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'Eastern terminus' of proposed road undecided

If - and everything about the Blacklands Corridor has an "if" in front of it - there is a new road between Greenville and Garland, there are quite a few places where it could go.

The North Central Texas Council of Government's Blacklands Corridor Feasibility Study is on schedule. By the end of this calendar year, the agency expects to have recommendations for the future of transportation infrastructure in the region between Greenville and the President George Bush Tollway in Garland. The study area includes parts of Collin, Dallas, Hunt and Rockwall Counties.

The public process of the study continued on May 13 with a public forum in Garland. Previous meetings on the topic have been held in Lavon, Nevada and Greenville. 

Nothing has been laid in stone, but a few aspects of the study have come into focus.

A new road from the Bush Turnpike in Garland to points east seems very likely. The current road through the area, State Hwy. 78, is close to capacity now, even with recent and ongoing improvements. Rather than make the problem worse by feeding into Hwy. 78, planners see a new, parallel route as all but inevitable.

The challenge lies in finding room on the small strip of land between Lavon Lake and Lake Ray Hubbard. Hwy. 78 runs along the north side of the isthmus. A new road could follow the south side of the land bridge - or it could cross the northern end of Lake Ray Hubbard.

Two big questions surround such a road - would it be a freeway or a tollway? And would a new throughway run as far east as Greenville, or would it merge into existing roads somewhere near the Collin County-Hunt County line? 

Should the new facility extend to Greenville, the best eastern terminus for the road is far from obvious. U.S. Hwy 380? U.S. Hwy. 69? Where would it be in relation to State Hwy. 66 - or would it feed into Hwy. 66? And what about Interstate 30?

If the road does connect Garland and Greenville, preliminary maps show the road beginning south of the old railroad right-of-way, then crossing the rail path somewhere between Lavon and Nevada before continuing to Greenville north of the right-of-way.

As for the NETEX railroad right-of-way itself - the future of which began this whole study - a highway or tollway along the path has been ruled out. Passenger rail could be an option in decades to come, but that option has been tabled for the near future since the projected ridership would not justify construction of light rail. The study has suggested that if developed, the right-of-way could be made into a hike-and-bike trail to enhance the local quality of life and preserve the corridor for light rail whenever population growth would make such infrastructure reasonable.

Improvements to Interstate 30 were also recommended, as were "arterial improvements" - meaning an upgrade of existing state and county roads - but such improvements alone will not accommodate the corridor's future transportation needs, the study said.

The public commentary period is set to end May 31. The North Central Texas Council of Governments plans to host continued meetings on the topic as the study progresses, but the date and time of the next event have not been announced.

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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