Thursday, August 14, 2008

Small town paper claims Dallas 'Outer Loop' will not be a part of the Trans-Texas Corridor

Erby Cambell Interchange right-of-way being secured; County in good position for Outer Loop selection

August 14, 2008

By Leslie Gibson
Royse City Herald-Banner
Copyright 2008

Slowly but surely, and not visible to the general public, the building blocks of state road construction in Rockwall County are being laid every day.

Royse City is doing “yeoman’s work” in securing right of way for the interchange of Hickory Hill, or Erby Cambell Blvd. with Interstate 30, according to the county’s transportation consultant, John Polster.

Updates on the interchange, on the path of the planned outer loop, and the county’s fight for federal transportation dollars were discussed in the July 23 meeting of the Rockwall County Road Consortium, which consists of members of all participating cities and the county, and Paul Williams of the Dallas office of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).

Representing Royse City this year are former councilmember Don Becknell, and city manager Karen Phillipi. They, and the council members and mayors of other Rockwall County cities, and commissioners and the county judge, meet to cooperate on each other’s road needs.

Jeff Neal of the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), who always participates in the meetings, said that kind of cooperation is unique in the 16-county membership of NCTCOG.

Concerning Erby Cambell’s interchange with I-30, it was learned that utility relocation should be completed in November, if all of the right of way is secured. Project “letting”, or beginning, should be in May 2009, and last for 24 months. I-30 will go over Erby Cambell.
Fighting for federal money

Through an arm of NCTCOG, the Regional Transportation Council (RTC), federal money is allocated throughout the region, so Rockwall County officials want their own seat on the council, as opposed to sharing a seat as it does now.

But the large established Metroplex cities which hold the 40 seats (of which six belong to the City of Dallas), “don’t want to let go,” Polster said.

RTC by-laws chairman, and NCTCOG transportation director, Michael Morris, visited with the consortium several months ago, and was regaled with the county’s arguments for a seat, and for federal dollars.

Morris “punted” recently, though, Polster said, when he asked Morris about seats for Rockwall and small counties. The answer was that the by-laws committee considers that topic. The by-laws committee is to meet Aug. 21.

County Judge Chris Florance reported that he met with an aide of U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison on the subject.

“They are very much aware that everybody east is flipping out because nothing is happening,” he said, speaking frankly with the group, which meets in a relaxed setting of the third floor of the historical courthouse each fourth Wednesday evening of the month.

“Our congestion is not accurately portrayed in their literature,” Florance added. “They have rated us on their maps as light congestion. It is like ‘East’ is a foreign language to them (RTC).”

Polster said, “The further you get out from the central business district, you get less precise on measurement.” Neal agreed.

Outer Loop

Consortium cooperation should give Rockwall County the edge when it comes to deciding the final route of the planned Regional Outer Loop System, according to Neal.

The Outer Loop is not the Trans Texas corridor. It is NCTCOG’s regional answer to ringing the Metroplex with a road and rail line, based on demographics and traffic counts projected through 2030.

Out of the one-half-mile-wide corridor being studied, ultimately, a 400 to 600 feet wide road will be placed, probably running between Royse City and Fate. However, a Hunt County route has been proposed as a required alternative, Neal said. TxDOT will make the final decision.

“Rockwall has the substantial advantage in this case,” Neal told the consortium July 23. “This corridor has been through the public involvement process,” he said.

Plusses in Rockwall County’s favor are that the consortium and each member city, have approved the Rockwall County route, and it joins the Collin County route.

“Take this message back to the RTC,” Florance told Neal, “that we’ve gone one county out here working together.” His comment came after members asked if Kaufman County officials had proposed a route through their county.

“They’ve been slow to come to the table,” Neal said. “They have kicked off a thoroughfare plan process.” He said he believes NCTCOG will have a Kaufman route defined before the county does. The outer loop in Kaufman may actually “multiplex with I-20” to get to Loop 9,” Neal said. Loop 9 is a southern segment of the outer loop of 44 miles though Dallas, Ellis, and Kaufman Counties between I-20 in Mesquite and US 287 in far western Ellis County.

Plans now do not include the Outer Loop following Farm to Market 548 to Forney, Neal said in response to a question from Mayor Michael Donegan of McLendon-Chisholm.

The Outer Loop will consist of three general purpose toll lanes going in each direction, flanked by discontinuous three-lane frontage roads in each direction. A wide median will separate the two directions of lanes. The median may convert to commuter rail or dedicated truck lanes, as need arises, Neal explained after the meeting.

© 2008 Royse City Herlad

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