A Texas Freeway Revolt

The thirst for urban expansion and new highway capacity hit a roadblock on the fringe of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolis.

November 19, 2020, 6:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Highway Widening

U.S. 380 Collin County Schematic Projects / Texas Department of Transportation

A contentious battle over a planned expansion of Highway 380 in the Dallas-Fort Worth region is detailed in a recent article by Peter Simek.

Highway 380 is "hardly more than a little two-lane road," according to Simek, connecting remote farming communities between Greenville and into New Mexico, passing through the city of McKinney, where Simek lays the scene.

"In 2016, residents living along Highway 380 received notices from the Texas Department of Transportation informing them that Highway 380 would soon be transformed into a major freeway—a limited-access traffic artery as wide as 10 lanes in parts."

TxDOT is proposing the expansion in response to previous growth that has expanded the footprint of Dallas-Fort Worth region to these former agricultural lands. And more growth is expected: "According to the Texas Demographic Center, Collin County’s population is expected to grow from fewer than 800,000 people in 2010 to more than 3.8 million by 2050," according to Simek.

Growth or not, residents of McKinney aren't happy about the TxDOT's plans for Highway 280.

But just as traffic engineers tend to see limited-access freeways as the best solution to the challenges of urban growth, people generally don’t want freeways running through their backyards. As TxDOT began rolling out a suite of options for the design and location of the new freeway, the Highway 380 planning process devolved into the most contentious community battle in Collin County history. 

The TxDOT chose a preferred alternative, with an estimated cost of $2.5 billion, for the expansion in March 2019 and embarked on an environmental study of the project at the beginning of 2020. Simek's focus, however, is on the local opposition to the plan, and the coalition of local residents and organizations working to prevent the project, turning neighbor against neighbor, in some cases, along the way.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020 in D Magazine

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