Highway 26 Medians Cause Controversy with Local Businesses
The yellow serpentine medians recently installed between Glade Road and Thompson Terrace on Highway 26 (dubbed the “yellow snake” by some) have been repainted black after numerous complaints by citizens and businesses, but their presence is still causing controversy. Area businesses affected by the medians say they were not notified in advance of the plans to install the medians, and that they are experiencing problems with customers accessing their locations. LNO contacted the majority of the businesses located adjacent to the medians and all said they received no prior notice.
Realty Capital, developer of The Village at Colleyville, installed the medians in conjunction with the creation of two new streets, Village Lane and Main Street. According to Richard Myers, president of Realty Capital, “The state required that the medians be added before Main Street and Village Lane opened. We would have preferred not to have used our money for the state highway, but TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation) runs the show. We had no choice but to put them in.”
LNO, through the Open Records Act, requested all documents pertaining to the medians. In the documents received was City Ordinance # O-01-1274. According to the Ordinance, “Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) requires an Agreement between the State of Texas and a local government before any work may proceed on a state highway by anyone other than the State…The City Developer Agreement for The Village at Colleyville addresses two of the items for construction, the median and a temporary traffic signal at Main Street…The City-Developer Agreement provides for ‘City agrees to recommend approval to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) of the SH26 median improvements’ as per plans prepared by Parsons Transportation Group. The cost of construction of the median is the developers.” The ordinance passed 4-1 (Marlin). You may view the entire list of items received from the open records request here.
Business owners complained that the medians force traffic through The Village and away from their businesses. One local business owner stated, “I think it is unfair to the businesses that are already here. The Village is not even open and they are already forcing traffic there. It is hard for us to get out and hard for our clients to get in.” In response to these allegations Myers explained, “People need to understand that the city and state have to approve everything ahead of time. I cannot just go in and put in whatever I want. We did make changes to the original plan in response to feedback we received from two of the property owners.” Myers confirmed that Realty Capital was required by TxDOT to notify the property owners. A copy of one of the notification letters was provided to LNO. Click here to see the letter. The process to install the medians began in 1999 and notification letters were mailed in January 2000. The plans were reviewed initially by Realty Capital, TxDOT and Jim Foster, the city engineer for the City of Colleyville at that time. Myers continued, “Some of the tenants have changed since this began and they may not have known about this. We can’t continue to keep track of every business that comes in and out.”
Another concern expressed by a local business owner was the additional construction going on in the vicinity. “It seems the timing could have been better. The construction currently going on with Glade and now the medians has limited both our exits. It has been a real challenge trying to direct people in here.” Myers concurred, saying the plan was to have all the projects finished at the same time. However, the construction on the Glade road improvements is running behind schedule.
One business owner contacted the city after construction began. “I called the Mayor, City Manager and City Engineer. I received no reply from the Mayor, the City Manager referred me to a website for Highway 26 that doesn’t have anything listed and the City Engineer said he didn’t know anything about it. I find it unfair that we weren’t contacted before construction began.” The website the business owner was referred to is www.colleyvilleblvd.com. This site is hosted by the design consultant of the Highway 26 project, Teague Nall and Perkins, Inc. and is a collaboration between TxDOT, the consulting team and the City of Colleyville.
While employees and owners of the businesses affected by the medians spoke freely about their complaints, only one was willing to be identified for this article. Glenn Stuebing, General Manager of Applebee’s, discussed a letter he forwarded to the Colleyville Area Chamber of Commerce that LNO received through the open records act. He wrote the letter after a conversation he had with a customer, Joyce Holloway, who is employed by the Chamber. After expressing his concerns to Holloway, she offered to present them to the Chamber for him. Stuebing stated “If everyone handled themselves they way she (Holloway) did, I feel things would have been different. She was very helpful in presenting my concerns to the Chamber and the City. She even called me back to follow up with me.” In his letter to the Chamber, Stuebing outlined the information he had been able to obtain on his own about the median construction. “Mr. Humphries (traffic engineer with TxDOT) said TxDOT approved the construction of the traffic islands because they believed that meetings were held before construction began so we could express our concerns and questions. We were never contacted locally about this planned project. We learned about the traffic island construction after the project began. I am disturbed and disappointed that as an employer, taxpayer and long-time Colleyville supporter, our business was not consulted about a project like the traffic islands that threaten to dramatically disrupt customer traffic into our business.” Click here for copy of entire letter. Stuebing also stated “It is hard making a living in Colleyville. We are really looking forward to what The Village will bring to us. However, our concern is the traffic flow. It was unexpected and we are just wondering if there is a way to remedy this. There has to be a better way to do this.”
Motorists on Highway 26 have been left to their own devices when attempting to navigate the current configuration. With no signs initially installed to direct traffic, observers have watched vehicles drive across the medians, enter the turn lanes from the wrong direction and interfere with traffic flow attempting to proceed properly.
The expansion of Colleyville Boulevard (State Highway 26) from the existing 4-lane (with continuous 2-way left turn lane) to a 6-lane, divided boulevard with channelized turn lanes at major intersections is currently in its initial stages. Construction is not scheduled to begin until spring 2005 with completion set for fall 2007. The medians recently installed by Realty Capital are meant to be temporary until the final construction occurs. According to Myers, “the configuration will not change but the medians will have grass and trees like on Hall Johnson when the construction on 26 is complete.” The newsletter recently distributed by Teague Nall and Perkins, Inc. mentions that the new roadway will have curb and gutter and an underground storm drainage system in lieu of open ditches, and a raised landscaped median in lieu of a center two-way turn lane.
Access to the affected businesses is expected to improve in the near future. Jimmy Archer of Realty Capital told LNO “Main Street and Village Lane will be opening in a few weeks. These are public streets and will allow better access for residents.”