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At a crossroads: TxDOT expansion to forever alter Krum landscape

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KRUM — Krum Clips Salon owner Jennifer Jonas has owned her shop at 110 W. McCart St. for 17 years. But as a $45 million highway expansion project by the Texas Department of Transportation looms on her doorstep in downtown Krum, she fears her longtime clients could be driven away.

“I feel like the city is going to leave us hanging,” Jonas said.

Spanning Denton and Krum, the project will expand McCart Street (FM1173) from Interstate 35 to FM156 and is broken down into five segments. It would widen the two-lane stretch of FM1173 to four lanes between FM156 and East Sixth Street, and to six lanes between East Sixth to I-35, adding 0.8 miles of new construction between Masch Branch and Barthold roads.

Krum’s historic downtown is located just on the other side of the BNSF tracks on McCart, where the first segment of the project will run.

The expansion, which will be ready to open for construction bids in December 2023, is aimed at addressing current and future traffic volume as well as a potential bottleneck at FM1173 and I-35 with an upcoming I-35 improvement project, TxDOT representative Emily McCann said.

The project will create 10 parallel parking spots on the north side of McCart upon completion of the first segment but would eliminate the roughly 28 pull-in spots that currently exist on both sides of Krum’s main street. It also would bring construction right up to the sidewalk in front of the downtown strip, which will make it difficult to access existing businesses, Jonas said.

“I know Krum is going to grow, and I welcome the growth, but I just don’t welcome that they’re going to kill my business because my customers can’t come in here,” Jonas said. “We just need a plan.”

Krum Clips Salon

Jennifer Jonas, the owner of Krum Clips Salon, is worried about how the upcoming FM1173 expansion project will affect her business. “I know Krum is going to grow, and I welcome the growth, but I just don’t welcome that they’re going to kill my business because my customers can’t come in here,” she said.

Though McCann said it is too early to know how long construction might go on once the project begins, and the agency will not begin purchasing until the right-of-way map is completed in the coming months, there are currently 63 lots expected to be impacted. Those impacts could involve a purchase of the entire land parcel or may mean TxDOT needs only a small portion of a property.

At 318 E. McCart St., that could mean relocating entirely. The commercial building houses Cramer Orthodontics and previously housed Krum Dental, which relocated ahead of the expansion. Though staff at Krum Dental declined to be interviewed, a staff member confirmed during an initial phone call that the practice moved because of the project.

Chris Rosprim, who manages the property, said the building owner is waiting on an offer from TxDOT and hopes to rebuild elsewhere in the area. But for downtown merchants whose customers would lose access to existing parking, that isn’t an option, since TxDOT would not need to purchase from Jonas and others — it already owns the right of way where the expansion will take place.

Ashlee Rogers, co-owner at JoyGrace & Co., said her clothing business has petitioned the city and attended several Krum City Council meetings that touched on the project. Though potential solutions explored have included parallel parking along McCart, parking behind City Hall down the street or across the highway, none have been settled on — nor are any realistic, Rogers said.

“People aren’t going to walk across a four-lane highway, and even the chiropractor down the way, his elderly patients are not going to walk around the entire block to come over there,” Rogers said. “If there’s nowhere to park or it’s inconvenient, people aren’t going to come.”

Rogers, along with Jonas, sent a letter of protest about the project to TxDOT, but both said they never received a response. Jonas said she knows of at least two other neighboring business owners who also submitted letters objecting to the expansion.

TxDOT first asked for public input on a proposed feasibility study for the project in May 2018. Mayor Ron Harris shared the meeting details on his Facebook page, inviting residents to attend.

“The expansion of 1173 to accommodate growth in Krum as well as the surrounding areas in Denton County is a project that will be happening, regardless of anyone’s personal view on our town [as it becomes] larger or new development,” Harris wrote in the post. “Positives include an increased ease of traffic flowing in and out of town, road improvements that will significantly reduce flooding issues at 1173 and Hopkins, and sidewalks along 1173 to help with mobility and improve the safety of those walking along the roadway. Traffic counts have more than doubled on 1173 and 156 in just in the last three years and will continue to increase, so this project is definitely needed.”

Harris did not return several calls to his office for comment about the project.

McCann said TxDOT does take public feedback into account and make changes where possible. Original plans for the expansion would have significantly impacted several properties including the Sonic at 1221 E. McCart St., but after hearing concerns, TxDOT shifted the alignment to narrow the footprint of the project and reduce impacts, McCann said.

Downtown merchants feel that hasn’t been the case for them despite communications with the city and TxDOT. Edward McRoy, director of development for the city of Krum, said though he has heard some public concern regarding the project, much of the initial discussions happened with his predecessor, Tom Elgin, who retired in December. McRoy said the city likely will work together with TxDOT to come to a solution for downtown parking, but city officials are still assessing the impacts — and he expects the path of the project might change.

“I had a couple emails from business owners that contacted us wanting to know what’s going on, and my answer to them is at this point, these are sort of initial drawings, and then we go to a more formalized process of actually going through and getting engineering and construction plans, so they can shift quite a bit from these initial draws,” McRoy said.

But TxDOT does not expect any significant changes to the project, which they presented to Krum city officials and received a letter of support for in February, McCann said. The city held a public hearing regarding the expansion in December 2020, prior to TxDOT’s presentation to the city.

Source: Texas Department of Transportation

“Plans are pretty set by the time of the public hearing,” McCann said. “But we do try to be a good neighbor and keep access to the businesses open and will hopefully come up with a mitigation plan for parking.”

Scott Sackett, a longtime Krum resident who owns three buildings downtown, said there has been a lot of confusion surrounding the project for property owners.

“The mayor will say one thing, City Council will say something else — it’s hard to really know what’s happening,” Sackett said. “We don’t have a lot of information at this point except if it does happen, unless the city comes up with parking on both the north and south sides of FM1173, it will do a lot of damage to the downtown.”

While downtowners fear the construction on FM1173 could be a detriment to business — and put the 100-plus-year-old buildings at risk — McRoy said that in the long term, expansions typically benefit local commerce.

“Obviously by expanding the right of way, that creates greater capacity for flow-through and traffic, so ultimately, those expansions tend to be beneficial, but in the short term and for individual locations, there might be some impacts that are particularly negative to individual business owners,” McRoy said.

Jon Gumfory, owner of the Sonic on McCart, said he is not opposed to the project.

“The last draft I saw, we weren’t going to have to move because everything was happening south on the other side of the roadway,” Gumfory said. “They’ll take some of the ditch here — the only thing I don’t like is they’ll have a raised median, so there won’t be a turnout and people will have to do a U-turn to get to us.”

It is not clear when business owners might expect a concrete solution to concerns surrounding the expansion. The project is expected to be environmentally cleared and receive funding this summer, after which offers on impacted properties can move forward. As for Jonas and others, the future remains murky.

“If they never address parking, it’s not going to make my business grow, but if a solution is made and there is more parking as the project is completed, it could help my business grow tremendously,” Jonas said. “My only hope is the project can go quickly, and the growing pains are minimal. I know they’re not going to be, but that is my hope.”

Editor’s note: Scott Sackett is the current community member of the Denton Record-Chronicle’s Editorial Board. Community members serve four-month terms on the Editorial Board, where they participate in interviews of local newsmakers and discussions with community groups appearing before the board. Community Editorial Board members do not have a final say in published content.

AMBER GAUDET can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @amb_balam.

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