The state’s efforts to improve U.S. Highway 380 have brought some area residents closer, even as the proposal threatens to disrupt lives.
That seemed especially true for Collin County residents who oppose the proposed bypass to U.S. 380, just north of the existing highway.
“This bypass is not something I would wish on anybody,” said Tara Voigt, whose property in unincorporated Collin County would be impacted by the originally proposed bypass. “Either way it’s unfortunate. But it has forced us to become a community.”
Thursday’s meeting at the Russell A. Steindam Courts Building in McKinney was the first of two this month aimed at property owners living within 1,000 feet of the two newly proposed alignment options.
The options — a segment of new roadway in northeast McKinney or one in east Prosper, west of McKinney — were recently added to the highway’s feasibility study.
The meeting drew about 50 residents whose homes or businesses could be impacted depending on whether the state widens U.S. 380 or constructs a bypass to the north.
The open-house nature of the meeting did not lend itself to the intense emotions underlying the upheaval that is sure to come when a final decision is made. Instead, the atmosphere was one of quiet tension as residents hoped to collectively influence how the project plays out.
Some residents wonder why their property values should decrease and their children have to play in the shadow of overpasses when they intentionally bought homes two miles north of the freeway.
Instead, they say, the people who knowingly bought near U.S. 380 should shoulder the disruption. And some, like Voigt, who wore a red shirt Thursday in opposition of the project, fear that the bypass will largely go underused with a proposed outer loop set to come seven miles to the north.
“If you’re going to bulldoze my home,” she said, “you’d better … use that road.”
Lori and Mike Swim first purchased 12 acres in the proposed bypass area in 2009 so that Lori could pursue her passion for animal rescues. They bought more land so she could stay nearby, then finally 24 acres in all so they could build their dream home, which finished construction last year.
The proposed bypass in McKinney would go straight through the Swims’ property, and the new bypass just to the west would cut through the adjoining marshland.
“I’ve donated more than 100 horses for equine therapy,” Lori Swim said. “We just took in three miniature donkeys. I would hate to lose it with all the blood, sweat and tears we’ve put into it.”
Gordon O’Neal of McKinney opposes both bypass options. His wife Margaret’s longtime family farm, where the couple lives and planned to retire, sits directly in the path of one proposed segment, while the other proposal would impact an adjacent Trinity River floodplain teeming with otters and other marsh dwellers.
“I worry about the environmental impact,” he said.
“And we just spent a lot of money fixing up our house,” Margaret said.
The Texas Department of Transportation’s proposed makeover of U.S. 380 is a 33-mile, east-to-west stretch touching 10 cities from Denton to Hunt counties.
The state agency will hold another meeting like Thursday’s on March 28 in Prosper for affected neighbors to review maps, ask questions and offer comment in writing.
Depending on residents’ feedback, the changes could be among those the state agency will present in its preferred overall plan in May.
The issue has concerned and frustrated local residents and business owners, generating an unprecedented level of reaction at public meetings held last spring and fall.
But with Collin County expected to double in size by 2030 and to rival Dallas and Tarrant County populations by midcentury, changes are needed to deal with already worsening traffic problems.
Not all were against the bypass options. Steve Furlong has run an ice-packing business along U.S. 380 for more than 50 years and supports the highway bypass routes.
“I’ve watched 380 grow,” he said. But if they widen the highway, “they’re going to move us.”
And if the state chooses not to build a bypass now, he said, it will ultimately have to, given the rapidly growing population.
“Either way, now or later, they will have to take it around,” he said.