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March 9, 2010 8:04 PM   Subscribe

What is the fastest and easiest way to get from Denton across to the Northpark area in Dallas and back? Is there a secret passageway?

My daughter will have to drive make daily trips from Wichita Falls, Tx to the Northpark Mall area of Dallas for medical treatment for the next month. Today was day one and the traffic on I-35 and 635 was daunting. Is there a faster, easier way? Can you buy a toll pass good for just one month so we can take the GBT? We usually go to Denton and down. Is it any faster to go on through McKinney and down 75? Calling all experienced DFW commuters, please help.

Most of her appointments will be around 3:30 which puts us traveling back during evening rush hour, if that makes a difference to your answer. Thanks!
posted by tamitang to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
Any routes are going to be a bit hair-raising at that hour, but you have a few options.

The I-35E to 635 is always going to be gross at that hour. I drive from Lewisville to Denton every day, and the I-35 bit is always a craps shoot. 635, for some reason, seems to be backed up at all hours, day or night. I try to avoid it as often as possible.

George Bush would be a better option as far as lack of traffic, but it would make your trip a little longer. You don't need a Toll Tag for GB anymore - I think they'll just send you a bill. No need to keep change in your car anymore!

I drive from Denton to McKinney a few times a week as well, and that road is good, but has tons of stoplights. It'll take her about 45 minutes to get from Denton to McKinney, and then whatever it takes her to get all the way down 75.

The main issue is that no matter what, she'll still have to navigate 75 for a ways, and that is a complete gamble. Some times, it's free and clear. Sometimes, it's a mess.

If I were looking for less traffic, but not necessarily faster (because nothing's going to be fast at that hour), I'd come into Denton, take I35 south to George Bush, take George Bush over to 75, and then 75 in to the NorthPark area. There's bound to be a mess around the GWB/75 interchange, but after that, it should be ok.
posted by SNWidget at 8:32 PM on March 9, 2010

An addendum: this is untested, and someone else might tell me that it won't work, but another option is to take GWB over to Dallas North Toll, and take North Toll South until you get around NorthPark, then take surface streets over (Royal, Walnut Hill, or Northwest Highway).

This is completely untested, though, but it might be worth the experiment.
posted by SNWidget at 8:35 PM on March 9, 2010

There isn't really a good way to get from the Northpark area to Denton during evening rush hour. Every possible route is going to be completely jammed. the only remotely OK solution is to bring another person so you can use the HOV lane on IH-35.

As far as going cross-town (between IH-35, the DNT & US-75), Walnut Hill and Royal beat Northwest Highway during rush hour as long as it is after school zone time.

My personal first choice would be to take 35 to the Bush Turnpike to the DNT to Walnut Hill or Royal.
posted by Uncle Jimmy at 9:23 PM on March 9, 2010

First of all, going through McKinney will always be slower than any other route.

Another option is to take 287 from WF past Decatur to 114 and then take 114 over to Northwest Highway. The interchanges around the airport can be confusing. There are more stoplights on NW Highway, but the traffic is less stressful, less frustrating and/or less scary. It's also a lot easier to manage that way. Northwest Hwy is very similar to Southwest Parkway or Kemp Street in WF when they are busy. It might take longer, but I think the traffic conditions on NW Hwy would be more familiar to her.
posted by at the crossroads at 9:26 PM on March 9, 2010

So, driving down, it'll be around 2:30-3:00, which is just before the school-release rush hour begins and you can take your pick, I think, though I would take 35 to Bush to DNT to NW Hwy (you can take Bush to 75, but it veers so far north before you get to 75 that you're backtracking quite a bit).

Coming home, when you'll be going the same direction as everyone else, my best advice is either stay near the mall for dinner and kill some time, or pack dinner and picnic before you leave. There's just no damn good way out of 75/635 at rush, especially if there's an accident. I have a customer over there so I'm there a lot, and I live off Bush, and I go home via surface streets (N on Hillcrest to at least Spring Valley or Belt Line, W on one of those, cross under the Tollway and go N on Marsh or Midway, either of which will eventually dump you back to Bush. This isn't a time-saver as much as a frustration-saver, but if there's an accident it does save time.) Alternate versions of that route would be to just avoid the High-5 at 635/75 and use Hillcrest or Preston to get on 635, but DNT and 35 are going to suck no matter what.

Bush no longer takes any cash, it's either tolltag or they photograph your license plate and send a bill (they call that ZipCash). DNT has tolltakers, and appears to not support ZipCash at most of the plazas, so she'll have to stop and pay. A tolltag is $40 which includes some credit and auto-bills to a credit card in increments of $40. My understanding is that you do not get charged just for having the tag if you don't use it (they are stickers now, you don't have the plastic box anymore), so you could get her one, she can use it as long as she needs, and then ignore it afterwards.

Audiobooks. That's how I deal with all this.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:21 AM on March 10, 2010

What time, exactly, is she going to be driving back? If she waits until after rush hour, she'll be a lot better off. Having dinner or doing some shopping to kill an hour or so will make a huge difference. At least on 75, leaving NP at 6:30 instead of 5:30 makes a massive difference. Any combination of 75/35/635/GWB/DNT is going to be clogged unless she waits until after the main rush is gone.
posted by MadamM at 7:45 AM on March 10, 2010

By far, the best going route would be 35 to Bush to DNT. Coming back, it's totally "pick your poison".

I just wanted to reiterate that a toll tag is essentially free - initially it costs $40, but they pull the toll fees from that $40, and rebill you when it gets too low. If you don't use it, you're not paying a maintenance fee or anything- so get a toll tag. It's also useful for parking at the airport.
posted by unexpected at 7:47 AM on March 10, 2010

(you can take Bush to 75, but it veers so far north before you get to 75 that you're backtracking quite a bit)

Actually, 35 & Bush is pretty much the northernmost point, but you'll go farther east than necessary. 75 runs kind of NE/SW. That said, the traffic along that route can be slow but tends to at least be steady, without much coming to a complete stop unless there's an accident. I can't really vouch for any other routes, as I don't have any kind of regular experience with them.

And I want to throw in another vote for a toll tag - the toll rates are cheaper for toll tag users than cash/zip cash. The tricky part is that they auto-bill you $40 any time your balance drops below $10, so keep that in mind. You can order the tag and keep track of the balance at the NTTA website.
posted by owtytrof at 8:40 AM on March 10, 2010

I'd try Uncle Jimmy's suggestion, but as far as my experience goes, there is no good route anywhere during rush hour. Even using the HOV lane won't help much.
posted by cmoj at 11:10 AM on March 10, 2010

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