Multiple Wise County transportation projects were recently listed on TxDOT’s 2023 Unified Transportation Program.
County Judge J.D. Clark, who serves on the Regional Transportation Council as a representative for Wise and Parker Counties, said the area projects have received much needed funding. The projects listed on the UTP are given more priority because the Regional Transportation Council agrees to monetary support the work.
“These projects are dedicated to improving safety, addressing congestion and connectivity, and preserving roadways for Texas drivers,” Texas Transportation Commission Chairman J. Bruce Bugg Jr. said in a recent release.
With more people moving to Wise County, Clark and other members of the RTC see the need for roadway improvements.
“The RTC is a valuable organization in steering transportation priorities and dollars in the region,” Clark said. “We can have all the ideas at home about what TxDOT needs to be working on, but until we can help steer some money toward those projects, they are not going to get much traction to move up the priority.”
Wise County projects listed on the UTP include Farm Road 730 expansion between Decatur and Boyd, U.S. 81/287 improvements, and the reconfiguration of the Farm Road 1810 and U.S. 81/287 intersection.
Similar to many residents that travel in these areas, Clark knows that safety is a major concern. He also said that ensuring safe transportation does come at a cost.
“We are in one of the fastest growing regions of the nation with massive transportation needs, so it is so important that we are at that table to advocate for our projects,” Clark said. “There are finite dollars ,and we have to be ready to push for our projects.”
Work is expected to begin on Farm Road 730 in the near future. Widening the road will allow the increasing traffic to flow more smoothly as well as provide much needed turn lanes.
“There is more traffic than we have ever seen on 730,” Clark said. “It needs turn lanes and shoulders to prevent some of those deadly accidents.”
U.S. 81/287 is one of the busiest highways not only in the county but in North Texas. The building of large subdivisions that connect to the road presents obstacles. In fact, some popular exits have already experienced new challenges related to growth.
“At peak times you have traffic backing up to 287, and it is a disaster waiting to happen,” Clark said.
The RTC hopes that adding service roads along U.S. 81/287 from near Pioneer Road to the Tarrant County line will help alleviate these problems.
Another location that concerns Clark and is featured in the UTP is the Farm Road 1810 and U.S. 81/287 intersection. Its proximity to the U.S. 380 exit and the hill on U.S. 81/287 southbound has led to major accidents. Clark said that the issue will require more than just a ‘Band- Aid’ fix.
“You have so many rock trucks coming from the west part of the county trying to get to 287 that it is very dangerous when they meet the traffic coming from 287 at that intersection,” Clark said.
Plans for the project include a graded interchange and service roads running onto U.S. 81/287. Although, the most helpful improvement is the intersection’s relocation further north.
Clark said that the service roads will likely provide benefits beyond safety. He anticipates the new roads will attract businesses.
“Service roads are huge for commercial economic development,” Clark said.
Bugg Jr. offered research that supports Clark’s claim in his release. The Texas A&M Transportation Institute found that $15.5 billion per year will be added to the Texas economy due to the total projects listed on the UTP.
“These benefits are a result of increased labor income and business output, and the addition of 58,500 direct and indirect jobs,” Bugg Jr. said.
Without the support of the RTC, it is unlikely that these projects would have made the 2023 UTP. Clark said that TxDOT has limited funding and there is not enough to go around.
“The Unified Plan is the RTC telling TxDOT that they have funding to make this happen and they can move forward with their design, engineering, and right-of-way acquisition,” Clark said. “It makes it much more likely for these things to get done more quickly than we would see otherwise.”
Nevertheless, Clark knows that there are other areas that need to be addressed and he is eager to continue to collaborate with the RTC as well as the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition. The TRTC focuses on transportation projects located in the west section of the Metroplex. TRTC backing helps projects that connect to this area such as U.S. 81/287. According to Clark, forming these partnerships is a step in the right direction.
“These projects being on the Unified Plan right now are not meant to downplay the issues in other areas,” Clark said. “We just have a lot of things that need to be fixed and we have to snag the funding to do it.”