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Paying the toll: Council final decision on SH 190 begins to take shape
The path that SH 190, or the George Bush Turnpike eastern extension, is going to take through Sunnyvale is slowly, and painfully for some, taking shape.
The SH 190 committee presented the council with their recommendation two months ago and now the council is going through the process to decide if they will follow that recommendation or chose another route to recommend to the Texas Department of Transportation. During Monday night's Sunnyvale Town Council meeting the council decided to direct further conversations regarding the route to pertain to route 2.
The SH 190 committee reviewed three routes that TxDOT said had been environmentally acceptable to have the tollway run. Route 2, which the committee picked, takes the tollway down the eastern edge of Sunnyvale along shoreline of Lake Ray Hubbard. Routes 1 and 3 take similar routes down the Duck Creek floodplain.
Mayor pro tem Karen Hill has recused herself from the discussion, on grounds of conflict of interest, and took a seat in the front row in the council chamber.
Through a rough outline Mayor Jim Phaup had set at an earlier meeting the council was going to discuss the routes during Monday's meeting. Following this meeting entrances and exits will be discussed at the next meeting, depressions and how they wish to approach the topic with TxDOT will follow that and other route features on Nov. 26. With an ultimate plan to have a working draft for the recommendation they would send to TxDOT on Dec. 10.
Community members from all across the town came to hear and discuss with the council on their route decision. Residents' fears range from a tollway that travels too close to the growing Stoney Creek residential area, top those who do not wish to take up possibly lucrative commercial land along Lake Ray Hubbard. There also a letter that was issued by the Dallas Water utilities who owns some of the land along the proposed route 2 that indicates that they are against any route that comes on or near their property, which might influence TxDOT's ultimate decision.
The SH 190 decision has been on Sunnyvale's radar for decades. In the early 2000's when it became clear that the highway was going to come through the town, residents and community leaders began talking about the routes in earnest. Residents who support routes 1 and 3 point to an earlier survey done by TxDOT at the Mesquite Rodeo in 2006 where 179 residents voted on a route that is similar to those of 1 and 3. However that did not end the discussion there and the process would again be reviewed until a SH 190 committee was formed in 2011. That committee recommended route 2.
Some residents came out to support the SH 190 committee's recommendation. Brett Mangrum, Sunnyvale resident, said the committee spent 11 months gathering as much information as possible regarding all the routes, more than any study had done in the past.
"Having been through the process of the committee and being able to voice my opinion and hear others speak at the committees, and taking in all the factors that the committee took in it was important to me that all that hard work was recognized by the council," mangrum said. "I think we have reached a very important milestone. I think instead of people showing up with their different ideas this group had access to TxDOT, had access to experts, a group of people had more facts than what had ever been committed."
Still other residents do not feel the issue is close to resolution. Debbie Sheridan, and her husband, has been monitoring this issue for nearly three decades. The couple moved to the area 27 years ago when the route was initially laid along the railroad tracks and took a more westerly route. She knows this as they built specifically in that spot to avoid the turnpike. And now as they watched as the route slowly moved their direction, the issue hit hits to close to home for the Sheridans, as their property is one of three that lies underneath the route 2.
"I am here to tell you that my house is being taken out," Sheridan said. "I built my house 27 years ago and wanted to retire in this community. My husband built this house with his own hands. It is one thing to stand and say go ahead and take me out but another to be forced out."
Route 2 takes out the most residents as three homes are confirmed to be directly affected. Route 3 is next with two homes and route 1 only has one home directly affected.
After the public hearing was through, the council members gave their recommendations on which route they were supporting. Council members Ronnie Henderson and Saji George both support the recommendation of the committee of route 2. Mayor Phaup, who would have broken a tie should one arise, has indicated that he supports the eastern route.
"I have always felt strongly on an eastern route and have not seen anything that has changed my perspective on that," Phaup said. "If you think I do not understand the pain that this is going to put some of you through if that route is chosen, then I would encourage you to talk to us more because we do have a full appreciation and understanding. At the end of the day, the very best that this highway is going to be for this community is horrible. There is no one that wins."
Council member Jim Wade supports hybrid route that moves a bit farther west and follows the powerlines down through Sunnyvale. He also served on the committee that supported route 2, and while he understands how the committee came to that decision he said that does not mean he as a council member had to support it and he said he feels it is his duty as a council member to look at all options.
"I voted for the process that I and the committee had worked with for 11 meetings," Wade said. "I did not always agree with how the process was going or some of the results, but I was a part of the committee. So when it came time to make the decision, the process did determine this [route] and here are the numbers and I can see that. However, I never believed that I was giving my vote to the committee, we don't do that on anything else."
Council member Paula Yates said she was not going to recommend a route until she hears more information put before the council in regards to all of the routes.
"I think today we need to discuss with our town planner, engineer and our new Economic development person to see how this tollway will affect the town," Yates said "To see how this impacts the rest of town. In looking at our town, there is no property left for horses and gardens and things that those residents bought thirty years ago. They will not be able to relocate in Sunnyvale and that breaks my heart."
The council decision does not represent the final recommendation of the council, it will however direct their discussions in further meetings as they look at exit ramps, road depression and other features of the routes as they come up with a final recommendation to send to TxDOT.