Voters will have the chance on Nov. 6 to weigh in on $750 million in bond funds to begin the process of building out Collin County’s outer highway network and help fund local thoroughfare projects in cities like Plano.
The bulk of the bond money would go toward nontolled highway projects, a priority for Collin County commissioners because three of the county’s four existing highways are tolled. Two other propositions to appear on the Nov. 6 ballot include $140 million for arterial roads, including the reconstruction and rehabilitation of arterial roads, and $10 million for open space and parks throughout the county.
“Everybody I run into is experiencing congestion now, so that’s easy to understand today,” said Clarence Daugherty, Collin County director of engineering. “… 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.”
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 roughly 70 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 have nearly enough highways on the map compared to those two counties, so we need to get ahead of that right now,” she said.
However, 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 to need to call 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, whose precinct includes the city of Plano, 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.
“I think [Plano voters] should pay attention to [the bond]because congestion affects everyone in the county,” Webb said. “And it impacts business, getting to and from business, and it impacts quality of life and just pure mobility. I mean everyone around here I talked to [said]mobility is very important to them.”
Arterial roadways and parks
One of the bond propositions includes $140 million proposition for arterial roads—roads that will connect drivers to high-speed highways, Collin County Judge Keith Self said.
Fletcher said the Commissioners Court will have an annual call for projects, as it has done in the past, and ask cities to match 50 percent of the funding necessary for each arterial roadway.
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.
The city of Plano has not decided which specific projects to apply for county funding if the $140 million proposition passes, but rehabilitation of arterial roadways will be considered, according to Plano Deputy City Manager Jack Carr. The city expects the county to come up with a series of parameters after the election for use of the arterial project funding, Carr said.
NCTCOG estimates arterial roadways to cost $4 million per lane mile to construct.
A $10 million bond proposition—Proposition C—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. “So, we are going to support the cities. Some of this money may go to [Myers Park & Event Center] but cities … will nominate projects and the Commissioners Court will make the decision on which gets funded.”
Laying the groundwork
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, including right-of-way acquisition.
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 highway or highways, and acquiring right of way. Money would also be used for the Collin County Outer Loop service roads, Daugherty said.
Constructing a road from start to finish could take 10-15 years if everything goes according to schedule, Webb said.
“With the exception of the Outer Loop, [residents]won’t see a single orange cone through these 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 nontolled highway projects, including the Outer Loop, US 380, Spur 399 and US 78. Estimates for these projects ranged from $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.
“The idea is to try to draw the traffic out of that southwest corner [of the county],” Self said.