Blacklands Turnpike
1:08 pm
Fri September 6, 2013

Sulphur mobility authority waiting on NCTCOG study

The meeting of the Sulphur River Regional Mobility Authority in Cooper on Sept. 5 included a review of the current situation surrounding the Blacklands Corridor.

At the Sept. 5 meeting, Ricky Mackey of the Texas Department of Transportation presented to the board of the Sulphur River Regional Mobility Authority an informal report of the Regional Transportation Council’s July 25 public meeting in Lavon. At that event, the Council of Governments presented the state of the regional transportation plan as it concerns the Blacklands Corridor and received public comments.

Both Texas Department of Transportation staff and Sulphur River Regional Mobility Authority board members said last night that they will wait and see what the Council of Governments decides regarding the corridor. No participants in the Sept. 5 meeting expressed any intent or sentiment regarding the eventual use of the Blacklands Corridor.

"In this arena of the Blacklands Corridor, we're just standing on the sidelines right now," Mackey said. "We're not for or against. We're letting the folks in authority, which is NCTCOG, work through...what they see as the projected model for growth and development."

The Council of Governments is currently conducting a feasibility study around the issue and expects to have a report ready early in 2014.

The Blacklands Corridor is an old railroad right-of-way that runs from just west of Greenville to Lavon, located in far southeastern Collin County. The long strip of land currently sits unused. A Dallas-based private developer, Public Werks, Inc., has proposed building a private toll road along the route. Other proposed uses include commuter light rail, commercial heavy rail, a public road, a hike and bike trail or just leaving the land as it is.

The fate of the Blacklands Corridor will be determined by the North Central Texas Council of Governments Regional Transportation Council, which is federally mandated to produce transportation infrastructure plans for a 16-county region. Hunt County is the northeasternmost county in the region.

At the recent public meeting in Lavon, officials explained that the Council of Governments is in charge of the process, which is designed to include public participation.

"NCTCOG has kind of stepped in and said (to Public Werks) that y'all are kind of out of sequence, with what you're doing," Mackey said. "And that y'all need to slow down and let us a do a feasibility study for not just the corridor, but this part of North Texas, Hunt County into the Metroplex."

The Sulphur River Regional Mobility Authority is an independent public agency that serves Hunt, Delta and Lamar Counties. The agency is authorized by the Texas Department of Transportation.

Most of the Sept. 5 meeting was devoted to the agency’s finances and the ongoing improvements of State Highway 24 from Cooper to the Delta County-Hunt County line. Present were Jason Davis (Delta County), Danny Duncan (Hunt County), Holland Harper (Lamar County), Delbert Horton (Delta County) and agency secretary Shannon Barrentine.