Dallas North Tollway projects prep Plano for growth

Workers ready a construction area on Dallas Parkway at the President George Bush Turnpike.

Workers ready a construction area on Dallas Parkway at the President George Bush Turnpike.

 

When Eiko Christian opened Rifle Gear at Windhaven Parkway and the Dallas North Tollway in Plano last April, she and her husband were looking for an ideal spot to grow their business.


Although nearby road construction has posed difficulties for Christian’s employees and customers, the California native said these projects are a necessary evil for accommodating the growth taking place in Plano.


To Christian, expanding the DNT by one lane in both directions may not be enough, however.


“In California, you can have eight lanes on one side. I’m more concerned ... that this is not going to be enough unless you widen the service road or add another freeway,” she said.




Dallas North Tollway Congestion Dallas North Tollway Congestion[/caption]

With the first phases of Legacy West in Plano and the $5 Billion Dollar Mile in Frisco taking shape, these and other budding commercial developments along the Dallas North Tollway are expected to bring thousands of jobs to the area—as well as increased traffic congestion.


The North Texas Tollway Authority projects an estimated 3,000 more drivers will travel on the DNT through Plano each day this year than in 2015. To help accommodate the growth, the NTTA began a multiphase project last summer that, when complete, will widen the DNT from I-635 south of Addison northward to SH 121 in Dallas.


The first phase of the DNT expansion project extends from the President George Bush Turnpike to SH 121 and includes the addition of a fourth lane on the southbound and northbound sides of the road. The project also includes the addition of on and off ramps at Windhaven Parkway, the reconstruction of the Tennyson Parkway bridge, and the extension of existing on and off ramps. This $281 million phase of the project is expected to be complete in 2018.


Another lane will also be added to the direct-connector ramps at the DNT and PGBT interchange. These braided ramps are expected to remedy congestion that occurs from merging motorists, NTTA Construction Manager Enrique Guillen said. After the reconfiguration, motorists trying to get onto the DNT traveling south from Park Boulevard will be able to use two dedicated lanes that will take them directly to southbound DNT.


“Currently we have both movements merging into one lane [and] everybody’s trying to figure out where they want to go and then they finally separate,” he said. “We’re going to separate them with concrete.”



City projects


Enhancements are not limited to just the DNT. The city of Plano has been working to increase capacity at intersections on the Dallas Parkway frontage road. Construction will soon begin to add a second dedicated center lane and extend the right-turn lanes at Park Boulevard and Parker Road. Design for the improvements began in 2013, Deputy City Manager Jack Carr said. Carr, who was promoted to serve as the city’s deputy city manager earlier this year, had served as the city’s engineering director since December 2013.




“Those workers out there are in those work zones, and we really need motorists to do as the sign says [and] give them a break."


—Lonnie Haschel, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson



In February, the city completed a $4.4 million widening project along Windhaven Parkway.  Traffic along this road is expected to increase as the land around it becomes developed, Carr said.  Tollway construction may also result in motorists using alternate routes, temporarily increasing traffic volume on parallel streets like Parkwood Boulevard.


“As development occurs across Collin County, more vehicles are added to the road network,” Carr said. “In most cases, traffic control and turning movements at intersections limit the capacity of the intersecting roadways. The city of Plano has identified intersections where the overall capacity will be improved by adding turn lanes.”



Motorist safety


The Texas Highway Patrol is responsible for enforcing motorist safety along the Dallas North Tollway. Highway patrol officers patrolling the DNT stressed the importance of watching for lane closures when driving through work zones, as these can change from day to day, said Lonnie Haschel, spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety.


Motorists should also adhere to the reduced 60 mph speed limit, as speeding is the main cause of accidents along the DNT. All traffic fines are doubled within these work zones.


“What’s happening is that the faster cars are crashing into [other drivers] in the construction zone and rear-ending them,” Haschel said. “Those workers out there are in those work zones, and we really need motorists to do as the sign says [and] give them a break.”


While the Plano Police Department is responsible for monitoring the frontage road, it also works with DPS to enforce traffic laws along the DNT, said officer David Tilley, spokesperson for the Plano Police Department. Plano police have seen a slight increase in the number of car crashes along both roadways, something Tilley said is typical of construction zones.


“When you build up traffic, you start getting people who are impatient [and] they do things that they normally wouldn’t do—like a fast lane change,” Tilley said. “Defensive driving is more applicable today with more cars on the road.”



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