Brace for Impact - Southlake copes with FM 1709 traffic growth
Nearly 50,000 vehicles per day use Farm Road 1709 in Southlake — more traffic than on many area freeways.
The road, also known as Southlake Boulevard, is the area’s mobility and economic backbone. It’s the gateway to not only Town Square and city and county offices, but also to Carroll High School, Central Market and just-opened, big-name retailers such as Trader Joe’s, the Fresh Market and REI.
With all the growth taking place, motorists are feeling the pinch. FM 1709 is pretty much as wide as it can be, with little room for future lane additions beyond the existing six lanes and turn bays, area officials said. So they’re looking at creative ways to relieve the pressure.
Among the solutions: incremental improvements to surrounding roads to help Southlake residents get around without using FM 1709, a city official said.
The changes are taking some getting used to. Caroline Sherburne, a longtime area teacher, remembers when there were more cattle along the FM 1709 corridor than shops and restaurants.
“It was about 10 years ago, before they built all this up, which is lovely but it makes traffic a nightmare,” Sherburne said while strolling with a friend at Southlake Town Square. “Plus, they just put in another whole block of buildings and shopping places, so it’s only going to get worse.”
It’s a tricky predicament, because Southlake is in the “sweet spot” of growth in Tarrant County, said Bob Price, Southlake director of public works.
In 1995, fewer than 1 million people lived within a 30-minute drive of Southlake Town Square, according to developer Cooper & Stebbins. By 2013, that number had more than doubled to 2 million.
FM 1709 carried 48,352 vehicles per day in 2009, the latest year for which a traffic count was available at the North Central Texas Council of Governments. That’s nearly as high a volume of cars as can be found on nearby Texas 114 — a limited-access freeway — on a typical workday.
Even though FM 1709 is a state highway, area residents depend on city officials to tackle the traffic problem. During the most recent citizens survey sent to Southlake residents, traffic was listed as the most important issue the city was doing the least about, Price said.
In response, the city created an Office of Traffic Management, a group of decision-makers from police, fire, public works and other city agencies who meet regularly to brainstorm ways to improve the flow of automobiles.
“We continue to look for the ‘hot spots’ we can address, and well as for more efficiencies,” Price said.
As one example, the Office of Traffic Management determined that adding a traffic signal at White Chapel Boulevard and Highland Street — about a mile north of FM 1709 — would create an alternative pathway for Southlake-area residents to use in getting around the city.
Eventually, the city hopes to widen White Chapel, Price said, and improvements to Kimball Avenue also are in the works.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796
Brace for Impact
Watch reporter Gordon Dickson as he explores traffic on Southlake’s Farm Road 1709 further in his latest Brace for Impact video, on www.star-telegram.com.