Although SH 114 at one time was a two-lane country road in Southlake, it is now a major freeway through the city and used by motorists to get to Southlake Town Square, Gateway Church and large corporations.
The freeway also now serves as an economic stimulus for the city because it provides travelers with a route to get to the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, making it prime real estate for developers, according to Shannon Hamons, southlake director of economic development & tourism.
Hamons said in the past two years the city has attracted new businesses that will bring thousands to the SH 114 corridor daily, which has in turn created a need for more hotels in the area.
“This region is an existing and future high-growth area for residential and businesses,” he said. “Examples of current business development include the Granite Properties’ 160,000-square-foot office building being constructed near Town Square and the anticipated TD Ameritrade regional [campus] in Southlake along SH 114.”
Hamons said the Granite building could attract 700 or more office jobs, and TD Ameritrade could bring up to 2,000 employees. Also, renovation of the 380,000-square-foot Vista at Solana building at Kirkwood Drive is nearing completion and will be available for office users in May.
“It is anticipated that these and other potential office developments could necessitate additional hotel space,” Hamons said.
Currently, the city has one hotel, the Hilton Dallas/Southlake Town Square. However, a second hotel, Cambria Hotel & Suites, will open later this year off SH 114, and the Westin Hotel is expected to open in 2017 or 2018 near Gateway Church, which is off of SH 114 as well.
“The Hilton is continually operating at near capacity, and some events and large groups are sometimes turned away because of lack of space,” Hamons said. “The Cambria Hotel, [which is] now under construction on Kimball Avenue at SH 114, will be open sometime this fall and will serve a more casual traveler, which is an underserved consumer in our market. It appears there is room for several additional hotels of varying service levels.”
With more businesses and the two additional hotels under construction, city officials have turned to examining ways to alleviate traffic concerns on SH 114 and finding alternatives to car transportation in the city.
The increase in businesses and hotels is expected to make an already crowded SH 114 more congested, which is why Southlake Mayor Laura Hill said she plans to implement a trolley to help alleviate traffic.
“I’ve visited cities who have ‘hop-on, hop-off’ trolleys, and given the challenges we face today with traffic in our city, I started wondering about how that might work in Southlake,” she said. “Development continues to grow along the [SH] 114 corridor with the new TD Ameritrade project and the Granite office building, so the thought expanded from something that would just service our residents and tourists [to something that would] also get our many office workers out in the city during the day so that they could take advantage of shopping opportunities and restaurants without having to add more cars to the roads.”[polldaddy poll=9421607]
Hamons said the trolley could be key to reducing unwanted corporate traffic in neighborhoods.
“Certainly the added offices and hotels will bring more visitors to the community,” he said. “However, [the trolley] placement along SH 114 will reduce the stress of traffic into the city and neighborhoods. Furthermore, a trolley system between the offices, hotels and destinations like Town Square may also increase the ease of circulating throughout the city. Employees and hotel guests could enjoy the community amenities without requiring them to get into their cars and drive throughout the city. The trolley could ease traffic while increasing the city, employer and hotel services.”
A trolley service operated briefly as a pilot project in 2008, and its route was limited to eight stops within Southlake Town Square and The Shops of Southlake. City officials said the trolley service did not continue because of a lack of riders and limited stops.
Hill said the new trolley service would have a different route and stop at more destinations. However, she said the city is still at the planning stage of implementing a trolley system and will be considering several options.
“We have to look at things like route lengths and passenger demand, but in the end our goal is to have connectivity between the places where people are and where they want to go,” Hill said.
One thing that has not changed since the pilot program is how the trolley is funded, which is through the city’s hotel occupancy tax, or HOT tax.
When the trolley ran in 2008 only the Hilton was open. However, with two more hotels planning to open, Hill said there will be increased funding for the trolley system.
Hill said more specifics about the trolley will emerge during the next year.
“Things like this require planning and funding, and I would say that right now we are really in the planning phase,” she said. “The city staff is preparing a plan for council to consider in the upcoming budget. If that is approved, we could see a trolley operating as soon as next year.”
Expanding SH 114
In July, the Texas Department of Transportation will open a $16.7 million expansion project to contractors for bidding that will widen SH 114 from four lanes to six lanes from Kirkwood Boulevard in Southlake to east of Trophy Lake Drive in Westlake.
Hill said the project could begin construction in October and be complete around the same time the TD Ameritrade campus opens.
Tarrant County Precinct 3 Commissioner Gary Fickes said the major problem is westbound SH 114 in Southlake where SH 114 is three lanes wide until Kirkwood, where it narrows to two lanes.
“That’s causing a huge bottleneck of cars backed up in Southlake and probably into Grapevine,” he said. “I think by adding additional lanes, drivers are going to see a big improvement and increased mobility in that area, but there is still going to be things that need to be done long term. It’s a good first step, but it doesn’t solve the problem. It will help to clean up a lot of traffic in Southlake in that portion of SH 114.”
Fickes said he is currently in talks with city and transportation officials to discuss adding an SH 114 frontage road between Dove Road and Kirkwood that will help with alleviating potential traffic from