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These stories are related to the proposed toll road to connect Greenville and Lavon.

'Blacklands Turnpike' discussed in Commerce

A representative from the private firm designing the proposed toll road addressed the Lions Club in Commerce on Tuesday.

About 50 Commerce Lions Club members and guests attended a presentation describing the divided, four-lane toll road that would offer a fast route from Greenville, in Hunt County, to Lavon, a small town in far southeastern Collin County. The communities are currently connected by smaller roads: State Highway 66 and Farm-to-Market Road 6.

K. Neal Barker of Dallas-based Public Werks, Inc., introduced the name "Blacklands Turnpike" to describe the proposed thoroughfare.

Barker said that Interstate 30 is the most congested highway in Texas. According to a 2010 study, about 120,000 vehicles cross Lake Ray Hubbard on I-30 daily, he said.

Two large highways currently provide the primary paths between Greenville and metro Dallas. I-30 takes motorists into the heart of Dallas, while U.S. Hwy. 380 connects Greenville to McKinney and the booming suburban development of southern Collin County.

The Blacklands Turnpike would offer an east-west route between I-30 and 380. The route follows the Northeast Texas Rural Rail Transportation District right-of-way from just west of Greenville to Lavon, which sits south of Lavon Lake and north of Lake Ray Hubbard. From there, drivers could take State Hwy. 78 to the President George Bush Turnpike. In an unrelated project, Hwy. 78 is already being expanded to accommodate more traffic, Baker said.

"I don't think it could be anything but a benefit to us economically," said Commerce City Manager Marc Clayton, who attended the presentation. "We support it."

The Commerce city council recently passed a unanimous, non-binding resolution expressing support for the general project.

"I understand that property owners who would be affected would be opposed to it, and I understand that," Clayton said.

One such property owner is Brenda Short, who lives in Rockwall County but has recently bought property in western Hunt County that happens to be in the right-of-way area. Plans to build a house on the Hunt County property have been put on hold, she said.

Barker said that the Blacklands Turnpike would help sleepy communities like Josephine and Nevada grow and develop, though he conceded that some property owners, like Short, specifically came to that part of Hunt County because of its distance from things like multi-lane highways.

Short has created a website, notollroad.com, to organize opposition to and discussion about the project. The website also has an associated Facebook page.

Baker said that the next step for the project would be inclusion in the Metropolitan Transportation Plan. Once that happened, the project could then proceed to stages where specifics would be hammered out, including the exact location of the route and environmental impact studies.

The project could be completed as early as 2017, Barker said.

Mark Haslett has served at KETR since 2013. Since then, the station's news operation has enjoyed an increase in listener engagement and audience metrics, as well recognition in the Texas AP Broadcasters awards.
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