Mark Haslett: This evening in Lavon, the North Central Texas Council of Governments will host another forum as part of the ongoing public process concerning the future of transportation in what has been called the Blacklands Corridor. The area under study includes everything between Greenville and Garland. Tonight’s event will mark the return of a private entity that had been on the sidelines for over a year. In early 2013, Texas Turnpike Corp. proposed a toll road from Greenville to Lavon along the old railroad right-of-way that’s currently unused. The Council of Governments put the brake on that idea, saying hold on, any new developments must be part of a regional plan and that plan must follow a study and public input process. That study began this year, and early on, the railroad corridor was nixed as a location for a new road. Among other concerns, the path was just too narrow. However, as the study now nears its conclusion, early indicators suggest the Council is indeed favoring a toll facility from Greenville to Lavon along a different path. The Council’s Tom Shelton says that Texas Turnpike Corp. will have a presentation for the public tonight.
Shelton: One of our recommendations is that we do believe because of the significant growth in eastern Collin County, eastern Dallas County and all of Hunt County, that we do believe that a new freeway-capacity facility is warranted to address the population and travel demand and job growth in that part of our region. And we do believe because of the lack of both state funding and federal funding to meet our region’s needs, that more than likely it would seem appropriate that the new type of facility will actually be a toll road facility in order to properly finance the project. So as a result of that, Texas Turnpike Corp. now has become re-engaged and has expressed an interest to move forward in the next phases of that new facility toll road project.
The limits of that will be from the existing President George Bush Turnpike running northeasterly in a direction toward the City of Greenville and will connect up with Interstate Highway 30 on the west side of Greenville. At our public meeting on Thursday night, there will be two halves to the public meeting. First, the Council of Governments staff will present our final recommendations of our feasibility study and then we will introduce to the public this private-sector entity, i.e., Texas Turnpike Corp., that will make their first presentation to the public on ideas that they have come up with initially about potential routes that such a toll road facility might lay out between those limits I described.
Haslett: Several routes have been identified as possible paths, but much remains unclear. In the west, the road could go either parallel to Highway 78 or cross over the north end of Lake Ray Hubbard. It seems almost certain that the toll road would run between Royse City and Nevada. In Hunt County, the route could be either north or south of the Caddo Mills airport. The location of the connection to Greenville is also undetermined. Shelton acknowledges that the Dallas area has become somewhat infamous for toll facilities, and that there’s an increasing fatigue among motorists who are tired of having to pay to drive. But he says that lacking adequate funding, the options are toll roads or nothing.
Shelton:Many of our elected officials in the region have begun expressing what I would call concern over a growing number of toll facilities in our region. The reality is that decisions have been made by our state and federal elected officials to not increase revenues for transportation. That’s just a fact. Transportation is funded predominantly by both a state and federal tax on gasoline and neither one of those have been adjusted since 1992. So as cars have become more efficient, those tax dollars are just no longer there to pay for our needs in transportation. So our elected officials are really faced with a real significant challenge - if we don’t have increased revenue, but we need to address the challenges with the growth in our region, we then feel it’s important to continue to focus on improving our transportation network - all modes of transportation.