Could Frenship’s new high school be a traffic nightmare or will a secondary route in and out be developed?

Frenship Memorial High School under construction in Lubbock, Texas

Frenship Memorial High School under construction

In 16 months, Frenship ISD will open Memorial High School northwest of 50th Street and Milwaukee Avenue.

At least for now, the school only has one way in or out – 43rd Drive connecting with Upland Avenue to the west – creating concerns about traffic jams and other safety issues, such as access for emergency vehicles.

Railroad tracks to the north and east cut off other potential ways to reach 34th Street or Milwaukee.

Frenship is “in the process” of trying to open Pontiac Avenue to the southeast of the new school, which is under construction. That would give the school a second path in and out – a way to reach the intersection of 50th and Milwaukee.

Even if that happens, 50th Street west of Milwaukee is a two-lane road with a turn lane, leading to concerns it cannot easily handle the increased traffic.

City spokesperson Lacey Nobles said there are no plans to widen 50th Street.

“That was widened a few years ago, and there are no current plans to widen it further,” Nobles wrote in response to questions from

And the Pontiac Avenue option recently hit a roadblock.

Thomas Payne, a developer who owns land along Pontiac, told he worked out a solution for Frenship. But he stopped talking with school officials after claiming Frenship Superintendent Dr. Michelle McCord accused him of self-interest.

We asked McCord for an interview, but she declined. Frenship provided a brief written statement to

We also asked city officials if the existing plan could create a problem for the school getting needed permits but were told the process is ongoing.

Frenship Memorial High School map, Pontiac Avenue, 50th Street and 43rd Drive in Lubbock, Texas
Graphic by Lubbock Lights based on map from the city website

A safety issue

Frenship’s second high school will open for two grades in 2025 – then expand to four with an anticipated capacity of 2,500 students.

The Texas School Safety Center, directed by state law to help schools with safety plans, calls upon schools to consider evacuation routes.

“It’s important to identify potential traffic issues,” the center said online. “The routes from the nearest fire station and the routes to the nearest hospitals must be considered.”

Lubbock’s Fire Station 3 at 25th and Milwaukee is on the other side of the train tracks. Fire Station 18 at 8002 Venita Avenue is on the other side of the Marsha Sharp Freeway.

The only way in or out, Upland, crosses train tracks just north of 43rd Drive. Vehicles could be delayed by trains.

Before the school can open, it must get a certificate of occupancy from the city, which needs approval from the fire marshal.

Lubbock Development Code does not require a specific number of entrances and exits but calls for officials to form an opinion before approving or denying an occupancy rating.

The code says, “Adequate facilities, including public or private utilities, solid waste service, roads, drainage, and other improvements are present or are planned to be provided.” (Emphasis added.)

One way in and out – for now

The statement from Frenship’s spokesperson Tiffany Taylor said, “Frenship, along with a developer, has agreed to pay for the construction of Pontiac Avenue from 43rd Drive to 50th Street. The district is currently waiting for approval and the dedication of the right of way from the landowner in that area. Frenship is also exploring alternative options … ”

Frenship cannot force Payne or the other property owners to improve Pontiac Avenue. Nor can the city.

Nobles wrote, “The City does not have authority over timing of the development or construction of Pontiac Avenue north of 50th Street. That is completely decided by the developer.”

And if there are multiple landowners, “The landowners/developers set the timetable,” Nobles wrote.

While Google Maps shows 43rd Street running west from Upland Avenue, then turning south to 50th Street past the new school, that’s not accurate. double checked the plat maps. A dirt path going between the school and 50th is not dedicated as a public right of way. It remains private property.

North of 50th Street and Pontiac Avenue in Lubbock, Texas
A dirt path where Pontiac Avenue might someday go north of 50th Street

How the roadblock started

Not having 50th as a five-lane or seven-lane thoroughfare west of the tracks was Payne’s biggest objection. Drivers leaving the school would turn left at Pontiac – headed to the intersection of 50th and Milwaukee – and traffic is expected to be crowded.

Payne is developing and selling apartment tracts near the school.

When Frenship was still in the planning stages, Payne talked to Frenship’s developer about opening Pontiac.

“I just want you to know up front that’s not going to happen for a long time because of the traffic issues,” Payne recalled saying at that time.

“Afterwards, the superintendent of Friendship School District called me, and she said, ‘We have a problem. I wanted to see if there’s anything you can do to help us.’ And I said, ‘I don’t know. I’ll be happy to try.’”

In April of last year, a meeting was held with Payne, Frenship and the city.

“The city explained that 50th Street is a thoroughfare. They explained that the city didn’t have any money to spend to widen 50th Street at the time,” Payne said.

Frenship asked about Pontiac in the meeting.

“The city explained … it doesn’t have a dog in that hunt. They can’t force me, the developer, to build Pontiac or to force me to allow someone else to build it,” Payne said.

“The superintendent spoke up and stated that the developer they purchased the land from would pay to build Pontiac,” Payne explained.

That other developer could put up the money. But it was still Payne’s property, so it was still Payne’s choice.

“The only way that I could consider allowing Pontiac to open prematurely was if I could find some way to widen 50th Street so as to help with the traffic problem. And that was pretty much that. Meeting adjourned. Everybody went their separate ways,” Payne said.

Three weeks later McCord called him again asking for help.

There was a plan

Payne was in the process of selling tracts. The plan was if Frenship would pay for paving Pontiac and his customers would put up the money they otherwise would have spent on Pontiac, that would give Payne enough money to pay for widening a portion of 50th. Payne would also put up some of the money himself.

He could go to the city with money in hand and request permission to widen 50th between the tracks and Pontiac.

Payne said his customers (apartment developers) knew exactly where the money was going. Everything was disclosed.

Then the deal derailed.

Payne said he needed to hear Frenship would pay for the paving of Pontiac. Frenship said its developer would do that, but Payne needed confirmation.

At the State of the City meeting Payne ran into McCord and spoke to her.

“It was perfectly cordial,” Payne said. But he did tell her, “The clock’s gonna run out.”

What he meant was there was a deadline to close a deal on a particular tract. The next day Frenship’s developer called, and Payne got the assurances he needed.

“I had a solution!” Payne said. “I called the superintendent to say, ‘Great news. You asked me for my help. I solved this problem.’”

McCord told Payne she wanted a meeting in person.

  • Frenship Memorial High School under construction in Lubbock, Texas

Frenship Memorial High School under construction, 7004 43rd Street

It went sour

“I honestly thought she was insisting that I come out there so that she could personally say, ‘Thank you,’ for helping,” Payne said. “And unfortunately, that’s not how it went. She chewed me out for 20 solid minutes before I ever spoke.”

“She alleged that everything that I’ve done in this case was only to help myself because I wanted to get 50th Street widened and that I hadn’t done anything because I wanted to help them,” he added.

Payne said he spent two hours explaining everything from start to finish.

“She was mad when we started. She was just as mad two and-a-half hours later when I left,” Payne said.

Now he’s not eager to help.

“I have no reason and no need to open Pontiac to the north for 20 years. I could go forever with it not being open because I don’t need it to be open to the north. All my traffic’s going to 50th Street,” Payne said.

What’s next

Before Memorial High School can open, the fire marshal needs to sign off. reached out to Derek Delgado, a spokesperson for Lubbock Fire Rescue, with questions.

One was about getting approval without two ways in and out.

Delgado said Frenship had not yet sent over official plans to the fire marshal.

“The Certificate of Occupancy is not issued until the final inspections are completed. Those final inspections are completed solely at the timeline of the contractor and Frenship ISD,” Delgado said.

So far, the fire marshal has done preliminary inspections.

“LFR has been working continuously with the contractors and architects on this project to ensure compliance with all laws and regulations,” Delgado said.

But Delgado also clarified the school must have a “verifiable plan” for getting in and out.

Fire trucks must be able to get there, and “Compliance with the fire code is mandatory,” his emails to said.

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Author: James Clark- James Clark is the associate editor of Lubbock Lights. He worked in radio, television and digital media for a combined total of more than 30 years. He was Director of Digital News Content at KAMC, KLBK and for nearly 10 years.