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End of the rope

Mar 04, 2015 12:34PM ● Published by Dia

By Amy Reisner

It’s beginning to all add up—the population increase, the number of new commercial developments bringing in more jobs, and let’s not forget Southlake’s new tourism campaign designed to attract more visitors. And what does it all add up to?—brake lights for miles and miles.

The citizens of Southlake have spoken about mobility concerns, and we all know what they said. Even Robert Price, Director of Public Works for the city knows what weighs on the hearts and minds of residents when it comes to traffic. How could he not? That was the biggest message received from the latest Southlake Citizen Survey.

Traffic congestion was identified as the No. 1 “gap” issue for the city on the survey, meaning citizens—41 percent—perceived a gap between what the city is doing to fix it. Although this represented a decrease from the 2011 survey numbers (54 percent), according to Price, it is still above the 25 percent threshold the city maintains as
its gap standard.

“Respondents are frustrated with traffic here in Southlake and getting into and out of the city,” Price says. “Let’s just say it out loud. Traffic here in Southlake, in the surrounding areas and for that matter in many places in Texas, is awful.” And he empathizes with all of us: “I also often experience that same frustration of sitting in traffic waiting for it to move.”

Surely, you’ve noticed the subtle changes that have added up to make a difference in Southlake—a streetlight here, a stoplight there, and the latest—a “right turn on red must yield to U-turn” sign elsewhere. In addition to these minor but none-the-less important traffic aides, you’ve seen the addition of roundabouts and center turn lanes over the years. All of these additions and improvements you see carried out on a regular basis are part of Southlake’s Master Mobility Plan, and it is how the “gap” from the citizen’s survey will be narrowed.

Construction and mitigation
According to Price, traffic congestion is being addressed in terms of construction and mitigation efforts. On the construction side, the city of Southlake’s Public Works department has several projects planned over the next several years that will address capacityneeds—all according to Southlake’s Master Mobility Plan (which can be found on the city’s website). One such project is the FM 1938 roadway expansion project—a partnership between a number of stakeholders. The good news? More stakeholders means more resources. The bad news? More stakeholders means more time needed to make decisions. However, in the case of this project, Phase I decisions were made on time.

The 2.2-mile, $15 million project was completed in the fall of 2012, and eased traffic congestion through the creation of a six-lane divided roadway with raised curb medians from SH 114 to just south of Dove Road transitioning to a four-lane roadway with raised curb medians to Randol Mill Road. Phase II is a 1.6 mile, $20.6 million project, set to begin this spring. It includes a four-lane roadway with raised curb medians from Randol Mill Road to FM 1709/Southlake Boulevard. It also includes improvements at the intersection of FM 1938/Davis Boulevard and FM 1709/Southlake Boulevard to provide dual left turn lanes.

However, as to be expected, in order to reap the benefits of expansion and progress, you must first experience the growing pains—which means construction woes. But that’s where the
mitigation part comes in. The city of Southlake has created a multi- departmental, multi-agency Office of Traffic Management (OTM) that consists of personnel from the city and outside agencies such as TxDOT and CISD to better manage traffic and the information regarding traffic-related issues within and throughout the city.

“The OTM is primarily responsible for internal and external communication of anything that could impact traffic and is also responsible for developing and implementing traffic control plans for anything that could adversely impact the flow of traffic in the city,” Price says. “The city hopes to engage with the public through the OTM to form a public-private partnership which improves
knowledge of local driving conditions so that all motorists can have a safer and less frustrating driving experience in Southlake.”

According to Price, regional growth of the DFW area will undoubtedly impact Southlake, as well. “Because of our location within the greater DFW area, we have a lot of traffic moving through
the city, and that’s something that will not change.”

End of the rope
Precinct 3 Tarrant County Commissioner Gary Fickes tells us to blame it on Southlake’s coveted location far from the big-city atmosphere. “Because the jobs are toward the east, the vast majority of traffic that Southlake residents and commuters face comes from the west. In addition, more and more people are moving to the north Fort Worth area, and these individuals travel south to their work.” Fickes says. “And Southlake is the end of the rope so to speak.”

The city is a funnel of sorts, and not only do local roadways need overhauls, but highways located within the Northeast Tarrant County region, such as I-35, need decongestion as well.

“That is a problem being solved with the North Tarrant Express (NTE) project,” Fickes says. “The NTE is broken into three segments, and although it is going to get worse before it gets better—thanks to construction—there will be progress.”

Improvements to the first two segments cost $2.5 billion all together, which included financing, right-of-way acquisition, utility relocations, design, construction, routine and capital maintenance. The improvements were completed in October 2014, nine months ahead of schedule. The remaining third segment has been divided into three separate parts. Currently, only segments 3A and 3B are being addressed.

These local and regional projects are, of course, only small pieces of traffic congestion puzzle in northeast Tarrant County and specifically Southlake. But one thing is for certain, the city has a plan in place—the Master Mobility Plan, part of Southlake’s 2030 Plan—to keep vehicle, bike and pedestrian traffic concerns at the forefront and address them in a timely and often scheduled manner. But, as Price suggests, congestion and other traffic woes will never really go away.

“Even with the expansion of new roadways, traffic congestion is expected to remain a part of our everyday life here in the Metroplex for many years to come,” Price says. “It is often said, a traffic problem is never really solved, it is just moved down the road.”

Southlake’s OTM is continuously updating residents on changes to traffic patterns due to construction or store grand openings, for example. Information will be passed on via the web, on MySouthlakeNews.com or the Southlake DPS Facebook page, Facebook.com/SouthlakePublicSafety.

Segment 3A
• Cost: $1.4B
• Location: I-30 to North of I-820
(includes I-35W/I-820 Interchange)
• Construction, O&M, Tolling & ITS by Developer
• No estimated completion date.

Segment 3B
• Cost: $200M
• Location: North of I-820 to North Tarrant Parkway
• Construction by TxDOT
• O&M, Tolling & ITS by Developer
• No estimated completion dat

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