Tag Archives: Collin County

TxDOT takes very long view of highway ‘realignment’

Blogger’s Note: This blog post was published originally on the KETR-FM website.

If you had any thought that the Texas Department of Transportation was going to knock out a planned realignment of U.S. 380 through Collin and Hunt counties just like that, well, you can set that thought aside.

It’s going to take some time. And quite a long time at that, according to TxDOT officials who are concluding a series of public presentations along the route of the proposed realignment.

I attended the presentation at Princeton High School this week. TxDOT’s Ceason Clemens delivered a 24-minute summary of the grand plan. It’s a doozy, I’ll tell you.

Here’s the time line, as explained to me by Michelle Raglon, TxDOT public affairs manager: They won’t start “throwing dirt around” for six to nine years and over time, it’s going to take TxDOT roughly 20 years to finish the job; it might go longer than that, Raglon said.

The bottom line? North Texans are in for a long haul.

Clemens made a couple of points I want to highlight before discussing some of the guts of the proposed realignment.

  • One is that there has been no shortage of public meetings about the plans to reconfigure the U.S. 380 corridor from the Denton-Collin County line to Hunt County, she said. TxDOT has received more than 15,000 public comments over the course of about five years.
  • Another is that this project is not subject to any kind of public vote. TxDOT has received authorization from the Texas Legislature to study the feasibility as well as the environmental impact of the work to be done and it is proceeding with that mandate from state lawmakers.

So, what’s in store for Princeton, where I live and where my wife and plan to live for, shall we say . . . the duration?

TxDOT is planning to spend about $353 million to build a loop north of the existing U.S. 380 thoroughfare. It will displace 19 business, compared to 122 that would have been displaced with another option it considered before settling on the recommended route. The affected area lies between Farm to Market Road 1827 to County Road 559. TxDOT believes this route offers “greater support for future economic growth opportunities.”

The highway department is planning average right-of-way depths of 330 to 350 feet, but there will be “exceptions” made around “major interchanges where more is needed for ramps.”

The renderings presented after revealing TxDOT’s recommendations suggest a major widening of the highway to accommodate what is expected to be tremendous growth over the next several decades. Indeed, I recently spoke with Princeton City Manager Derek Borg, who told me the city’s population – which he estimates today to be around 13,000 residents – will top out at around 110,000 residents in the next, oh, 40 or 50 years.

Thus, the pressure on the highway infrastructure is going to be immense. You know?

There’s much more, of course, to this proposal. TxDOT, for instance, is looking at yet another loop south of the existing U.S. 380 corridor through Farmersville. It will displace far fewer businesses and residences than another alternative considered. The TxDOT recommendation offered for the segment from County Road 559 to the Hunt County line will cost around $404 million.

The Princeton High School meeting drew a substantial crowd of about 250 residence. TxDOT brought a full complement of staffers, engineers, spokespeople – you name ‘em – to the public presentation.

My sense is that the size and scope of what TxDOT is pitching – in conjunction with the North Central Texas Council of Governments – hasn’t sunk in completely with those who will be affected.

It all will, over time, which TxDOT seems – at the moment – to have plenty at the moment as it seeks to explain fully what it intends to do with this highway corridor that courses through North Texas.

Happy Trails, Part 152: Sleepy town? Not for long

Our retirement journey has taken us to what we thought was a sleepy little town just northeast of where our granddaughter resides with her parents and her brother.

Today, I learned something about Princeton, Texas. It’s a sleepy town — more or less — at the moment, but it won’t be for very long.

I visited today with City Manager Derek Borg while on an assignment for KETR-FM radio. Borg said something quite astonishing.

He said the city is projecting a top-end population of about 110,000 residents. The 2010 census put Princeton’s population at 6,708. Today, the city is home to 12,000 to 13,000 residents, Borg told me.

OK. There’s a bit more. Borg said the city is adding about 1,000 single-family homes annually, accounting for an annual population growth of around 3,000 people. At that rate, presuming it holds up over time, the city will surpass 100,000 residents in fewer than 30 years.

Let’s see: I am 69 years of age now. I could still be among the walking and talking when this burg hits the 100 grand mark, if my health and my good luck hold up.

I was astounded to hear the city manager make that determination.

My story for KETR-FM is going to discuss the extensive highway construction that is under way along U.S. 380, the main arterial thoroughfare that cuts east-west through this Collin County community.

My hope for Princeton is that it manages its growth wisely, prudently and builds in this planned remarkable transition from a sleepy little town to a burgeoning urban center.

I’m glad to be able to watch all of this from our ringside seat.

Casting my gaze over my shoulder

I love my life in my new home. There’s much to explore about Collin County, the rest of North Texas, the Metroplex. The growth all around our home is astonishing.

However, I remain committed to casting my gaze backward, perhaps for beyond the foreseeable future. I know that might seem counterintuitive, looking backward as we move forward.

However, the community my wife and I departed in 2018 has some issues that are boiling. Two of them stand out:

  • Downtown Amarillo is moving into a new existence, with a new energy and a new purpose. I want to keep my eye on how that progresses. I have high hope that the city’s future is looking brighter week by week.
  • The Amarillo Independent School District is facing some potentially critical policy debates over the short and perhaps the medium terms. The board of trustees is suffering a lack of community confidence. It has fumbled — in my view — in its handling of the resignation of a high school girls volleyball coach and the alleged misconduct by one of the elected trustees.

I am in touch with Amarillo ISD residents who are intent on getting to the bottom of matters. I intend to stay in touch with them and I intend to keep talking about those issues on this blog. I want the Amarillo ISD to resolve these problems constructively and permanently.

But I have to tell you that based on what I am hearing, there well might be some more AISD issues to tackle than what I’ve laid out with this brief blog post.

I also intend to get more involved with the community where my wife and I — along with our precious puppy, Toby — have settled. Princeton is a community on the move. My still-developing relationship with KETR-FM public radio will allow me a chance to get more deeply acquainted with the individuals and groups who are calling the shots in Collin County and throughout KETR’s listening area.

So . . . retirement has brought some new challenges my way. They involve getting involved with our new surroundings.

And keeping tabs on the community we recently departed, but did not leave behind.

Happy Trails, Part 151: Waiting to watch it grow

My wife and I lived long enough in our Amarillo, Texas, neighborhood to develop what I like to call “institutional memory.”

By that I mean we spent enough time to remember how “it used to be,” before it became the place we departed when we moved to Collin County. Indeed, our neighborhood in southwest Amarillo was still under construction when we staked our claim on a lot and then had our house built to our specifications. That was in late 1996. We stayed in the house until March 2018.

We’ve now moved into another new house in Princeton, Texas, about 370 miles southeast of our former Texas Panhandle digs.

One of the many joys we have living here is anticipating the building of more “institutional memory” of our new neighborhood.

It’s a curious way to look forward to our retirement years. At least it seems curious to me.

Our house is brand new. We didn’t buy some dirt and then have the house built on it. We purchased a newly constructed house. It’s a modest home, but it is perfect for the two of us . . . plus, of course, Toby the Puppy.

But there are still houses being erected on our street. And at the end of our street — on both ends! And on the streets to our north and south. Oh yes, and we have a school under construction a block away.

We figure our house is a wise purchase for us in at least one important aspect.

We see it as an investment that will appreciate in value as more development occurs around us. Hey, we’re both lifelong urban dwellers. Yes, I like peace and quiet, but I figure we’ll continue to have plenty of both when the sun goes down each night even after the neighborhood is complete.

The other element of perfection for us is that we’ll be able to invite our granddaughter for sleepovers. But . . . you probably knew that already.

Collin County is on the move. Princeton is reportedly the fastest-growing community in the county. I read something recently that Collin County will be larger than Dallas or Tarrant counties by 2050.

I’m looking forward to watching it unfold. I might grouse in the future occasionally about how “it used to be.” However, I am not one to want to turn back the clock.

The future looks quite inviting.

Happy Trails, Part 149: ‘Smart home,’ is it?

It’s come down to this: No longer do we just move into a structure, call it “home” and then arrange some furniture to make it comfortable.

That’s only part of it these days. In the 21st century, we now have a home that is equipped with technology that enables it to do certain things for us, such as turn lights on and off, play music, adjust the furnace temperature; if we were so inclined we could acquire technology that irrigates the lawn . . . all on voice command.

I refer to “Alexa,” the technology of the space age.

Indeed, I cannot help but think of “HAL,” the machine that took over the space ship in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” You remember how that turned out. “HAL” became a monster.

Will this happen with “Alexa”? I’m sure it won’t.

However, I am utterly amazed, amused and astonished at how much “Alexa” can do for us.

That’s what we got when we purchased this home in Princeton, Texas. I have to say that this is all pretty darn slick.

This retired guy is learning a whole lot of new things about “smart home” living.

We can peek at those on the front porch and answer the doorbell without opening the door. We can listen to music of our choice: name the genre and the system will play it for us.

I never thought retirement would introduce us to this whole new world. Then again, back when I started working for a living in print journalism I never imagine the course that newspapers would take with the invention and development of the Internet (thanks a bunch, Al Gore). 

We’re continuing to settle into our new digs. It’s going to take some added adjustment. But . . . that’s OK. After all we’ve been through on this life journey my wife and I started more than 47 years ago, the rest of it will be an easy ride.

Happy Trails, Part 148: Feels like the first time

This is going to sound strange, coming from someone who’s been married for 47-plus years, but I’ll say it anyway.

I am feeling almost like a newlywed in this new home of ours.

This ain’t our first home-buying experience. Not by a long shot. The house in Princeton is No. 5. It’s quite likely our final stop before they throw me into the ground.

My wife and I find ourselves talking about the house. We talk about how much like its kitchen, or its back yard, or its master bath. Whatever . . .

We end up reminding ourselves of when we were first married. Y’all know what I’m talking about when I mention how we used to refer to each other as “my husband” and “my wife.”

Suffice to say we don’t do that any longer. It’s been a rapid-fire four-plus decades. The house is a different matter.

We moved from the Texas Panhandle to the Metroplex in May 2018 after living full time for a period of time in our fifth wheel. We sold our Amarillo house in March 2018, but lived in our RV while we prepped the house for sale. Once we got it ready and put it on the market it was gone — poof! — just like that.

I figure the time between the purchase of this home and the previous one — 23 years! — means that we were primed for this sort of emotional reaction to the new place.

Now we’re residing in our “forever” home. We’re here for the duration. The next stop will be the final one . . . and you know what I mean.

For now, we’re making an enjoyable acquaintance with our new digs in Collin County. To be honest, I don’t want the newness to wear off.

Beginning a new gig

I am proud to announce that I am starting with yet another blank slate. So . . . I believe I will announce it.

Beginning next week I will be given the opportunity to share some thoughts, musings (some might call it spewage) with readers of a website associated with a university in Commerce, Texas.

Texas A&M University/Commerce operates a public radio station on its campus. KETR-FM is its call sign. The station’s website is going to include an essay from yours truly. It will be the first of what I hope is many such essays.

KETR news director Mark Haslett, a friend of mine from Amarillo who moved to Commerce some years ago, is giving me considerable latitude to write about whatever moves me in the moment.

This is an exciting new opportunity for me. You see, even though I have retired from full-time journalism, I continue to have this itch to string sentences together. I cannot stop commenting on issues of the day and the individuals who give them life.

So that’s what I will do for KETR-FM.

This isn’t my first post-newspaper gig. I wrote for a time for Panhandle PBS, contributing features for its website; Panhandle PBS is associated with Amarillo College and is the public TV station that serves the Texas Panhandle. Then along came KFDA NewsChannel 10 in Amarillo, which offered me an opportunity initially to write features about issues that had been previously reported; they called it “Whatever Happened To . . . ”

Both of those gigs ended after a time, giving more opportunities to concentrate on this blog, which I have enjoyed writing for about a decade.

Now comes this latest venture.

Given that my wife and I have now settled in Princeton, we live in an area covered by KETR-FM. My goal over time is to learn enough about this part of Collin County to contribute essays on local happenings, growth trends, possible problem areas associated with the growth that is accelerating rapidly in this part of the Metroplex.

Until then I have been given plenty of room to roam. So, I’ll take my friend Mark Haslett up on his offer.

Here we go.

Happy Trails, Part 147: Forever has just arrived

No . . . I’m not dead!

I’m still very much alive and kicking. “Forever” in this context means we are taking up residence in the last home we intend to purchase. This is the “forever home.” We’re in it for the duration.

Actually, the move won’t occur officially until sometime tomorrow. I hope it’s early in the day. I don’t want to wait a single minute longer than is required.

The forever home is in Princeton, Texas. It’s in Collin County, which comprises about 1 million residents just north of Dallas.

I enjoy keeping you apprised of this fascinating retirement journey my wife and I have taken. Our full-time working lives ended the same year, 2012. Mine came to a close first, in August of that year; she followed suit in October.

It’s been a great ride. It is far from over.

We’ve still got our fifth wheel. We will hitch it to our pickup again quite soon to hit the road for points south and east.

First things first. We’ll welcome the movers on Monday. They’ll toss a few pieces of furniture onto their truck. Then they will transport our possessions to Princeton. We hope to have it completed in two, maybe three, hours.

Then we get to assemble this forever home of ours.

My wife is what I call the “inside boss.” She manages the interior of our home, whether it’s the one planted on the slab or it is the one we haul around behind our pickup.

Her task is to set up the house to her liking. My task is to hang around and do what I’m told to do. Move this here. Put that there. Got it?

Hey, it’s worked well for me for 47 years. Why change it up now?

This move, though, is it. We are finished packing boxes.

Thus, forever, has arrived. It feels so good!

Getting a ringside seat to watch stunning growth

I cannot predict the future. However, it appears more than likely I am witnessing a sea change in a new community my wife and I are about to call home.

Princeton, Texas, sits amid what is now considered “rural” Collin County. The sign that welcomes you to the city says it has a population of about 7,000 residents.

That ol’ trick knee of mine it tell me that figure will be revised upward dramatically when they take the next census out here in 2020. When you drive into Princeton on either side of the city along U.S. 380 you see the unmistakable orange construction barrels and cones. They’re widening and making other improvements to the highway.

Just today, as we hauled some of our worldly goods into our new home I took particular notice of the businesses under construction along U.S. 380. Fast food joints, convenience stores, a potential major retail shopping center all are either under construction, about to be under construction or are being lured by the presence of vacant land.

I welcome the urbanization of the region, within reason of course.

Princeton is just a bit east of McKinney, the Collin County seat. The Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex already has swallowed McKinney whole. It’s coming for Princeton.

The way I look at it, the home we are purchasing is quite likely to appreciate dramatically in value as we move along toward the future.

As I have noted already, I cannot predict what precisely the future holds. I don’t yet even know what it holds for my wife and me . . . other than we expect to spend a lot of time on the road hauling our fifth wheel RV across North America.

When we return home, my strong hunch is that it is going to look — at varying degrees each time — a bit different than when we left.

Progress almost always is a good thing. The good news is that the Princeton city planners know what a lack of control over growth can produce. The bad news is that they could ignore what they have witnessed elsewhere.

I am going to pray for wisdom at City Hall.

Amarillo boosting its red-light camera deployment

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is on record saying he believes the state ought to yank cities’ authority to deploy red-light cameras at dangerous intersections.

Amarillo has responded to that declaration by increasing the number of cameras it has posted around the city from nine to 12.

Take that, Gov. Abbott!

I remain a supporter of the technology that the city uses to assist in catching red-light runners in the act of breaking the law.

The city is going to add seven cameras at intersections, while removing four cameras from other intersections. Thus, the city is continuing to use the technology to assist the police department. Moreover, the city is upgrading red-light camera assemblies at five intersections.

So, what does that mean for the future of the technology? I suppose you can say it lies in the hands of the Texas Legislature. Amarillo has two House members representing the city: Republicans John Smithee and Four Price; it also has a state senator, Republican Kel Seliger, who managed to make some news in recent days because of his dispute with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

What do these three men believe about the red-light cameras? I haven’t asked them directly. Maybe I will, even though I no longer live in Amarillo.

I don’t see any such cameras on the job in Collin County, where my wife and I now live. I don’t see them in Fairview, or Allen, or McKinney or in Princeton — where we’ll be moving into our new home quite soon. I would not object to any city in Collin County deploying these devices. The way I figure it, if it deters red-light runners then they are doing their job.

As for Amarillo’s red-light cameras, consider this little tidbit: Texas Department of Transportation officials say that the three intersections where the cameras are being removed recorded just four collisions from July 2016 to the end of June 2017. They are heavily traveled thoroughfares, so I am going to presume that the cameras did their job.

Cities should be allowed to determine for themselves whether or where to deploy these devices. They don’t need Bigger Brother looking over them.