Update from NCTCOG

The following is the content of an email sent to one of our concerned citizens regarding the progress of the feasibility study. The email was dated August 23, 2013. You can contact these folks anytime and ask any question you may have regarding the toll road. Please help us all stay informed by posting anything you learn. Thanks!

Thank you for your continued interest in the Blacklands Corridor feasibility study. We understand that the residents of the study area have a great sense of urgency about the project, so we are working to provide you with accurate information as quickly as possible.

In the last month, NCTCOG reviewed three proposals from consultants who wished to conduct the feasibility study, so we have not had any new information to share with the public since the July public meeting in Lavon. Yesterday, the NCTCOG Executive Board awarded the contract for the feasibility study to Halff and Associates, Inc. Now that the contract has been awarded, Halff and Associates, Inc. will begin the study at the start of September, which conforms to the timeline for the project that was presented at the July public meeting.

Also during this past month, NCTCOG staff have been reviewing public comments to determine how they will influence the study moving forward as well as developing a comprehensive communications plan to ensure that the public is informed and involved. Part of this plan entails sending a newsletter to the residents of the study area in September that will summarize the content of the July public meeting, introduce the consultant, and provide additional information about the study, including the date and location of the next meeting.

We will soon be able to provide you with more detailed updates in the newsletter and on the website, but please feel free to share this information with your neighbors. Your interest in the study is always appreciated, so please let me know if you have any additional questions or comments.

Sincerely,
Jahnae Stout
Communications Supervisor
North Central Texas Council of Governments
Transportation Department
616 Six Flags Drive
Arlington, Texas 76011
jstout@nctcog.org
817-608-2335 (phone)
817-640-3028 (fax)

Meeting in Austin with Dan Flynn

I met with Rep. Dan Flynn yesterday in Austin. He is well aware of our situation. However, the only people he has heard from in person are those in favor of the road. He is in favor of public-private-partnerships as a means for funding roads in Texas. But he also realizes the importance of private property rights NOT being abused through eminent domain. He most likely can not and will not stop this road. He will, however, work to ensure the citizens are most fairly compensated for our loss. His best advice, “DON’T TAKE THE FIRST OFFER!” and “STICK TOGETHER!”
By the way, the advice he gave is basically the same as what the eminent domain lawyer said. I don’t think this means we as a group give up our fight against the road. This is a worst case scenario of what we do at the very end if/when it comes down to that. Hopefully, based on the RTC meeting last night, things are going to be moving a little slower.
Dan Flynn will meet with anyone who will make an appointment. It’s not that far to Austin and he has local offices. I encourage EVERYONE to take the time to talk to him IN PERSON. He said we were the only 2 people he had seen who were opposed to the road. I may not agree with everything he does, but he treated us with dignity and respect. Our local leaders could learn a thing or two from him about how to handle the public when the public is not on the same side as they are. At least Flynn didn’t accuse us of being conspiracy theorists and spreading fear and panic.

PLEASE sign the petition

Click the following link to be re-directed to the online petition…

https://www.change.org/petitions/petition-opposing-blacklands-turnpike

Ideas to help get the message out.

1.) Email friends, family, coworkers, neighbors….etc. Ask that they sign and share the link. (If you dont’ have a FB page, email friends or family who do and ask them to spend a few minutes to help us out and post the link.)

2.) Post on your facebook page, explain that you will directly be effect. Ask that they sign and share the link.

3.) Post on facebook pages for neighboring cities, mom’s groups, farmer’s market pages, team facebook pages, activist pages, county pages, unit pages, school pages, business pages, local TV news pages, radio pages and other media outlets. (If you go the the local FB pages and read through the posts, see if you can find any mention of the toll road. Respond to each of the post with the link. This way those people who posted questions or concerns will get the notification that you responded to the post with the link.)

4.) Tweet, Pintrest and Instagram about it and share the link

Just the FACTS, please

It has been brought to my attention that a property owner along the right-of-way contacted another property owner claiming that a 3rd owner came to a settlement agreement with Public Werks. This is NOT true. If someone tries to tell you what your neighbor has done, please call your neighbor and verify the information. I don’t know of any settlements. That does not mean there have not been any. If you are offered compensation, it is your right to decide how to handle that. If you want to sell, I wish you the best and respect your decision. If you don’t want to sell, I wish you the best and respect your decision. This is personal to each and every one of us in our own way. We all have our own reasons for making the choices we make. We are all responsible for looking out for our own best interest and that of our family. That being said, as long as there are those who want to try to stop this thing, this forum will be available to express concerns and opinions. Let’s try to keep the facts straight and make it clear when something is our opinion.

NEPA and Environmental Studies

I understand that Public Werks will be required to do an environmental study. However, since they are not publicly funded by state or federal dollars, they may not have to do anything more than this form right here:

http://www.nctcog.org/trans/tip/cda/RTREnvRevw040109.pdf

If that’s the case, it’s a joke. And the approval is only by the local boards. There are no checks and balances here. You have the same people dreaming up, fighting for, and voting on these projects with little or no possible room for questioning.

Please add your feedback from Rep Flynn’s office about opposition to proposed Toll Road

I was contacted today by Jannis Milton (spelling?) and she stated she is a representative for Rep. Flynn and was responding to my letter against the proposed toll road project.
She stated that Rep. Flynn’s office has received numerous complaints, calls and letters all in opposition to the proposed toll road.
It was their (Rep. Flynn’s office, www.daflynn.com), understanding that this proposed toll road would be within the right of way that NETEX already owns.
I mentioned that NETEX only owns on average 100 foot of right of way and the meeting notes from NETEX and COG state that the proposed toll road is a profit making project to build a new commercial RR on the preexisting right of way. All of the supposed benefits( reduce I30 congestion, bring economic development, etc) are selling points, not the objective of the Toll Road. NETEX is solely focused on raising funds, regardless of the impacts to the current property owners concerns. I mentioned the 6-5 vote at NETEX because of some reps at NETEX are against the project because of the impact and the lease agreement as written. She was unaware of that vote. I mentioned that the meeting notes state that the toll road will need a total of 200 foot additional right of way and that the lease approved on Jan 9 requires that 50 foot of the current abandoned RR must remain for future development. This is a 200 foot total right of way being requested. I mentioned that if the toll road runs adjacent to the NETEX right of way, or through the developed farms, ranches and homes North or South of the abandoned RR, these homes, ranches and farms would have to be removed by both agreement to sell to NETEX and imminent domain for the owners that refuse to be bought out. Many are not willing to just take a check and give up on their way of life and their land for a private profit making scheme.
This started a conversation where she stated that Rep. Flynn has proposed legislation that would restrict the use of imminent domain more than it has been in the past.
Many of the topics we discussed were news to her, and she was unaware of the pace, scope and facts that have been accumulating since the Hunt Co. Commissioners Court meeting that tabled this motion for more time to study it.
I ask everyone that has been contacted by Rep. Flynn’s office to add your comments of your discussion on this blog for others to read.
She strongly stated that his office will be closely watching this proposed project and that if anyone has any additional concerns to not hesitate to contact his office by email or phone.

Conversation with Public Werks

Based on what was said at the Hunt County Commissioners Court workshop and meeting, a conversation with a COG rep, and a conversation with a representative of Public Werks, Inc.:

  • Texas Turnpike Corp (TTC) can not own more than a 200ft wide strip for this project. (I believe this is one reason why the NETEX right-of-way lease is important to them. This would give them an extra 50ft, at least.)
  • TTC has been recognized by the state of Texas as an approved tolling authority for 10 or 12 years, similar to NTTA.
  • The NETEX lease agreement was signed at the January 9, 2013 meeting. An upfront payment of $25,000 was made to NETEX from TTC for the initial agreement. The other details can be found in the agreement.
  • Public Werks is working with an investment consultant called KPMG to facilitate funding of their project through private investors.
  • Public Werks has been in meetings and discussions with parties involved in the Walton Development. These two projects are mutually beneficial to each other.
  • They have NO plans for any type of sound/noise or safety barriers along the toll road in Hunt County. If it backs up to your property, it will be an eye soar as well as a major source of noise.
  • There will be some type of agreement signed that will protect the profits of the toll road from any “adverse events.” (This can best be defined as a non-compete agreement. Meaning that if any existing road conditions are improved or enhanced in any way that might cause someone to choose a free road over their tollway, the toll company will be compensated for loss of revenue. So your tax dollars will help fund this private company’s profits…you get to pay for the road in tolls and taxes. This takes decision making for local roads out of the hands of your local officials for the next 50 years. In essence, it gives Public Werks a monopoly.)
  • The final route is not set in stone. (Contact your local officials to express your concerns and thoughts on alternatives.)
  • NCTCOG has bought in to the idea that this road is needed and wanted. Public Werks has met the 3-fold requirement of COG to be included on the long term plans for this area. The 3 requirements of COG to get a project like this on the plan are as follows:
    1. Funding
    2. Design
    3. Public Involvement
  • For the January, February, and March meetings of the COG’s Regional Transprotation Council (RTC) meetings, this project is an “information item.” It is being presented as 1 of about 10 such projects in the North Texas area for inclusion in a long term plan. These meetings don’t go into detail about the project, just states that it is an item to be considered. However, in the April RTC meeting, the project will be an “action item” and will be voted on and approved for inclusion in the long term plan. They hope to be able to start construction very soon after (within a year or two).
  • This is moving VERY fast. Public Werks has already started work on the environmental study that is required by the state. This is probably the final hurdle in getting this thing through. The best, and maybe only, place to get this stopped is in the Hunt County Commissioners Court.