The public weighed in on the plans for Toll 49 in Smith County during a workshop this week.
The North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority hosted the Tuesday event as part of a study exploring route options to extend Toll 49 north from Texas Highway 110 South to U.S. Highway 271, near Interstate 20. Attendees could come and go to view information and maps set up around the Chapel Hill High School gym and ask questions to Toll 49 project team members.
The workshop presented information on six proposed routes that were drawn based on over 50 routes suggested by the public during a Dec. 11 workshop, said Andy Atlas, Toll 49 feasibility study project manager.
“We want to follow a transparent, open public involvement process where people’s concerns are heard and listened to,” Atlas said.
The feasibility study is planned to conclude in the fall and will narrow the six proposed routes down to three based on the public’s feedback, he said. Those routes will then be carried forward to a federal environmental impact statement (EIS) as the next step of a process that’s still in the early stages.
“We’ll have a public hearing at the end of the process that we anticipate taking approximately two-and-a-half years once we start the EIS process,” Atlas said.
Construction and purchasing right-of-way is projected more than three years away and is dependent on the EIS and obtaining funding.
Laptops were available for workshop attendees to use Google Earth to see where the proposed routes fell in relation to their homes and surrounding areas.
“It would take out my house,” Calista Moore, 60, said of the two westernmost routes.
She hopes the Toll 49 plans move forward on the easternmost routes but said she understands people with homes in those areas may hold concerns similar to hers.
“I think they’ll take into consideration everybody’s comments, and hopefully they’ll come to a solution that is going to harm the least amount of people and property,” Moore said. “That’s my wish.”
Many attendees visited tables with enlarged maps of the proposed routes and could leave notes directly on them with a marker. Stephen Hall, 54, lives in Tyler and owns other property that falls along the proposed routes.
“I put a sticky note on there that said several of these terminate at Highway 271, and 271 already has some very heavy traffic on it,” he said. “And I feel like that would increase the traffic a good bit.”
Hall was surprised and pleased with the feedback opportunities the workshop provided.
“I think it’s a good process to involve the community like this,” he said. “I’ve heard people whose houses were almost adjacent to some of the proposed routes, and I think it’s important that their voice be heard.”
The workshop’s maps and information can also be found at netrma.org/projects/segment-6 where people still can fill out a survey and leave comments. Submissions by June 19 will be part of the workshop’s official record.