Editor’s note: Clarification—Two of three routes originally proposed by city staff have been opposed by the City Council. No routes along Wilmeth and Bloomdale roads will be considered in the future because of the potential impact to existing residential development, according to City Manager Paul Grimes in a March 3 email. Grimes said city staff will be evaluating the Laud Howell Parkway corridor as a potential bypass option, but acknowledged that there are “a number of issues that must be explored, including potential connection points back to US 380.” The story has been updated to reflect the Laud Howell Parkway route.
“There are many more months of evaluation ahead of us before we present a plan for council consideration,” Grimes said. “At that point, it is important to emphasize that this will be included in the adoption of the Comprehensive Plan and communicated to TxDOT, the county and NCTCOG for their consideration of the larger regional transportation improvement initiative. Ultimately, routing will be the decision of TxDOT after they conduct their own feasibility review; however, the city’s preferred routing will certainly inform them of McKinney’s position.”
TxDOT’s US 380 study is expected to be complete in 2019.
Story posted March 2
City, county, regional and state transportation officials are working together to address Collin County’s already at-capacity roadways in the face of future growth projections, which Collin County Judge Keith Self calls “staggering.”
The latest figures—released to the Collin County Commissioners Court on Feb. 20—project that the county’s current population will double by 2030 and reach 2.5 million residents by 2040. “Collin County is in the fastest-growing area in the United States,” said Michael Morris, director of transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, a regional planning organization.
“Collin County has fatal flaws in its [lack of major roadways]. We are going to do everything we can to fix these fatal flaws.”
The Texas Department of Transportation is working with NCTCOG as well as county and city officials to plan long-term solutions to some of the county’s most-congested roadways, including the major regional transportation corridors of US 380 and US 75. Solutions to the problem are being discussed among transportation officials as TxDOT this spring enters into the first of many studies on the US 380 corridor. Confusion about the construction process any alternate roadways will go through before construction starts has spread to McKinney residents, leading to fierce opposition to hypothetical US 380 bypass suggestions.
“We are at the 5-yard line and we have 95 yards to go, and we just need everyone to participate and try to take the emotion out of it and look at the needs of today and the future,” said Michael Morris, regional transportation director for NCTCOG.
US 380 bypass misunderstanding
On Feb. 9 the city of McKinney held an informational meeting for the public showing three preliminary ideas of where a bypass could be placed on existing city streets based on the criteria that the routes included the 300 feet of right of way needed for an expansion project. Those routes included Wilmeth Road, Bloomdale Road and the future Laud Howell Parkway. City Council opposed the Wilmeth and Bloomdale roads bypass options during a Feb. 20 work session and asked staff to go back to the drawing board on Laud Howell Parkway.
However, McKinney residents swarmed a Feb. 21 City Council meeting opposing the potential bypass routes after information at a Feb. 18 community meeting that did not involve city staff or elected officials led attendees to believe that one of the three routes would be chosen for a freeway.
McKinney Mayor Brian Loughmiller said the city is not planning to implement any of the three proposed bypass routes nor has council made any statements indicating the city would be OK with demolishing homes or neighborhoods to make way for the bypass.
“The preference of the council would be that neither businesses nor neighborhoods would be impacted by a decision that very well will not be McKinney’s to make,” he said.
According to TxDOT officials, a feasibility study will compare US 380 route alternatives based on engineering, environmental and public feedback. The study is expected to be complete in 2019, and during the process TxDOT officials said they will work with residents, cities, the county and NCTCOG to come to an informed consensus on a potential route.
However, a US 380 bypass route is only one of several road projects under consideration to relieve congestion in the county.
County Roadway Action Plan
In order to address the county’s infrastructure issues, NCTCOG has set aside $700 million in state funding for construction and another $150 million in state funding for engineering and right of way acquisition for roadways in Collin County. Since state-funded projects require a small local contribution, Collin County commissioners are working toward a bond election this November that will include more than $500 million.
“We often don’t pre-fund the projects until they are known, but we didn’t want to miss out on funding for the needs in Collin County,” Morris said.
To determine where that money will be spent, NCTCOG developed the Collin County Roadway Action Plan and split the preliminary study work with TxDOT. Roads in the plan include new north-south corridors, the Collin County Outer Loop, and US 380 and its McKinney bypass.
However, one major focal point for NCTCOG is a nontolled extension of SH 121 from US 75 in McKinney to US 380 in Princeton that would impact any future US 75 and US 380 projects. Because construction of FM 546 is already underway—and the proposed SH 121 route would include FM 546—NCTCOG this year started an emergency engineering initiative to determine if TxDOT’s FM 546 project would serve as an access road to the proposed SH 121 extension or run parallel to it.
Officials said the proposed SH 121 extension would remove some traffic from US 75 through McKinney and have a significant impact on easing congestion along US 380 in east McKinney, as well as on SH 5, Airport Drive and Eldorado Parkway.
During a Feb. 20 Commissioners Court meeting, NCTCOG Program Manager Jeff Neal presented the proposed SH 121 extension to county officials.
“We modeled [the SH 121 extension]as a six-lane freeway at 70 miles an hour extending from US 75 in McKinney to US 380 in Princeton,” he said. “When considering a freeway project we look for simulations showing the road would exceed 40,000 cars a day. This project certainly has that level of justification, and when you look at where this road would intersect SH 5, we are at 61,000 cars a day. But, it would also remove 44 percent of the vehicles [on]US 380 traveling from Princeton to McKinney.”
Transportation discussions will also focus on the Collin County Outer Loop, which would extend east from Denton County across the city’s northern boundaries and south to SH 78. It is expected to act as a reliever to traffic on US 380 and SH 78.
The proposed loop already has a two-lane service road that runs between US 75 and SH 121 in Melissa, and construction will begin on another service road from the Dallas North Tollway to SH 121. The Outer Loop would eventually run east of SH 78 and south to I-30. Self said the road would be “next I-635” in terms of moving people across the county.
Relieving traffic on US 75
NCTCOG simulations also show four potential new corridors running from US 380 in Melissa south to President George Bush Turnpike and I-30. County officials originally thought only one of the four options would be built to relieve traffic on US 75; however, simulated traffic studies show that all four of them could be needed.
“By the year 2040, we will have so much population growth that even if we built all four corridors east of US 75, it will still not relieve the congestion on US 75,” County Commissioner Chris Hill said. “There will be so much latent demand on US 75 that even if we could displace 10,000 cars, another 10,000 cars would just take their place right behind them.”
Hill said optimizing the county’s north-south corridors will help traffic traveling east and west because Collin County drivers currently have to go out of their way to connect with roads that take them where they need to go.
“The spacing of our roadways is inadequate,” he said. “NCTCOG is ready and wants to move quickly if we can get consensus on any one or more of those projects. That’s important to me because [the county is]also ready to move quickly as soon as we know which route we need to pursue and we want to have the money ready.”