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Ellis County residents get look at Loop 9 proposed routes

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MIDLOTHIAN - On the drawing board for more than 50 years, Loop 9 is now one step closer to a reality.

Loop 9 is a 40-mile stretch of toll road to connect southern Dallas County with toll roads already existing in the North Texas including the George Bush Turnpike through Collin County.

Last Thursday, Jan. 18, Ellis County and southern Dallas County residents got a chance to review two proposed routes for Loop 9 as it will stretch from Texas Highway 287 in Midlothian to Interstate 20 in Seagoville during a public hearing at Midlothian's Conference Center.

Citizens attending the hearing reviewed table sized maps showing the path of each alternative route while asking questions from engineers working on the project.

'This will serve the outlining and suburban counties,' said Tim Nesbitt, project manager and engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation.

Neither route at this point was considered to be a preferred route, Nesbitt said, noting they were just two possible options.

Nesbitt said just as Interstate 635 was a loop built to serve the inner portion of Dallas County, Loop 9 has been proposed as an outer loop.

Nesbitt said this is one of the largest projects TxDOT has ever undertaken as the 40-mile roadway was expected to cost $1.8 billion.

'It may seem like a high price, but we are talking about 40 miles and six major interchanges,' Nesbitt said.

As Loop 9 crosses Interstate 20, Texas Highway 287, Texas Highway 175, Interstate 45, Interstate 35 and U.S. Highway 67 an interchange would be constructed allowing drivers to navigate from one highway to another.

Transportation officials were trying to determine how to fund construction costs.

In 2003 state legislators passed a bill allowing TxDOT to issue bonds to pay for construction.

In the past TxDOT has not built roads until all the funding was sitting in the bank, but if a private developer constructs the toll road construction could realistically begin within four years.

'If we go with a private developer then we don't anticipate using state or federal funds,' Nesbitt said.

'If we had to rely on state or federal sources we would have to wait almost 20 years to get enough funding.'

If a private contractor uses their own money to construct the project the contractor would also be eligible to collect a portion of the toll money while running and maintaining the roadway, according to Nesbitt.

He said the state would still own the road getting a share of the funds.

A contractor has not yet been selected for the project.

Once construction begins it would not be completed until at least 2015 because it would be built in four-mile segments.

With three lanes in each direction, three lanes on the north and southbound service roads the right of way was expected to be 450 to 600 feet wide.

But before construction begins, TxDOT must conduct environmental testing to ensure the route would meet federal environmental guidelines.

More meetings were expected to be held next year for residents to provide additional input regarding the toll road.

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