Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Denton County holds first of two transportation bond hearings

More than 75 people attended a Tuesday afternoon transportation bond workshop hosted by the Denton County Commissioners Court at the Denton County Courthouse, including officials from Double Oak, Hickory Creek and Shady Shores – to name a few.

The workshop was held under the “committee of the whole” concept in which all attendees are part of the committee and thereby allowed to participate in discussion about a proposed road bond election.

“We want to be super transparent and get as much public feedback as possible,” said Denton County Judge Andy Eads.

As part of the proposed Denton County Transportation Road Improvement Program 2022 (TRIP 22), Denton County is proposing such projects as the FM 1171 west extension, I-35W frontage roads, Highland Village Road and Highland Shores Blvd. reconstruction, Shiloh Road reconstruction, Kirkpatrick Lane extension, Denton Creek Boulevard extension to I-35W, Loop 288 East frontage roads, and the Outer Loop from I-35 to the Dallas North Tollway at the Denton County line. The location of the Outer Loop has not yet been defined, officials said.

A number of projects, at least 108 to date, are also included in each of the county’s four precincts for a total proposed TRIP 22 bond package of approximately $540,452,800, which represents Denton County’s costs.

In short, Denton County covers the engineering and other start-up costs to ensure projects get to the front of the line to procure funding from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), officials said. The county also works with municipalities to help fund major thoroughfares.

To date, Denton County Commissioners, working with partners such as TxDOT and local municipalities, have utilized the voter-approved proceeds of $187 million from the 2004 road bond program and $310 million from the 2008 road bond program to fund and construct more than $8.4 billion in roadway projects throughout the county.

“I would put Denton County at the top of efficiency in working on road projects,” Eads said. “This proposed bond election is focusing on our roads and bridges.”

Judge Eads said Commissioners Court has worked closely with municipalities to draft the list of road projects. And, he said, the average resident may not realize how long it takes to get a road built.

“There is a long lead time on projects when it comes to engineering, right-of-way acquisition and utility relocations. By the time the public sees the first shovel of dirt, we’ve likely been working on the road project for 10 years.”

Denton County Auditor Jeff May said Denton County is just now spending the last of the 2008 bonds. Denton County is fiscally set to issue new road bonds with a strong AAA rating, a healthy balance of $83 million in the fund balance – all of which would likely result in no increase in the tax rate and a potential decrease in coming years as property values continue to increase.

“The low interest rates are saving taxpayer dollars,” Eads said, adding that having the bond election now would allow the county to keep up with the population growth of 38.1 percent since 2010 as well as plan ahead at a time when interest rates are lower. Currently, Denton County sees a population growth of 82 individuals every day.

A second workshop is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Aug. 9 in the Commissioners Courtroom on the third floor of the Denton County Administrative Courthouse at 1 Courthouse Drive in Denton.

If consensus is reached, Commissioners will consider calling a transportation bond election on August 16 for the November 8, 2022 ballot.

Max Miller
Max Miller is the publisher of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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