Friday, March 16, 2007

"Many in Frisco think that TxDOT just went through the motions of having a public hearing."

SH 121 plans taking their toll

March 16, 2007

By Penny Rathbun
The Mckinney Courier-Gazette
Copyright 2007

The City of Frisco has sent a long and detailed response to Jennifer Halstead of engineering firm HTNB on the plan to turn State Highway 121 into a toll road.

The Texas Department of Transportation held a public hearing last month to hear public comments on the plan to toll SH 121 and the next day announced the developer proposed for the project, Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, a Spanish construction firm.

Many in Frisco, including Frisco City Council members, think that TxDOT just went through the motions of having a public hearing.

Mayor Pro Tem Maher Maso sent a copy of the city's letter to everyone on his Frisco First mailing list and urged residents to make their opinions known on the project to TxDOT before the deadline for public comments, which was March 8.

Even though the deadline has passed he said it is not too late for residents to tell state and federal representatives what they think of the project.

Although Cintra will pay the region $2.8 billion, Maso said that tolls are unfair to those who must drive on SH 121. He said that residents have already paid for roads through gasoline taxes. TxDOT Public Information Officer Mark Ball said that House Bill 3588 gave TxDOT the option to receive unsolicited proposals from companies for road projects. TxDOT received five, three of which were from foreign companies. The two Texas companies that submitted proposals dropped out of the running and Cintra was chosen.

Ball said tolls on SH 121 will average about 14 cents a mile.

Frisco City Manager George Purefoy said he thinks the tolling of State Highway 121 is extremely unfair.

"It seems like everybody is wanting to get money out of this area," Purefoy said. "Who is watching out for the citizens who have to drive on 121?"

He said that State Highway 121 is a diagonal road and there are no parallel roads to it. Those who must use 121 have no alternative. He also said trucks will have to pay more in toll fees. Trucks will likely drive on side roads instead of 121 because of the tolls. That will cause more pollution and tear up the side roads.

"I'm still asking people for public input," Maso said. "I personally will not give up." He asks residents to communicate with state and federal representatives.

The letter the city sent to HTNB can be found on the City of Frisco Web site.

"Someone has to stand up for the citizens, and I am very proud of our City Council for doing that," Purefoy said.

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