Saturday, July 22, 2017

In a Roundabout Way - I Say No Thanks

Turn Around Commerce You Are About to Make a Big Mistake on a Roundabout

Let me start this off by saying I was on vacation when the Toole Group came to Commerce, so I was unable to put my 2 cents worth in then. So here it is and yes I have opinions about the things for downtown but that is for another time.

A roundabout would be an enormous financial burden on the citizens of Commerce. Why?

First off, Hwy 24 and Culver Street are state maintained roads.  Now I have not talked with anyone with the Department of Transportation (TXDot) but in meetings with them about 10 years ago when the city was wanting to expand sidewalks and make a bike lane on Live Oak Street, TXDot said the only way that would happen is if TxDot gave the road to the city and then the city would be responsible for adding the sidewalks and bike lane. The city would also be responsible for all future maintenance. Basically TXDot gives us the road and it is up to the taxpayers to foot the bill for the changes and future maintenance.  Somewhere at city hall they should have documents from TIP Strategies that did work on that back in the around 2006.

So here, IN MY OPINION, is a couple of predictions of what would have to happen in order to do a roundabout.

1) The Department of Transportation would give to the city Hwy 24 from the southern city limit sign  (there by the Lion's Den Motel/Extended Stay) all the way to Northeast city limits
2) TXDot would also have to give to the city Culver Street from Highway 24 to our eastern city limits on Hwy 11
3) The Eastern Loop (as I will call it) would have to be built to alleviate truck traffic on Hwy 24 and Culver

The roundabout is also tied into reducing Culver Street to 3 lanes.  Officials would want to have fewer trucks (those going to Hydro) along Culver thus the push for the Eastern Loop as well. With Hwy 24 also about to be completed as 4 lanes all the way to Paris and beyond more truck traffic is in our near future.

So I admit I did not do a lot of digging on Google but the cost to construct the Eastern Loop would be roughly $4-$6 million per mile. Here is a link to the article with an estimate. Now yes that estimate  is used for the "Midwest", but for the fun of it let's just go ahead and use $3 million per mile.

My drawing of the Eastern Loop is just over 6 miles.  $18 MILLION DOLLARS

TxDot is a state agency and doesn't have extra an $18 million laying around to build a new road especially for a town that is wanting a project for the aesthetics.

So TXDot will go to city officials and say, we will build it if Commerce will pay for it. SHOW ME THE MONEY!

But didn't the citizens in the county authorize a road bond recently? Yes they did.

Here is the article and $24 Million was issued. Nothing towards an Eastern Loop in this round. Future bonds could, but I don't think it is a high priority for the Commissioners to take on $18 million and spend that on Commerce when there are more needs to handle growth in the western part of the county.

Let's add it up...
Eastern Loop $18 Million
The roundabout and those improvements let's guess another $2 million
Culver at least another $2 million to reduce the road and add sidewalks and bike paths.
PLUS did the folks take into account the horrible drainage issues along Culver when it rains. So there is a cost for that as well

Construction projects in today's dollars $22 million.  If it takes 10 years to do add another $4 million.

But let's say $20 million...
If the citizens of Commerce agreed to  issue $20 million in debt at NO INTEREST for 20 years, we would pay back $1 million per year.  Currently 1 cent on the tax rate generate about $30,000.  We would have to raise our current take rate by 33 cents.

Yeah, let's go from $.82 cents to $1.15.

Some may say...
Oh, but we don't have to issue all that debt at once, we can do it in stages.
Does anyone remember the 2001-02 facilities master plan? Go back and read the Commerce Journal from January 1, 2003 and look at all the projects still not done. Look at the city goals that are the same today as they were over 15 years ago. Here is a screenshot of parts of the article:

Let's wrap this up because I probably lost most folks because this is not easy to put into words.

Show me the costs and then show me how it's going to be paid for.  Looks are great but they come with a cost and I think the cost is going to be too high.

The cry from some is we want our town and downtown to look like Sulphur Springs.  Carter-Burgess in 2002 and TIP Strategies in 2006 did similar studies to what the Toole Group is doing now. If we would have implemented those recommendations Commerce could have already had a vibrant downtown and other improvements.

Why weren't they done? The citizens didn't have the stomach to pay for it then and I don't think we will have the stomach to pay for it now.

There are solutions. I just hope the Toole Group comes up with better ones then what I've seen so far.