For Whom the Road Tolls

By Randy McIlwain
|  Tuesday, Feb 22, 2011  |  Updated 10:01 AM CDT
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<a title=Denton and Collin Counties were promised close to 3 billion dollars as part of a deal to toll State Highway 121. They have yet to see the cash." />

Randy McIlwain, NBCDFW.com

Denton and Collin Counties were promised close to 3 billion dollars as part of a deal to toll State Highway 121. They have yet to see the cash.

$3 billion in promises made to several counties for tolls on State Highway 121 may prove to be fools gold.

Collin, Denton, Dallas, Kaufman and Rockwall counties were part of the deal that established State Highway 121 as a toll road.

The North Texas Tollway Authority paid the money upfront to the State for the right to build and toll, 121. The lions share of that cash was supposed to be paid back to Collin and Denton counties but with the State in a budget crisis, all bets are off.

”This was an agreement, it's called a comprehensive development agreement, which was signed, it's a contract,” said Collin County Commissioner Joe Jaynes, who’s concerned the state may look for a loophole or simply break the agreement.

Jaynes says every locally elected official in North Texas is lobbying their State House Representatives and State Senators telling them of the importance of those billions in promises.

Transportation projects including the expansions of Central Expressway, SH 289, Custer Road, Eldorado Parkway, Interstate 35 and new road construction to keep pace with all the growth in the area hinge on the contract being honored and the money finding its way back to the areas most affected by the Toll road.

“Anytime you're $27 billion in debt and you see three billion over there gaining interest, yes, there's a concern,” said Jaynes.

A spokesperson for TXDOT says the department is committed to honoring the agreements with each county but the decision may not rest with them. The legislature must first agree to a budget, before any money can be allocated.

Because road projects and take years for final approval with right of way and environmental impact issues, Jaynes says funding for these types of projects often gets diverted until they’re more "shovel ready."

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