Frisco braces for $5 Billion Mile traffic

Rush hour traffic passes by The Star in Frisco, one of Friscou2019s future $5 Billion Mile developments. As the developments build out, more traffic congestion is expected.

Rush hour traffic passes by The Star in Frisco, one of Friscou2019s future $5 Billion Mile developments. As the developments build out, more traffic congestion is expected.

Frisco braces for $5 Billion Mile trafficLaura Albright has seen Dallas Parkway and the Dallas North Tollway transform during her more than 15 years as a Frisco resident.

Albright said she is excited about Frisco’s $5 Billion Mile, but as a student who commutes to the University of Texas at Dallas nearly every day, she is worried about how the developments will add to the tollway’s traffic congestion.

“My biggest concern is the traffic volume north/south [on the DNT] that’s going to increase,” Albright said. “… [The DNT] is a madhouse unless it’s the middle of the day. But in the beginning of the morning, it’s just a nightmare.”

This year, Frisco will see the first portions of its $5 Billion Mile complete with the opening of the Dallas Cowboys’ world headquarters and multiuse events center, known as The Ford Center at The Star. Four major developments—The Star, The Gate, Frisco Station and Wade Park—are in the works along the mile-long stretch of the Dallas North Tollway between Warren Parkway and Lebanon Road.

Though the developments are expected to bring in millions of dollars in revenue and thousands of visitors to the city each year, they are also expected to bring traffic congestion.

The city of Frisco does not have traffic projections along Dallas Parkway, but the North Texas Tollway Authority projects that an estimated 800 more drivers will travel on the DNT in Frisco each day this year than in 2015. The city and the NTTA are bracing for the expected increased traffic with numerous road projects along the DNT, Dallas Parkway and the streets near developments.

“I think as development continues in Frisco, the volume on the DNT will continue to increase,” said Brian Moen, Frisco’s assistant director of transportation. “I think that’s regardless of whether it’s the $5 Billion Mile or what develops further north within Frisco.”

Preparing for congestion

Based on current numbers alone, it may not seem Dallas Parkway traffic relief is an immediate priority. For instance, traffic counts on Preston Road between Warren Parkway and Lebanon Road climb to nearly 57,000 drivers per day, according to city data. Currently, traffic counts on Dallas Parkway between the same two roads are fewer than 17,000 drivers per day.

But the frame of the Ford Center, now visible from Dallas Parkway, gives a glimpse at the transportation needs ahead.

To prepare for traffic, the city is adding another lane to the northbound and southbound side of Dallas Parkway from SH 121 to Lebanon Road. The project, which is expected to be complete by September, covers the $5 Billion Mile and stretches south to just north of Legacy West, a 250-acre mixed-use development in Plano that includes Toyota North America’s headquarters.

“[The road project] is something that we have been planning for a long time,” Moen said. “It was just a matter of when you need it, and we’re reaching that point now where we’re starting to need it with the development that’s starting to come along.”

Other existing roads that feed into Dallas Parkway will also be widened, including Warren Parkway and Lebanon Road. John Hickman and Gaylord parkways will be extended to feed into the new developments.

As the $5 Billion Mile developments build out and begin opening, the city will conduct traffic counts and study the traffic within the developments to determine the timing for the traffic signals, Moen said.

The city is also exploring how to best manage traffic within the developments. Each development has conducted its own traffic study to see how to handle the expected traffic congestion, Moen said.

Kevin Case, Thomas Land & Development senior vice president of development, said the engineers for Wade Park are working to alleviate traffic as much as possible. One solution the developers are planning to implement is to have an internal transportation mode—possibly a trolley system—to move people within the development, he said.

“Wade Park is not a traditional office park typically found along the Tollway, which often creates high volumes of traffic during the morning and evening rush hours,” Case said. “Many of our customers and tenants will actually live and work within the development, thus alleviating a good amount of auto traffic.”

Legacy West, currently under construction just a couple miles south of the $5 Billion Mile, is using the same idea of having an urban development where housing and business exist in a walkable environment, said Steve Stoler, Plano’s director of media relations. According to the city’s comprehensive plan, most people want to live near where they work, he said.

“Concentrating employment in urban centers allows for more effective traffic management and delivery of transit services,” Stoler said.

Future DNT growth

While the city expands Dallas Parkway, the NTTA has projects underway to address the current traffic needs on the DNT and has plans to extend  it northward.

The toll road will extend 18 miles north of Frisco in the future, NTTA Media Relations Manager Susan Slupecki said. In one phase of the project, the toll road will extend from US 380 through Prosper and Celina to the Collin County/Grayson County line. Another phase of the project will extend the toll road even farther north. A timeline has not been set for this project yet, Slupecki said.

To the south in Plano between SH 121 and the President George Bush Turnpike, another lane is being added to the northbound and southbound sides of the DNT. This phase of the project is expected to be complete by early 2018. The other phase of the project will also extend to Dallas from the PGBT to I-635.