Tag Archives: Princeton TX

Needing some answers about all this highway work

Photo by Michael O’Keefe/First Response Photography.

My wife and I moved to Collin County a year ago, then relocated within the county from Fairview to Princeton.

We’ve learned a good bit about Princeton since we planted our roots deeply into a subdivision under construction just south of U.S. 380. One of the things we learned is that the community is in a major growth mode.

How do we know? The highway is under reconstruction and I am getting the word from some of my snitches that it ain’t going to stop any time soon.

They built a median along the highway to curb the number of crashes that were occurring, or so I have been told. The raised concrete median aims to keep people in their own lane.

I am now in search of some answers about the highway makeover and what it means to residents who live here. I am hearing some grumbling about folks who are upset about all the construction; they are frustrated by the constant heavy east-west traffic along U.S. 380; I am hearing about residents griping about the inability to enter the highway from side streets … meaning they want more stop lights.

I have developed a couple of sources at the Texas Department of Transportation, the state agency that is rebuilding the highway. The Princeton city manager has told me that as soon as the median is finished through the length of the city that TxDOT will commence work adding a lane on each side of the highway; they will turn it from a four-lane to a six-lane thoroughfare.

My wife and I figure we bought our house at just the right time. The city is small at the moment; it won’t stay that way for very long. We are reckoning that our real estate investment will pay off handsomely … whenever we no longer are living in the house.

However, the traffic does present some immediate concern. The snoopy part of my emotional makeup compels me to ask around.

I need to know what in the world is going to happen with this highway work. When will it end? And to what end is this work going to finish?

City grapples with charting its own destiny

My education into the community my wife and I call home has taken a major step forward, courtesy of an assignment I completed for KETR-FM radio’s website.

I wrote a story about Princeton, Texas’s struggles to enact a home rule charter, and how four ballot box failures have kept the city functioning under laws established by the state of Texas.

Read the KETR-FM story here.

It is, to say the very least, one of the more peculiar municipal conflicts I have ever seen.

The city, dating back to 2007, has had four municipal elections that sought a city charter. It has fallen short every time. The opposition to home rule comes from a group of residents with specific bones to pick with City Hall. They express concern over tax policy and over annexation.

One of the leaders of the opposition, Michael Biggs, doesn’t even live within the city limits. He resides just south of the city, which means he cannot vote in these elections. Still, he is able to persuade enough of the city’s voters to go along with his opposition to enacting a city charter.

The city assesses a municipal tax rate of 68 cents per $100 assessed property valuation. A charter would enable the city to levy a tax of as much as $2.50 per $100. City Manager Derek Borg told me that possibility is a complete non-starter; it won’t happen, not ever!

Annexation is the bigger bogeyman for the anti-charter folks. They don’t want the city to envelop their property. What fascinates me, though, is that the city cannot do it without property owners’ permission, which apparently doesn’t assuage the concern of those who oppose the charter idea.

I am perplexed, indeed, that the city cannot seem to muster enough electoral support within its corporate limits to overcome the opposition that stifles City Hall’s effort to establish a home rule charter. The election returns I’ve seen reveal abysmal voter turnout in a city of several thousand residents.

The most recent measure, which failed in May 2014, went down to defeat by a vote of 260 to 151 ballots. The 2010 census put the population of Princeton at roughly 6,800 residents, which means that half of those residents were eligible to vote in the municipal election. Most of them weren’t interested enough to cast their ballots.

State law places plenty of restrictions on how cities can govern themselves. They surrender a good bit of “local control” to legislative fiat.

In my view that is no way to run a city. Maybe one day — and I hope it is soon — Princeton will be able to write its own rules for how it charts its own future.

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.

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.

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.

Happy Trails, Part 142: Moving into transition

One of the more exciting aspects about the next — and hopefully final — stop on our retirement journey has been the changing nature of the community we’re going to call home.

Princeton, Texas, sits east of McKinney — the Collin County seat. The next town to the east along U.S. 380 is Farmersville; the one after that is Greenville, hometown of the late Audie Murphy, the Medal of Honor recipient and the Army’s most decorated soldier of World War II.

Princeton is still a rural community. It is home to around 10,000 residents. When you drive east from McKinney you see lots of orange barrels, cones and “Road Work Ahead” signs. They’re tearing up the highway, expanding it, improving access and exits.

The residential neighborhood we’re entering also is under construction. Indeed, our street is cluttered with construction vehicles.

I am getting the strong sense that McKinney is inching its way east toward Princeton. The rural community will become an urban one in due course.

It has all the requisite urban accoutrements: a postal ZIP code, plenty of commercial outlets, heavy traffic (at times), traffic signals, sewer service. You know, all those things associated with urban life.

I find it strangely exciting to witnessing this change from the front end. We had a similar ringside seat to all that change in Amarillo. We moved into our newly built house in late 1996. Our home was one block from civilization as we knew it in Amarillo. Beyond the busy street to our west were literally miles of pasture land. You could hear coyotes yipping and yapping in the early morning hours when you went out to fetch the newspaper.

It all changed rapidly. They built the Greenways residential complex west of Coulter Street. It went up in a major hurry. The range land gave way to manicured lawns. Urbana arrived in far west Amarillo.

We’re going to witness it yet again in our new home.

I plan to welcome the change . . . as long as it arrives in an orderly fashion.