Proposed toll road path

Only a handful of people attended a Tuesday morning meeting in Greenville, concerning a proposed toll road.

But those who were on hand made it clear they were not in favor of the “Northeast Gateway” project,

Dr. Linda Knight and Sandra Ritzman came all the way from their homes just outside of the Wylie city limits, noting the road would connect to the President George Bush Turnpike practically in their back yards.

Knight said the plan would run right next to a “nature sanctuary” she has established on her property and disputed claims the road would be needed to alleviate traffic congestion.

“This is not traffic,” Knight said, noting she moved to the area to get away from traffic jams in the Houston area.

Knight argued the road would instead make the situation worse for the region.

“It is not going to be big time congestion if you don’t bring it to us,” she said. “Fix (Interstate) 30. It’s a road.”

The morning session was one of two scheduled at the Hampton Inn in Greenville Tuesday, including an evening meeting, concerning the Northeast Gateway.

Instead of conducting sessions in larger locations, attended by hundreds of people, officials with the Texas Turnpike Corporation have indicated they would host a series of informal meetings, to allow property owners to ask additional questions about the controversial plan to build a 27-mile toll road between Garland and Greenville. Additional meetings concerning the toll road are scheduled at the Holiday Inn Express, 1001 Pullen Street in Royse City from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. today, and at the Comfort Suites , 8701 East Interstate 30 in Rowlett, from a.m. to 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Thursday.

The Northeast Gateway project came out of the former “Blacklands Corridor” proposal, and narrows the area under consideration for the toll road, moving it south of the earlier plans. The project no longer involves the abandoned NETEX railroad right-of-way, and the end points of the toll road have changed, but there is still no confirmed route for the road.

Information presented at Tuesday’s meeting indicated the Texas Turnpike Corporation is still considering multiple routes across four segments; from FM 1570 to State Highway 66, from State Highway 66 to the proposed Collin County Outer Loop project; from the Collin County Outer Loop to State Highway 205 and from State Highway 205 to the President George Bush Turnpike.

Ken Hughes, an engineer with the Hewitt Zollars who is working on the project, said additional study is needed to determine which will be the final route chosen.

“Right now, I’d want to lean to the one with the least residential displacements,” Hughes said, noting there are other issues to consider — from environmental impacts, to the number of bridges and overpasses needed, to whether any cemeteries would be disrupted.

“Right now there are no favorites,” Hughes said. “The one I give you today is not the one I might give you tomorrow. We’re just trying to narrow down as to where all those issues are.”

James Evans, a member of the Greenville City Council, was also on hand for the meeting and said the proposal the council voted in favor of last year was not the one which was revealed Tuesday and asked if it is possible for the Texas Turnpike Corporation to make another presentation to the council at a future date.

The company’s Steven McCullough denied speculation that if the toll road is built, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) would no longer maintain or expand portions of Interstate 30, U.S. Highway 380 or State Highway 66. McCullough said the status of the toll road has no bearing on other TxDOT projects in the region.

“We do not have a non-compete,” McCullough said of a clause rumored to be part of the overall project. “We are not looking for a non-compete.”

And McCullough also addressed reports the company’s projections of usage of the toll road had been greatly exaggerated. He said if only half as many people use the road as the company has estimated, the revenue generated would easily cover the debt which would be issued for the project.

The information was not enough to convince Knight the road was necessary.

“I have no intention of giving up my land, or giving up the environment around my land,” she said.

McCullough said the road was designed to address not only traffic needs now, but to compensate for a rapidly growing population across the region.

“If we don’t do it now, we are going to leave it for our children and our grandchildren to fix our problems,’ McCullough explained.

“At least they will be able to hear the birds until then,” Ritzman replied.

McCullough continued to stress the toll road was being created to assist future commuters, as well as current drivers.

“There will be thousands of people who will have the opportunity to use it, millions of people who will have the opportunity to use this, over 50 years,” McCullough said. “This is not a next year project.”

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