The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

March 18, 2014

Blacklands Corridor meeting Thursday

By BRAD KELLAR
Herald-Banner Staff

GREENVILLE — State transportation officials will be in Greenville this week, receiving input from area residents about what they believe should be done to address future transportation issues in the region.

The Regional Transportation Council of the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) has scheduled a public meeting Thursday at the Fletcher Warren Civic Center, 5501 South Business Highway 69. An open house is set to begin at 5:30 p.m., with the presentation and public comments to start at 6 p.m., followed by another open house at 7 p.m.

The purpose of the session is to present the latest information concerning the Blacklands Corridor Feasibility Study, which will evaluate the need for a new transportation facility along or near the Northeast Texas Rural Rail Transportation District (NETEX) right-of-way from Interstate 30 in Hunt County to the President George Bush Turnpike in Dallas County.

Last month the agency announced a preliminary analysis had revealed the right-of-way through Caddo Mills, Josephine and Nevada would not be suitable for the construction of a proposed new roadway. The NCTCOG has not ruled out other potential purposes for the land, including a commuter rail line or a bicycle/pedestrian trail.

The Public Werks company had proposed building a toll road between Greenville and Lavon in Collin County, to help ease traffic congestion in the future. The idea had drawn considerable opposition from residents who lived along the NETEX right of way.

Some of the other recommendations under consideration by the agency include improvements at bottlenecks along Interstate 30, and an expansive widening of the interstate throughout the region, which would include freeway lanes, tolled express lanes and the construction of continuous frontage roads. The NCTCOG is also considering the construction of a new highway/freeway/tollway in the region, which would connect with the Collin County Loop, State Highway 78 and other planned or existing roads.

But none of the options are close to being formally considered, said Amanda Wilson, Public Involvement Manager with the NCTCOG.

“Right now we are not talking about the potential for funding,” Wilson said, noting Thursday’s meeting is designed to learn what residents in the area want to see. “We are looking at needs and how to meet those needs.”

One estimate of traffic growth revealed that 160,000 people currently travel along the four major highways in the Blacklands Corridor — Interstate 30, U.S. Highway 380 and State Highways 66 and 78 — each day. By 2035, that number is expected to grow 85 percent, to 312,000 drivers, although the present plans only call for four new lanes to be added to the highways — a 25 percent increase — during the same time frame.