Tag Archives: TxDOT

Seeking a slowdown

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Princeton City Councilman Mike Robertson wants to slow ‘em down along U.S. Highway 380. He professes patience as he works with his City Council colleagues and the Texas Department of Transportation.

However, given his own experience as the victim of a serious auto accident while he was living in Irving, it appears that his patience might have its limits.

Robertson is proposing to TxDOT to slow traffic to 40 mph along the entire highway thoroughfare as it bisects the city. The speed limits now vary, from 55 to 45 mph. Robertson says that’s too fast, given the incredible growth and the associated increase in traffic volume.

“When the speed limit is 60,” he said, “you have little chance of getting through a wreck without injury.”

TxDOT must perform traffic studies before it decides whether to adjust the speed limits along any major thoroughfare. The city already has installed a new traffic signal at the intersection of 380 and Princeton Meadows near the city’s western boundary. Another signal is planned for the site next to the new municipal complex under construction closer to the eastern boundary along 380.

Once that project is complete, Robertson said, TxDOT will be able to conduct the requisite traffic studies to help the agency make its speed determination.

Robertson said he doesn’t drive much these days, as he works from home running a continuing education program for chiropractors; he no longer is a practicing chiropractor.

“The frequency and the number of speed-related accidents along the highway” are a great concern for the councilman. He said the Princeton Police Department responds daily to wrecks along the highway and expresses great concern about what the anticipated future growth of the city will do to the traffic volume.

Help is on the way, though, in the form of new thoroughfare construction planned for Princeton and for communities along the Highway 380 corridor. Robertson noted that TxDOT wants to build a 380 bypass that will divert through traffic to a thoroughfare north of the current highway. “The bypass eventually will relieve a lot of the traffic congestion,” Robertson said.

Moreover, the city plans to turn Myrick Avenue south of the highway into a second major east-west right-of-way.

All of that will take time. Perhaps lots of time. It’s the period between now and then that concerns Robertson, which is why he wants TxDOT to make a decision sooner rather than later on the speed limit along Highway 380. “We might get to drop the speed,” he said, “but maybe not as much as I would like.”

Traffic remains a concern along U.S. 380 through many North and Northeast Texas communities. Farmersville, for example, recently received a request for a zone change to build an apartment complex near the U.S. 380 corridor. The Farmersville City Council denied the zone change request sought by the apartment developer, citing the “density” of the housing and the potential traffic congestion that it could produce along the rapidly developing thoroughfare.

Indeed, Collin College recently opened its Farmersville campus, which was one of the possible hazards cited by the council in denying the zone change request.

Princeton, meanwhile, continues to grow at a rapid pace. Its main thoroughfare, U.S. 380, continues to have varying speed limits along its route through the city. City Councilman Robertson intends to keep up the push to slow that traffic down to what he believes is a more reasonable and consistent speed.

NOTE: This blog post was published originally on KETR.org.

An actual loop coming?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

AMARILLO, Texas — We returned to a city we once called home and made a wonderful discovery.

As we hauled our fifth wheel toward the RV park where we usually stay when we visit, we came across a massive right of way under construction west of Soncy Road. It goes north-south parallel to Soncy.

I knew it was coming. I knew about plans to build this roadway. I still was struck by the scope of the construction work.

The Texas Department of Transportation is extending what is known around here as Loop 335. It’s a loop in name only. It is no such thing as a loop the way other cities have built them. The intent of highway loops is to allow traffic to speed around cities, allowing motorists to avoid congestion.

That isn’t the case with Loop 335’s western-most portion, the part that runs from Interstate 40 south to Hollywood Road. The commercial develop along the existing leg of the loop has turned Soncy into just another uber-busy street.  I drove it hundreds of times while we lived in Amarillo. I got stuck in traffic countless times over the years.

I want the loop extension to succeed. I am proud of many aspects of Amarillo, its economic development and its infrastructure. What has always puzzled me is why TxDOT built Loop 335 and then allowed it become just another busy street along its western-most corridor.

It’s not a loop now. It will become one eventually when they finish the work and then connect the western corridor with the newly finished and improved southern corridor.

Go slower out there!

BLOGGER’S NOTE — This blog was posted initially on KETR-FM’s website, KETR.org. 

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Princeton City Councilman Mike Robertson is a man after my own heart … speedwise.

He wants to slow motorists down as they travel along U.S. Highway 380, at least while they’re traveling within the city limits.

Robertson is pitching a notion to slow motorists down to 40 mph within the city limits. Currently, the limits vary, from 45, to 50 to 60 mph.

The Princeton Herald is covering this story and it quoted Robertson, thusly: “It doesn’t make any sense to keep such a high speed limit through town.” Yeah. Do you think?

Indeed, U.S. 380 often is clogged with stop-and-go traffic during much of the day. It’s a busy thoroughfare that coarses through the fast-growing community.

The city, though, has limited options. It cannot act on its own because U.S. 380 is maintained by the Texas Department of Transportation, according to the Princeton Herald, which reported: “The city does not have the authority to reduce the speed, however, it has taken measures to slow down traffic within city limits with one new stoplight and they are working on installing a second light.”

Indeed, the addition of signals comports with what City Manager Derek Borg told me about a year ago as we discussed the traffic issues along U.S. 380. Borg is acutely aware of the traffic snarls that occur along the highway and thinks the increased traffic signals, among other things, will help motorists seeking to enter the highway from side streets.

I believe Councilman Robertson is onto something. In fact, when I see the Herald each week, I look at the police blotter section on Page 2 … and what do I see? I often see several instances of “major auto accidents” along U.S. 380. The blotter entry doesn’t designate whether they are speed-related. My strong hunch is that, well, many of them are related to motorists traveling too rapidly along a busy thoroughfare choked with other motor vehicles.

The Herald reports that TxDOT is “receptive” to the idea of slowing vehicles down, but notes any action might require some time for a change to be made official.

Whatever you do, don’t drag your feet, TxDOT. I am one motorist and Princeton resident who backs a councilman’s request to slow the traffic down.

They’re actually building a loop around Amarillo! Woo hoo!

AMARILLO, Texas — This one got past me, which is no surprise, given that I now live about 375 miles east-southeast of here.

We returned to the city we called home for more than two decades and I discovered that the Texas Department of Transportation has been working on rebuilding Loop 335 around the western edge of the city.

The RV park into which we pulled our fifth wheel sits just a bit north of where the work is ongoing. One of the managers there told me that it’s “going to get crazy around here” for a lot of years into the future as TxDOT seeks to remedy what it should have done years ago when it build Loop 335 … which in reality isn’t a loop at all.

As if the years-long widening of Interstate 40 hasn’t created enough hassle and headache for motorists.

I have lamented before on High Plains Blogger that Amarillo’s loop — such as it is — doesn’t resemble a real loop, such as the one that encircles Lubbock, about 120 miles south of Amarillo. However, as one observer told me years ago, it certainly helped when Loop 289 got the go-ahead to circle Lubbock, the governor at the time, Preston Smith, was, um, a native of Lubbock. Hey, it helps to know people in high places.

Loop 335 has become a bottleneck along Soncy Road from Interstate 40 to Hollywood Road.

TxDOT finally got off the dime and started building an extension of the loop west of Soncy. From what I have understood all along, TxDOT is going to created a limited access loop that allows traffic to flow easily. They’ve nearly completed an improvement to Loop 335 along its route along the southern edge of the city.

What has always struck as odd, weird and frankly beyond rational explanation is why they built the thoroughfare to encircle Amarillo without thinking of it as a “loop” that functions the way roadways of this nature usually do. Loop 289 is designed to allow traffic to bypass Lubbock central areas. The aim is to lessen traffic to the extent it is possible.

I can’t help but wonder if the state had done the right way when it first built Loop 335, it might cost the state a good bit less than what it is spending now all these decades later. Just sayin’, man.

The length of time it takes to finish Loop 335 along Helium Road in Amarillo remains a mystery to me. We’ll be back many times in the months and perhaps even years to come. I suspect we’ll see more progress develop with each visit.

Oh, and highway crews still have that monstrosity along I-40 to complete.

I’ll keep our many friends here in our thoughts and prayers.

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?

Will this highway work ever end … ever?

AMARILLO, Texas — OK, we haven’t been away all that long from the city we called home for more than two decades.

However, upon our return for a brief visit, my wife and I had hoped to see some tangible progress in the seemingly interminable construction that is ongoing along Interstate 40.

Silly us.

I am acutely aware that civil engineers can see progress. I don’t want to speak ill of the hardworking construction crews, particularly as they toil in 100-degree and the incessant wind that rips across the Panhandle; so I won’t speak ill of them.

Our drive along I-40 from near Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport, though, was fraught with discomfort as we pulled our fifth wheel RV westward toward the RV park where we will spend the next couple of nights.

These heavy-duty jobs send my mind into flights of fantasy. I keep trying to picture in my mind’s eye what the finished interstate highway will look like once it’s done. I had hoped to get a clear vision of what awaits when we arrived in Amarillo. Sadly, I am not there … yet!

Hey, maybe I need to see some renderings. Or some detailed plans.

We’ll depart Amarillo soon for points north and west. We don’t know when we’ll return. I fully expect, though, to hear plenty of griping and moaning from our former neighbors here as they seek to weave their way through the construction barrels along the narrowed construction lanes.

I’ve preached patience before about these projects. The payoff will be a highway that presumably will be safer, roomier and more conducive to safe highway travel.

I’m just waiting — with my own brand of patience — to see greater steps toward its conclusion.

Loop 335 to take center stage yet again

Take a gander at this picture, notably the sign identifying Helium Road. It’s in far west Amarillo, Texas. It runs north-south west of Soncy Road.

Eventually, Helium Road is going to become a very important thoroughfare for the region, just as Soncy Road was supposed to be when it was built so many years ago.

The Texas Department of Transportation recently had one of those ceremonial groundbreaking events signifying the eventual start of construction along Helium Road. TxDOT is going to turn Helium into a newly relocated Loop 335, which circles Amarillo.

Loop 335’s western section now runs along Soncy Road. It has been a serious puzzle to me for years. When TxDOT built Soncy, it did not create a thoroughfare that allows motorists to use the loop as it should have been used: as a way to bypass city traffic.

Soncy Road has become, well, just another busy street. Starting at Interstate 40 and heading south, traffic often slows to a crawl with motorists pulling in and out of strip malls, business malls, a couple of major automobile dealerships, restaurants and a newly developed residential complex.

Loop 335 does not exist as a loop the way, for example, Loop 289 exists in Lubbock. Loop 289 is a raised highway that circles Lubbock; there is limited access on and off the loop. It functions as a bypass highway.

Loop 335 as it has been allowed to develop has turned into something quite different at least along that westernmost quadrant.

Well, Helium Road is about to be torn to pieces. TxDOT will extend the loop past Soncy and run it along Helium. There will be serious disruption along Helium. Indeed, there exists an RV park where my wife and I often stay when we return to Amarillo in our fifth wheel; the RV park sits right on Helium Road, just north of I-40.

So, I’ve got a bit of skin in that particular game.

I don’t know when the work will begin. Nor do I know how long it will take. I am quite certain that Amarillo motorists who have grown weary of the incessant interstate highway construction on I-40 and I-27 will be gnashing their teeth once the work starts on the “new” Loop 335.

My best advice? It’s not much but it’s the best I can do.

Be, um, very patient.

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.

Amarillo still ‘Matters’ to this group

A political action group formed two years ago to help elect a slate of candidates to the Amarillo City Council is back at it.

Amarillo Matters, which comprises some well-funded, well-known and successful business and civic leaders, is working to re-elect the council members it helped elect in 2017. They’re all running for re-election this year.

What strikes me as strange — even from my now-distant vantage point — is that Amarillo Matters is being demonized by challengers to the incumbents. For what remains a mystery to me.

I’ve seen the Amarillo Matters website, read its profile, looked at its mission statement. It says it works to develop “positive opportunities” for the city. It vows to be free of conflicts of interest. Amarillo Matters says it believes in “limited government.”

There’s more to the website explaining this group. You can see it here.

It’s a high-minded group with noble goals, ambitions and causes.

The way I view the city now that I no longer live there is that Amarillo has continued nicely on its upward trajectory during the past two years. Downtown continues its revival; the city streets are under significant repair and renovation; the state is tearing the daylights out of Interstates 40 and 27, but that, too, shall pass; Amarillo economic development gurus have gone all in — with significant amounts of public money — on Texas Tech’s plans to build a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

I have to ask: Is this all bad? Is this a reason to toss aside the city’s leadership?

It’s not that everything is peachy in Amarillo. Sure, there are problems. What American city doesn’t have them? The city needs to devote more money and attention to long-neglected neighborhoods, but I hear that the city is aiming to do precisely that.

I keep hearing whispers about feather-bedding, favoritism and assorted accusations of malfeasance. So help me it sounds like sour grapes from those who aren’t deriving some sort of direct financial benefit from all the good that is occurring in the city.

This economic system of ours means that individuals benefit as well as the community at large. I see Amarillo Matters as the positive influence it purports to be. Thus, I do not grasp the basis for the negativity coming from those who seek further “change” in the direction the city has taken.

From my perspective, the city is doing just fine.

Here’s an endorsement: Re-elect Ginger Nelson

I might be climbing out on that proverbial limb. Then again, maybe I am not.

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson has announced she is running for a second term. I wish I could vote for her. I cannot, because I no longer live in Amarillo, my city of residence for 23 years.

However, I can use my voice — as “heard” through this blog — to officially endorse her bid for re-election. So, I will.

Amarillo needs to return Mayor Nelson to the center chair on the five-member Amarillo City Council.

I am glad her “campaign announcement” on Wednesday turned out to be code for a re-election effort. The nebulous language contained in a campaign “announcement” could have meant something quite different.

Yes, the city’s momentum is taking it forward. Mayor Nelson inherited a post that has helped push the city forward. Her two predecessors, Paul Harpole and Debra McCartt, got the wagon moving. Nelson has done well in her first term as mayor to keep the wagon between the lanes and out of the ditch.

She ran in 2017 on a number of campaign promises. Chief among them, as is usually the case, is economic growth. The city’s growth has been tangible, visible and is demonstrably beneficial.

Nelson wants a safe city. Her re-election campaign announcement speech included talk about her efforts to improve public safety. Police Chief Ed Drain has reinvigorated the city’s community policing program and for that he and the mayor and the council deserve high praise.

The city is working well. It’s being rebuilt from stem to stern. Downtown is in the midst of its major makeover. So are highways running through the city (thanks to the work being done by the Texas Department of Transportation). And of course we have the street repair.

The city is on the move. The mayor is a significant player in the city’s movement. It’s going in the right direction.

Re-elect Ginger Nelson.