Opponents of a proposed toll road between Greenville and Garland appeared before local government leaders Tuesday to make sure they realized the extent of resistance to the project.
Bryan Slaton with The Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) conducted a press conference Tuesday morning in front of the Auxiliary Courtroom in Greenville, where he was joined by approximately 30 individuals, many holding signs reading “No eminent domain for private gain” and “Hands off our land” among other slogans.
“Obviously, the citizens do not support the toll road,” Slaton said, noting the governments of many of the cities along the area affected by the “Northeast Gateway” project — including Fate, Josephine, Lavon, Nevada, Rockwall, Sachse and Wylie — had recently passed resolutions opposing the project.
Slaton said Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis have both issued statements indicating they are not in favor of toll roads.
“The one common ground they share is no toll roads,” Slaton said.
The “Northeast Gateway” project is the current name given to what had been the “Blacklands Corridor.” The proposal narrows the area under consideration for the toll road, moving it south of the earlier plans. The project no longer involves the abandoned NETEX railroad right-of-way, and the end points of the toll road have changed, but there is still no confirmed route for the road.
The Texas Turnpike Corporation (TTC) is reported to be still considering multiple routes across four segments; from FM 1570 to State Highway 66, from State Highway 66 to the proposed Collin County Outer Loop project; from the Collin County Outer Loop to State Highway 205 and from State Highway 205 to the President George Bush Turnpike.
Slaton argued the future population estimates used by the TTC’s John Crew to justify the need for the road do not agree with similar estimates from the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG).
“The numbers just don’t add up,” Slaton said, adding the figures show the company would go bankrupt if it builds the road. “He’s over estimating the need and under estimating the cost.”
Several of those who were on hand for the press conference made their way inside the building to a meeting of the Hunt County Commissioners Court, where they gave the commissioners an earful.
The commissioners, with the exception of Jay Atkins, previously voted to support the Blacklands Corridor, but the protesters were asking the panel to vote against supporting the Northeast Gateway.
Kevin Long of Caddo Mills was among those who said the TTC should never have been allowed the right to exercise eminent domain.
“It might be legal, but that doesn’t mean it’s right,” Long said.
Brenda Short of Fate said her family purchased 32 acres of land near Caddo Mills, with the intent of making it their “forever home” in the country. Short said the property is now threatened by the toll road.
“It is going to change the landscape of Hunt County forever and, I think, not in a good way,” Short said.
Dr. Linda Knight moved from Houston to an unincorporated area near Wylie and said she had no problems with traffic in driving to Greenville Tuesday morning.
“It is a shocking effort to ruin the land to solve a problem that may or may not exist,” she said. “I hope you folks will stand tall, because there is not a lot of people protecting us.”
The TURF group had asked residents opposed to the toll road to attend government meetings across the area Tuesday, including the Greenville City Council meeting. The council had also previously voted to support the Blacklands Corridor project.
Two people spoke to the council about the Northeast Gateway during the regular session.
Diedre Mead voiced several objections about the project, most notably that the TTC had the power of eminent domain to obtain the land it would need for the road.
“It is just wrong for them to use eminent domain for private gain,” Mead said. “Public roads need to be managed at a public level.”
“Your decision, whether to support this, does affect me,” added Josh Furnish, who lives near Caddo Mills. He asked the council to consider a resolution for the next meeting, concerning its support of the toll road. “Put this on the agenda and I ask that you would vote no.”