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When Ed Housewright of the Dallas Morning News published his story, "Collin, Denton officials debate path of future Dallas North Tollway extension" on the conflict between Collin and Denton Counties over the DNT extension, my first reaction was, "Good Lord, it's about time someone at the DMN noticed!". After all, it was back last spring when the Collin County commissioners rescinded their agreement with Denton County and began taking the first steps to creating the Collin County Toll Road Authority.
Now after Senator Carona filed a bill to force Collin County to submit to NTTA and after Keith Self got a tongue lashing from Senators Carona and Watson over the County's high handed actions, NOW the Dallas News catches on.
So it would appear that now NTTA wants to float an idea that is a win-win for both counties.
Why not have two Dallas North Tollways?, says NTTA. We'll take one up northwest through Denton County to I-35 and the other northeast through Collin County to US-75. Of course, they say, this "Y" is phase 4 of the DNT extension, and is at least 10 years away from beginning construction, so we have a lot of time to work out the details with you.
The only problem is what is Collin County to do with the Outer Loop? Last month, the county commissioners approved spending over $3 million to begin engineering on Phase 3 of their portion of this new toll road.
Phase 3 of the Outer Loop connects the Dallas North Tollway to US-75 only 3 miles south of the proposed "Y". Does the region need 2 tollways between Proper and Celina that make a connection to I35 and US-75? I doubt it.
Should Collin County wait 10 years to find out? Or should they gamble with 3 million dollars?
Delaying the engineering, will delay the project and make it much more expensive. But building the "Y" puts the entire regional Outer Loop in jeopardy with two toll roads competing for the same traffic.
Is it more likely that NTTA is playing a game with our intrepid commissioners?
One glance at a map tells the story. The "Y" is a direct threat to the regional Outer Loop. (I've sketched in the green "Y" and orange Outer Loop. The Dallas North Tollway phase 4 extension is the red dashed line.)
There is no reason to have two toll roads only three miles apart that make the same connections. There just isn't enough traffic to Oklahoma to justify both.
NTTA's Chairman, Paul Wageman told the commissioners a few weeks ago that the Outer Loop is not a Collin County exclusive. It is a regional highway covering 6 counties and possibly connecting to the Trans Texas Corridor. It is much bigger than Collin County - no matter how important it is to our county, it has regional and statewide significance.
This trial balloon "Y" proposal seems designed to reinforce that lesson on the country boys in McKinney.
Collin, Denton officials debate path of future Dallas North Tollway extension
Monday, March 23, 2009
By ED HOUSEWRIGHT / The Dallas Morning News
A simple line on a map could translate into billions of dollars for either Collin County or Denton County.
That line represents a proposed extension of the Dallas North Tollway, and the adjacent counties are squabbling over the alignment because of the economic bonanza it could bring as homes and businesses spring up around it.
Collin and Denton county officials had agreed the 7-mile stretch should be on the counties' common border to let each share in the riches.
But now Collin County commissioners insist on an alignment entirely within their county.
"This thing is like pure gold as far as the tax base is concerned," Collin County Commissioner Jerry Hoagland said. "Office, retail and so forth will spring up when it hits the ground."
Denton County officials accuse Collin commissioners of reneging on a written resolution in 2005 to share the extension right of way.
"I was very disappointed," Denton County Commissioner Andy Eads said. "Everyone represents their own jurisdiction, but we also have to wear the hat of regionalism."
The North Texas Tollway Authority alone will decide the path of the expansion, from FM428 in northern Collin County to its border with Grayson County.
Despite the agreement between Collin and Denton counties, the agency has never committed to build the extension along their boundary, said Paul Wageman, NTTA board chairman.
An alignment decision is more than a year away, he said. Construction probably wouldn't be complete for more than a decade.
"We're not going to make a political decision," said Wageman, a Collin County appointee to the board. "We're going to make the right decision for the agency."
The tollway authority recently proposed an extension alternative that could please both counties.
Instead of a single roadway northward, the agency is considering a branch that would veer northwest across Denton County and another northeast into Collin County.
"It's the best of both worlds," Collin County Commissioner Joe Jaynes said.
If the NTTA board decided on the so-called Y alignment, the Collin County branch probably would be built first because it's growing faster than Denton County, Wageman said.
Each leg would connect with another major thoroughfare.
The Collin County extension would run into U.S. 75, while the Denton County arm would meet Interstate 35, Wageman said.
"It gets both counties what they ultimately want, which is greater access into the metroplex and all the development that goes along those roadways," he said.
Dave Denison, a Denton County appointee to the NTTA board, said he's willing to consider the split extensions.
"It's got some interesting possibilities," he said. "But it probably hasn't been studied enough yet to really draw a conclusion."
However, he said he still likes the alignment that would straddle the boundary of Collin and Denton counties. Mr. Denison said he's angry that Collin County commissioners voted last year to rescind the 2005 agreement.
"The alignment was fair for both counties," he said. "Nobody likes to have a partner renege on them."
Collin County commissioners also riled NTTA board members recently by creating a separate county toll road authority.
The new body hasn't taken any action yet. But commissioners want the option to operate county toll roads and keep the fares.
Now, Collin County partners with Denton, Dallas and Tarrant counties in the North Texas Tollway Authority.
Fares collected on the Dallas North Tollway, Bush Turnpike and other roads are used for improvements throughout the four counties.
But the NTTA has so many projects under way it won't be able to build toll roads fast enough in booming Collin County, officials say.
"We can't wait for the NTTA," Hoagland said. "We've got to take matters into our own hands."
Wageman, however, said Collin County should focus its energies on supporting the NTTA and its regional approach.
"They are a one-quarter owner of our agency," he said. "We have a tremendous investment in Collin County."
Jerry Hoagland was at the forefront in the formation of the Collin County Toll Road Authority, and the subsequent attempt to hijack the Dallas North Tollway Extension.
He and the commissioners court wanted to grab as much possible commercial development from the new toll way. They were afraid that Denton County was going to get more than its fair share, so they tried to take it all.
Their strategy backfired.
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