Road Towards Change
City Minutes with Mayor John Terrell
It’s hard to miss if you drive down Southlake Boulevard (FM 1709), North Kimball Road S.H. 114: road signs, orange barrels, lane closures, all signaling road construction. In the recent Citizen Survey, many of you expressed, sometimes in colorful terms, how much the construction has affected your daily commutes. One resident even went so far to say about the Southlake Boulevard enhancement project: “we are all scratching our heads.”
Several years ago we knew that this day was coming, when several necessary road projects would be well under way, all at the same time, with roads ripped up and detours making commutes even longer than usual. The projects would take time, and people would be inconvenienced, but the timelines that were in place at that point indicated that the disruption wouldn’t be around for long. But for at least two of the projects, trouble could be found just at the horizon line, and then underground.
In a perfect world, the Kimball widening project from S.H. 114 to Dove road would be nearly complete and the Southlake enhancement project would have been done in August of 2011. But in both cases, undocumented underground utilities were discovered. Although every effort had been made to clear the area quickly of existing utilities, there were many unexpected discoveries when crews made their way into certain parts of both projects. Until those conflicts were cleared by the various utility companies, construction came to a stop. That was the first significant issue causing delay.
The second came in the form of the heat, the drought, and water restrictions. The drought has affected just about every aspect of life in Texas, including these types of construction projects. Water is a critical component to any construction project. Without it, the dust becomes unmanageable creating a safety issue for the workers as well as the drivers on the roadway. When the temperatures finally cooled, construction restarted in earnest, with the contractors looking to make up lost time.
The Southlake Boulevard enhancement project is scheduled to be completed this spring. And right after it is finished, the City will conduct a study focusing on the signal light timing at intersections, with particular emphasis on left hand turns. The study will address the many complaints that the City has received from drivers about the timing length (or lack thereof) of the left hand turn signals. Since FM 1709 is a State of Texas roadway, the study must be turned in for their review and any resulting changes. I expect that the actions taken as an outcome of the study will only help the traffic flow on FM 1709.
The North Kimball widening project is scheduled to finish late this year. When complete it will make North Kimball a four-lane concrete road with a center median and landscaping, a very similar look to Southlake Boulevard. Combine that completed project with a completed DFW Connector and I think we’ll find a new ease to getting around this part of North Texas.
I also want to mention the work on the DFW Connector. Just recently we saw some big changes take place in the eastern part of the City. At the writing of this article the Gateway bridge is a one-way westbound into the City while the Southlake Boulevard bridge is one-way only eastbound into Grapevine. It didn’t happen without delays or without some frustration, but just like the other two projects, the changes will only benefit us in the years to come, making the roadways safer and easier to travel.
Another point I would like to make about these projects is how the City planned for them. In the case of TxDOT’s Southlake Boulevard enhancement project, the City proactively worked with TxDOT to ensure that our interests were covered as best they could be. Knowing that they would be moving forward with medians, the City Council went to work to plan how the medians would eventually be constructed; recognizing our plans for median openings would have to meet TxDOT spacing rules. By taking this step, we were able to meet our community’s needs to the fullest extent possible, rather than having the decisions made for us. With the new signal timings to support the new movements, we should be able to adjust to the medians in time. The new demands the completed DFW Connector would make on North Kimball was the catalyst for that project. As a major access road for the future connector, the North Kimball project had to be complete before the connector, otherwise that area would become a major traffic choke point.
Despite the challenges, the teamwork of City staff, Northgate (DFW Connector Project) and TxDOT is to be commended. They are doing all they can to complete the work as quickly as possible and minimize inconveniences. Finally, I want to thank you for your patience with all of these projects. In the end, I think that it will only help enrich Southlake’s appeal as a City, ensure better safety on the roadways, and ultimately make driving a little easier around town.
See you in Southlake