In today's NeighborsGo of the Dallas Morning Times, the "Sounding Off" section gave some reader's opinions of the Blanklands Corridor. eight opinions were presented. There were opinions in favor of, and opinions against the tollway. They were all right.
Each opinion focused on only a narrow slice of the issues that something like the Blacklands Corridor presents for consideration. There is no single "right" or "wrong" answer, but a consideration of all the potential, and most probable, pros and cons should produce the "best" answer. It is the "best" answer we should strive for.
I, like most responders to the NeighborsGo article, do not like toll roads. Once upon a time, they went away after the bills were paid. Now they don't ever seem to go away. I think it should be TxDot's job to find state and federal funding. However, a case can be made that the users of the tollway should pay for the structure. Which is the best answer? Make no mistake, you are paying for the new highway, anyway. It's just how many people are delivered the bill........all taxpayers in the USA, just in Texas, or just the users of the new road? Which is the most fair?
Judging from some scuttlebutt I have been picking up, Rowlett "officialdom" thinks the proposed Blacklands Corridor is a really great opportunity. Well, maybe. Maybe not. What I have heard most is that the proposed highway will open up Northshore and north Rowlett to development. I would suggest that such dreams are a little premature. There is too much that has not been determined regarding access roads and entrance ramps, and fees. For example, our own experience with the Bush Tollway suggests that our previous leaders could not tell the difference between a tollway and a freeway. They still can't, as evidenced by the enthusiasm for a new tollway. With all the "hype" we generated with the new GBTW, It has been nearly three years since completion and I have yet only identified The Villages of Rowlett as having been influenced by the Bush tollway. First, Bush tollway is not free. It costs money. Second, it has no service roads north of Merritt Road, and third, there are not enough entry ramps because there are no cross streets north of Merritt Road. I know that freeways and toll ways look exactly the same.......but they are not. Stated simply, one costs money to use and the other does not. That simple fact makes a difference to business managers.
When I first started asking questions about who negotiated the Bush toll way deal for Rowlett, and I was wondering about access, I was told that TxDot and NTTA wanted limited access to keep users on the toll road. It was argued that fewer exit ramps kept the vehicles on the toll way longer and helped keep fees up. I thought that was a bizarre answer. In almost every case, and exit ramp is accompanied by an entrance ramp. For every car that gets off the toll way, there's probably a car entering. This piece of logic seems to have fallen thru the crack. The above answer was pure poppycock. It was all about money (cost). Fewer service roads cost less money.
One of my best friends is a location manager and warehouse manager for a very large and well known American company. We talked about locating his operation in Rowlett, somewhere along Bush toll way. We discussed land cost, employee costs, and operating costs. His facility is a relatively large warehouse with about 30 employees, and trucks entering and leaving the facility 24/7. His view of available land along Rowlett's tollway is: The land is too expensive and has topography and drainage problems. Also, private access roads would probably have to be built. His entry level employees earn about $40,000 a year, but he would have to raise all their salaries about $1 per hour to compensate for additional cost of getting to work, and that his trucks and his supplier's trucks would have to pay fees to get to the new facility. All of this represents much higher development costs and operating costs. He said Rowlett would not be a good choice for him.
Yet, our consultants deemed our Northshore land as most suitable for office and warehouse space and should be an industrial park. No solid marketing evidence to support this use was presented. Our Planning Departmant and City Council bought into this "analysis" hook, line, and sinker. This is in spite of overwhelming evidence that Northshore should be substantially high cost residential land. Two $80 million deals were presented and denied. Residential usage is further evidenced by the new announcements of Toyota and other new large businesses in North Texas. It is this same level of competence (or lack thereof) that is decreeing Blacklands Corridor as the next best thing. For one thing, they need to keep quiet until they learn something. Does "officialdom" know something we don't know? I would think it would be smart to share some information. I still think the decree about land usage of Northshore was a desire of our previous city manager, not the result of in depth investigation. But, what do I know?
Well, I know that if there are no frontage roads on Blacklands, and no access ramps, a condition similar to our Bush toll way is duplicated. That means Blacklands would be good for the two terminus ends........Greenville and Garland. Not much in between. There will be business development at the ends. The balance of the 50 miles, or so, will depend on access. As with Bush toll way, if you can't access the land, there isn't much market demand from the business world. If the business world isn't present, the tax base is certainly not improving. In fact, the tax base can be hurt. If the land taken for the right of way is taken out of income production, the tax base loses.
One of the negative commenters on the NeighborsGo page was worried about Rockwall business losing because of traffic diverted from I-30 onto the proposed Blacklands Corridor. I really don't think that is a problem. Anyone from Greenville wanting to go to the area serviced by Blackland would not use I-30, anyway. It would probably be too far out of the way. There are other pluses and minuses, as stated above. All are correct, but something that wasn't touched was the anticipated growth of North Texas. If Texas continues to conquer the world, we will be well inside the growth areas. I can see traffic increasing by huge amounts because of development of towns and cities north and east of Rowlett. Good planning suggests that I-30, highway 66, and highway 78 are going to fall far short of handling the increasing traffic. Of course, that changes the complaints. NeighborsGo will then be filled with traffic complaints.
Here's what I think. I think the Blacklands Corridor could be a good thing. I emphasize the word "could." If the designing of the access to Blacklands is not better than done on Bush toll way, the new toll way will not bring much development to the area. The toll way, standing alone, does not bring business to an area nor add to the tax base. In fact, it could hurt. If the new toll way is only designed to transport people from Greenville to Garland, nothing much will happen. Rowlett "officialdom" need not get overly excited. Going thru Northshore does not do us any good. Only access to Blacklands helps Rowlett.
So.......is Blacklands Corridor good for Rowlett. It could be.
Is Rowlett's "officialdom" up to the chore? Evidence suggests it is not.