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On Monday, representatives from the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) provided the Collin County commissioners with a regional update on the Outer Loop.
Sometimes it seems that local officials, in their desire to get their Outer Loop constructed, forget that "our" Outer Loop is just a small part of a planned much larger highway (Loop 9) girding the entire DFW Metroplex.
Collin County officials see the Outer Loop as a vitally needed thoroughfare that is essential to the future growth and mobility in the county. Impatient with the progress of the region in getting construction underway, the commissioners formed the Collin County Toll Road Authority to plan and construct the piece of Loop 9 that is in Collin County. The commissioners have already begun acquiring the land and commissioning the engineering studies needed.
In going it alone, the commissioners could be taking big risks. One risk is, "Can the county finance a $4 billion dollar road?". Another is that there is no guarantee that NCTCOG will be willing to co-ordinate the rest of the loop with what might be seen as Collin County's own private toll road.
Both issues were addressed by Jeffery Neal, an engineer with NCTCOG.
Neal spent several minutes reviewing the status of NCTCOG's planning. His briefing made one thing obvious - whereas the county commissioners already know where they want the road (and they have gone so far as to buy and acquire the needed land), NCTCOG is not so sure. NCTCOG is still in the corridor evaluation phase and have not made any final ROW decisions yet, with the exception of a small length of road south east of Dallas.
A glance at the above planning map makes it clear that the regions engineers are considering several alternate routes through Collin County. Neal told the court that NCTCOG was even evaluating the idea of using US 380 as a northern leg of the loop.
However, Neal did tell the court that they should continue along the path they were on. He did not elaborate how the COG and county would reconcile any differences (if there are any) in the final plan NCTCOG will release in December.
Neal also told the commissioners court that COG, through the RTC would release $5 million of SH 121 toll (RTR) dollars to Collin County to help pay for the required environmental assessments needed. The county will have to pay approximately $1.25 million in matching funds for the environmental impact studies.
Neal and the commissioners then engaged in a discussion of how and under what rules the environmental studies would be done. The timeline just for the environmental work if don under local rules is about 18 months.
Neal also told the court that the RTC would release $12 million in RTR funds for the anticipated $15 million in acquisition costs to Phase 1 of the county's Outer Loop project. Phase 1 runs from US 75 to SH 121 just north of Mellisa. The county will probably seek a "Public Private Partnership" with a private company (or possibly NTTA) to construct the main lanes and operate Phase 1 as a toll road. The county would construct the non-tolled service roads, but most likely these would not be built until well after the toll lanes were open and getting revenue.
We have different views on many issues and I give you a hard time sometimes, but I just wanted to let you know I appreciate all the work you do to report stories about Collin County that many of us would not get from other sources.
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