On Election Day, voters in Collin County approved $750 million in bond money for new road projects to fight gridlock in the growing county.
Nearly one million people currently live in Collin County and officials expect the population to double in 20 to 30 years.
“It's hard to even fathom what two million people in Collin County looks like, but we've got to come to grips with what that's going to be,” said Collin County Judge Keith Self.
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“You see a tremendous number of freeways in Dallas and Tarrant Counties and they are a population size that we will be someday,” said Collin County Engineering Director Clarence Daugherty. “Yet when you look at the number of freeways in Collin, even Denton County, we are woefully inadequate.”
Out of the $750 million in bond money approved by voters, $600 million is designated toward building high-speed, non-tolled highways.
The money, says Self, won't build all the roads needed but will serve as a start.
“You will not see an orange barrel for at least five years, probably seven,” said Self. “All of this money does is help us with pre-construction work we have to do."
The money would largely be used for engineering, environmental studies, and buying the land needed for the highways. Self says the county has to act fast with land prices and construction costs rising.
The county’s priority, says Self, will be expanding U.S. 380. TxDOT is currently studying possible alignments for the expansion, which has been controversial because the proposed alignments would either disrupt businesses or homes.
Once an alignment is picked, the county has to acquire the land.
“That’s no small process,” said Daugherty. “We’re talking about 30 miles of freeway, a lot of land, a lot of parcels so we anticipate it will take most of the five years just to get that.”
Other priorities for the bond money include planning construction of an outer loop in northeast Collin County and finding a solution to ease congestion on TX-78 in the southeast section of the county.
This fall, Self says county commissioners will work to set out the criteria for cities to build arterial roads to feed into the highway system. Voters approved $140 million towards construction of major roads. Cities will submit their projects for the county’s approval. Daugherty says that will likely happen by the end of the fiscal year.