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Part 2: Changing Sagebrush plans could cost taxpayers

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Photo Credit: Bill Castleman
Photo Credit: Bill Castleman

As the weeks tick by, the west side of  Sagebrush Drive in Flower Mound is becoming  more and more upturned. Workers stand in huge earthen craters and construction machines crawl the two-lane thoroughfare as part of a project to make the road safer for residents and motorists.

In Part 1 of this series, The Cross Timbers Gazette spoke to residents about what shape the roadwork should take from this point on. Some have voiced displeasure at the plan, while others have said the time for debating the work is over.

But even if plans could be changed, the town says the cost to taxpayers would he heavy. And the work is being done to help stem a real problem, Mayor Tom Hayden said.

“There’s so many projects we can do throughout the town … This became a priority because we thought it was a safety concern,” he said.

And, he said, there was a time and opportunity for residents to air their concerns.

Map Courtesy: Google
Map Courtesy: Google

“A lot of people that say they didn’t know about it … spoke at the town council meeting of October 2013,” he said. “We’re elected as council members … it is important to consider the residents’ concerns that are there but also its important for us to do what’s best for the town.”

Design for the project cost the town about $250,000.

Here’s a quick timeline of the project meetings:

There were seven meetings starting in July 2013 related to changes to the town’s thoroughfare and parks/trails plans. Others followed:

  • Nov. 4, 2013: Town council public meeting
  • May 22, 2014: Public meeting at 30 percent
    completion
  • August 25, 2014: Public meeting at 60 percent
    completion
  • January 28, 2015: Public meeting at 90
    percent completion.

So what would happen if the project was heavily altered or abandoned?

Lost opportunity costs occur when a contractor was unable to work on other projects while working on the one they are in contract with. These types of costs would be litigated in court. Also, it is possible the town would be responsible for paying any up-front costs the contractor had, along with all the work done up to this point.

Also, and perhaps just as damaging, would be the reputational costs to Flower Mound.

“When we solicit bids there is an implicit trust that is conveyed,” said Town Manager Jimmy Stathatos. “We’re bidding, awarding this contract in good faith.”

Major changes or cancellation of this contract could attract contractors that aren’t as capable or might have even require a Flower Mound surcharge due to concerns the town could change its mind again.

In Texas, the law does not allow a public entity to deviate from a contract it is under by more than 25 percent up or down. Changes outside those parameters would require a new contract, Stathatos said. From what he has heard, some of the modifications suggested by residents would be significant enough to nullify the existing contract.

What some have suggested is a change to or removal of a median planned to separate two lanes on this .6 mile portion of the road. Concerns have included a lack of access to driveways and a lack of room to back out of driveways if hauling a trailer, boat or other such towed equipment.

This median has flush sections to allow residents access to their homes. It is also navigable — only slightly raised — and can even be parked on if emergency responders needed room for their trucks.

“Throughout several design meetings, the flush sections of the median were modified to maximize the access to the adjacent properties. With the addition of the medians, now the approximately 0.6 mile section of Sagebrush was no longer one long straight street,” said Matthew Hotelling, the town’s traffic engineer, in an email to residents.

“This also effectively reduced the travel lane from an 18 foot width down to 11–12 feet in width. The medians are also close enough together that the concern with other vehicles passing and creating an unsafe situation is virtually non-existent.”

The pavement width from the current cross section will go from 10 feet to 11 or 12 feet, and the road should be smoother because it will be new, Hotelling said.

Also, the median will make it look like Sagebrush isn’t as long and straight as it is now, and the road will look like it’s more narrow where the medians end.

Citing a study, Hotelling said shifts in pavement and pavement narrowing are both likely to help reduce speed.

“All over the country the results are staggering, they’re lowering speeding,” Stathatos said of medians.

In our final part of this series we’ll hear more from residents and town officials and learn the details of the project.

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