In July Texas Department of Transportation crews shifted traffic to its new pattern for Phase 3 to work on the east side of SH 26. Upon completion of this eight-month-long phase, crews will have one more phase to go before the $38.2 million is completed.
Mayor Richard Newton said the SH 26 project is a milestone project, meaning the contractor has incentives to finish sections of the roadway early and disincentives if the project falls behind.
“We’re moving to Phase 3 early,” he said. “That’s very positive and because of the [milestone] agreement that will even allow the end of the contract to be early.”
Phase 3 was originally slated to begin in October and involves a traffic shift to the west side of the freeway from Pleasant Run Road to John McCain Road to construct northbound main lanes.
Any effort to finish the road sooner comes as good news to Kim Murray, owner of Buttermilk Sky Pie in Colleyville.
“I think there’s a frustration and an understanding that it needs to be done,” she said. “Just the understanding versus feeling the customer’s pain of how hard it is to get to us.”
Murray said while the construction has not necessarily hurt her profit margin, she has heard how it has affected other businesses in the area and is looking forward to seeing the project one step closer to completion.
“We’ve heard from a lot of people that it’s really hard to find us, and that it’s really hard to get in,” she said. “It affects us in that our customers can’t get to us.”
Once Phase 3 is completed after the winter, the transition to Phase 4 will begin, which involves asphalt removal and median restoration.
“That’s when it’s going to start taking a lot more shape,” City Manager Jerry Ducay said. “When it’s done it’s going to be a really nice road. … I think it will bring in a lot of business.”
Working ahead on Phase 3
TxDOT Public Information Officer Val Lopez said Phase 2 construction, which began in March, is still in progress on the southern section of the project area from Centerpark Drive to Brown Trail. Phase 3 work is primarily in the middle of the 3-mile stretch of roadway and Phase 2 work is at the southern end of the project and involves completion of the Little Bear Creek Bridge.
TxDOT Engineer Minh Tran said at a July 2 Colleyville City Council meeting that Phase 2 and Phase 3 construction will overlap to avoid any traffic switches while school is in session. Lopez said the typically dry summer creates ideal conditions for roadwork.
Phase 2 is scheduled to finish in the fall of this year. Ducay said Tran asked the council to begin Phase 3 early, citing that waiting to begin this phase until the fall would invite complaints that there is not enough activity happening on the road.
“The question then from the mayor and council was, ‘Will that actually end up shortening what would have been the time for the project?’ And the answer was yes,” Ducay said.
He added this does not extend the number of milestone days the contractor has for Phase 3.
“Phase 3 still has the same number of days it has always had; it just started earlier,” Ducay said.
Lopez was hesitant to say the project was ahead of schedule, however.
“It is advancing well,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for utilities to be a factor in construction, especially for urbanized areas.”
This was an issue that delayed Phase 1 of the project, he said. Phase 1 dealt with the outer phase of the road, where utility lines are most likely to be found, and Phase 3 will do the same.
“Unfortunately, there are a lot of those types of utilities that exist underground that no one has identified or have since been abandoned, and when [crews] run into those they have to stop and assess what the condition of those utilities are, whether they’re important to preserve and how they’re going to mitigate them,” Ducay said. “And that causes those starts and stops.”
He said the hope is that no utility issues ever occur, but realistically it is likely that they will.
Effect on businesses
On a July afternoon, a conversation with Hart Pool & Spa owner Brad Herring at his store went uninterrupted over the span of 20 minutes. No customers entered the building, which Herring said was completely abnormal during this time of year.
“It’s been really slow,” store manager Rebecca Aguirre said.
One of the drawbacks of the Phase 3 transition is construction has shifted to the northbound lanes, putting construction trucks and orange barrels right in front of Herring’s store.
“It’s peak season. Why? We’ve been going through [construction] for so long and I know [this is] not on purpose and there’s nothing I can do about it and that it’s progress, but oh my gosh, why?” he said.
Herring said he has a feeling that Colleyville customers are staying loyal to his business. His theory is that what is actually hurting the business is the commuters, or the motorists who used to drive through Colleyville, are no longer doing so because they want to avoid the construction.
“If they don’t have to go through Colleyville, I don’t think they’re going through Colleyville,” he said.
This was something Brad Cypert, owner of Teddy’s Bigger Burgers in Colleyville, noticed as well. He said if businesses wanted to thrive, they had to go out and get their business from outside Colleyville, or somehow bring it in. He is doing that by catering as many events as he can.
“You can’t just rely on the people here,” he said.
Construction has been planted in front of Teddy’s Bigger Burgers since April, and Cypert said he is looking forward to seeing the work shift to the other side of the road and for the project to finish as quickly as possible.
“Then people are not going to avoid the commute on [SH] 26 anymore because of the orange barrel nightmare,” he said.
Emily Davis contributed to reporting.