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Directors tar mobility chief amid low toll revenues
The Longview News-Journal ^ | October 9, 2018 | Jimmy Daniell Isaac

Posted on 10/11/2018 10:14:38 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks

Gregg and Rusk county reps on a regional transportation board aren’t happy with the lack of progress, reporting and marketing for Toll 49 on which traffic and revenues have slowed.

Northeast Texas Regional Mobility Authority directors hope a new on-ramp that opened Tuesday plus the addition of 6 more miles that open Nov. 1 — two months ahead of schedule can resurrect sluggish toll revenue.

Board member Dave Spurrier raised questions, however, about why more hasn’t been done to attract new drivers, especially from Interstate 20.

“I’d just like to see an aggressive marketing plan,” Spurrier, who represents Gregg County, said soon after hearing that Toll 49 recorded its lowest September traffic counts since it opened four years ago.

More marketing of Toll 49

The NETRMA is a $391 million mobility agency that owns and operates Toll 49, also considered Tyler’s outer loop. Revenues from tolls paid by drivers on the road are used to fund projects in 12 counties, including a $400,000 improvement to Hawkins Parkway in Longview earlier this year and environmental studies for a planned loop around Gilmer.

Toll 49 averaged 30,776 daily transactions — the number of times drivers paid a toll — last month. It was a nearly 4 percent decrease from September 2017, as month-over-month transactions have trended downward since the tollway’s inaugural year of 2015, according to a chart NETRMA staff showed board members.

Spurrier and Rusk County board member John Cloutier challenged NETRMA Executive Director Chris Miller on what they said have been delays in taking action to market Toll 49 or in giving board members better details and insight into how to reverse the downward trend on the road that serves as Tyler’s outer loop, as the agency hopes to use that revenue to extend the tollway eastward into Gregg, Upshur and Harrison counties.

“It would be nice for all of us to know, I think, what we’re doing,” Spurrier said, noting that the charts presented Tuesday don’t show the number of trucks versus cars using Toll 49 — data he said is important to see in light of the agency’s current issues.

“You all may be doing that internally,” Spurrier told staff, “but I haven’t seen that in quite a while.”

Marketing was a board conversation a year ago but still no plan for attracting new traffic to Toll 49 has been developed, Cloutier said. He added that having to defend that to the 50,000 residents of Rusk County that he represents “scares me a little bit.”

Andrea Williams-McCoy, a board member who chairs the Marketing Committee, said recent data shows that a big portion of Toll 49 traffic originates from the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area and that the committee wants to develop more coordination with the North Texas Toll Authority as well as increase billboard signage on Interstate 20, the most-traveled road in East Texas.

Cloutier said the full board was hearing that information for the first time Tuesday.

Larry Morse, who represents Upshur County, requested that future budget reports include written analyses about changes in revenues or expenses.

“We can do that,” Miller said.

New ramps, extension, Gilmer loop

Miller announced at the meeting that contractors had just opened Tuesday newly constructed ramps that connect Texas 110 West with Toll 49.

Also, the 6-mile Lindale Relief Route is scheduled for a Nov. 1 grand opening. The extension connects U.S. 69 north of Lindale to Toll 49’s current northern terminus at Interstate 20, which the agency hopes will attract more commuters.

The Lindale Relief Route was originally expected to be complete in 2019. Staff said the contractor is anticipating a $600,000 bonus for beating the deadline, and NETRMA also anticipates that it will save more than $12 million of the $25 million in available construction funds.

Among priority projects, the agency spent $400,000 on Hawkins Parkway at U.S. 259 North in Longview earlier this year — plus $29,000 to help fund environmental studies for a proposed outer loop or U.S. 271 bypass around Gilmer.

A stakeholders meeting about the Gilmer outer loop is planned for 9 a.m. Oct. 31 at the Gilmer Civic Center. The public and representatives from municipal, county, school and other local governments are invited to attend.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Government; News/Current Events; US: Texas
KEYWORDS: construction; funding; gilmer; i20; infrastructure; lindale; linden; localnews; longview; netrma; texas; toll49; tolls; transportation; tyler; us69; wob

1 posted on 10/11/2018 10:14:38 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

It would be fun to watch him truly get tarred. I doubt the headline lives up to its promise.

2 posted on 10/11/2018 11:16:21 PM PDT by OrangeHoof (CNN - the most busted name in news.)
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

Maybe their tolls are to high and if they dropped them to attract more customers they could actually make more money?

3 posted on 10/11/2018 11:20:26 PM PDT by WMarshal (America First)
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To: Tolerance Sucks Rocks

“Revenues from tolls paid by drivers on the road are used to fund projects in 12 counties”

...and, ONCE AGAIN, we see that toll road money is being DIVERTED to other ‘projects’, likely some of them not even related to transportation.

So, when you hear something like “Tolls are fine, you use the road, you pay for it”. Never forget that you’re also funding many, many, other ‘projects’ of the politicians, and likely helping to take care of the friends of the politicians.

4 posted on 10/12/2018 3:19:39 AM PDT by BobL (I eat at McDonald's and shop at Walmart - I just don't tell anyone.)
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To: BobL

Exactly. Maybe ridership on Toll 49 is down because Texans in that region are catching on to the diversions.

5 posted on 10/12/2018 8:23:20 AM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks ( The US Constitution ....... Invented by geniuses and God .... Administered by morons ......)
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