Friday, April 01, 2005

Quid Pro Toll: North Texas leaders seek payback from TxDOT for supporting TTC

Area leaders want route changed

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2005

AUSTIN--North Texas leaders want a reward for their support of the Trans -Texas Corridor toll-road plan, which is unpopular in other parts of the state.

About 100 Dallas-Fort Worth officials traveled to Austin on Thursday to ask the Texas Transportation Commission to build its network of Trans -Texas Corridor toll roads and high-speed rail lines through the Metroplex, rather than around it.

This year, the state signed a contract with Cintra-Zachry, a private consortium that has agreed to build the first leg of the Trans -Texas Corridor from North Texas to San Antonio in exchange for the right to collect tolls for 50 years.

According to the concept plan, the Trans -Texas Corridor is supposed to bypass populated areas. For the Metroplex, the idea would be to divert trucks and trains onto a new route that swings around the southeast side of Dallas.

Instead of fighting that plan, regional transportation leaders decided to pledge public support for it -- while drawing up a behind-the-scenes counterproposal showing where they think the roads ought to go.

Metroplex leaders believe the corridor plan would be much better for the North Texas economy if it stayed as close as possible to the Interstate 35 corridor , the area's traditional north-south trade route.

"We think we have invested a lot of sweat equity, especially on the toll roads, while a lot of the state has been giving them a hard time," Michael Morris, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, said after the meeting. "So, reward us."

Morris said he met privately Wednesday night with officials from Cintra-Zachry, who promised to take a close look at the Metroplex's proposal and keep Dallas-Fort Worth leaders involved in the process.

The North Texas group, known as Partners in Mobility, meets annually with the commission, which oversees the Texas Department of Transportation.

Commissioner Robert Nichols of Jacksonville said he couldn't promise that Metroplex officials would get what they want. But, he said, "It is such a pleasure to hear from a group that is not just coming with their hands out looking for money, but with a plan."

Regional leaders spent months negotiating a position on the Trans -Texas Corridor that would be acceptable to Fort Worth, Dallas and dozens of other cities in a nine-county area.

"We are excited about the momentum we feel," Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief told the commission. "I'm excited we're not dealing with big-city versus small-city issues that often become turf wars. We have gotten past that."


North Texas proposal

* A high-speed passenger rail line that would run along Texas 360 and stop at the south end of Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, making it possible for an air traveler to transfer to an Austin-bound train.

* An east-west toll road south of Interstate 20.

* Freight rail lines going around the west end of Fort Worth and south end of Dallas, making it possible for railroads to abandon inner-city freight lines.

* An extra $742 million in strategic highway funds over the next 10 years to ensure that freeway projects get built on time, including Airport Freeway, Interstate 30, Interstate 35W north of downtown Fort Worth and the Texas 114/121 Grapevine funnel.

SOURCE: North Central Texas Council of Governments

ONLINE: Texas Transportation Commission, Partners in Mobility, Gordon Dickson, (817) 685-3816 -eoptag-

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