Thursday, June 28, 2007

"What would have been better... is if the state paid for it themselves. "

Collin County leaders ‘pleased’ with decision

June 28, 2007

By Danny Gallagher,
McKinney Courier-Gazette
Copyright 2007

Several area city and county leaders said they are encouraged that the Texas Transportation Commission listened when they said who they wanted to build State Highway 121 toll lanes.

“It’s gratifying that the state is listening to the local leaders, because we (the Regional Transportation Council) had a pretty good margin of votes in choosing the North Texas Tollway Authority, 27-10, and the state told us all along they would put a big reliance on what the region had said,” said Joe Jaynes, Collin County Precinct 3 commissioner and recently appointed RTC member. “The region prefers the NTTA and I’m glad the state kept their word.”

The TTC voted 4-1 on Thursday in favor of the NTTA’s proposal over that of Cintra.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Jerry Hoagland also said he is pleased with the ruling, but not the outcome.

“I’m very pleased that they picked NTTA over Cintra because I think that’s a better deal for the citizens of Collin County,” Hoagland said. “However, I think what’s even better than or would have been better than that is if the state paid for it themselves. The state passed a $152 billion budget after this most recent session, and this project is about $6 billion total, and I believe that $6 billion should have been paid for by the state or we wouldn’t have had this conversation in the first place about Cintra or NTTA.”

Frisco City Manager George Purefoy, who flew to Austin to attend the TTC meeting, said he agrees with the ruling, but he’s also concerned about certain financial aspects of the project on TxDOT’s end.

“The way TxDOT has written the request for proposal, it doesn’t follow the business terms the RTC adopted,” Purefoy said. “The inflation factor is almost twice what the RTC adopted, and then also the way they have it written…it can go up 30 percent on tolls during the six peak hours of traffic from 6-9 a.m. and then 4-7 p.m.

“Assuming that those two things are changed, then I think our city council will be OK with it,” Purefoy said. “Those are two big factors, because when you start on the inflation factor and you start multiplying an extra 1 or 2 percent that’s spread out every year over 50 years, it makes a significant difference in the toll rate.”

Now that the NTTA has the project, the TTC has given NTTA 60 days to meet the financial terms of the project with the Regional Transportation Council. When that is done, they have an additional 45 days to close the agreement. If the deadlines are not met, the project reverts back to Cintra.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Phyllis Cole said TTC chair Ric Williamson extended the deadline from 30 to 60 days and she feels the extra time is worth the wait.

“It was pretty much what NTTA asked for, and I think although sometimes there is a little bit of discussion about the length and the project dragging out, in my opinion, that’s not true,” Cole said. “For us to have a good viable project, it’s worth waiting an extra 90 days or whatever to be sure everything is done correctly and there’s no problems down the line.”

Hoagland said he’s not sure if 60 days is enough time.

“That may be asking them to do a whole lot in the 60 days, and it may not be,” Hoagland said. “I don’t know if the NTTA already has a financier…but it’s going to put a strain on them to get that accomplished in a short period of time. It may be a ploy by the state to say, ‘Well you couldn’t perform it, so we’ll give it to Cintra.’”

Jaynes said he’s just glad the wheels are finally turning to get the road built.

“NTTA is a good choice, so let’s just get the road built,” Jaynes said.

Contact Danny Gallagher at dgallagher@acnpapers.

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