|State Highway Loop 288|
|10.113 Miles (give or take a few feet)|
Phase 1 -- South
US77/I-35E East and North to US380
|Built in the 70's|
|Widened in the 00's|
Phase 2 -- North
US380 North and West to I-35
|Built in the 80's|
Phase 3 -- West
I-35 West and South to I-35E
|Not Yet Built|
It's a giant loop! (Wow.)
It goes around Denton! (Figured as much. Would be kinda weird if it didn't.)
It is usually heavily patrolled by State Troopers! (Huh. Better make note of that.)
It all started in 1955, with or without a time traveling Delorian.
Denton was far smaller back in those days. But the State of Texas, in a unique moment of positive proactive planning, determined there would be a future need for US77 (I-35E did not exist yet) thru traffic to bypass Downtown Denton to reach Fishtrap Road/SH24 (later rerouted slightly south and renamed to University Drive/SH24, then becoming University Drive/US380 in 1971) and visa versa. The result was State Loop 288 looping through the open prairie on the outskirts of town.
The road has since been built, expanded, and widened in several phases in the 50+ years since it's inception. While it is one continuous route, each section of Loop 288 maintains a distinct personality and it's own challenges.
Also, the local Department of Public Safety office has been conveniently established on Loop 288 just south of US380. It is not uncommon to see a steady stream of State Troopers patrolling the Loop while en route to other parts of the area requiring their attention. Or just simply kicking back in wait running radar over the next hill. They do not hesitate in saying howdy when necessary and generally maintain little to no sense of humor.
Phase 1 -- South
The original phase was built in the 70's a few years after I-35E. It started from the interstate and headed east and then north to US380. This section was opened as a two lane road (one lane in both directions) with limited stop lights. It was quickly embraced by the locals. Huzzah.
Then came the commercial growth. Golden Triangle Mall opened in 1980 on the northeast corner of Loop 288 and IH35E. Wal-Mart (now Hobby Lobby) and Kroger (now Big Lots) found homes atop a big hill the southeast side. Skaggs Alpha Beta (then Jewel Osco, then Albertsons, now closed) anchored another shopping center on southwest side. Many other shopping centers and box stores joined the thriving party over time.
But Loop 288 was still just puny little two lane road. Saying traffic was only a "little bad" is like saying UNT is only the "Mildly Annoyed Green".
Making matters worse, when the Loop 288 overpass crossing the freight railroad line (since rebuilt for the DCTA A-Train) was demolished in 2001-2002, the construction crew left a abrupt dogleg curve after they left. This temporary traffic diversion was originally designed to give the demolition crew room enough room to remove the bridge. But once removed, the crew did not reset traffic lanes to use the now bridge-less space. This forced Loop 288 drivers to make a somewhat challenging (and blind) swerve off to the side and then back again if they wanted to stay on the road. Most tried. Many failed. More ended up doing the latter on rainy days.
This whole phase of Loop 288 was eventually widened to a six lane road (three lanes in both directions) between 2006-2010. The extra capacity (and final resolution of the bridge-less swerve issue) successfully alleviated some of the traffic problems. But congestion in this stretch continues to be a routine mind-numbing debacle.
The southbound I-35E exit to Loop 288 remains a particular point of frustration, as the 60's era ramp and overpass design seamlessly work together to force exiting drivers into overflow back up onto I-35E at most times of the day. Many many many many many many rear-end accidents have occurred when southbound I-35E drivers came through the US77 interchange curve, successfully avoiding those merging onto the highway into the left lane, only to find a stopped car trying to exit in the right. You have been warned.
Phase 2 -- North
The second phase extended the Loop from US380 to north and then west back to I-35. Unlike phase 1, this section was opened as a four lane divided highway (two lanes in both directions) with exit ramps and overpasses. This section is also designated "Truck US380" forcing thru-traffic tractor trailers to bypass the regular lanes of sometimes congested University Drive/US380.
While clearly designed to handle the growth phase 1 found after it opened, this section has ironically had only minimal growth in comparison. A small number residential neighborhoods have been built both inside and outside of the Loop. Denton ISD opened the CH Collins Stadium and Athletic Complex in 2004. City of Denton opened Water Works Park in 2005.
But the only significant commercial growth came from the Exposition Mills Outlet Mall and Good Eats Grill restaurant, which both opened on the southeast corner of the Loop 288 and I-35 terminus soon after phase 2 was originally completed. The Outlet Mall featured many popular namebrand stores only to close several years later never being able to duplicate the commercial success of the south section of the Loop. The mall space is now only moderately filled with a variety of small independent stores such as Rose's Costumes. The Good Eats Grill also closed (albeit much later) in 2011.
Slowdowns on this section are usually caused by the sudden discovery of a State Trooper on patrol.
Phase 3 -- West
The State of Texas intends to eventually extend Loop 288 around from it's current terminus at I-35 west towards Krum and then south crossing I-35W and ultimately back around again to where it currently starts on I-35E. The final route has not been officially set and no timeline has been announced. It probably will not happen anytime soon for a variety of reasons (money).
When it does move forward, this phase will likely be split into two sections, divided at wherever the I-35W crossing ends up being.
Given the large amount of established residential and commercial buildings along the south Denton sections of the route, it is also probable that Loop 288 will be also be somewhat rerouted. This will allow room for a divided highway while bypassing some property congestion. Whatever the route, many real estate owners will still undoubtedly find themselves either wrongly displaced or mildly richer depending on their individual perspectives.