Country no more: Farm Road 1171 grows up

03/09/2014 3:05 PM

03/09/2014 4:05 PM

Even though this city is in the middle of the Metroplex, parts of it still resemble the Cross Timbers ecological region as it was 150 years ago, before miles of dense oak and walnut growth were replaced by concrete flatland.

The winding two-lane Farm Road 1171 cuts through the area west to east. Beginning at Interstate 35W about 2 miles north of Texas Motor Speedway, motorists can hop on for a 7.3-mile journey through mostly undeveloped parts of Flower Mound, places where horses roam behind white fences on tree-lined acreage.

Interactive map: Farm Road 1171 corridor

But the corridor has become too popular for its own good. Work has begun on a $46 million project that includes widening Farm Road 1171 to six lanes and adding a landscaped median, curbs and gutters. Completion of the job, which is being paid for with Denton County’s share of regional toll road revenue from the nearby Sam Rayburn Tollway, is scheduled for December 2016, say officials with the state Transportation Department.

Area residents, as much as they take pride in Flower Mound’s ability to control its growth so the town doesn’t become a cookie-cutter suburb, said they’re looking forward to the expansion. The road has become such a popular commuting route that traffic backs up for hours on weekday mornings and afternoons. It’s not uncommon for two or three dozen vehicles to be queued up at Farm Road 1171 and U.S. 377, for example.

“At first I was a little uneasy about it, when you see development coming and you see trees go down,” said Annette Weir, who has lived in Flower Mound for 24 years. “But I think it’s going to be fine. They look like they’ve got it well-planned.”

The expansion of Farm Road 1171 also opens up a whole new area for development.

Flower Mound officials recently completed extension of a water line to an undeveloped area north of Farm Road 1171 near U.S. 377. In that area is the Canyon Falls development, where hundreds of new homes could spring up in a few years.

Ultimately, about 2,000 homes are planned in the area, Denton County Commissioner Andy Eads said.

Canyon Falls, which encompasses more than 1,200 acres, also extends into Northlake and a small piece of Argyle.

The arrival of new residents will create the need for new retail and commercial areas and job centers. Cities in southwest Denton County are taking steps to cash in.

A new Argyle high school is under construction nearby, as are a set of Denton County offices that will be convenient for future Canyon Falls residents, Eads said.

Also, Flower Mound officials have identified in their master plan an area called the Denton Creek District — 1,500 acres bordered by I-35W, U.S. 377 and Farm Road 1171. Retail, office, campus commercial and industrial uses will be welcomed.

It’s a bit of a break from tradition in a town that beginning in the 1990s was known for its “smart growth” policy, which encouraged calculated development of low-density residential and low-impact commercial uses. That growth policy is still in effect, town spokeswoman Molly Fox said, but it does allow for more dense commercialization on the western edge of Flower Mound.

“We still do have smart growth. Those policies are still very much a part of who we are,” Fox said. “We want to make sure we’re very careful in our growth, and obviously infrastructure is going to be a key component of successful economic development.”

Fox also said the current expansion of Farm Road 1171 — also known as Cross Timbers Road in Flower Mound — is really the third phase of a long-term plan that began many years ago. In earlier phases, another section of the road was expanded to six lanes from Shiloh Road to the east, creating a modern connection between Flower Mound and Lewisville.

Even without all the residential and commercial growth expected in west Flower Mound, Farm Road 1171 needed to be expanded for safety reasons, Eads said. The two-lane road lacks shoulders, lighting and any barriers between traffic moving in opposite directions, making it a dangerous place to drive, especially at night or in bad weather.

“I think the road is long overdue,” Eads said. “Like many cities in North Central Texas, we’re in a time of transition from our rural roots to our more urban future. So by increasing mobility on 1171 we’re really going to be accommodating that growth.”

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