We Do Not Have A Traffic Problem

Mayor Tate is saying the right things in this article from the Grapevine Courier about the DFW Connector construction potentially slowing revenues in Grapevine.

Example A:

“I think the bottom line is if we continue to get bad publicity, we’ll hurt.”

Example B:

“We need to tell people to come and support these businesses.”

Both are true.  You’ve identified the problem.  That is step one.  Now for step two, who is in charge of getting the message out?  We doubt this is the sort of thing where you can just say it and have it happen.

The headline of the article “Highway project may slow revenues” comes across as a tad negative on the construction going on in Grapevine.  We have no doubt that negative sells newspapers.  And that the City of Grapevine has little editorial control over at the Grapevine Courier.  But it still sends the wrong message. 

Then later we stumble across this on twitter:

“Even though construction is happening, Grapevine is still open for business!”

Is that the message you want to send?  (We think it came from the Grapevine Chamber of Commerce’s twitter account.)  We have already written that NorthGate Contractor’s should be given an A- on their work so far.  That article is three months old.  Today, we would probably change the grade to an A+.

Here are some messages we would like to get out:

– The flow of traffic in Grapevine is essentially unchanged compared with before the DFW Connector Project began
– Northgate Contractors have gone above and beyond in keeping construction out of the way of Grapevine traffic
– Business my be slower in Grapevine due to the economy, but not due to any perceived traffic problems related to the Connector Project

Like we said, we do not have a construction problem, we have a communication problem.  Let’s work on the message.

DFW Connector So Far

We are now roughly four months into the DFW Connector construction project.  We thought we’d give an update since we drive through the 114/121 interchange on a daily basis.

So far there has been a massive amount of orange cone shuffling and dirt moving with very little impact on our daily commute.  Northgate Contractors have done really well in holding up their end of the bargain on keeping the highways open between 6 am and 8 pm each day.  The one slip up may have occurred earlier this week according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram where a lane remained closed until almost 7 am.  We certainly did not notice the closure or any difference in traffic and we usually make it through there around 7:15 am.

The contractors have turned an old car dealership along the service road of 121 into what appears to be a main base camp.  There are too many orange pickup trucks there to count.  And they have almost completed a huge storage area along 121 South near the exit to Highway 360.

All of this progress has come in a short amount of time.  We are impressed that the contractors have been able to keep traffic flowing so smoothly during the day.  The same can not be said at night around 8 pm when some of the lanes start to shut down, but that was part of the deal.  They have to work some time.  We do not recommend coming through that area after 8 pm because there are usually delays.  In fact, we pretty much have learned to avoid that area after 8 pm.

Thanks go out to Northgate Contractors who are making a tremendous amount of progress on the DFW Connector with little added stress to the daily commuter.

DFW Connector Project – We Were Wrong

We originally wrote a 1,000+ word article to fit this space on what we have learned about tollways in Texas, House Bill 3588, and the DFW Connector.  But then we realized this website was not really created to discuss the new DFW Connector project so we are going to cut the original content way down. 

A week ago, we declared the DFW Connector Project a Trojan Horse because of the way it somewhat secretly taxes area residents for use of the toll lanes that will be added to the 121/114 highways.  Several of our readers asked about the need for required toll lanes and our research team decided to take a crack at this.

Let me be the first to be clear on one thing.  We were wrong.  The DFW Connector Project is not the Trojan Horse.  It appears a much larger Trojan Horse came to pass some seven years ago in the form of Texas Legislature House Bill 3588 aka The Trans-Texas Corridor.  Ever heard of it?  We had not until now.

Our Research

The first hint we could find about a law requiring toll lanes be included in the Project came from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

While the DFW Connector project includes nontoll lanes and frontage roads, the two toll lanes in each direction were added to legalize the design-build arrangement.

After contacting them about the specifics of the law, they said they would get right back with us with an answer.  Now, two weeks later, we have not heard from them.  No fault of their own, the answer is not easy to find.

Our research team then contacted the good people at DFW Connector Project information office with the question and they pointed us in the direction of House Bill 3588 as the reason for toll lanes.

Without further adieu, here’s the link to House Bill 3588.

Our Conclusion

We can not find the exact wording in the bill stating that in order for a project to be completed under a “comprehensive development agreement” there needs to be a toll component in the project.  There are literally hundreds of pages in this bill.  Someone with better knowledge of the bill will have to help out here if we are to ever get the exact wording.  For now, we will just assume the wording is in there.

We did find these quotes from the various summaries of the bill to be a tad funny (or sad depending on your perspective) –

From the State Senate’s analysis document as to the purpose of HB 3588 – Link.

C.S.H.B. 3588 addresses the full scope of transportation issues facing the state.  It creates new financing tools to generate the funding required to maintain a working transportation system.  These include the use of bonds to generate immediate cash flow, mechanisms for funding the Texas mobility fund, and an increase in fines and fees levied for traffic violations.  Additional cash flow will be generated by increased reliance on turnpikes, both those funded by tolls paid by motorists and those built by local authorities and funded over time by the state.

This simply shows the intent of the bill is to generate funds for the state through various tolling, fines increases, and transportation bonds.  The bill in its gigantic entirety was not intended to require tolls on the highway projects that are already funded, like the DFW Connector Project.

The press releases for the DFW Connector Project says the managed toll lanes are a way keep traffic flowing at a speed of 50 mph.  Well, that may be true.  But it is also a bit disingenuous.  They are also a way to generate funds for the state as originally intended in HB3588.

Without this getting into any more boring legal detail, we only want to point out one other quote we found.  This is in the Bill Summary as opposition to the House Bill 3588:

CSHB 3588 is a tax bill in disguise. Texas taxpayers, especially low- and
middle-income families and inner-city residents, cannot afford the fee and
fine hikes this bill would mandate. The Legislature should be willing to raise
taxes if it needs more money for worthwhile projects, including highways.

We agree with whoever wrote that.  The bill summary does not give this legislator credit.

We still stand by our original assessment that tollways are a terrible idea.  They are in impediment to commerce.  You are giving people incentive to do the exact opposite of what you need them to do.  Tolls give people more reason to stay home, travel less, and spend less.  What does that do to already decreasing gas tax revenues?  What does it do to sales taxes?

Okay, so we did not really cut that much out of the original article.  We tried.

This is really just a simple website about the great city of Grapevine Texas.  Our sincere hope is that we can spend our time writing about Grapevine and all the exciting things going on here rather than scanning through hundreds of pages of legislative documents in the future. 

This article was the result of several readers asking similar questions.  And our motto (for now) is that when a reader asks a question, WE ANSWER IT.

Do You Want A Sneak Peek At The DFW Connector?

 

We have done a lot of research on the Connector and wanted to share some of the better images that we have come across. 

The images and video below do a great job of painting a picture of what the DFW Connector will look like in 4 years.

First, these two  images are courtesy of the good people at Toll Road News:

DFW Connector

DFW Connector

DFW Connector

DFW Connector

And if you want to take a look a a video from YouTube of what the Eastbound Drive will look like see below.

DFW Connector Project to Start in February 2010

Okay, we have two months to map out all the back roads, side streets, and short cuts around Grapevine.  The final approvals to start the DFW Connector project were given by the Texas Department of Transportation on Tuesday.  This $1 billion, four year project will mean constant construction zones around Grapevine.

The good news is that part of the construction agreement requires that the same number of lanes that are open currently will remain open during the project.  The bad news is we will still have work zones and the likely hood of narrow lanes and redirected lanes as construction progresses.

In addition to Highways 114 and 121, here are the other highways that will be affected according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

Other highways in that corridor between Southlake and Irving include Interstate 635, Texas 360 and 26, and Farm Roads 2499 and 1709.

One of the most interesting items in the article is that the DFW Connector project is receiving more federal stimulus money than any other highway project in the country.

The project will be funded by $667 million in state highway money, $250 million in federal Recovery Act funding and $107 million in bond funding from Proposition 14, which was approved by Texas voters in 2003 to improve mobility statewide. The DFW Connector is getting more stimulus money than any other highway project in the country.

We are happy this much needed project is finally about to begin. It will be a long four years, but Christmas is right around the corner. Here’s hoping we all get a new GPS system in our stockings.