WAXAHACHIE

Ellis County has changed drastically since its last thoroughfare update in 2007.

Since 2010, Ellis County has seen a population growth by 13.396 percent, according to the United States Census Bureau, bumping the previous population of 150,362 up to a 173,620. Alberto Mares, Ellis County Director of Planning and Development, said that number is only going up from here.

“Over the next 20 years, the metroplex population will double in size from about 7.5 million to 15 million,” Mares said. “We’re in a strategic position to absorb our fair share of that growth. We need to start planning for that.”

To address growing capacity and transportation concerns, Ellis County is updating its 2018-19 master thoroughfare plan for the first time in 11 years. The county has hired Freese & Nichols, Inc. to project the county’s growth and draft a thoroughfare proposal that will better serve Ellis County for the next five to 10 years.

“With a lot of demographics changing, people moving down here, we thought it was time to update the thoroughfare plan,” Mares said. “It’s only going to get more populated, so if we don’t address this now, we’re going to have an issue down the road.”

According to a press release, the master thoroughfare plan update will be coordinated with locally adopted plans and programs from adjacent cities, counties and the Texas Department of Transportation. The proposal would identify the transportation needs for short-term and long-range growth within the county.

Since the update will impact all residents, Mares said the county is currently eliciting feedback on the thoroughfare plan. An 11-question survey is available for online submission on the county’s website, and two public meetings will be held on Monday, Dec. 3 and Wednesday, Dec. 5 respectively.

“If there are certain issues that staff or consultants are not aware of, they can bring those issues up,” Mares said. “A lot of times, they’re more familiar with that area than staff or consultants are.”

Mares said the plan recommendations would depend heavily on the feedback planners would get from the county.

“The recommendation could be to widen certain roads, leave others as is, or make new connections that are not existing right now,” Mares said. “Ultimately, that’s going to be determined by not just the citizen input, but also the transportation models that they use as well.”

Another possible recommendation could be to build new roads for the 2018-19 master thoroughfare plan. But Mares said that decision lies in the hands of the county’s voters.

“If the county does decide to build roads, it will have to be through a bond election,” he said. “I don’t foresee that happening anytime soon.”

Mares said it isn’t often where the thoroughfare plan would displace people off of their property. But since the project is development-based, there may be some cases where that happens.

“A lot of people will see a line of the map, and say ‘Oh, that’s my property,’” he said. “They’ll be like, ‘I can’t believe you’re placing this thoroughfare on my property.’ If the county decides they need that road right now, then at that point the county or the city will enter into property negotiations with that owner.”

Mares said they’re aiming to get a thoroughfare plan drafted sometime next summer. The project is aiming for a date of adoption in late August or early September.

The first public meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Ennis Chamber of Commerce, located at 108 Chamber of Commerce Drive, while the second public meeting will be 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the multi-purpose room at the Ellis County Courts and Administration building at 109 S. Jackson Street. The survey can be accessed online at co.ellis.tx.us and will remain open until early spring.

For more information, contact development at 972-825-5200 or email alberto.mares@co.ellis.tx.us