Texas Says Quick Growth Demands Expansion of U.S. Highway 380, but Prosper Doesn't Want It

Prosper's population has swelled in recent years as more people leave Dallas and other big cities
Prosper's population has swelled in recent years as more people leave Dallas and other big cities Kate Pezzulli
The way Kari Willis sees it, people ditch big cities for good reason. She traded Southern California for Prosper, a city situated some 40 miles north of Dallas. As many packed their bags and headed to what are quickly becoming suburbs, Prosper's population has more than tripled to just over 31,000 since 2010.

“You moved away from the highways, you moved away from the hubbub of the city," Willis explained. "Personally, I moved from Southern California here because I wanted to get away from that.”

That could change if plans to vastly expand U.S. Highway 380 become a reality, and that's why Willis helped organize the "Protect Prosper Pep Rally" on April 14.

It was a decent turnout at Prosper's Silo Park that evening. People were still showing up a half hour after the event officially started, and just about the entire fire department was there. They'd come out to voice their opposition to the Texas Department of Transportation’s current option B plan for what is to be the new 380.

Two fire trucks were parked bordering the parking lot and the third, named “Tha Dawg House,” was parked just outside the fence around the gathering area. Food trucks and organizers, residents and business owners, all showed up to what had been dubbed the “Protect Prosper Pep Rally." They even hired a DJ and created a curated playlist with songs like AC/DC’s "Highway to Hell" or Limp Bizkit’s "My Way or the Highway."

But Texas is growing, and TxDOT recognizes the need for infrastructure growth ahead of the population increase. Keep It Moving Dallas, a website run by TxDOT to inform residents of projects like this, has detailed explanations of the plans and why they are needed.

According to the site, “Population growth within the central portion of Collin County has caused increases in current and forecasted traffic volumes that exceed the capacity of US 380. … The purpose of the proposed action is to manage congestion, improve east-west mobility, and improve safety.”

Several options for the new eight-lane freeway with frontage roads have been proposed that span from New Hope across McKinney and end on Coit Road.

These options are being considered in sections or "focus areas." Focus area two, the middle section spanning from CR 161/Ridge Road to SH 5 has only one option, E. Focus area three spans from SH 5 to FM 1827 has two options, either C or D.

Focus area one, the western-most section which spans from Coit Road to CR 161/Ridge Road, also has two options, either A or B. Option B would cut through a corner of Prosper while option A would not, and the residents of Prosper know which one they think is best.

It’s not just traffic that Prosper residents are worried about either, Willis argued. There are other consequences when bringing in a large highway, they worry. “All the things that come with a high traffic, high volume highway … it’s the noise, it’s the pollution, it’s crime,” she said. “And it’s going to be free, so we know what happens, right? It’s extremely disappointing.”

But TxDOT doesn’t take new construction projects without getting detailed reports of how it will affect surrounding areas. They have a lengthy process for determining the best solutions for everyone who could be affected by new highways including looking at environmental impact reports, historical preservation sites and taking comments from residents.

The online comment period for residents in the areas that would surround the proposed highway originally ended on April 6, but the deadline was extended to April 21, which spurred the Prosper organizers to hold the pep rally.

Gretchen Darby, owner of Gretchen Darby Consulting in Prosper and another rally organizer, wanted to make sure the town was aware of what option B was and how to provide their comments to TxDOT.

Darby said she spoke to people, including some on the neighborhood app Next Door, and they either weren’t aware of the proposition or thought it had already been settled, so when the deadline was extended she wanted to get the word out with the event.

"You moved away from the highways, you moved away from the hubbub of the city." - Kari Willis, Prosper resident

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Prosper council member Marcus Ray also attended the pep rally and expressed concern about the highway and his support for option A.

“Segment A is logical, it does not impede and take out neighborhoods that are under construction,” Ray said. “My hope is that we will inspire the community to rise up, go and submit their opposition comments by the 21st, and really make their voice heard.”

The picnic tables all had QR codes on the top that took residents directly to the TxDOT comment site so they could submit their opinions at the pep rally.

“Apparently they say they’re reading every single one, so that’s important to us,” Darby said.

Toney Parker, owner of 1 Stop IT Solutions and board member of the Prosper chamber of commerce was also at the pep rally against option B. “If they extend that leg across that corner, they’re literally cutting out a major percentage of the real estate inside of our town,” Parker said. “Go down to Dallas and look at the surrounding areas around I-35 and where the junctions and the roadways are. That’s what our future will look like.”

The residents of Prosper are concerned about what will happen to their town, their businesses and property values, and all the other things that come with a major highway cutting across their land. But while Prosper wants to avoid option B, McKinney supports it.

McKinney Mayor George Fuller said the highway that would cut through Prosper would actually be a commercial boon for the town, “a catalyst for tremendous commercial development.”

Fuller cited highway effects Plano, Frisco and other parts of McKinney from Central Expressway and the Dallas North Tollway, arguing that nothing negative has happened. “It’s actually spurred development,” Fuller said. “As a matter of fact, Frisco arguably has become a commercial sales tax generating powerhouse.”

McKinney City Manager Paul Grimes also points out that option B’s bypass through Prosper is still mostly in McKinney.

“Either option A, it’s all in McKinney, 100%, or option B and 90%,” Grimes said. “Just a small little corner would be Prosper; the rest of it is in McKinney.”

The city of McKinney also points to data from TxDOT about the pros and cons of each option, citing multiple reasons in their online campaign for why option B is better. They say option B saves taxpayer money, affects 57% fewer natural wetlands and wildlife and displaces 73% fewer residents and businesses.

“[Option B] is $100 million dollars cheaper,” said Grimes. “What you see here is pretty overwhelming evidence that option B is the best option. And you know, just look at it on a map … [option A is] just a much more inefficient design, plus it’s 14 miles longer, but that’s why it’s more expensive.”

"We recognize that this is controversial." - Paul Grimes, McKinney city manager

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There was at one point a third option, option F, considered by TxDOT and would have either built a new highway on the existing 380 roadway or improved it enough to accommodate the new traffic. This was the preferred option of those in Prosper, who touted at the pep rally to “Keep 380 on 380!”

It has since been removed as a feasible option because it would displace too many businesses, more than 30 homes, affect parks and facilities and separate neighborhoods.

Even though Prosper and McKinney would like different outcomes for the building of this highway, they are both adamant that they do not wish any ill-will to their neighbor.

“We recognize that this is controversial,” Grimes said. “We have a very good working relationship with our counterparts in Prosper, we just agree to disagree on this particular issue.”

“We don’t want to be negative,” Darby said, noting that Prosper doesn’t have a problem with the city of McKinney or TxDOT, just with option B.

Mayor Fuller added that while he has a responsibility to his constituents, the bigger responsibility is that they make the right decisions for 2040 and 2050.

“Whatever we do today is the solution that will live in perpetuity, and it better not be based on emotions of a group of teachers or students or kids or my residents or anybody,” Fuller said. “We need to all realize we’re making a decision for the future.”
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