Thursday, August 25, 2005

"Yearly individual toll bill could be $780 to $1,170."

Frisco Council adopts 121 toll resolution

8/25/2005

Mike Raye
McKinney Courier-Gazzette
Copyright 2006

The Frisco City Council, believing it was the only fix to a broken system, adopted a resolution calling for local control over the destiny of State Highway 121 as a toll road on Tuesday night.

Collin County commissioners in attendance said they would stand firm with Frisco, Allen, Plano and McKinney in negotiations with the Texas Department of Transportation and rescind its approval of tolls if the state failed to follow the resolution to the letter.

"We urge you to pass this tonight and allow us to get on with negotiations with TxDOT," said Collin County Judge Ron Harris. "We will stand with the four cities if (this resolution) is not adhered to."

Frisco - the originator of the resolution calling for a local consortium of city and county governments to administer SH 121 and its tolls, and maintain local control of revenue generated by the highway - was the last of the group of five to adopt the resolution. It was not without trepidation, however. The measure passed, 4-2, with Council Members Maher Maso and Bob Allen dissenting, the measure passed.

"TxDOT has pushed hard on this because they see 121 as an asset, based on our demographics," Maso said. With the state in control, even possibly farming out the project to private construction firms he said, there was uncertainty over how much it would cost the average commuter to drive from the Dallas North Tollway on the Frisco/Plano border to U.S. 75 in McKinney. The rate per mile could be between 8 and 15 cents per mile, translating into a yearly individual toll bill between $780 and $1,170.

"In an ideal world this council would not be supporting tolls," said Council Member Tony Felker. "This is an imperfect world and systems are broken. The state came to us and said we need to find another way to raise the money. We have to get (this road) built."

County Commissioner Jack Hatchell - a former chair of the Regional Transportation Council, a 40-member board made up of representatives of local governments of 16 North Central Texas counties - said, ultimately, the RTC has the authority to approve or deny toll roads in the region. Once the resolution was approved by all five entities, it would be submitted to the state for approval, after which the RTC would make the tollway designation.

"The RTC has to designate it as a toll road in its regional transportation mobility plan for it to be tolled," he explained. "If (the RTC) can't get agreement from TxDOT, it should not designate 121 as a toll road."

Mayor Mike Simpson said area traffic was a problem that will only get worse, and improving 121 was the only way to ease commuter headaches. It was a problem that required immediate attention, he said.

"I hear complaints every single day about transportation," Simpson said. "If we don't toll; if we continue to wait, the people who are complaining now will really be upset in five years. I would rather be crucified now for making a decision than be criticized years from now for having done nothing."

City Manager George Purefoy, the author of the resolution, which came back to Frisco with only minor revisions, said the council's vote pleased him.

"This puts us in the best negotiating position with TxDOT," he said.

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