Blacklands Turnpike
9:43 am
Wed September 4, 2013

Toll road meeting in Cooper on Thursday

The board of the Sulphur River Regional Mobility Authority will meet this week, and the Blacklands Corridor is on the agenda.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday at Cooper City Hall, on the north side of the downtown square in Cooper.

The group's agenda will include a report from a July 25 meeting in Lavon, hosted by the North Central Texas Council of Governments Regional Transportation Council. That gathering presented the current state of the Blacklands Corridor in the council's plans and received public commentary on possible uses of the Blacklands Corridor.

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 right-of-way is controlled by the Northeast Texas Rural Transportation District, commonly known as NETEX.

Most of the railroad right-of-way controlled by NETEX hosts a functioning rail line. The right-of-way begins at the Titus County-Franklin County line and continues through Mount Vernon, Sulphur Springs, Commerce and Greenville to Lavon. Only the Greenville-to-Lavon section is no longer an active rail corridor.

The Blacklands Corridor currently sits unused. It borders many homes and passes through the downtown sections of Caddo Mills and Nevada. A Dallas-based private developer, Public Werks, Inc., has proposed building a private toll road along the route. That plan has been supported by some in Greenville's business community but has encountered a great deal of opposition from residents along the route as well as other members of the general public.

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.

The Sulphur River Regional Mobility Authority is an independent public agency that serves Hunt, Delta and Lamar Counties.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation website, a Regional Mobility Authority "can finance, build, operate and maintain toll roads and other transportation projects. The Texas Legislature authorized the creation of RMAs in 2001 to provide a new, more flexible way to address local transportation needs and get projects developed more quickly than through traditional funding."

Regional Mobility Authorities receive funding for project developments from the sale of bonds. They may also seek a loan or grant from the Texas Department of Transportation.

Elsewhere in Texas, Regional Mobility Authorities have opened the 183A toll road in Central Texas and SH 550 in Cameron County, completed a pass-through financing agreement in Grayson County, advanced transportation planning in the San Antonio area and built an outer loop south and west of Tyler.