Friday, February 13, 2009

TTC aka 'Innovative Connectivity Texas Vision 2009' zeros in on Rockwall County

Trans Texas Corridor 'demise' does not stop Outer Loop


Leslie Gibson
Rockwall County Herald-Banner
Copyright 2009

While the Trans Texas Corridor may be dead, the Regional Outer Loop is alive and well.

It still is expected to run north and south between Royse City and Fate, on its way through Rockwall County and the eight other counties ringing the Metroplex. That Rockwall County path also puts it running through 1,237 acres being planned for a water control and improvement district within the ETJ of McLendon-Chisholm.

Never was its ultimate fate tied to the Trans Texas Corridor, a state project. This was explained to the Rockwall County Road Consortium Feb. 4 by the North Central Texas Council of Governments (COG) lead program manager of the Outer Loop, Jeff Neal.

COG has worked for two years with counties and cities to identify the corridor for the Regional Outer Loop/Rail Bypass.

Consensus for one entire corridor for the Outer Loop is expected by the end of September, he said.

That will be followed by a three-to-four-year process of determining the exact location of the Outer Loop, through preparation of a formal Environmental Impact Statement, which must ultimately be approved by the Federal Highway Administration.

Rockwall County commissioners, through agreement of city councils and county commissioners, selected its preferred route of the loop through the county.

The entire Outer Loop corridor to be identified by September 2009 is expected to be one-half to one mile wide, with the facility itself ranging from 450 to 600 feet wide, either within or closely adjacent to the preferred corridor.

The Outer Loop will be a toll road. Public funds will not fund the main lanes. However, public funds may pay for the right of way and select frontage road segments.

Polster and Neal both spoke at the Rockwall County Road Consortium Feb. 4.

COG has developed ways to enable appropriate entities to get right of way and to form public and private partnerships, and has created ability for new lanes to be toll roads.

“This is already a process we’ve been through,” Neal said. “We will continue that process like we have.”

That approach is now being adopted by the state in Innovative Connectivity Texas Vision 2009, noted the county’s road consultant, John Polster, of ITS. Innovative Connectivity is the replacement for the single project approach of Trans Texas Corridor, according to the TxDOT Web site.

“The Trans-Texas Corridor, as a single project concept, is not the choice of Texans,” was stated in a letter on the Texas Department of Transportation Web site “Keep Texas Moving.” The letter added, “Projects that had been developed under the heading of the Trans-Texas Corridor will now become a series of individual projects.”

However, Neal stressed in an interview after the consortium, that the Outer Loop has already been underway.

Indeed, the Collin County commissioners have “been very aggressive” he said.

Collin County has hired several firms to do schematic preparation for several segments, Neal said. Within that county’s boundaries, the route will be identified as the Collin County Outer Loop, which allows them to fund it on their own. “Their loop will stop inside their lines, to be an internal loop,” Neal said. The Outer Loop will tie into to it.

“They are trying to create a county toll authority,” said Polster.

As far as the entire Outer Loop, it is expected that by 2013 the environmental clearances could be obtained. One section of the Outer Loop between Interstate 20 in Mesquite and U.S. Highway 287 in Midlothian, identified as the Loop 9 Southeast Project, may receive environmental clearance from the Federal Highway Administration as soon as December 2009.

“We will see a lot of activity on the Regional Outer Loop in the next few months,” Neal said, including public meetings.

Fate mayor Bill Broderick asked about the movement to push the Outer Loop beyond the Royse City Fate path, but that is not occurring, Neal said.

Though Rockwall County has its Outer Loop path designated, it has no power to prevent any development on the path. “It’s just a line on a map to a developer,” said Rockwall County Road Consortium chairman, David Magness.

© 2009 Rockwall County Herald-Banner:

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