How did Prosper become a serious contender for a potential U.S. 380 bypass?
Plans for a possible freeway cutting through a corner of Prosper have caught residents off guard.
They thought they didn't have to worry about the state building a high-speed road in a corner of their small but growing town.
Residents have written to the Texas Department of Transportation, telling officials they're furious the Prosper option was one of two revised alignments unveiled last week as part of the state's feasibility study to improve U.S. Highway 380.
And on Monday, residents plan to crowd Prosper Town Hall during a special council meeting at which town leaders will consider a resolution to oppose building the freeway bypass through their town.
This Texas Department of Transportation map shows two proposed revised alignments to improve U.S. Highway 380.
But it's no coincidence that TxDOT has mapped this route in the northern Collin County suburb. McKinney and Collin County leaders suggested TxDOT draw up a freeway scenario west of Custer Road — a boundary between McKinney and neighboring Prosper.
"I would just ask you to add — and I'm not sure why you didn't — a route across there," Collin County Judge Keith Self told a TxDOT engineer during a Commissioners Court meeting in May.
"We'll consider it," TxDOT project manager Stephen Endres said.
McKinney residents showed their opposition regarding a plan to expand U.S. Highway 380 during a city council meeting on July 17 at McKinney City Hall.
(Jason Janik/Special Contributor)
And in July, the city of McKinney sent TxDOT a letter signed by City Manager Paul Grimes outlining the city's concerns about the state's original five proposed alignments, which at that time only included bypass options east of Custer Road or widening the existing U.S. 380.
But the letter also said a bypass route "should occur further west than any of the options currently being proposed by TxDOT" to provide separation from the Tucker Hill neighborhood. The McKinney City Council, however, has yet as a group to take an official stance on the route options.
Grimes has said he's worried that choosing to widen U.S. 380 will destroy commercial property and diminish the city's property and sales tax revenue.
The push for an option west of Custer also came from a vocal group of McKinney residents and a developer, vying to avoid a potential freeway encroaching on their neighborhood along U.S. 380. This summer, a TxDOT official told a crowd of Prosper residents and leaders that a route into their town was only a suggestion.
Now, the option is a serious contender.
Last week, TxDOT unveiled two revised alignments. Neither offers everyone the chance to walk away unscathed.
One of the two routes runs along the existing highway and would displace or affect hundreds of businesses. The other bypasses U.S. 380 to the north and would destroy or put a freeway next to dozens of homes.
But the bypass now has another alternative route, one that would push the highway west of Custer Road. Under that scenario, the freeway would run through or near rural property owners' land, neighborhoods and a corner of the town of Prosper. But the plan would spare homeowners in McKinney's Tucker Hill neighborhood along U.S. 380.
A group of Tucker Hill and Stonebridge residents said last week that the new west-of-Custer option is the only one that works for their neighborhoods. If that route is chosen, "this neck of the woods would be real happy," said Tucker Hill resident Richard Karch.
Last week, TxDOT revealed feedback from over 4,000 people indicating that a majority of residents in Frisco, Prosper and McKinney prefer converting the existing U.S. 380 into a freeway.
The west-of-Custer option drew rebukes from Prosper residents and the Town Council — even before it became a serious contender. Residents said at a packed town hall this summer that moving the road near them would hinder development in their fast-growing town, including a proposed new high school and a planned neighborhood of expensive homes.
TxDOT project manager Stephen Endres discussed with Prosper residents and leaders potential alignments to improve U.S. Highway 380 on July 24 at the former Prosper Municipal Chambers.
(Jason Janik/Special Contributor)
They have said their bigger city neighbor shouldn't push the road on them.
"'Not in my backyard' so send it over to Prosper. And we just don't get it," said Ken Seguin, president of Prosper's Whitley Place Homeowners Association.
Previously, TxDOT's draft proposals to relieve congestion on U.S. 380 had little bearing on Prosper. And town leaders explicitly stated in a resolution that they ultimately support converting U.S 380 into a freeway and, if necessary, a bypass east of Custer.
But Self said TxDOT should consider every possible option.
"They bowed to political pressure from the Prosper city council and left something out," he said of TxDOT's original proposed alignments. "I asked them to follow their own policies and consider the option."
The road still may never be built. But Self has said upgrading U.S. 380 is a top priority. The county's population is projected to balloon more than threefold in the next few decades to more than 3 million residents. Money for the highway is included in the county's $750 million bond package on the November ballot.
"The Commissioners Court is committed to this," Self said. "We realize how important this project is."
He hopes cities and the county can come to a consensus on the regional project.
"But what happens if we don't reach a consensus?" he said. "That must be considered."
McKinney Mayor George Fuller and Prosper Mayor Ray Smith met this week to discuss the alignments. Both said they want to reach an agreement, but they're not there yet.
"We may not get there, but we're still talking," Smith said. "We're not screaming and yelling at each other yet."