The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

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February 6, 2013

Official: Proposed toll road needed

COMMERCE — The Texas Turnpike Corporation (TTC) adopted one of the most well-known names in Hunt County for its proposed toll road.

Officials selected the Blacklands Turnpike as the name of the four-lane toll road between just Greenville and Lavon in Collin County. 

Neal Barker, with the TTC, presented his case for the toll road to the Commerce Lions Club on Tuesday.

Last year, The Texas Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Texas roads a grade of “D”. According to the report, funding for Texas roads dropped from 17th in the nation in 2008, down to 43rd in 2012.

“Texas is behind the eight ball in terms of road and water infrastructure,” he said. “Collin, Hunt and Rockwall counties are projected to grow by 74 percent in the next 20 years. And TxDOT estimates more than $300 billion is needed to fix road infrastructure.”

According to Barker, the proposed road will help north Hunt County, including Commerce, significantly.

“This would mean faster commutes into the Metroplex, colleges and job centers,” he said. “This will also mean economic growth for sustained development.”

Barker admitted that although the toll road will help smaller cities grow, some residents don’t want it built.

Brenda Short, a Hunt County resident who opposes the road and helped create the website notollroad.com, said citizens should be asking their government to be more efficient instead of looking to private corporations.

“Our government (should) use the money that they told us they would toward roads and use the money more efficiently,” she said. “Write your representatives.”

Barker said the road is estimated to cost $300 million and have between 10,000 and 15,000 drivers per day for the first five to 10 years the road is open.

According to Barker, part of the reason why TTC signed a lease agreement with NETEX is to possibly open the rail back up.

“This is a public/private partnership with NETEX in a revenue sharing deal,” he said. “With the funds, perhaps they could rebuild the rail in the future. There are still people dreaming that dream.”

Recently, the City of Commerce signed a non-binding resolution in support of the toll road. Commerce City Manager Marc Clayton said he believes the road would be advantagous to the city.

“The city supports this road,” he said. “I think it would be a definite benefit to not only the city, but also the university.”

There are six steps to building a road Texas, including preliminary design, environmental impact studies and construction. Currently, TTC is in the first stage of planning.

But Barker said they are working aggressively to begin construction sometime in 2014 and and complete the road in 2017.

“We think we can get this done in 48 months,” he said. “That’s what we’re shooting for.”

The road will be built along a portion of the Northeast Texas Rural Rail Transportation District right-of-way.

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