Thursday, April 15, 2004

"TxDOT started the project before asking for public input."

TxDOT director lacks credibility

April 15, 2004

Editor, the Advocate:

In his April 3 guest column, Michael Behrens told us the Texas Department of Transportation has conducted meetings to begin a public dialogue on the Trans-Texas Corridor. However, Behrens never answered the question why they started the project before asking for public input. Perhaps that's because they have yet to seek any meaningful public participation on their Corridor Plan.

These county meetings come 20 months after the Corridor Plan was officially adopted and TxDOT committed to building segments. The February meetings were held because HB 3588 required them in each affected county before TxDOT can establish corridor routes. Read the meeting notices. Only the route, not the concept, was offered for public discussion.

TxDOT has consistently described the Trans-Texas Corridor in very definite terms. Numerous public announcements, including one just last month, describes the project in specific detail: "The Trans-Texas Corridor will be a 4,000-mile transportation network that will include separate highway lanes for passenger vehicles and trucks, high-speed passenger rail and commuter and freight rail, as well as a dedicated utility zone."

Behrens tells us that the lines on the map are just lines. But according to the plan adopted in 2002, the particular line in question is the Trans-Texas Corridor from El Paso to Orange. It was identified by TxDOT as a priority corridor. Another line on the same map is the Interstate 35/Interstate 69 Corridor which Behrens tells us is currently their primary concern. Are they just lines or not?

Since Behrens didn't articulate how the corridor segment between Kerrville and El Paso will relieve urban traffic congestion, I must conclude that it won't. To our surprise, Behrens says no final decision has been made that this corridor segment is even needed. This is a stunning observation since TxDOT testified before the commission that the corridor from El Paso to Orange is both financially feasible and that it should be built. believes that the entire project is about generating revenue and not about meeting our urgent transportation needs. Behrens' comments seem to bear proof of that belief.

If at least one of the four priority corridors identified by TxDOT in their plan may not be needed as Berhens now claims, how much credibility does the rest of the Trans-Texas Corridor Plan have?

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