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Highway closure rejected; bridge beautification favored

by | Jan 26, 2023 | Latest

Kansas City Southern wanted the city of Murphy to pay nearly half a million dollars for railroad crossing repairs that would require the closing of FM 544 for at least three days. The Murphy City Council said “No.”

Instead, council voted at the regular Jan. 17 meeting to explore other ways of spending the money, including aesthetic improvements to pedestrian bridges being built.

The railbed improvements were to have been done at the same time as the city built east-west sidewalks across the tracks on both sides of FM 544.

But Public Services Director Tim Rogers said the railroad did not mention the need to close the highway until after the $480,368 contract was signed.

“I never expected a full road closure,” he said. 

Rogers told a City Hall work session that closing FM 544 would force the detour of 30,000 vehicles a day through mostly residential neighborhoods. He said the Texas Department of Transportation had endorsed the closure but did not have a traffic control plan.

Rogers agreed with Mayor Scott Bradley that the detour would likely route traffic along Heritage Parkway, Betsy Lane and North Murphy Road. The closure would be a minimum of three days, but could be extended by bad weather, he added.

“That’s crazy!” said Deputy Mayor pro tem Jene Butler.

“I question whether they’d get away with this, I really do,” Bradley said. “I think once they actually started trying to implement this plan and shutting down the only mayor east-west thoroughfare through Collin County, that somebody’s going to go, ‘Huh?’”

Holding up his thumb and forefinger, the mayor added, “I’m about this close to saying let’s call their bluff.”

Rogers agreed, saying the last time KCS worked on the FM 544 crossing was 12 years ago. “So, if they figure 15 to 20 years, it’s coming up to get it replaced [and] if it’s going to fail, let them do it on their dime,” he said.

Councilmembers were concerned about the economic impact of the closure.

“It will affect sales, it will affect the condition of our other roadways that we don’t need 30,000 vehicles of traffic on,” councilmember Jennifer Berthiaume said.

By Bob Wieland

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