Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Loop 9 continues as segment of renamed Trans-Texas Corridor

Trans Texas Corridor as such is gone

Regional segments, such as Loop 9, part of new 'vision'

Innovative connectivity plan


Leslie Gibson
Rockwall County Herald-Banner
Copyright 2009

Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has no intention of developing the Trans Texas Corridor TTC, said agency spokesperson Chris Lippincott, on Wednesday.

He confirmed what was said by transportation planners in the Aug. 26 Rockwall County Road Consortium meeting, that the TTC is almost gone. Instead, local input will be key to developing transportation segments serving regional needs, through a new plan, Innovative Connectivity in Texas/Vision 2009.

The vision was unveiled in January at the fourth annual Texas Transportation Forum, in which TxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz outlined new plans for corridor width, transportation mode, use of existing facilities, timelines, and level of involvement of local officials and citizens in the planning.

“Texans have spoken, and we’ve been listening,” said Saenz. “I believe this transformed vision for the TTC and other major corridor development goes a long way toward addressing the concerns we’ve heard over the past several years.”

Focus will be on segments closer to 600 feet wide, rather than the 1,000 plus of TTC, and be named per the highway numbers originally associated with each segment, such as I-69, SH 130 and closer to home, Loop 9.

Loop 9 is proposed to be a 44-mile-long new road running along the southern edge of Dallas County, dropping into Ellis County, and turning north through the western edge of Kaufman County and back east into Dallas County in order to connect Interstate 20 and US 287, as well as major cross streets. It was first conceived in the 1950s. “It may be developed by the private sector, it may end up as a toll road because of lack of resources,” Lippincott said.

It is a TxDOT project.

It’s east-west portion would also tie into the Outer Loop, a ring of connected roadways around the Metroplex, being coordinated by North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG).

At the Kaufman/Dallas County border, where Loop 9 heads northwest, the Outer Loop would break off and head northeast into Rockwall County if Rockwall County’s preferred Outer Loop alignment is ultimately chosen, or into Hunt County.

“North Central Texas COG is as sophisticated an agency of this type as there is in this state,” Lippincott said in the phone interview. “The means it has are vast,” he said, noting NCTCOG, as the other metropolitan planning areas in the state, receive some federal funding.

When told that some citizens expressed concern at the Consortium meeting that the Outer Loop is a Trans Texas Corridor in disguise, he said, “I don’t want to minimize questions. They (the citizens who are concerned) should stay involved.”

“Every time we build a road, we’ve got to listen and work with the people,” he said.

Right of way can not be purchased until there is money, and not until an environmental impact statement is approved. A draft environmental impact statement for Loop 9 is due in late 2009.

“At some point we will have to acquire the land if we build Loop 9,” Lippincott said. On that subject, he said roads “mean different things to different people. “If you’ve got a McDonalds or a 7/11, Loop 9 could be the greatest thing that could happen. If you’ve got a retirement home, you’ll have a different view,” he said.

TxDOT is expected to hold a public hearing on Loop 9 in the fall; the date is yet to be announced.

Though TTC is essentially gone, “what remains is the challenge created by traffic across our state,” Lippincott said, noting that Texas grows by 1,000 people a day. To that end, TxDOT is still holding public meetings on the 600 mile I-69 project.

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