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From the Sidelines: FM 407 Construction

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I don’t remember how many years this project has been in the planning stage but it’s been a long time.  I recall Former Mayor Bill Wilkinson and I going to look at the design documents and the many meetings that we’ve had since the beginning of the project.  It’s been a long time in coming.

There was never a question that road improvements and additional lanes were sorely needed to handle the traffic.  Roads always seem to lag the requirement, but that’s life.  I know that you don’t need my advice to avoid driving FM 407 while the lane shifting and building is in progress.  I drove it the other day.  Traffic was moving but a few drivers were being very aggressive around the barriers and I was uncomfortable.  You will all find your preferred routes as time goes by and good luck!

For Double Oak residents there have always been three main issues.  The first has been addressed.  The road originally required additional right of way from property owners adjacent to the road.  It was to be purchased and offers were made.  The alternative to agreeing to a purchase price for the needed land would have been condemnation.  The homeowners, supported ably by their homeowners associations, asked if it was possible to shift the roadway slightly north so that no additional property from Double Oak was needed.

That turned out to be a great suggestion because the small amount of land needed to the north was mostly not developed and probably cheaper to purchase.  The relocation could also be taken into account as that property on the north side was developed and no one would be surprised.  I count the roadway relocation to be a win for everyone and that’s hard to beat.

The second issue had to do with storm water drainage.  In several areas, storm water drains north under FM 407.  Our Carruth Estates development has always had slow drainage.  Additional concrete flumes were built to assist the runoff and relieve the wet areas but the exit under FM 407 was always too high to really drain well.  The question was, when the drainage was replaced under the road could the pipes be lowered a bit?  That would improve the drainage.  It turned out to be technically possible and was committed. 

The problem is always that changes tend to be forgotten.  The town effort, spear-headed by then mayor Mike Donnelly, continued to keep checking that it was in the new designs.  If you know Mike, you know that he follows up relentlessly and the drainage situation never left his ‘front burner’.  Mike, now Town Councilman Mike (welcome back) is still following up.  The work has not started yet but the commitment is still in place.  Any lowering that can be done will be helpful for Carruth Estates homeowners and I really expect that we’ll see some improvement.

The third issue has not been resolved to our satisfaction.  In many areas, homeowners along busy streets have been protected somewhat by sound screening walls.  Double Oak homeowners have been concerned from the beginning.  It’s been too noisy for years!  The leadership of the homeowners associations deserves kudos for their performance.  They have been courteous but persistent.  In every meeting that has been held in Double Oak, the official answer from TxDOT has been a resounding NO!  That answer has never been accepted by the homeowners and rightly so.  The increased traffic will bring increased noise and lack of privacy.  The issue has always been, if a wall is built, who will pay for it? 

TxDOT has steadfastly declined.  Town and county leadership has always tried to keep the door open and to find a way to get the project built.  I have no ax to grind on this issue.  I have watched from the sidelines and cheered the homeowners on.  But if the town and county ever manage to get some relief on this issue, in my opinion it will be a miracle.

I have heard through the grapevine that Mike Donnelly has proposed several alternatives for resolution to the sound wall issue.  They all take money.  Anyone who reads the newspaper or watches the news knows that there is no money.  I do know Andy Eads.  I am certainly not his attorney nor am I electioneering for him when I say that he has not given up.  He and Mike are working as hard as they can to resolve this, irrespective of comments his staff made at our last meeting.

So our score card is not complete.  We got what we asked for in moving the road.  I believe we have a good chance to get the drainage help we need.  By the way, the county went to bat for us on both those issues and I thank them.  On the issue of the sound wall, I know that Mike will fight that to the bloody end.  They say, “You can’t win ‘em all.”  We may or may not win this one.  In the meantime, be careful driving in the construction areas and stay safe.

 

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