Judge Riley Elected Vice-Chair of Regional Transportation Council

Parker County Judge Mark Riley, after being elected as Secretary of the Regional Transportation Council (RTC) last June, has now been elected to the position of vice chair for the 44 member body.
Riley was elected to the position at a Thursday, June 12 meeting.
As the transportation policymaking body for the 12-county Dallas-Fort Worth area, the RTC oversees transportation planning for the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the country. The RTC guides the development of roadway, rail and other programs; allocates transportation funds; and recommends projects to the Texas Transportation Commission for other programs.
Riley was appointed to the RTC in 2008. It has served Parker County well as he has advanced Parker County’s transportation infrastructure through his development and leadership of the Parker County’s 2008 Transportation Bond Program, which will come to completion this summer with the completion of the Aledo Trail Project and the expansion of FM 1187 from I-20 to Aledo.
“I am proud to serve as vice chair of this important policymaking body,” Riley said. “I believe serving on this council as a member and now continuing as an officer is good for Parker County because it continues to give Parker County a voice and vote in the allocation of federal and State funds for the implementation of transportation improvements and projects.”
Creating partnerships, both local and regional, are a key component of Riley’s transportation plan for Parker County.
“The RTC is great for helping to create regional and local partnerships and it is one of the reasons this region is getting transportation projects done,” he said. “However there is more to do, and by working together, be that Parker County and our cities within Parker County, or our partnership with the RTC and TxDOT, we have found that we are able to accomplish more and at a quicker pace than most.”
The RTC also ensures transportation services are coordinated throughout the region and that the region complies with air quality regulations.
Riley said he will work with the newly elected chair of the RTC, Dallas County Commissioner Mike Cantrell, to work with the 84th Session of the Texas Legislature to seek additional transportation funding for the North Central Texas Council of Governments region.
“I have been and will continue to call for our state and federally elected officials to properly fund our transportation needs,” Riley said. “It will take not only traditional funding but innovative measures as well to meet the needs of Parker County, the region, the state and our country as a whole.”
Riley said some progress has been made with the Legislature’s approval of a ballot measure that will go before voters in November that would provide up to $1.4 bill a year in additional transportation funding.
“I urge voters to approve the constitutional amendment in November,” Riley said. “Our infrastructure is in need and transportation development drives our economic development. With the growth this country and this region is experiencing we must take action and just saying no is not an option.”

Texas Real Estate PAC Supports Judge Riley Re-Election

The Texas Real Estate PAC (TREPAC)has announced support to my re-election campaign. This support comes with a campaign contribution,
My opponent and I were interviewed by a panel of real estate agents to determine who is the most qualified candidate.
“I am pleased to have the support of TREPAC. While I certainly appreciate the financial support, the message it sends goes beyond the money.”
Parker County is a fast growing county and the need for solid, proven leadership is critical. I will continue to push our transportation projects to completion and begin implementation for the next phase of our loop. Transportation enhancements are necessary if we are to continue with a positive climate for living and working, both locally and across the state.

Honored To Be Recognized by “County Magazine”

Parker County Judge Mark Riley’s Transportation Blog
January 15, 2014
By Joel Nihlean
Writer – County Magazine

Parker County Judge Mark Riley is helping to drive the transportation conversation in his county. Using his website, the Parker County Transportation Blog, he takes his message directly to county citizens, bypassing the filter of a newspaper’s editor and print’s stifling restrictions on length.

Between his responsibilities as secretary for the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) Regional Transportation Council, his seat on the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition, and job presiding over one of the fastest growing counties in the state, Riley is never short on transportation issues to write about.

The road that led Riley to blogging began in 2008, when he worked with Parker County citizens to create an $80 million transportation bond package. As part of the county’s management of the bond, the commissioners court receives monthly progress reports on the status of the bond projects. The information is important to taxpayers, so Riley searched for the best ways to communicate it.

“Transportation has always been a topic of interest to me, and our county, like most, has great transportation needs,” Riley said. “After our voters overwhelmingly approved the bond in 2008, I wanted to be able to communicate with them on a regular basis about the status of our different road projects. I found the blog and other social media outlets were the perfect way for me to do that.”

The blog posts often focus on the bond program and road and bridge funding within the precincts, but he also seeks out public input on possible future transportation solutions for the county. He solicits comments on his posts and puts up surveys.

This past March, Riley used a blog post to invite Parker County residents to a luncheon and public discussion about commuter rail. The post was shared from his blog to Facebook more than 100 times and was picked up by local papers. Sixty-five residents attended the talk about rail’s place in the regional transportation plan.

“The biggest benefit [of the website] is the direct communication with my constituents. It also forces me to research and learn about state and national transportation issues that affect our county and region,” he said.

Readers regularly post comments on the blog, but they are moderated to keep the focus legitimate, according to Riley. “This blog is not for the purpose of accusing, name calling or in general, child-like behavior. There are other blogs available for those types of comments,” the note on comment moderation warns.

“I have found that the positives of using blogs, Twitter, Facebook and others far outweigh the negatives,” Riley said. “By communicating directly with our constituents and cutting out the middle man, we can eliminate things being taken out of context or the misquotes that come with working through traditional media.”

Riley says he’s used Facebook to counter misinformation in the newspaper, posting their story and then explaining the facts. He uses Twitter to share new blog posts, read more about various transportation issues and learn of breaking news he can relay to his constituents.

Each of the judge’s blog posts can be shared to Facebook or Twitter with only a few clicks via built-in social media buttons, and his personal Twitter feed also appears in the right-hand column of each page.

The website is mobile responsive, too. It displays a version of the site’s layout best suited for whichever phone, tablet or computer it’s being viewed on.

But what sounds like complicated coding took the judge only a little research and few mouse clicks to get going.

“I set the blog up myself after researching other sites and discussing it with others who had blogs. I decided WordPress was the best option,” said Riley. “It is both user- and reader-friendly and is something that would be very easy for other county officials to use.” ✯

Eastern Loop Planning Continues

Planning the Eastern Loop has been underway since May 2012 when Commissioner’s Court authorized our consulting firm, Freese and Nichols, to proceed with schematic design and preliminary environmental documents. The court voted to proceed after conducting a public meeting attended by almost 200 residents. Joining us were the city councils of Hudson Oaks and Weatherford.

TXDOT provided the basic alignment study. Part of the current process is determining where the best place for the loop is within that suggested alignment. It has been determined the best location for the southern connection to IH-20 is at Centerpoint Road.

Additional service roads will be built, or the existing access roads will be extended to provide improved mobility and safety from Weatherford to Hudson Oaks.

The loop will go north from the interstate and connect to the Ric Williamson Memorial Highway at highway FM 51 north.

FINANCING THE PROJECT

While we have cost savings from current projects in the bond program, we also have regional money secured to begin construction. The regional dollars are funds originally set aside for the Western Loop interchange at I-20. However, the county was approved for a pass-through financing agreement with TXDOT and therefore we can shift the regional money to the east interchange.

Pass-through agreements require the local entity to pay for the project and then be reimbursed by TXDOT over a specified period of time based on traffic counts. Parker County will be reimbursed about $7million beginning in 2015 with annual payments a minimum of $650,000.

This partnership allows us to proceed with the Eastern Loop much sooner than originally anticipated. I will continue to work with our transportation partners to secure additional funds as they become available. The cities of Weatherford and Hudson Oaks are important in our succes of the final phase of the loop.

I currently serve as Secretary of the Regional Transportation Council and will become Chairman in 2015.  The RTC is the body of elected and appointed officials that, by law, determines funding allocations in the DFW region. To date, Parker County is set to receive about $35 million in current and future funding commitments for our transportation needs.

My work with our regional partners is significant and very beneficial to our citizens. It is through these local, regional and state partnerships that we have developed our successful plan and progress.

I give programs regularly to civic clubs, church groups, neighborhood associations and others to provide the facts about our transportation plan. If you would like to have a presentation, contact me and I will be glad to visit with you.

For information about specific projects in the bond program, go to www.parkercountytransportationbond.com

 

Entering the home stretch, preparing for the next run

In a few months, the voter approved transportation bond will be completed. Finished on time and within budget. Something I was told would never happen. But through diligence and partnerships, we have done for the taxpayers what we promised.

It all began in 2004 when TXDOT completed an alignment study for a much needed loop around Weatherford. Their professional recommmendation, based on traffic studies, was to start the western portion of the loop first.

In early 2008, I presented the Commissioners Court a proposal to proceed with developing a transportation plan that would include the loop. The court agreed. We ultimately engaged the services of Freese and Nichols as our consulting engineers after several rounds of competing interviews. The study was funded by money from the Regional Transportation Council.

After meeting with a citizens committee, the firm presented a final list of projects for the court to consider. The court presented the plan to the voters in November 2008 and it was approved by about 60% of the vote.

Our quick success has been called unprecedented by some in the transportation profession. We received our money and started the first projects six months after voter approval. Now, five years later, we are nearing the end.

The IH-20 interchange will open in a few months which will complete the western loop. Vehicle usage increases daily with over a thousand vehicles a day using the loop already. I cant wait to see the count when it is completed.

The expansion of FM 1187 going into downtown Aledo and the construction of Aledo Trail will be finished late summer.
We have accomplished our goals through constant work with our partners: local cities, TXDOT, our regionial partners and our engineering firm. Without that coalition, we would be on the typical seven year plan.

Work has been underway for sometime on the required planning for the Eastern Loop. The decision has been made to start the project at IH-20 at Centerpoint Rd. A portion of the regional money I secured for our projects has been set aside for the eastern loop. There is absolutely no reason to call a bond election at this time for that project.

We will soon be conducting public hearings on the preliminary studies of the eastern loop and then proceed to the next step.
Our success, called “The Parker County Model” has been touted in the region and in different transportation meetings in the state. I have shared how our partnerships were built and how we have been successful to date. I get calls regularly from other counties asking about our program.

Hang on folks, the ride is not over. It is just beginning.

The (Growing) Pains of Remodeling and Road Construction

Have you ever remodeled your house? Added a room? Installed new floors, or “just” repainted? If you attempt these overhauls while living in the house, it can become a nightmare. Managing the foot traffic in and around the construction zone can be quite challenging. You move the furniture to one side of the room or squeeze it all into other rooms. Either choice leaves smaller paths for navigating the house. On a good day the kids stay with the neighbors or the grandmother so you can get “something done”. The stress builds with each day of work. Sometimes work is interrupted by outside influences beyond your control. If the remodel is underway because of a growing family, you have no choice. You make room for the future.

Road construction is much like remodeling a house. There are things to be moved so work can begin: utility poles, gas lines, structures and dirt. Lots of dirt is moved in the road construction business. If the projects are happening on an existing roadway, a remodel if you will, traffic has to be dealt with while the work goes on. The paths to drive become more narrow. It is much like trying to navigate the house under remodeling with furniture stacked wherever. And yes, there are plenty of outside influences that affect the construction process. Businesses are affected because customers don’t want to mess with the construction. In reality, we all tend to lack patience. You know, the kind of patience we need to wait an hour for a table at a restaurant on a Friday night. Or the kind of patience we seem to muster up to get into a major sports event or concert.

When day is done the remodeling of the house proves to be a worthwhile effort. It is something that makes the lives of the owners more enjoyable. New road construction or expansion of existing roadways are like the remodel job. Efficiency is improved for the traffic. More room is made for the growth experienced and anticipated. It doesn’t mean there is not some pain associated with it all. But we can ease some of the pain for the businesses affected by thinking of them when we are ready to spend money. Patience is all it takes.

Yes, the RWMH is really being used !

The first traffic counts on the Ric Williamson Memorial Highway (RWMH), also called the “loop” have been completed. The electronic count was taken July 10, 2013. Counters were set up at four points along the loop.

Starting at the intersection of FM 51 North, head south on the RWMH. The first counter was just past the intersection. The southbound count was 1,509 vehicles, of which 8% were trucks. Northbound, the count was 1,207 with 11% trucks.

The next counter was between Zion Hill Rd (FM 2421)and Peaster Highway (FM 920). There were 1,235 southbound vehicles, of which 12% were trucks. Northbound the count was 1,203 vehicles with 13% trucks.

The next counter was between Peaster Highway and Garner Road. Southbound the total was 1,689 and 15% were trucks. Northbound 1,704 vehicles were in the count and 13% were trucks.

The final counter was between Mineral Wells Highway and Greenwood Road. Southbound there were 1,065 vehicles and 18% were trucks. Northbound the count was 924 and 19% were trucks.

With 2/3 of the loop open, the traffic counts prove what we anticipated. The roadway was needed and would be used. There are still a few naysayers. You know the ones. Against everything. Never a solution to any problem. Most of us understand it is much easier to complain, criticize and say “no” to everything than it is to work at providing legitimate solutions.

Fortunately, in 2008 about 60% of the voters in the bond election had the vision to step up and give approval for the biggest economic driver ever seen in the county.

When evaluating the numbers, it is important to keep in mind most of this traffic was going around the Historic Courthouse. Several hundred trucks a day have been removed from the dangerous congestion around the square. In a year, when the loop is finished, the Courthouse Square will become a more pleasant place to drive, walk and enjoy.