The Regional Transportation Council will hold a public meeting at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11, in the transportation council room at the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

Items of interest include an update on the State Highway 121 revenue allocation and project selection, a proposed planning area expansion, DART-related projects and modifications to the Transportation Improvement Program.

Last week, COG staff members previewed the information to be provided during the three public meetings set for today in Hurst, Tuesday morning at the COG offices and Tuesday evening in Richardson.

“We’re focusing on projects going to construction,” said Michael Morris, director of transportation. “We’re now focused on delivering projects.”

That focus has come about because of a resolution to the State Highway 121 project, which was recently awarded to the North Texas Tollway Authority. Staff members provided an update on the project, noting the Texas Highway Commission addressed a possible issue with future federal funding in August, moving the project forward.

The NTTA bid was $500,000 more than the bid put in by the Spanish-based Cintra and includes an upfront payment of $2.5 billion plus excess revenue payments of $830 million. The total value of the project is an estimated $6.68 billion. Some of the revenues from SH 121 will be set aside, with COG’s western subregion (Tarrant County) receiving $92.1 million and the eastern subregion (Collin, Dallas and Denton counties) receiving $2.9 billion for projects.

Proposed projects for the subregions have already been submitted and are going through the review and approval process at this time. Fifty-one agencies submitted 568 projects, of which 95 are highway-related and 252 are arterials.

Funding requests for the projects totaled $8.739 billion, exceeding the funds available.

“We have a pretty big job ahead of us,” staff member Christie Jestis said of the process to narrow the list down, which will include public meetings, county task force meetings and draft recommendations. RTC approval is set for January, with state/federal approval in March or April.

A topic of interest to Ellis County residents will be the RTC’s look at increasing the size of the metropolitan planning area, which originally included only Dallas and Tarrant counties. The MPA was expanded in 1983 to include the southern portions of Collin and Denton counties and was expanded again in 1991 to include north and east Collin County, all of Rockwall County, the southwestern portion of Kaufman County, the northern portions of Ellis and Johnson counties and the easternmost portion of Parker County.

In 1992, the expansion included the remainder of Collin and Denton counties and, in 2003, small portions of Parker and Wise counties were added.

Data released by COG indicates 48 percent of Ellis County residents commute into the five-county area comprised of Dallas, Tarrant, Denton, Collin and Rockwall counties, with Interstate 35 the main corridor (as reflected by traffic counts of more than 25,000 vehicles) for transporting those commuters in.

Traffic on Interstate 45 through Ellis County, second to I-35, includes commuters from Navarro County, which has 10 percent of workers traveling to the five-county area.

In looking at a possible expansion of the MPA, COG officials said they would take into consideration population growth and vehicle counts, along with the eight-hour ozone non-attainment area and transportation planning and air quality planning areas. COG also will consider with such data as the 1995 NCTCOG Regional Travel Survey, the 2000 U.S. Census, the 2005 TxDOT External Cordon Survey and future year travel forecasts.

In a separate update, Morris discussed COG’s work in addressing legislative and funding issues, such as the continuing rescissions of transportation money from Washington, D.C.

“I’m planning for a day when Washington won’t give us any funding for capacity improvements,” Morris said, noting COG is working with state and federal lawmakers on addressing transportation issues.

The RTC has served as the metropolitan planning organization for regional transportation planning in the Dallas/Fort Worth area since 1974. The MPO works in cooperation with the region’s transportation providers to address transportation needs in the metropolitan planning area, which includes Collin, Dallas, Denton, Rockwall and Tarrant counties, as well as parts of Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman and Parker counties. The Dallas/Fort Worth MPA is one of 25 in Texas and about 350 in the United States.

The RTC has 40 members, including local elected or appointed officials from the planning area and the area’s transportation providers. Pct. 4 County Commissioner Ron Brown represents Ellis County on the RTC.

The public is invited to attend the meeting. COG’s offices are located at 616 Six Flags Drive, Arlington.

For more information, call (817) 608-2338.

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