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Process continues, but toll road on rail path looks unlikely


The public process to determine the fate of the stretch of land known as the Blacklands Corridor continues, but the likelihood of a toll road along the old Blacklands Railroad path appears increasingly remote.

The area in question is an inactive railroad right-of-way that runs from just west of Greenville to Lavon, in southeastern Collin County. Along the way, the route passes through the Hunt County community of Caddo Mills as well as the Collin County communities of Josephine and Nevada.

The railroad used to connect the northeastern Dallas suburbs with Sulphur Springs and points east, but has been out of service for decades. The pathway is now overgrown with trees and scrub. It's owned by the Northeast Texas Rural Rail Transportation District, generally known as NETEX. 

In 2013, a proposal by the Dallas-based private firm Public Werks, Inc., to build a toll road along the pathway caused a spirited variety of reactions across the area. Public Werks signed a lease with NETEX and the project appeared to have momentum.

However, all road projects in the area must, by federal law, be included in the regional transportation plan authored by the North Central Texas Council of Governments. After the NETEX-Public Werks partnership became evident, NCTCOG told all parties to slow down and wait for a study to evaluate the Blacklands Corridor's role in the overall transportation needs of the region. 

The study is expected to conclude by the end of 2014. However, a newsletter released this month by NCTCOG said that "(p)reliminary analysis by NCTCOG staff indicates that the Northeast Texas Rural Rail Transportation District (NETEX) right of way in Nevada, Josephine, and Caddo Mills would not be suitable for the construction of a new roadway."

The newsletter continues to say that "a private?sector proposal to build a limited?access toll road on the NETEX right of way was initially introduced in the community, analysis of the corridor and possible impacts to existing development suggests the need to instead preserve this right of way for other potential purposes, such as a commuter rail line or bicycle/pedestrian trail." 

The NCTCOG Transportation Division will have a regular business meeting today at its offices in Arlington at 1 p.m. A brief review of the Blacklands Corridor study is on the agenda, but no major announcements are expected.