‘No Win' Situation: Collin County Drivers Frustrated By Construction Delays

For Jessica Boord, Texas 78 is a lifeline.

"If you want to go through the two lakes, Lavon and Ray Hubbard, that's the only way through," said Boord, who lives just outside Lavon. "That's our main artery."

She drives it everyday — along with a rapidly increasing number of people. Lavon has seen tremendous growth in recent years. And more drivers from north of Lavon are using Texas 78 to head south towards Plano.

It's more traffic than the small highway can handle — so, in 2012 The Texas Department of Transportation began work on a project to widen it between Lavon and Wylie.

"Everybody was happy about the widening," said Boord. "But nobody really knows what's going on with that. They're just not finishing it."

Construction was slated to be complete in 2015. A year later, it's still not done. For Boord and other drivers, that's meant months of unanticipated headaches.

"It's pretty much the main concern right now -- the major concern in Lavon," said Boord. "100 percent."

While construction is underway, Texas 78 has been reduced to a two-lane road between Wylie and Lavon, with one-lane going in each direction.

During rush hour, it regularly takes drivers more than an hour to get through the construction zone because of the congestion and backups.

Lavon Police Chief Mike Jones told NBC 5 it's also created safety issues. He says the poor decisions of impatient drivers, coupled with the fact there are no barriers between the lanes, have led to numerous crashes in the construction zone — including one in March that left a Nevada firefighter and his two young children dead.

In addition, he says his department is seeing more drivers cut through neighborhoods to avoid the traffic, many of them traveling at a high rate of speed. He regularly posts his officers in those neighborhoods to make sure they're slowing down.

"We're a small department," said Jones. "I can't have officers there all the time."

TxDOT blames heavy rainfall during each of the last two Springs for slowing construction. In a written statement, the agency said:

"Several months ago the project was flooded, then every time there was a release from Lake Lavon it flooded again. Even when there wasn't water over the road, our construction zone was a soupy mess that couldn't be worked on."

TxDOT added, "we are making good progress on the project now that the weather has cleared."

Lavon Mayor Chuck Teske told NBC 5 it's a "no win situation" for either side.

"It's frustrating, sure," said Teske. "But I don't want to throw stones at the contractors. I think they're doing the best they can."

He was a bit more pointed, however, after crews recently removed the right turn lane that allows northbound traffic to turn onto SH 205.

"This is causing massive delays in the afternoon drive-time," he wrote in an email to TxDOT that he provided to NBC 5. "Can we reestablish a turn lane or is it time for me to have my PD start directing traffic on 78 for several hours every evening?"

A TxDOT spokesperson said they're currently working on a plan to add a right turn lane at the intersection and adjust the timing of the traffic signal there to improve traffic flow.

Until then, Lavon Police are manually operating the light, at Teske's request, so it stays green longer and keeps traffic moving.

Teske has also asked a truck terminal south of the construction zone to direct all of its trucks away from the area.

TxDOT estimates construction will be complete by May of 2017.

"I don't want to punish anybody, I don't even care -- I just want it done," said Boord. "I just want it safe for everybody to drive on."

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