Gene Clark is a patient man. It helps, since he lives along a section of FM 1187 in northwest Mansfield that has been under reconstruction the past 2 1/2 years.But he’s not shy. In 2012, concerns raised by Clark and several other residents helped convince the project manager – the Texas Department of Transportation’s Fort Worth regional office – to redesign an already rebuilt section of FM 1187 and have it lowered by four feet to connect better with driveways and improve drainage.Now, they have issues with the newly re-cut driveways, which they say are narrow and difficult to turn into without rolling a back tire over a curb or swinging out into the next lane to get a better angle.“I’ve been working with them,” said Clark, who frequently goes out to chat with construction workers and supervisors, asking for updates, making suggestions. “I’m not mad at them completely. I understand construction.”Apparently, help already is on the way. The contractor on the $13 million project, Lone Star Civil Engineering, is going to round off the curb corners on each of the several targeted driveways, improving the turning radius, TxDOT spokesman Val Lopez said Friday.The driveway improvements will be done sometime by the end of the overall project, currently expected this spring, Lopez said. A city official said the contract calls for completion by the end of March.Lopez said some residents expressed interest in using or selling their property for future commercial development, which contributed to TxDOT’s decision to make the improvements because larger vehicles might be using the driveways. But he said the driveways are not flawed.“They were properly designed and built for their intended use,” he said. “But we are actively engaged and want to work with the people who live along that corridor. There was an opportunity to make some improvements, so we’re going to incorporate those.”The project kicked off in June 2011, to convert the two-lane asphalt road with bar ditches into a four-lane concrete thoroughfare with curbed medians, street curbs and gutters from just west of North Main Street to Newt Patterson Road, about 7,200 feet.The work is being funded with state and federal money – at no cost to the city – and was originally projected to be completed in February 2013. But the redesign halted work from the fall of 2012 to July 2013 and helped inflate the cost from the original price tag of $7.4 million.When construction crews were lowering FM 1187, Clark said, he had to take a temporary path off his two-acre property, which sometimes required coordination with the workers.“They were very considerate of talking with me and getting me in and out,” said Clark, who has lived in his home since 1984.After first asking state officials for relief, Clark contacted Mansfield City Councilman Darryl Haynes, who forwarded the message to City Hall to see if someone could get word to TxDOT. “The state has engineers who are very educated and know what they’re doing,” Haynes said. “But they tend to leave things out, like driveways.”Lopez said a solution was in the works before any call came from the city.“We’ve been in contact with the homeowners and discussing this with them,” he said.Clark’s next-door neighbors are anxious to leave their driveway -- for good.“I actually have my property on the market so I can get out of there,” said Jennifer Yates. “I need that fixed so I can sell my property.”She lives with husband, Stephen, in the house her father built in 1975 and she bought in 2000. The Yates’ driveway situation is even tougher than Clark’s is. Clark benefits from a right turn lane built for the Mary Jo Sheppard Elementary School to his east. His driveway comes off the turn lane, which helps protect him from the eastbound traffic behind him -- except when he has to swing out to enter the driveway. Yates’ driveway opens immediately where the right-turn lane begins, providing no projection from rear traffic.“I keep hitting my back right tire, because I have to whip in my driveway so fast,” she said. “If I can beat traffic, I actually go past my driveway and try to back in.”She has had other troubles with the construction. When the road was built too high, the work crews shortened and reshaped her driveway. “Every bit of limestone in my driveway is now in my yard,” she said.Also, runoff from the raised road often muddied her yard. Lowering the road – it’s now about level with her yard -- has taken care of that problem, she said.“I’m ready for it to be over,” she said.
Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641 Twitter: @Kaddmann