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City Council Responses to Concerned Citizens Questions distributed April 11, 2005 Meeting

Material  provided by Lori Thomason,
Public Information Officer
City of Jacksonville

1.  Question: Please estimate the economic impact on Jacksonville of this proposed Hwy 69 “Relief Route”, since all traffic that takes it will bypass many of the town’s businesses. With the existing Hwy 69, or even a regular loop as most towns have, truckers and HWY 69 travelers could normally stop, eat or shop in Jacksonville.

Answer: If Jacksonville is unable to alleviate the congestion issues, the economic impact could be dire, indeed. Congestion and lack of mobility would effectively cripple local merchants. Traffic in Texas is going to increase, and we don’t want the congestion to hurt our residents and business owners, and we want them safe above all else. TxDOT is working on plans to route transient traffic – like NAFTA trucks – around cities. With the NAFTA corridor routed to the northeastern portion of the state, transient traffic will most likely go through U.S. 69 – which, we are told – will be a divided, four-lane highway. Transients, who have the need for food, shelter, gasoline, etc., will still patronize Jacksonville merchants. Trucks hauling NAFTA goods will reroute. Transient traffic stops for food and fuel. Leisure travelers stop for amenities, and that will continue to be the case. TxDOT estimates the 20 percent of through travelers on existing US 69 would take the relief route.

2.  Question: Please publish in the paper the Cost of the proposed Relief Route, and how it will be paid for. Please include the project costs of the construction, and include an estimate for the purchase of condemned land, homes and businesses, and de-valuation of homes and land nearby this traffic way due to noise levels, dangers involved in hazardous cargo near homes, etc. Provide the City and County costs of the project, the cost to city and county and state taxpayers.

Answer: At this juncture, Schaumburg and Polk – the engineering firm – has gathered information as to the feasibility of this project. That’s as far as it’s gone. Anything else on our part would be speculation.

3.  Question: We understand that the city and county would each have to pay their 10% share of the TxDot recommended Turnpike like traffic way. If this 10% share figure is accurate, how much would this cost amount to for the city and county? How would the city and county pay for their share? If increased taxation, how much would taxes increase for city and county? The projected $142 million cost for the turnpike-like traffic way does not count the purchase of land, and compensation for devaluation of land near
the traffic way. Ten percent of the total for this project will be considerably more than the cost for the city to complete the eastern loop. (Schaumberg and Polk estimated that at $20 million dollars.) So why involve TxDot??? Why not let the city complete the less expensive eastern loop, rather than request the more expensive turnpike-like traffic way from TxDot.

Answer: Schaumburg and Polk has no recollection of estimating a cost for completing the eastern loop. The relief route project is TxDOT driven. TxDOT will be the decision maker, based on state-mandated public meetings which are ongoing. Oftentimes, TxDOT asks for a 10 percent match on right of way purchase, but they would be the source of more information on that.

4.  Question: By contrast, what would it cost the city to complete the existing eastern loop. (Schaumberg and Polk estimated $20 million.). Hasn’t some of the cost of completing this eastern loop already been paid – feasibility study, etc.

Answer: Schaumburg and Polk has not estimated the cost of completing the eastern loop. No more and probably less information has been completed on the eastern loop than the relief route. Furthermore, what has been completed is probably about 10-20 years old. It would have to be updated, at a cost. Again, TxDOT is driving the project. Engineering studies are conducted by Schaumburg and Polk, and decisions are ultimately in the hands of TxDOT.

5.  Question: Are BOTH turnpike western traffic way AND the eastern Loop envisioned? Won’t increased traffic from the east side of town, when Lake Columbia is built, necessitate that the eastern loop be completed? Won’t the construction of both turnpike, limited access road on the west AND a traditional loop on the east amount to a lot of money for a city the size of Jacksonville, and for Cherokee County?

Answer: When TxDOT was working with the Angelina and Neches River Authorities in anticipation of a water reservoir being constructed, it was our understanding that studies were completed on increased traffic. And since the proposed Lake Columbia would incorporate a portion of U.S. 79, there were even discussions on new bridges and improvements of U.S. 79 East in relation to traffic flow. Both roadways are envisioned. However, TxDOT has suggested that the western relief route has the greater probability of being funded in the near future, which is between 10-15 years.

6.  Question: Has the feasibility study, and/or other components, already been paid for completion of the Eastern loop? Was this done at the time that the southern portion of the eastern loop was built? Is there already in place some arrangement to ensure that land along that loop not be sold?

Answer: It is our understanding that TxDOT constructs its own highway systems in stages. Well before the eastern loop was completed, state law and common sense necessitated feasibility study be completed. TxDOT would, again, be the source of that information. TxDOT may have developed some preliminary alignments for the northeastern quadrant of Loop 456 in the 1970s or early 1980s. To our knowledge, no alignment has been officially adopted. No efforts to set aside right of way for a northeastern loop have been made by TxDOT.

7.  Question: Was the county involved in the process to request a feasibility study, and other decisions concerning this proposed Relief route? Explain the nature of their involvement. Is this required by law to have their involvement, since so much of the route affects county residents and businesses?

Answer: The county has been involved in the process from a public meeting and public disbursement of information standpoint since the project’s inception. The county commissioners, as well as citizens and residents, have had equal opportunity to give input. Also, the Cherokee County Commissioners’ Court unanimously passed a resolution on March 27, 2000, adopting the results of the feasibility study conducted by TxDOT.

Question: We are concerned that this expensive proposed Relief Route for Hwy 69 will not accomplish what it is designed to do. It does not address Hwy 79 traffic, and does not take into account the increased traffic that will occur from Lake Columbia when built on the eastside of Jacksonville. Since it alleviates traffic on mostly a ten block congested area of South Jackson/Hwy 69, it seems that an extremely costly ten-mile solution is unacceptable for Jacksonville. It will ruin the western side of town for residential development, and rural development in the country where it is already occurring.

Answer: Any relief route which is designed to assist traffic flow within an incorporated city limits is done to assist the citizens and businesses of the city, as well as our tourists and visitors. If and when Lake Columbia is constructed, other measures, including completion of the northeast quadrant of Loop 456, may be considered to accommodate any traffic volume increases generated by the lake.

9.  Question: Will the public voice be heard in this decision? Schaumberg and Polk told the public at the first meeting about the Relief Route, that is the public did not want this road it would not be built. Over 400 citizens have signed a petition saying that they do not want this “Relief Route” for Hwy 69 built.

Answer: It has and it will. Traffic congestion and the safety of drivers on TxDOT-maintained highways and byways are at the forefront of TxDOT’s decision making. State-mandated public meetings for public input are done for a reason – to gain public input. Your participation in these meetings is a direct result of the TxDOT process. A petition was circulated in 2000, and more than 800 signatures were gathered in direct support of a plan to alleviate traffic congestion through an alternate route.

10.  Question: The TxDot feasibility study says that by the time the proposed Hwy 69 Relief Route is built, it will only be 20% efficient. The proposed “Relief Route” would only serve a portion of trucks using Hwy 69. Highways 69 and 175 are already connected, by Alexander Street. This existing linkage already allows traffic to go from Hwy 175 to Hwy 69 without passing through Jacksonville’s busy Hwy 69 area. So this expensive “Relief Route” being considered seems to serve mainly only traffic going north on Hwy 69 to Hwy 175 (or going south from Hwy 175 to Hwy 69) or continuing north on Hwy 69. Trucks going north from 175 to 69 already bypass Jacksonville via Alexander Street. We don’t even know if trucks would choose to use the relief route rather than going much more directly through town on the existing Hwy 69. Isn’t this a very high cost for ten miles of a roadway that would benefit only a small percentage of the truck traffic? Based on growth projections in the Feasibility Study by TxDot, in 10 years, the improvement of traffic by addition this road would be neutralized. Isn’t this an expensive ten mile turnpike, if it only accommodates that small a percentage of the truck traffic?

Answer: First, the statement that the feasibility study says the relief route will be only 20 percent efficient is erroneous. The feasibility study does not say this. It is also incorrect to say that the improvement in traffic handling capacity of existing U.S. 69 will be neutralized in 10 years after the relief route is constructed. TxDOT studies indicate the best and safest passage for heavy vehicle traffic is the engineer’s preferred route – which was presented at the last public meeting. The information shared by TxDOT is that vehicular traffic is destined to increase. TxDOT estimated daily traffic count on the relief route to be 14,400 in 2026. This is more than the estimated daily traffic currently on U.S. 69. TxDOT has said estimations of growth are important to know where the state, in general, and Jacksonville, specifically, is heading. We would direct you to the Web site: www.keeptexasmoving.org. Go to the bottom left side where it refers to “How Did Texas Get So Big?” and click. You will see a map with population density colors for all the counties in the state of Texas. Then go to the top right, and you will see the years with decades from the past, present and future. Move your cursor across theses dates, and you will see where the growth of Texas is moving. Pay particular attention to Cherokee County. It is on the growth route.

11.  Question: Please read and respond to the attached letter that was signed by hundreds of citizens who oppose this proposed highway project. (Since this writing, we have learned that the proposed Relief Route of Hwy 69 does not involve Hwy 79 at all, and so would not relieve any of traffic from this highway.) This letter was signed by many concerned citizens, homeowners, land owners, business owners of Jacksonville and Cherokee County, and it was mailed to the following officials: U.S. Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, State Representative Chuck Hopson, County Commissioners Mary Gregg and Moody Glass, Jr., TxDot Tyler District Engineer Mary Owen, and Allan Ross, Schaumberg and Polk. Copies were hand delivered to the City Manager/City Commissioners and the Chamber of Commerce.

Answer: It appears you’ve done an excellent job getting word to interested parties. The engineering firm, Schaumburg and Polk, has, of course taken all interests into its recommendations, and representatives from the firm say that the statement, “ … the proposed relief route of Hwy. 69 does not involve Hwy 79 at all ….” is incorrect.

12.  Question: We call to the city’s attention the e-mail results of a poll taken by the Jacksonville Daily Progress to get citizen sentiment about the proposed Hwy 69 Relief Route: 87.4% AGAINST 11.5% FOR 1.1% undecided. The participation in this polled issue was the highest ever reported on any issue in the Progress, and the vote was overwhelmingly opposed to route. (While acknowledging that this is not a scientific poll, still it is significant and a voice from the citizens you represent.) How could this issue be added to the spring ballot, or be put on the ballot for citizens to vote on?

Answer: Again, we applaud the efforts to get your viewpoint to all interested parties; however, this is a TxDOT-driven project. Your viewpoint would be best presented to TxDOT.

13.  Question: Read and respond to the attached letters to the editor about towns whose business and downtown were killed by a similar loop, turnpike in Taylor and Mount Vernon, Texas.

Answer: Please refer to the answer to Number 12.

14.  Question: Schaumberg and Polk said at the citizen’s meeting that it is very rare that a city of Jacksonville’s size would build this type of limited access, turnpike-like highway. It is also rare to fund a study when there is no money designated for the road. The Chamber made the argument in a recent letter to their members, that most nearby have one, so Jacksonville should. But most cities have loops, not this type of limited access “turnpike.” Why did the city choose to pay $500,000 to research this style turnpike, through our residential areas, bypassing our businesses?

Answer: The city funded a feasibility study conducted by an engineering firm that works closely with TxDOT, and Schaumberg and Polk did indeed say it is unusual for a city the size of Jacksonville to undertake such a project. It was meant as a compliment to the forward-thinking people who initiated the study.

15.  Question: Schaumberg and Polk said that 6 overpasses will be built, as this proposed route crosses any city or county streets, Hwy 175, etc. We ask the city to ask the engineering firm to estimate the cost of building an approximately ten-block overpass over South Jackson/Hwy 69 so that truck traffic could flow OVER the limited area of congestion on Hwy 69. Surely such a short length overpass over the existing Hwy 69 would not cost as much as the proposed route would cost.

Answer: While the cost of any project TxDOT undertakes is certainly a factor, future mobility planning is also scrutinized. The ten-block area is not defined in the question, but we assume it refers to the 10 intersections in the feasibility study. The section of roadway is about 14,200 feet in length. A minimum width bridge to carry through traffic would need to be 62 feet. That makes a total bridge area of 880,400. The bridge alone would cost almost $50 million, plus about $10 million for ramps and other access. Right-of-way costs would be astronomical, since you are talking about the central business district of Jacksonville.

16.  Question: Respond to the concerns expressed by a homeowner in the path of this proposed route. (He spoke at Feb 16 meeting with Schaumberg and Polk engineer and the public). “It is not right to have a cloud over our property for this long.” Homeowners cannot sell homes without disclosing that this 4 land truck turnpike may go nearby, and selling them with people knowing this will diminish their real estate value. Homeowners and businesses do not know whether to build, improve property etc. without knowing if this turnpike will destroy or affect their investments.

Answer: The feasibility study will be completed in a relatively short time. The next stage in the progression would be for TxDOT to budget for the project. At that point, someone in the proposed path would have a better understanding of the time table. We empathize with the homeowner; however, this is the process that must be executed for a new location highway. This reinforces the necessity of making a well-documented, professional, informed decision as expeditiously as possible.

17.  Question: FROM A TRUCKER'S PERSPECTIVE -- Would A Trucker go 10 miles out of the way to avoid a busy 10 blocks or of Hwy 69 in Jacksonville? Would a trucker choose to pay a toll to go 10 miles, when he could drive directly through an existing Hwy 69 with some congested traffic for maybe10 blocks. A trucker said that truckers would not take, and could not be made to take a toll road, if an alternate route exists. The trucking companies pay $5,000 - $6,000. per motorized unit (truck) annually, to operate on the highways. This is a "road use" tax. This fee is to build and maintain the roads that the trucks travel on. They do not want to pay a toll to travel on roads that they are already paying for. If it is to be a toll road, can the city make trucks utilize that “Relief Route,” when there is the more direct, existing Hwy 69 already there to travel on? If trucks cannot be made to travel on this proposed “Relief Route” will it pay for itself? If truck traffic cannot be made to travel on this road, A) is it realistic to think that truckers will use a road they have to pay a considerably high cost for, rather than a road that they have already paid for in their truck fees? B) is it realistic to think that trucks would take a ten-mile journey rather than a ten-block trip through the existing Hwy 69 with light to medium congested traffic?

Answer: Traffic congestion and the safety of drivers and citizens are existing problems shared by both the city and the road maintainer – TxDOT. Relieving impending congestion ultimately falls to the owner of the roadway. The city will be a participant in the process.

18.  Question: HWY 69, even near very busy truck traffic area of BIG CABIN, Oklahoma, goes right through busy areas of their city traffic, with used car lots and hamburger stands close to the 2 or 4 lane highway (with not even divisions between lanes). Big Cabin is a major truck traffic hub in the center of the country, with gigantic numbers of trucks, cross-country as well as north south traffic. So if an area as busy as Hwy 69 in and near Big Cabin, Oklahoma, has no loops or provisions for trucks to avoid city traffic, why does Jacksonville need one?

Answer: It’s hard to compare any situation in Oklahoma, but a quick study of a map shows that that portion of Oklahoma also diverts traffic onto a turnpike. Oklahoma has its own Department of Transportation and is not governed by Texas laws.

19.  Question: Will other new interstates and roadways planned in Texas accommodate truckers’ needs and therefore make the need for this Hwy 69 Relief Route less necessary? There are many new superhighways, Trans Texas corridors, and other highways planned for Texas and its truck traffic. Surely many trucks counted in the estimates that now go through Jacksonville or that may in the future go through Jacksonville, will travel the planned Interstate 69, going from Mexico to Canada, which in Texas runs from Houston to Lufkin, then north east to Texarkana.

Answer: TxDOT is involved in a 50-year plan to regulate and move traffic in a safe and effective manner. The impact of these new highways is unknown. The planning of the U.S. 69 relief route has been based on fact and existing conditions. The fact is that no new route being planned at this time makes any provision for that traveler wishing to go north from the Houston or Beaumont areas to any destination north of Lufkin – including Jacksonville, Tyler or as far north as Oklahoma.

20.  Question: It has been said that the proposed “Relief Route” for Hwy 69 would be paid for as a toll road. Then the engineers said no, probably it would not be a toll road. Yet Schaumberg and Polk current maps contain a drawing which include the “Gantry toll tag reader” and the “Conceptual Exit Ramp Design” contains lanes for “exact change” for the toll road, etc. Please indicate what plans there are for financing this proposed turnpike for truck traffic as a toll road. Who makes that decision? If it is a toll road, who would own the toll road, and share the profit or loss of it? What would be the tax burden on citizens of Jacksonville and Cherokee County if it were a toll road. What if it did not pay for itself as a toll road? What would be the tax burden if it were not a toll road, for citizens of Jacksonville and Cherokee County?

Answer: In recent public meetings, there has been no evidence from TxDOT to indicate that a toll road would be economically feasible. TxDOT is involved in long-term plans for existing and future roadways. Schaumburg & Polk stands by the statement that it is unlikely the U.S. 69 relief route will be constructed as a toll road; however, TxDOT mandates that any new location highway be studied as a toll road because of new funding options available to TxDOT. S&P continues to educate the public regarding the possibility of the relief route being constructed as a toll road. That is one purpose of the public meetings. If the route is constructed as a toll road, it will be most likely operated by the Northeast Texas Regional Mobility Authority, and they would control all proceeds from toll collection.

21. Question: We have read two very different descriptions of the project. One was in the letter the Chamber sent its own members: “This new highway will also allow us to channel heavy trucks, industrial machinery, manufactured houses, and hazardous materials around our community instead of through it.” Of course the proposed routes do go through the west side of our community, not around it (despite the engineers attempts to avoid homes, etc.). We are surprised that the city or Chamber would consider putting such a turnpike, carrying dangerous cargo through or near homes, schools, colleges, city recreation areas, city cemeteries, new developing homes, etc. The route has also been described as being “for the greater good of the city of Jacksonville and business and pleasure travelers of U.S. 69 throughout the state.” Yet it bypasses Jacksonville businesses, so it is hard to know how it will be good for them. Please explain how you view the “Relief Route” and how it will help or hurt Jacksonville, economically for businesses, tax base of the city and county (considering condemnation and de-valuation of properties due to proximity to the turnpike), the livability on the west side of the city, etc.

Answer: We will allow the Chamber letter, which we have attached, to speak for itself. We would also refer you to answer Number 1. The city would likely enact an ordinance to flow heavy traffic around the city. The Chamber of Commerce would assist in routing leisure travelers through the Love’s Lookout information center and rest area.

22.  Question: In a letter from the Chamber to its members Chamber members it was mentioned that the Chamber perceives that the west side of Jacksonville is “industrial” in nature. Please list what industries you refer to? How does this number of industries on the west side compare to the number of industries on the east side of the city. Please list those industries. Also, please indicate which of these industries will need truck deliveries/ pick ups, and therefore truck traffic coming to and from them would not utilize the proposed “Relief Route” for Hwy 69. Doesn’t the Old Tyler Highway, provide a “relief roadway” of its own already? Running parallel to the existing Hwy 69, doesn’t this allow for truck traffic going to the business they serve. Surely trucks going to serve those businesses would not benefit by using the proposed “relief route.”

Answer: In any given situation, the needs of a customer located in the city limits would be addressed; however, situations where transient trucks traveling across the state would also be addressed so they won’t be routed through the city.

23.  Question: Please list industries that exist on the eastern side of Jacksonville. Do Trucks need to come to those Jacksonville based companies for deliveries/ pick-ups? If so, wouldn’t they avoid using the proposed “Relief Route,” and go directly to their destination business?

Answer: Again, the needs of various businesses would be addressed by subsequent ordinances relating to where the truck is headed, whether it carries hazardous materials, whether it is a wide load and a plethora of other situations.

24.  Question: In a letter that the Chamber sent its own members, they said that the west side of Jacksonville was “industrial”. We want you to state publicly that you are aware how residential the great majority of the west side is - containing city cemeteries, Lon Morris College, Jacksonville Baptist College, schools, homes from a wide price range, rural areas, newly developing suburban areas in the rural areas, etc.

Answer: Schaumburg and Polk is nearing completion of an exhaustive survey of a relief route that would affect the least amount of property as possible. This has been done through numerous public hearings and correspondence. This firm has, in fact, altered the route because of public input.

25.  Question: Are the projections for traffic increase, and population increase valid for Jacksonville Texas? If Jacksonville population has not grown in twenty years, are their projections right that traffic will increase enough for the need for this “Relief Route”?

Answer: While Jacksonville maintains steady growth, the state is growing tremendously. Coupling the growth with an influx of rerouted NAFTA traffic, we have to keep mobility in our city. The same methodology projecting the traffic volumes for Jacksonville are used state-wide by TxDOT. It is not feasible to consider that Jacksonville’s population will not grow in 20 years. East Texas is one of the fastest growing areas of the state, and it will continue to be so. We would refer you to the answer on number 10.

26. Question: Please discuss how or if this proposed “Relief Route” for Hwy 69 around the west side of Jacksonville relates or does not relate to the proposed Interstate 69, the Trans Texas Corridors, etc.

Answer: When the feasibility study of the relief route is concluded, all information pertaining to future roadways and future interstates known to TxDOT will be incorporated into the study.

27.  Question: Please discuss your or TxDot reasons for deciding on a study ONLY of the western route, rather than all of the most feasible ways to alleviate traffic congestion in Jacksonville.

Answer: The feasibility study conducted by TxDOT in 2000 examined multiple corridors, both on the east and west sides of Jacksonville, including using existing Loop 456. The recommendation of the study was to determine an alignment for a relief route of U.S. 69 within a corridor defined on the west side of Jacksonville. The alignment studies undertaken on behalf of the City of Jacksonville are based on the recommendation of the feasibility study.

28.  Question: Recently the Love’s Lookout Visitor’s Center was opened. Surely it was not envisioned as a truck stop. Yet if the “Relief Route” re-enters Hwy 69 near Love’s Lookout, won’t the Visitor’s Center begin to serve as a truck stop. It would be the first chance trucks would have to stop anywhere around Jacksonville.

Answer: The construction of Love’s Lookout information center and rest area was designed and built by TxDOT. Their emphasis is the safety of travelers on their highways. There is no discrimination when it comes to truck traffic.

29.  Question: Will only two lanes be built initially? Will they be built to “Super 2” highway specifications? Is the estimate of $142 million (without the cost of purchase of condemned homes, land and businesses, and without the reimbursement for homes, land and businesses de-valued because of proximity to this truck turnpike) for the two or four lane roadway?

Answer: In our discussions with TxDOT, the first step is a feasibility study. Since it’s not yet complete, it is too early to definitively answer, but we believe it to be likely that only two lanes will be built initially. The most likely section will be two 12-foot lanes with 10-foot shoulders. The cost estimate in the feasibility study is $65.2 million, not $142 million. This does not include right of way, which could be as high as $20 million.

30.  Question: WHO PAYS FOR THE PURCHASE OF CONDEMNED PROPERTY? (Schaumberg and Polk’¹s estimates of the cost of the project do not include cost of purchase of land, homes, and businesses, or the cost of land and homes and businesses de-valued as a result of being located near this noisy, limited access, truck traffic turnpike.) What do you anticipate these costs to be? How will the costs be paid? 

Answer: Imminent domain is a last resort of any governmental agency – local or state. TxDOT uses, in most instances, local appraisers to estimate a fair market value.

31.  Question: It has been described as a “Relief Route” for truck traffic, yet there will be no relief for trucks going near Jacksonville. They cannot stop to get off for anything truckers need or like to stop for, not for these ten miles. No Relief on this route.

Answer: There was no question posed in this.


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