Lucas City Council Tackles Planning for Collin County’s Call for Roadway Projects
You would think that the decision of a city to repave, widen or construct a new road would be a fairly straightforward matter assuming the availability of adequate financing. But it has become anything but simple. In fact, it is now downright complicated. Why?
Lucas has been transformed almost overnight from a purely rural enclave offering most residents lots of land on which to build their homes with roads that are lightly traveled, as they have been for decades and decades. But, lying smack in the middle of one of America’s fastest growing counties (Collin) has literally changed the landscape.
The complexities arise from the fact that Lucas, along with most other small Collin County communities are inter-connected to and inter-dependent on each other to provide appropriate traffic flow not just within their boundaries but also to connect each other. If traffic has increased in Lucas in the last several years (It definitely has) it is not just due to new residents in the city but has as much to do with residents of Allen, Plano, Frisco, Princeton, and many more communities’ residents traveling through Lucas to get somewhere else. This is why weekend traffic, for example, along both West and East Lucas Road is so heavy. People are going to or coming from Lake Lavon for a variety of recreational opportunities. Commuter traffic during the week, likewise, is wreaking havoc on many of the city’s, heretofore, serene roadways. It is one of the reasons why both Stinson Road and Blondy Jhune Road will be under construction beginning in April for months. Access to Stinson Road (from Parker Road on the south to Bristol Park on the North) during construction will be challenging to say the least. The project is due to be completed at the end of December 2019. Blondy Jhune Road (from Hendricks Farm on the west to Winningkoff Road on the east) also begins in April but isn’t scheduled to be completed until March of 2020. These estimates are, of course, dependent upon decent weather, something we haven’t had throughout 2018.
The City Council spent all of its March 21 meeting discussing roadways and planning future construction. Here is another reason why things have become so complex. Most cities, including Lucas, simply cannot afford the costs of widespread road and bridge construction. They are dependent upon several other stakeholders whenever road construction is planned. Much of the cost for road construction in and around Lucas, for example, rests with Collin County and its master roadway plan. Lucas is now planning to apply to Collin County for some, but not all of the County’s planned roadway projects. One of the consistent issues that is raised at the City Council is that the planning of other stakeholders such as Collin County, TxDOT, North Texas Municipal Water District, and several utilities, do not always align with the needs of Lucas or don’t reflect its current circumstances. The county’s master plan, for instance, assumes the need for several six lane divided roadways on the assumption that Lucas, like other county towns like Fairview, will become host to high-density residential communities. That’s not the case in Lucas where the Council has consistently insisted on managing the City’s future growth based upon long-standing values including its rural environment and lots of land for residents to enjoy. Why would Lucas need a six-lane divided roadway? It doesn’t. That’s an issue that must be negotiated with the County before any funding becomes available. It is why the Council considered potential participation in the Collin County call for projects scheduled for mid to late 2019 utilizing funds from the 2018 Bond Program at its March 21 meeting.
The stakes are quite high. Lucas enjoys the benefit of the County underwriting the costs of roadway construction on an 80/20 split, meaning Lucas becomes responsible for only 20% of projects approved by the County but only if the projects align with the County’s planning. There are also lots of conditions attached to such financing:
· The road project must be on the County Thoroughfare Plan.
· City must have adequate funding with addition of County’s contribution to totally fund the project.
· City must have appropriate approvals to begin or advance the project through design, ROW, utility adjustment and construction immediately.
· Project does not have to be completed immediately but must start immediately and must be ready for work to be prosecuted continuously until construction is completed.
· Milestones (ex. beginning design, award of construction contract, complete construction, etc.) will be negotiated in the Interlocal Agreement.
· Must have impact broader than just local city value.
· Cities must agree to cooperate in regional issues and priorities, such as freeways and improvement of roadways in their city that are to benefit surrounding areas and other cities.
· If for whatever reason the project assigned is unable to be prosecuted or completed, the funds will go back to the County for the Court to decide usage.
· City is not in litigation with County.
Mayor Olk raised concern that if one of the conditions of project approval and funding by the County is that the project must “benefit surrounding areas and other cities”, what happens if a new roadway does benefit other communities but results in more traffic congestion in Lucas? A good illustration of how that might happen involves Lucas Road which is the prime conduit to the peninsula on Lake Lavon that is scheduled for the construction of a new 2,500 home sub-division. This is an example of a project that must be negotiated with the County in order to avoid exacerbating current traffic issues.
These are just some of the knotty considerations that come into play whenever the discussion turns to the construction, maintenance, or renovation of roads, highways and bridges. The task now before the City Council is to sort through the list of Collin County proposed road projects and to support only those that align with the City’s goals. Of the lengthy list of potential projects currently developed by the County, the City Council identifies only four as meriting support including:
· Estates Parkway
· Lucas Road
· Country Club Road and the Estates intersection
· Forest Grove and Country Club Road
The City’s staff has been tasked with developing planning for the Council to review before submitting its requests to the County later this year. Keep in mind that the City is also planning road reconstruction and renovation projects of other roads that would not fit into the County’s planning but that require appropriate attention.
At the meeting, for example, two residents complained about the need for road reconstruction on Snider Lane and Brockdale Road. Brian Butler, who resides on Brockdale Road, spoke to the Council and pointed out that on his way to the Council meeting he came across a vehicle and driver who skidded off the gravel roadway and wound up in a ditch. Butler stopped to pull the vehicle back onto the road. Evidence he offered of the dangerous condition of the existing roadway. Butler added, “My house is 800 yards from Brockdale Road, but we are constantly covered in road dust to the point where we are reluctant to spend a lot of time outdoors.”
These are just some of the reasons why you can count on anything having to do with roads, highways or bridges to be a very complex discussion.