The need to replace a failing waterline under portions of Morriss Road has spurred Flower Mound officials to take a look at possibly expanding the roadway, and in return, the issue revived a discussion between residents and town officials.
The project, which would expand Morriss Road from four to six lanes, has been a hot-button issue for residents since it was first mentioned almost a decade ago, Mayor Tom Hayden said.
“Back [in 2009], the residents did not want the road to be widened,” he said. “There was a significant outcry against making Morriss six lanes. The majority of residents who were directly impacted by it really were overwhelmingly against it.”
Due to opposition from residents in 2009, the project was postponed.
At the Town Council meeting Nov. 6, council members voted 3-2 to approve $80,965 to move forward with the final design of expanding the road from FM 3040 to Garden Road.
The design, which was 90 percent complete in 2009, will be updated to reflect changes since then. It is expected to be finished in February.
The expansion would add an additional lane in both directions. No right of way is needed for the project because the additional lanes would be created by shrinking the median.
However, Hayden said completing the design for the project does not necessarily mean the expansion will happen.
“There are still several steps that have to occur,” he said. “All we have approved is the design; we then have to approve the money for it and bid it. Things change over time, so until the bulldozer is moving up and down Morriss Road, [the expansion is] not definitive.”
If the council moves forward, the entire project will take a year to complete once construction begins.
Council members Bryan Webb, Don McDaniel and Claudio Forest voted in favor of moving forward with a final design. Members Jason Webb and Kevin Bryant cast nay votes.
When it comes to whether Hayden supports the expansion, he said he is “for being responsive to the residents and how it directly impacts their lives.”
“It’s easy to say go ahead and expand it when you don’t have to live in that area, Hayden said. “However, I wonder how [residents] would feel if it was in their neighborhood. It’s always easy to do it to someone else.”
The need for the project
Town Engineering Manager Tiffany Bruce said there are three components to the project: replacing the waterline, replacing the road panels and expanding the roadway.
“With the project, the council has the ability to approve all parts of this project or just some,” she said.
However, Bruce said if the council approves a plan to do all three parts at the same time, it could save the town at least $700,000.
Hayden said the council is also looking at coupling the components together because of regional funds that will expire if not used by 2019.
Bruce said the town was given $400,000 in regional toll revenue, which are funds given to neighboring communities from SH 121 tollway revenue to help get traffic to and from the tollway.
“The funds were specifically given for additional lanes to improve capacity on the Morriss project,” she said. “If we don’t spend that money by early 2019, it will be forfeited.”
Although the council could choose to just do roadway panel replacement, which would address the road’s cracking, sinking, subgrade failures and poor drivability, Bruce said the road is failing in terms of the amount of traffic volume it can handle, and the expansion needs to happen.
The roadway was originally constructed in 1984 and 1987.
“The project is needed to serve the short-term and the long-term traffic demands that are projected for the Morriss Road corridor,” she said. “Even with the increased capacity provided by the two new lanes, long-range traffic volumes will exceed capacity on Morriss Road at [FM] 2499 and Garden Ridge. But those two lanes help to improve that capacity problem.”
Bruce said the town measures a road’s ability to handle capacity using its SMARTGrowth program, which looks at a road’s traffic counts during peak hours and assigns it a letter. Roads can be given an A, B, C, D, E or F.
“We want to make sure that all roads are a level C or above,” she said. “A ‘C’ or above is an indicator that traffic is flowing well in those areas.”
C is the lowest acceptable level of service for a road, Bruce said. Traffic counts recorded in January show the level of service on Morriss Road between FM 3040 and Forest Vista Drive are at a level D.
Between Forest Vista and Firewheel Drive, Morriss is at a level E, and Bruce said projections show those sections will drop to a level F if nothing is done to increase capacity.
If the road is expanded to six lanes, Bruce said its level of service is projected to return to a level C.
Concern from residents
Some Flower Mound residents are against the project, and say widening the road will make it unsafe and ruin the community feel. One of those residents is Kathleen Banes, who is the administrator for a Facebook group called StopMorriss6.
“It’s a very residential street,” she said. “I just want to keep the community feel that we have on Morriss.”
Hayden also questions what will happen to nearby neighborhoods if the road is widened.
“We need more north-to-south connections because traffic is only going to get worse; it’s not going to get better,” he said. “But then on the other hand, how does this change the neighborhood? If the road goes from four lanes to six lanes, does it just change the neighborhood? Does it make it to where people can’t ride their bikes because traffic is so bad?”
Banes said she does not feel the road is congested.
“It’s not anywhere near a problem,” she said. “Traffic is still flowing. It may add a couple of minutes to your trip, but it’s not like you are sitting in traffic and watching five cycles of the light.”
Along Morriss there are two schools—Forestwood Middle School and Marcus High School. Banes said she worries if the road is widened, it will make the road more unsafe.
“I’m not just concerned with kids crossing, but those driving to Marcus as well,” she said. “The extra lane will invite more traffic to cut through Morriss and adding a lane will end up encouraging people to speed and be more aggressive, especially during the time of school pickup when it is a little bit more congested.”
Bruce said the speed limit will stay at 40 mph if the road is expanded. Additionally, she said the width for the pedestrian walkway will stay the same; pedestrians will just have two additional lanes to cross.
If the roadway is expanded to six lanes, the lanes will be 11 feet, which some residents say will hinder emergency vehicles from using the road, Bruce said.
“The town’s engineer has stated that the 12-foot lanes are the town’s standard width, however, 11-foot lanes are a widely accepted design width,” she said. “Our fire department said the current lanes widths do not hinder their ability to respond to emergencies utilizing Morriss. They did say 11-foot lanes would be a little tight for some of their large [fire trucks] like the Quint.”
The Quint features a fire hose, aerial device and ground ladders.