McKinney, Texas, circa 2019. Google Maps

Controversy

On the Outer Fringe of DFW’s Sprawl, Neighbors Battle a Highway for Their Lives

The fight over the future of Highway 380 in McKinney is about so much more than the expansion of road.

If you stand on the curb on the south side of Highway 380 near the intersection of Custer Road and look north, you will see McKinney as it has existed for much of the past 150 years since White settlers first arrived in North Texas. Contrast that with south of Highway 380, where the land is quickly filling in with new communities of tract homes and bustling suburban strip centers. Empty acreage stretches north of the road where horses graze in grassy meadows and Nature Ned still tends to his bee hives. Today, Highway 380 is, quite literally, the outer-edge of Dallas-Fort Worth’s sprawling urbanization, and over the past three years it has become ground zero of one of the region’s most vicious and contentious neighborhood battles.

In the November issue of D Magazine, I write about the many neighbors who lives, families, and future have become ensnared by the Texas Department of Transportation’s plans to widen Highway 380 through a still-to-be-finalized path that may—or may not—bulldoze their homes and communities. On the surface, it is a story about a road project, about how transportation decisions that are made within state agencies and by politicians within a multiplicity of crisscrossing jurisdictions can massively disrupt—or even destroy—the lives of people living in the path of progress. It is story about the daunting nature of the political process for ordinary DFW residents who must find the power to resist the monolithic forces of change.

But the story goes beyond highways and transportation planning.  It is a story about a fight over property rights, over who has the right to a certain way of life, and what expectations we can have that the homes and communities we build will last. It is a story about how neighbors who are, in many ways, all fighting for the same thing—to preserve their way of life—turned against each other because no one was willing to challenge the assumptions around ideas of growth, mobility, and development that have driven the region’s political and bureaucratic logic for more than half-a-century.

Does the future have to look this way? Find out here.

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