At about 5 p.m. on a weekday, drivers in The Colony say it’s best to just take the long way around the city, because you won’t be going anywhere fast on Main Street.
Also known as Farm-to-Market Road 423, the main drag through the city has been under construction since late 2014 as the Texas Department of Transportation works to widen the stretch to eight lanes.
TxDOT representative Michelle Releford says the work that runs through town to the Sam Rayburn Tollway is about 38 percent complete with much of the utility work underway and paving starting. The project is on target to be completed by about October of 2017.
TxDOT is also working on the road further north in Little Elm and Releford said work there is a little further along with a February 2017 complete date.
Relief is in Sight for The Colony Drivers
A work zone that big, though, has created some serious traffic issues for drivers.
Many said there is almost always a back-up somewhere on the road, especially in the left lanes where many drivers stop waiting to make a turn with no dedicated left-turn lanes. During the morning and evening commutes, some tell us going just a few blocks can take as long as a normal drive to a neighboring city.
"You're going to sit there for a while and at 5 o'clock, hope you're not hungry cause you're not going to get there in time for dinner,” said The Colony resident Jeff Watt.
City leaders say, unfortunately, it's a necessary inconvenience that even their employees, many of whom work at facilities on 423, feel the pain everyday as well.
City Director of Government Relations Brant Shallenburger said he’s taken many calls and met with many residents and business owners sick of the long commutes. One common question asked is, 'why wasn’t the construction broken up more so as not to back the whole stretch up at once?'
Shallenburger said it’s mainly due to utility work. Pretty much the entire stretch through town needed underground work and, he said, they had to contract it all at once. However, now more of the work is starting to move above ground, so Shallenburger hopes it will make the progress a bit more evident for on-lookers.
"We recognize it's a painful project,” he said. "This project's going to be complete at the end of next year, and at that point, you're going to see a much better product."
One the city is in bad need of as well, he said.
Crews had hoped to start this work years ago, but Shallenburger said they had issues that pushed the start date back to just a few years ago.
Now, the city is dealing with the construction alongside a major population boom in the growing 380 corridor to the north and the Sam Rayburn corridor to the south where the giant Nebraska Furniture Mart area is attracting way more visitors and commuters than the town has ever had to handle.
City leaders hope in the end, the work will pay off and help all of those extra people get around. Drivers seem to agree, but many hope that light at the end of the tunnel will grow faster.
"I think it's going to be alright once they get it done. In the meantime, we're going to sit in traffic,” said Watt.
Residents in town recommend drivers simply take back roads like nearby Paige Road to avoid 423 altogether. Otherwise, if you have to take the construction route, many said to stick to the right lane to avoid slowdowns from drivers making left turns.
Shallenburger said the city has lowered the speed limit on 423 to 35 miles per hour to help create a safer commute during the construction project.
The city council is also scheduled next week to consider banning cell phone use in the zone.