Firm Proposes Building Private Toll Road Near Dallas
by AMAN BATHEJA, The Texas Tribune
Jun 14, 2014 | 1101 views | 2 2 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print


Firm Proposes Building Private Toll Road Near Dallas







In an area northeast of Dallas, a company hopes to build a road unlike any other in Texas. The Texas Turnpike Corporation has proposed a toll road connecting Greenville and Wylie. The Dallas-based firm hopes to buy the land and build and operate the toll road itself. It would be the only entirely private toll road in the state and one of the only such highways in the country.

Local transportation officials are keeping an open mind.

"This would be a private-sector company that would 100 percent finance the project," said Tom Shelton, a senior program manager with the North Central Texas Council of Governments, which coordinates the region’s transportation planning. "As a result, they would take 100 percent of the risk, and they would take 100 percent of the benefits."

The council is studying the toll road proposal as part of its review of transportation options for the Blacklands Corridor, which includes parts of Dallas, Collin, Rockwall and Hunt counties. Thousands of residents from the Greenville area regularly drive the 50 miles to Dallas along Interstate 30.

With the corridor’s population projected to grow significantly over the next 20 years, local officials are hoping to expand the transportation options before congestion worsens. Building a highway would probably be among the recommendations issued later this year, Shelton said, and the Texas Turnpike Corporation’s proposal is drawing interest. 

Any road, however, is years away. A private road would have to be approved by the Texas Department of Transportation and comply with regional regulations, including how to set tolls, Shelton said. In addition, the corporation would need to acquire the land.

Another possible obstacle to the company's plans is the the North Texas Tollway Authority which, under state law, has the right of first refusal on any toll project in the region. The authority has not waived that privilege for the Blacklands Corridor, spokesman Michael Rey said.

“NTTA continues to monitor plans for the proposed project and work with partners in the North Texas region,” Rey said. “At this point, the proposed project has not entered the environmental process, so it is not yet ready for evaluation.” 

The possible route of a Blacklands toll road has already drawn some opposition from rural residents.

However, Neal Barker, an infrastructure project developer who serves on the corporation’s board of directors, said that if allowed to move forward, the company would work to avoid displacing residents and use eminent domain only as a last resort. Requests for comment from those behind a website opposed to the project were not returned.

In the early part of the last century, private toll roads were more common in Texas. Since then, every private toll road has either closed or was acquired by the state or another public entity.

In 1991, state lawmakers repealed a law that allowed for the creation of private toll road corporations and that gave them the power of eminent domain. The Texas Turnpike Corporation, however, started  one day before the repeal of the law was enacted, said Bob Kaufman, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation.

Since then, Barker said, the company has been looking for a Texas road project in which a market opportunity exists but public entities are ill-equipped to address on their own.

Over the past decade, as state and federal transportation funding has fallen short, communities across Texas have increasingly turned to tolling to fund highway projects. The state is now home to more than 20 toll facilities, with another dozen or so in development.

Texas has long encouraged public-private partnerships in transportation projects, most notably the southern leg of State Highway 130 from Austin to Seguin, which opened in 2012. A private consortium designed and built the road and agreed to operate and maintain it for 50 years in exchange for a cut of the toll revenue. The consortium, however, does not own the land.

Neil Gray, director of government affairs for the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, could only think of one other entirely private toll road in the country: the Dulles Greenway in Virginia, which opened in 1995.

“They’re very rare animals,” Gray said. “Typically, the issue with the private toll road is acquiring the land on which to build it.”

Disclosure: The Texas Turnpike Corporation was a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune in 2013. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.









This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2014/06/13/firm-proposes-building-private-toll-road-near-dall/.

Comments
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Razd611
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September 19, 2014
It has nothing to do with commuter traffic. Even if Greenville’s population doubled in the next 20 years to 50K (which now I know why it will), a tollroad cannot by sustained and profitable by a city of 50K. It has to do with huge tracts of land that The Walton Group Inc from Canada has purchased on the south side of Greenville and there are plans to develop thousands of houses there. This toll road is about nothing but the players involved devising a way to get the building materials there and make a profit off of that too. If you go back and listen to the meeting they had with the Rowlett City Council they admit they see it as mainly being truck traffic. Now I know why, and it is just another part of the scheme of them lining their pockets at our expense. Think about all of the noise and particulate pollution that will be for the city of Rowlett. There is so much political cronyism and back scratching going on with this between members of the NCTCOG, Public Werks Inc (TTA) and the Walton Group, that even I can see it.
razd611
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September 10, 2014
Here is just another example of the meetings that are taking place to try and push this abomination upon property owners thru. They are doing this so there is almost no public opposition until it is too late. There is no need for a current tollway in that area. Do not let the wool be pulled over your eyes. Public Werks Inc. / Texas Tollway Coalition / Blackland Tollway / Northeast Corridor Tollroad is doing everything they can to push this thru with the blessing of the North Central Texas Council of Governors. Supposedly funding is already in place and the studies by NCTCOG are going to just be a formality.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

Garland Central Library (Downtown)

North Program Room

625 Austin St

Garland, TX 75040

As well as the rescheduled meeting in Rockwall.

Monday, September 22, 2014 at 6:30pm. It will be held at the Rockwall Performing Arts Center.

1201 T.L. Townsend Drive

Rockwall, Texas 75087

According to the preliminary maps for the Blackland Tollway /Northeast Gateway Corridor Project, this project will run very close if not through my family’s home and property. While we are not huge acreage holders, we do have a home on two acres and have paid taxes to Rockwall County for over 25 years. Therefore I believe we should have a voice in the approval or dismissal of this project. My wife and I have worked too hard to make our home a beautiful place filled with memories to be cherished for years to come, for it to be torn down and turned into a profit center for a private corporation. I implore you all to fight against this project as there is no need for another “for profit tollway” to be built in this area. The only private tollway in Texas failed and went bankrupt. The new tollway outside of Tyler is now being subsidized by millions of tax dollars because of low usage and to lower the cost to truck traffic. All this is doing is allowing TxDot off the hook to use the tax dollars you and I already pay to the State of Texas for improving the infrastructure already in place. Please help those of us in the direct path of this abomination. It is time to say No More Tollways! Even if they succeed in putting this through and fail in the end. The real losers in this will be the ones that paid the price with their homes, property, and lifetimes of hard work.

Rede Beitman

Wylie, Tx