The route that Texas 66 will take through Royse City in 10 or 15 years could be determined by the city council within the next 60 days.
The city council could decide to stick with its original decision to use Church Street in the realignment plan. Another choice – even though it appears to be an unlikely one – is to use Burton Street instead.
Or city council members could decide not to decide.
During a Tuesday workshop meeting to discuss the proposed new, widened and realigned Texas 66, some council members questioned what would happen to the project in Royse City if they took no action.
During that discussion, County Commissioner David Magness and John Polster, Rockwall County’s transportation consultant, were asked several times about timetables and deadlines.
Polster’s final answer was 60 days.
“If you don’t make a determination – which we’re not going to pressure you to do – in the next 60 days, I’m going to recommend to commissioners court to terminate the project at Erby Campbell,” Polster told the city council.
That action would “shrink” the project’s scope from Texas 205 in Rockwall to Erby Campbell Boulevard in Royse City. Realignment of the highway through downtown Royse City -- from Erby Campbell Boulevard to FM 1777 -- would be shelved for now.
The issue involves the proposed $100 million reconstruction and widening of Texas 66 from Texas 205 in Rockwall to FM 1777 in Royse City.
Some Royse City residents have voiced their objections to the route the highway would take from Erby Campbell Boulevard to Josephine Street. They have said the highway would destroy the historical significance of Church Street in Royse City. About a dozen of those residents attended the work session, but they were not given an opportunity to address the council.
From Erby Campbell Boulevard to Josephine Street, Texas 66 would be realigned and converted to two-lane, one-way couplets located on Main Street and Church Street.
Couplets are divided streets.
In this case, eastbound traffic would be one-way on a section of highway on Main Street and westbound traffic would be one-way on a section of highway on Church Street.
Mayor Jerrell Baley made it clear that he believes the city council should stick to its original decision to use Church Street for the project.
“We made this decision already,” Baley said. “We studied it. We looked at the maps and we talked about it. We decided Church Street was the best route. …”
Baley said he knows “a few people” object to the plan that calls for the use of Church Street, but “we’re not here to decide what a small group of people desire, but what the entire citizenship desires.”
Later, the mayor said, “We’re not going to be voting anytime soon and obviously everybody wants to delay it because I just think they’re afraid to vote on it. Your popularity will drop drastically.
“I think in their hearts and minds they know it will be Church Street eventually. I don’t see any reason to delay it any longer and just go back to what we decided originally, and move forward with it. That’s just my opinion.”
A short time later the 37-minute workshop meeting was adjourned.
“We’re in a pickle,” said Mayor Pro Tem Janet Nichol, noting the number of historic homes that are located on Church Street.
City Councilman Tom Crowley said he “probably voted too quickly for the couplet last time because I didn’t think we had another option of not doing anything.”
Polster and Magness were questioned extensively about how a decision to do nothing now would affect the project if city council members wanted to address the issue later.
“The (county) transportation plan would go forward, James,” Magness said in response to a question by Councilman James Branch. “As far as the plan’s concerned, we can stop it at Erby Campbell and address the Erby Campbell to 1777 later as a separate project. We can do that, which would only mean this body would still have to come up with a route at that point in time.”
Magness was asked if Royse City would have to “foot the bill” if the city council decided to pursue the project later.
“There’s not an answer to that question,” Magness responded. “We (the county) would do it if we could, but that’s up to a future (commissioners) court.”
At some point in the future, Magness said, the county will have another bond election for additional roads. The Royse City project could be a part of that package, the commissioner said.
“We certainly have some projects that are rising to the top and certainly we could add another project into that and earmark some money for that,” Magness said.
Polster added that “it’s not an easy decision for the council, but it’s a decision that has a big impact on Royse City years down the road. So, it’s a serious decision that you make and how you make it. We’re here to lend our support and give as much information as we can. We don’t want to make the decision for you.”
Branch asked Larry Lott, executive director of the Royse City Community Development Corporation, if Burton Street would be a “viable option” or “the smartest option for us.”
Lott said Burton Street has some drawbacks.
“One of the drawbacks is it runs right behind the (Main Street) buildings. It doesn’t allow any space for growth for the downtown area,” he answered. “I’m not sure I would say that Burton is a good choice from an economic development standpoint.”
Branch then asked whether doing nothing is a good option for the city’s potential growth.
“I think doing nothing at some point in time will be an issue simply because of the traffic that’s going to stack up, maybe it’s 10 years down the road, maybe it’s 15 years down the road,” Lott answered.
“In my mind – I’m just going to throw out what I think here – I had almost rather do nothing, meaning stopping at Erby Campbell, than to do Burton because I really think we limit ourselves with Burton, with parking and potential growth of retail facilities.
“So is it the end of the world if we stop at Erby Campbell? Maybe not. Would 10 years or 15 years down the road traffic be really, really tough downtown? Probably. And would we have to address or need to look at something at that point? Good chance we would.”
Some Texas 66 rehab dollars could be spent in Royse City, even if the city decides not to act on the couplet issue.
Texas 66 realignment is a $100 million project and the county now has about $30 million on hand. Polster said some of the current funds would be spent on engineering for the realignment project and some could be spent on “interim improvements.”
“The current idea is we know we’re going to have a hard time getting $100 million for 66 in the next 10 to 15 years,” Polster said. “So, we want to look at some interim improvements.”
The interim improvements, which could be made over the next five years, could include adding highway shoulders and making intersection improvements “where there are safety issues we can address.”
Because this was a workshop meeting, no vote was taken. Also, city council members did not discuss when they will tackle the issue again.