Denton County officials held a workshop Tuesday to release the first proposal for a November bond election in which voters could approve $540 million for a range of road projects across the county's four precincts.
The county's strategy
Denton County last passed bond programs in 2004 and 2008, with voters approving $187 million and $310 million largely for use on road infrastructure. Now, because of growth and because the county is using up the very last of those funds, officials say a new round of funding is necessary.
The Denton County Transportation Road Improvement Program 2022 totals over $540 million and includes dozens of projects from each of the county's four precincts. At a public workshop Tuesday, the first proposal for those projects was unveiled in front of a packed crowd of local officials and residents.
Of course, the bond has to first be approved by voters before the projects have the monetary backing. The county is planning on calling that election next month so it can be voted on Nov. 8.
Perhaps the most emphasized part of the county's pitch to voters is its approach to road projects, which commissioners and consultants call "faith-based engineering." Essentially, the county works with larger agencies like the Texas Department of Transportation, taking on a leading role in road projects to get them to a certain point. Then, TxDOT is enticed to finish out the project, absorbing most of the cost in the process.
According to officials, this investment strategy has turned the past two bonds' $497 million into $8.4 billion worth of road projects. County Judge Andy Eads cited state-maintained roads such as FM407, FM2499 and U.S. Highway 377 as examples of the kind of road improvements the county looks to get "shovel-ready."
"The county takes the lead, many times, in acquiring the services of an engineer, and then we also work to get those projects designed and environmentally cleared," Eads said. "If one of the other projects [in the region] gets delayed, we can step in, because we have a shovel-ready project that's already ready to go. We can acquire funding from across the region or across the state."
County officials are also pitching that the bond funding will help keep up with growth, increase safety, improve air quality by cutting down on traffic emissions, and generally enhance quality of life.
A full list of projects can be viewed on the county's bond webpage, broken down by precinct and by the partnering municipality. Some of the more major projects include a $6 million commitment to a Loop 288 West freeway, a $13 million commitment to Loop 288 East frontage roads and a $10 million commitment to Interstate 35W frontage roads.
The project that received the most attention Tuesday was a $30 million commitment to the regional Outer Loop from Interstate 35 to the Dallas North Tollway at the Denton County line. That project spans more than just Denton County. Several residents who live around the Sanger area attended the meeting to raise concerns that early alignment maps have the six-lane freeway going through their homes.
Officials said the alignment for the Outer Loop is still years away from being set in stone, but residents countered that no matter the exact alignment, the freeway will still disrupt many houses.
"I would just reiterate, though, that's still exactly where all of our houses are," said one resident. "There's pretty much no way, unless you somehow jump up all the way up to the lake and come back down, that it's not going to end up radically changing our communities."
Officials added that the county has to abide by environmental guidelines and work with other agencies and contractors, because the Outer Loop project spans multiple counties. The county still has to work with several municipalities as well, so exact details on the alignment are a ways away.
However, longtime transportation consultant John Polster was blunt in saying that not everyone can be unaffected in such a project.
"There's input for the public," Polster said. "When we get that input, to the extent that we can mitigate or avoid a lot of these things, we will. But we can't avoid everyone."
Polster said each step in the process, including things like public involvement, has to be sent to the state to be checked over. For that reason, the county's planning on the process will take three to five years.
The next bond workshop will be held Aug. 9 at the Denton County Administrative Courthouse.