City, county officials: $750 million Collin County bond propositions needed to combat future road congestion

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Collin County’s population has grown nearly 23 percent from 788,442 people in 2010 to 969,603 in 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, adding an average of 60 people to the county each day.

By 2045 Collin County’s population is expected to be greater than Dallas and Tarrant counties, Collin County Commissioner Susan Fletcher said.

“We don’t get near enough highways on the map compared to those two counties, so we need to get ahead of that right now,” she said.

County commissioners are asking voters to begin the process of funding roadway needs by placing a $750 million transportation-heavy bond on the Nov. 6 ballot.

“Everybody I run into is experiencing congestion now, so that’s easy to understand today,” Collin County Director of Engineering Clarence Daugherty said. “… The average citizen that we’ve run into doesn’t have a feel for just how much more growth we’re going to be having and how that translates [into]additional congestion.”

If each bond proposition is approved the county’s property tax rate would not be affected, Collin County Judge Keith Self said.

With only four highways in Collin County and three of them tolled roadways, commissioners determined Proposition A—$600 million—would be used for non-tolled highway projects. Two other propositions to appear on the Nov. 6 ballot include $140 million for arterial roads and $10 million for open space and parks.

“I urge people to get behind the bond, personally,” McKinney Mayor George Fuller said. “We are dramatically behind in Collin County dramatically. Pick up a map of arterials and [highways]and look at Dallas County and Tarrant County and Collin County—doesn’t take an expert in road engineering to see how far behind we are.”

The $740 million in bond funds designated for roadway improvements, if approved, are only a start. County and regional transportation officials are estimating that $12.6 billion will be needed for road projects to keep up with the growth through 2045.

The county expects the need to call for a bond election every five years as well as tap funds from the Texas Department of Transportation, Regional Transportation Council and the North Central Texas Council of Governments in order to reach the funding goal, Daugherty and Collin County Commissioner Duncan Webb said.

Webb said that the 2018 bond funds, when paired with RTC and NCTCOG funds, would possibly be enough to get one of the needed major thoroughfares moving forward.

“We get so little money out of the RTC that we’re going to have to provide for as much as we can to match as much as we can from the RTC,” Self said.

Funding

NCTCOG estimates building a freeway or tollway costs about $10.4 million per lane mile. For a project like US 380, which spans approximately 32 miles in Collin County, that would equate to $332.8 million for construction alone—but that does not include all the work that must be done before construction can start.

If Proposition A is approved by voters the majority of the $600 million bond proposition would be used for environmental studies, feasibility studies, designing the highways, and acquiring right of way. Money would also be used for the Collin County Outer Loop service roads, Daugherty said.

“With the exception of the Outer Loop, [residents]won’t see a single orange cone [in the next]five years,” Self said. “… [Work is] going to be going on behind the scenes, but we’ve got to move forward so that when the day comes and we’re prepared for construction we’ve done all the pre-work.”

The county projects that the $600 million in road funds from the bond proposition would be used for non-tolled highway projects including the Outer Loop, US 380, Spur 399 and US 78. Pre-construction work for these projects and construction of the Outer Loop service roads are estimated to cost $578.8 million-$779.8 million, according to county documents.

Planning and acquiring right of way for the highway projects will begin once there is consensus from stakeholders and lines on the map showing where each highway will go, Daugherty said.

Arterial roadways and Parks

One of the bond propositions includes $140 million for arterial roads.

Fletcher said the Commissioners Court will have an annual call for projects and ask cities to match
50 percent of the funding necessary for the arterial road.

Daugherty said he expects some projects to come from cities and others to come from county input, but a list of projects has not been announced.

NCTCOG estimates arterial roadways to cost $4 million per lane mile to construct.

A $10 million bond proposition to fund parks and open space in the county is also included in the Nov. 6 election.

“This is not a core function of the county, but it is an expectation of our citizens,” Self said.

What about US 380?

If Proposition A is approved by voters, Collin County estimates that $162.2 million-$255.9 million would be used to improve US 380.

TxDOT is currently conducting a study of US 380 to determine how to move forward with the project. Although TxDOT is holding meetings for residents, TxDOT officials will have the final say in how
US 380 would be improved.

“If people are successful in defeating the bond because the city is not yet taking a position, a resolution on US 380, I think that would be a tragedy,” Fuller said. “The issue on [US] 380 is many years down the road. … We have regional mobility issues that are very, very important. We have county-driven road projects that are extremely important, and to vote against that for the [US] 380 reason is the wrong reason, in my opinion.”

Nicole Luna contributed to the reporting in this article.

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Cassidy Ritter
Cassidy graduated from the University of Kansas in 2016 with a degree in Journalism and a double minor in business and global studies. She has worked as a reporter and editor for publications in Kansas, Colorado and Australia. She was hired as senior reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's Plano edition in August 2016. Less than a year later, she took the role of editor for the McKinney edition.
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