the toll roads do have Frontage Roads, which are free and financed through general taxes.

A number of new highways are planned;

  • extension of the Dallas North Tollway from US 380 to the Grayson County Line
  • extension of the President George Bush Turnpike from Garland to I-20 in Mesquite
  • construction of the Trinity Parkway along downtown as an alternative to Interstate 35E
  • construction of SH 170 as a toll road from Fort Worth to Trophy Club
  • construction of Loop 9 as a toll road south of Dallas
  • construction of the Blacklands Turnpike from Garland to Greenville
  • widening of SH 183 between Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and I-35E in Dallas
  • widening of Interstate 35 East from Dallas to Denton
  • construction of the Lewisville Lake Toll Bridge corridor from Denton to Frisco
  • construction of a possible Dallas outer loop around the entire metropolitan area

Farm to Market Roads

The Dallas-Fort Worth region has an extensive network of Farm to Market Roads, also known simply as Farm Roads or FM Roads. Due to the explosive population growth, these roads have in many cases acquired an urban character, many suburban FM Roads have been widened to 2×2 or 2×3 lanes. It is striking that Dallas County has only two FM Roads, Tarrant County also has relatively few FM Roads compared to the surrounding counties. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, no FM Road has actually been developed as a highway, although FM 2499 in Grapevine has been sunken with a short-term cross-section freeway.

Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Texas Road Network

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