Thursday, March 01, 2007

Forney roads get built quicker--without tolls

City Of Forney Loans State $ To Avoid Toll Lanes Image

Mar 1, 2007

Jack Fink Reporting
CBS 11 News (Fort Worth)
Copyright 2007

FORNEY It will soon cost you more to drive on North Texas highways. The Texas Department of Transportation says there is no gas tax money and requires that when a state road is widened it must now have some toll lanes to pay for it.

Despite the rule there's one city that's getting expanded roads -- without paying tolls.

Traffic in small North Texas cities isn't as bad as it is on North Central Expressway at the High-5 in Dallas, but their roads are getting congested. With that in mind, one city is paying to expand roads by giving the state a loan and getting paid back.

Four years ago Lisa Gaskill moved from Dallas to Forney. She told CBS 11 News, "I wanted to get out of the, what they call, 'mess of traffic,' and I want to prevent that from coming to Forney."

Gaskill's effort may have come too late. Now the Forney homeowner says she has to take back roads to get to and from work. "If I didn't take the back roads, I live three or four minutes from work and it would take me 15 to 20 minutes."

Now, the City of Forney is doing something about traffic congestion that most other cities could only dream about. The city has plans to widen two bottleneck areas – FM 740 and FM 741. With the new expansions two new interchanges will be created at US 80 and US 548.

Don't look for any toll lanes on the roads – there won't be any. Instead, Forney voters approved a $40 million bond issue last November.

Forney will give TxDOT the money to build the roads and TxDOT will pay the city back over 20 years. Without the bond measure, the city says the road projects would have taken between 12 and 15 years to complete. With the loan the projects will be complete in five or six years.

"So when you put it in a package altogether, we're around 83 to 84-percent total return on our dollars. We feel like that is well worth being able to get these projects that much quicker," said Ron Patterson, Forney City Manager.

While there will be no toll lanes the road isn't free. The bond that voters overwhelmingly approved is raising their property taxes. "On a $100,000 house, that's $100; on a $200,000 house, that's $200 per year," Patterson said.

Forney is the first city in North Texas to do enter into this kind of project. Now McKinney has expressed interest in using the method to speed up the widening of US 75 and the City of Rockwall is also considering the plan.

© 2007 CBS Broadcasting Inc.:

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