"About 29,000 cars travel each day on Toll 49 — and the projections had been that about 16,000 cars would use it each day," Linda Thomas, chairwoman of the Northeast Texas Regional Mobility authority told the group of elected and city officials from various Smith County cities.
Officials from the cities of Lindale, Bullard, Chandler, Tyler and Whitehouse attended. Smith County Judge Joel Baker along with commissioners Cary Nix of Precinct 2 and Jeff Warr of Precinct 1 also were in attendance.
Soon, work will continue on Toll 49 north of Interstate 20, which will be known as the "Lindale Relief Corridor," Ms. Thomas said.
Environmental studies have been completed for that portion of the toll road, which would run parallel to U.S. Highway 69 north, she said. It will be known as segment 4 and will relieve congestion on U.S. 69, which runs through Lindale.
Ms. Thomas gave updates on the northeast Texas region's transportation issues, along with Jeff Austin, commissioner of the Texas Department of Transportation, and Barbara Holly, executive director of the Tyler Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Ms. Holly explained the function of an MPO, saying it was created in the 1960s after the national interstate highway system was built.
"The government decided there was a need for local elected officials to make decisions about the highways and where they should go," she said.
She praised the cooperative spirit of many of the towns in Smith County, especially regarding the construction of Toll 49.
"It came in two decades ahead of schedule," Ms. Holly said.
Austin told the various city officials that he expected funding for new roads in the state will be a challenge.
"We just submitted our biennial budget for $21 billion for road maintenance," he said. "We've got to take care of our infrastructure and we can't do a lot without our MPOs," Austin said.
He said the state depended on the various community metropolitan planning authorities to set the priorities in their cities. Austin also talked about the need for a high-speed rail system between Dallas and Shreveport, La.
"The population is expected to double in Texas in the next 20 to 25 years — we have some tough challenges, but we're Texans and we are up for it," Austin said.
The next Council of Cities meeting is in August.