Friday, March 10, 2006

"It would be nice if local elected officials knew something.”

Trans-Texas Corridor could cut through Collin County

March 10, 2006

By Amy Morenz
McKinney Courier-Gazette
Copyright 2006

Courtesy North Central Texas Council of Governments Regional planners are considering the President George Bush Turnpike, the Dallas North Tollway and Collin County’s proposed Outer Loop between U.S. 75 and the Rockwall County line as potential Trans-Texas Corridor options.

Regional planners are considering three Collin County routes as options for the state's proposed Trans-Texas Corridor, which would link Mexico to the Oklahoma border.

The President George Bush Turnpike, Dallas North Tollway and the proposed Collin County Outer Loop are included on a Trans-Texas Corridor study conducted by the North Central Texas Council of Governments. The agency manages the Regional Transportation Council, which allocates federal transportation funds.

The agency developed maps for potential auto, freight and rail traffic. The state will narrow study options for the corridor's future in the next few weeks.

No decisions on narrowing potential paths for the 600-mile corridor from Laredo to the Rio Grande Valley have been made, said Gaby Garcia of the Texas Department of Transportation's Keep Texas Moving program. Officials expect to narrow the potential corridors from the current 50- to 60-mile path to 10 miles wide, she said.

The final route for the state's 50-year plan won't be determined until 2007. The state has been conducting public hearings for two years to determine Trans-Texas Corridor options.

“Suggesting a route suggests an entirely different stage of the game,” Garcia said. “Everybody wants to know how it will connect and will it connect at all.”

The Trans-Texas Corridor planners envision separate toll lanes for passenger vehicles and large trucks, plus freight railways and high-speed commuter railways routes. Planners have to determine how to minimize right-of way needs for the project, the state's project Web site states. The Trans-Texas Corridor should use existing infrastructure by aligning with existing highways, railways and utility corridors, it adds.

“Local officials should help determine how communities access the Trans-Texas Corridor,” it says.

Regional planners are considering ways to connect the Trans-Texas Corridor through the middle of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including the Dallas North Tollway and the Bush Turnpike, both of which are controlled by the North Texas Tollway Authority, said NTTA spokeswoman Donna Huerta. The NTTA is referring all questions to the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

NCTCOG developed ideas based on using the current tollway system, said Greg Royster, its principal transportation engineer. It plans are based on “near-term” solutions for auto traffic for the next 10 to 15 years The two NTTA routes would serve auto traffic that already exists, he said.

No figures have been developed on the amount of additional traffic the NTTA's routes would carry or required changes to the two options, he said.

“The original route didn't work for the region because it's investment was way outside and involved a costly transportation infrastructure,” Royster said. “We want to bring traffic on existing and planned facilities.”

Collin County's proposed Outer Loop is being considered by regional planners to serve long-term needs over 50 years, the Trans-Texas Corridor's. Collin County's proposed Outer Loop would link North Central Expressway to Rockwall County.

County commissioners weren't aware of that idea, said Commissioner Joe Jaynes. He was unaware regional planners were considering NTTA's two routes in Collin County for potential Trans-Texas corridor use.

“They have been talking about an area 1,400 feet wide, I just don't see how that can happen,” He said. “I heard rumors and got an e-mail from one constituent, but that doesn't make sense. It would be nice if local elected officials knew something.”

Long-time toll road opponent Sharon Overall continues to question the idea of toll roads. Overall campaigned against using tolls to finance construction of State Highway 121 main lanes.

“Tollways are discriminatory to poor and middle class people. They have segregated Plano by income,” she said. “Poor people can not afford to live on the west side of town. They all live along U.S. 75. When I was sending out e-mails fighting SH 121 to become a toll road, one person replied that it would make our property values go up. Another was more blunt: He said that it would keep the riff-raff out. Does this sound like economic justice? This sounds like class warfare.”

County commissioners will conduct a public hearing on proposed Outer Loop alignments at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Collin County Courthouse, 210 S. McDonald in McKinney.

Contact staff writer Amy Morenz at 972-398-4263 or

© 2006 McKinney Courier-Gazette