Friday, March 26, 2004

"We are getting a lot of double speak from the state on the project and that is destroying the level of trust people have in the project."

Two square off in state Representative District 17 GOP runoff


Victoria Advocate
Copyright 2004

Two candidates will be on the ballot for the state Representative District 17 Republican Party's nomination in the April 13 runoff election.

Jean Killgore, 57, a Burleson County rancher, will face Jay Yates, 32, an engineer and investor from Bastrop. The pair advanced out of a pool of four candidates with Cynthia A. Thornton and Herman W. Brune who were eliminated during the primary election.

Killgore received 39 percent of the vote, while Yates, a native Texan, received 22 percent.

Early voting will be April 5-9.

The winner will face Democratic incumbent Representative Robbie Cook. Cook, 42, of Eagle Lake, received 65 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary to advance against two opponents, Erik McCowan and Richard Moore.

Killgore and Yates said they are concerned about education finance reform but did not necessarily rule out making alterations to the current Robin Hood system.

"I would be for school finance reform," Killgore said. "But the devil is in the details. I'm very interested in what has been proposed by the governor's office. What I have is more concerns on how any plan will impact how property appraisals are manipulated to raise revenues."

Referring to his research, Yates pointed out that 43 percent of the money spent on education does not go to the classrooms or to pay for materials used to educate children.

"There is a lot of money out there we can find other things to do with in education," he said. "We are spending a lot on education but are not spending it in the right places. The bottom line is that the financing formula favors the metropolitan areas like Houston and Dallas and does not prioritize between the different needs or rural communities versus urban ones. Should we replace Robin Hood? Well, there is enough money to do that if we come up with viable options in changing the funding."

In discussing the proposed Trans Texas Corridor, Yates sees two problems with the project. First is the fact that he thinks the Texas Department of Transportation is manipulating the facts of the project.

"We need honesty about the corridor," he said. "I attended a public meeting in La Grange and was glad people left the pitchforks and torches at home or it would have produced a riot. We are getting a lot of double speak from the state on the project and that is destroying the level of trust people have in the project."

He also said having officials focus attention on the corridor allows them to skip over existing needs.

"The challenge with the corridor is that work will start 40 years from now when the state has a hard time planning for 10 years in the future. The corridor is a long way away and so it is difficult to have an understanding as to what is really being committed to and what will be neglected. Those questions need to be answered honestly in a public forum."

Starting by admitting she is intrigued by the idea, Killgore said the amount of productive farmland that will be taken by the corridor is a concern.

"I like the concept, but I do have concerns about property rights," she said. "It could have an amazing economic impact on rural communities that needs to be considered and we need to study. It could be a better future for our children and grandchildren."

However, she added the potential benefits have to be weighed against other factors.

"Taking someone's land is a very emotional process," she said. "And there can be a negative economic impact. If businesses don't develop along it, you will have taking a lot of land off the tax rolls without replacing that income for those counties and communities. So there are a number of concerns as well as benefit. I do know that TxDot is taking those problems into consideration. I've been to two briefings on the corridor and they are trying to address those issues during the meetings."

Both candidates said having Web sites where voters can learn more about them has helped their campaigns.

"I think it played a real part," Killgore said. "I had a number of people contact me and I e-mailed back and forth with several of them. As a representative, communication is a key. It was very helpful in learning more about the district. Bastrop is a dynamic county with a lot of growth. It was interesting to visit with residents of the area on line and learn about their specific concerns. And yes, I did incorporate some of their concerns into how I approached the campaign."

Yates said allowing potential voters to look over his campaign positions was a big benefit in earning the trust of the people.

"The big thing is that it provides them with an avenue to get information about me and my positions," he said. "It offered them some accountability and verification of what I was telling them. If it was on the Web site, they feel they can believe and I'm not telling people in one part of the district something and people in another part something else just to get elected."

Barry Halvorson is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact him at 361-798-3888 or hvilladv@tx

The Victoria


I-35 bypass would be the first leg of Gov. Rick Perry's Trans Texas Corridor

Losers on I-35 corridor bids may still get reimbursement by state

March 25, 2004

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2004

Companies that aren't selected to build the Interstate 35 bypass from Fort Worth-Dallas to San Antonio may still be reimbursed for their time.

Those competing to build the bypass would be paid for the time they spent researching the project, even if their work does not win, according to a proposal that the Texas Transportation Commission will consider during today's monthly meeting.

The I-35 bypass would be the first leg of Gov. Rick Perry's Trans Texas Corridor , which would use toll roads, train lines and utilities to speed the movement of freight and passengers across Texas . The corridor would span 4,000 miles and be built over 50 years.

Critics say it's inappropriate to use public money to pay companies for work that isn't good enough to win a bid.

But by paying companies that submit losing proposals, the state reserves the right to incorporate some of their ideas into the project, state Transportation Department spokeswoman Gaby Garcia said.

"They go to a lot of effort, time and resources to put together these proposals," she said. "It's not just copies in a 3-inch binder."

It wouldn't be the first time the department paid a loser. The losing proposals on Texas 130, an Austin-area toll road under construction since 2002, were paid $1.3 million.

On another Austin-area road, Texas 45 Southeast, up to $250,000 has been authorized to pay the losers.

Still, paying for unsuccessful work is a relatively new concept in Texas , although it is common practice in other areas of the United States where a single company is hired under a comprehensive development agreement to oversee a major project on behalf of a government, state officials said.

"Otherwise, the companies don't recover anything they put in," said Lawrence Olsen, executive vice president of the Austin-based Texas Good Roads and Transportation Association. "It's a very minuscule amount compared to what companies spend on it."

The three consortiums of companies vying to build the I-35 bypass are Flour/Goldman Sachs; Trans Texas Express L.L.C.; and Cinta (Concesiones de Infraestructuras de transporte S.A.) of Spain.

Financial terms of the I-35 bypass bids will be kept secret until later this year or early 2005, when the commission is expected to select a winner.

Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of Public Citizen of Texas , a government watchdog group, reacted with shock when told of the proposal to pay also-rans.

"It's a mistake, because we're rewarding people not for performance or for having the winning ideas, but we're rewarding people for simply going through the motions of filling out the paper," he said.

ONLINE: Trans Texas Corridor ,

Gordon Dickson, (817) 685-3816

Fort Worth Star-Telegram:


Thursday, March 25, 2004

Over 500 jam hall to voice opposition to the Trans-Texas Corridor project.

Fayette farmers say no to transportation proposal


Victoria Advocate
Copyright 2004

LA GRANGE - Some farmers and ranchers fear that a proposed statewide transportation plan calling for a 4,000-mile network of highways, railways and utility zones will cut across Fayette County, the heart of what they call cattle country, destroying their livelihood.

Those people were among the more than 500 who jammed into the Knights of Columbus Hall in La Grange on Tuesday night to voice opposition to the Trans-Texas Corridor project.

"I live and work in cattle country. I can look out any window of my house and see a cow. I know cows. And, let me tell you, the Trans-Texas Corridor is no cash cow. It's just bull," said David Stall of Fayetteville. "This plan is dangerous. This plan is dangerous to the immediate mobility needs of our state's biggest cities. This plan is dangerous to homeland security. This plan is dangerous to free enterprise. This plan is dangerous to the Texas tourism industry. This plan is dangerous to local economies. This plan is dangerous to individual's property rights. This plan is dangerous to all Texans."

The crowd erupted in applause after Stall read his three-page prepared statement. Half the people gave Stall, who helped create a Web site called to keep an eye on the proposed project, a standing ovation during the meeting, the second one held in La Grange in less than a month to discuss the Trans-Texas Corridor.

Fayette County Judge Ed Janecka called for the meeting after residents were left with more questions than answers at a Feb. 25 meeting with Texas Department of Transportation officials.

For Tuesday's meeting, he invited Mike Behrens, the executive director of the department of transportation, and John W. Johnson, the past chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, to come answer questions about the project.

Some at the second meeting, though, said they were still left with more questions than answers.

"I have this weird feeling you know more than you're saying," Jason Cook of La Grange said. Later as he sat and listened to others ask questions regarding such issues as mineral rights, a plan to subsidize taxes for loss of land used for the roadway and the possible expansion of Interstate 10, the rancher commented "Big Bird may as well have been here. He knows as much about it as they do."

Both Behrens and Johnson said at the start of the meeting that there would probably be questions they would not be able to answer.

But, Behrens' answer that he did not know specifically when - or even if - a corridor would be built through South Central Texas, drew grumbles from the crowd. And shouts of "yes you do" accompanied louder grumbles when Behrens said he did not know where the corridor would be located.

Asked specifically if the corridor would be built eight to 10 miles north of Interstate 10, putting it between Schulenburg and La Grange, Behrens answered, "we do not know where that route will go at this time."

He noted that there is a map with proposed corridor routes scrawling across the state on the transportation department's Web site, but he explained "the lines on the map are strictly a concept.

"Yes, there's a line on that map, but that line does not mean anything," Behrens said, explaining that where the corridors will be located will depend on various factors such as traffic congestion, population and environmental studies.

John Paul Jones of Ammannsville said a conceptual line was going over his very real property, and he wondered what to do as far as selling the land.

Jones asked Behrens for a recommendation on what to do about his property if it falls in the corridor's proposed zone.

"If that's in the line," Jones said, "I might as well bulldoze my house right now."

Behrens said "I would recommend that you just carry on with your daily life."

Jones then asked, "Are you guys interested in buying any property?"

"Well, if the price is right," Behrens answered.

The crowd moaned at Johnson, too, as he reiterated Behrens' statement, saying "one thing that we are trying to emphasize is this is purely conceptual."

"If you don't believe that, you might as well go on," he said after hearing the crowd's reaction. "What you see on the Web site are lines on a map that do not represent where the corridors are necessarily going. Some of them may. Some of them may not."

The Trans-Texas Corridor, which could be up to 1,200 feet wide and have separate lanes for cars and 18-wheelers, is proposed to run parallel to segments of Interstate 35, Interstate 37 and the proposed Interstate 69.

House Bill 3588, which was approved in June 2003, was the enabling legislation for the corridor project. The bill also calls for the network to be paid through tolls and the sale of bonds.

State Rep. Robby Cook, a Democrat from Eagle Lake, who represents Fayette County, was booed Tuesday when he said he voted for the legislation. He said he did so because he favored the need to expand roadways in urban areas, such as Houston and Dallas, to alleviate congestion. He noted that he was a fourth-generation farmer and did not want his land taken away for a corridor. He also assured the crowd that if there is a part of the legislation, such as a funding mechanism, that does not work, he would fight to get it changed.

Answering the comment "so it doesn't really matter what we think about it at all," Behrens assured "we hold public hearings, we get comments and we work with the local officials. We address the concerns of the community and the local officials, and then we make a decision whether or not we proceed with a proposed project.

"We do listen," he said, "There will be many, many more meetings - just like we do for any project that we do."

Johnson added that it was his "best guess that it will be two or three decades before anybody knows, and especially the department of transportation, what is specifically going to happen in and around La Grange, Texas," Johnson said.

Even though it could be decades away, some residents voiced concern that this meant the Trans-Texas Corridor would plow through their living rooms, leaving their grandchildren and great grandchildren without a home.

Willie Bohuslav, who lives in Austin but was born and raised in Ammannsville, meanwhile, said he was just looking out for himself.

He said he'd be glad to sell his home in Ammannsville that he plans to retire in - if he was given 200 or 300 percent of what it's worth to re-locate.

"I do know we need roads. I know (Interstate) 35 is congested. I know we need to do that. But, look, you don't care. You have no compassion because you don't lose anything, but I am going to lose something. If you go 10 miles north of I-10, you're going to go right through my living room. I just remodeled my home."

The Victoria Advocate:


Monday, March 22, 2004

CorridorWatch website promotes awareness of Trans-Texas Corridor

Web site designed to keep public informed


Victoria Advocate
Copyright 2004

LA GRANGE - Linda Stall, a resident of Fayette County, has launched a Web site that she says promotes awareness of a statewide transportation project known as the Trans-Texas Corridor.

"Our goal is to educate people all over the state about what this project entails, so that they can make their own assessment as to how it will impact their community, and whether it benefits them or doesn't," said Stall, who along with her husband David, created

"Then they can communicate with their legislator in their area and send that state representative or that state senator back to Austin - maybe before they go back and talk about school finance - with a message on this project."

The Trans-Texas Corridor is a proposed 4,000-mile statewide transportation network that includes roads, rails and a dedicated utility zone.

The corridor, which would have separate lanes for car and 18-wheeler traffic, would be up to 1,200-feet wide, and it would parallel parts of Interstate 35, Interstate 37 and the proposed Interstate 69 from Denison to the Rio Grande Valley.

Stall said her concerns about the project include leaving the public out of key decisions, such as the environmental review process and condemnation, limited access for local businesses along toll ways, water rights, property tax losses for rural counties, and lack of awareness.

"We have used the Internet as a tool to reach people all over the state, and the membership now reflects, I think, 24 counties across the state as far away as the Panhandle, where people have looked at our website and have been concerned equally, either with the effect directly on them or indirectly," Stall said.

The Web site includes links to an explanation of the Trans-Texas Corridor plan, a route map of the corridor, legislation pertaining to the transportation project and newspaper articles written about the project. The home page, which has the words "Challenging the Wisdom of the Trans-Texas Corridor" at the top, includes quotes from city and county officials from counties such as Fayette, Bee, Cooke and Jeff Davis, and cities such as Dallas, Hillsboro and Alpine.

"It's a great resource. I mean it's really not just an opinion site, it's really a tool," Stall said, explaining that her feelings toward the Trans-Texas Corridor project are not a personal vendetta. "It is bigger than 'cutting across my backyard.' It is not an 'in my backyard' project. It is not an 'in my backyard' objection. This is a change in the way the whole state functions, and a change for the worse."

Ann Rundle is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact her at 361-277-6319 or .

The Victoria Advocate:


Another Trans-Texas Corridor meeting to be held in LaGrange

La Grange has questions about Trans-Texas Corridor plan


Victoria Advocate
Copyright 2004

LA GRANGE - How a 4,000-mile network of roads, rails and dedicated utility zones could impact Fayette County in the future, or, if it could mean farmers giving up their land for the building of a 1,200-foot wide roadway that will have separate lanes for cars and 18-wheelers, could be questions answered during a meeting Tuesday night in La Grange.

Mike Behrens, the executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation, and John W. Johnson, the former chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, will address questions and concerns about the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor at 7 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 190 S. Brown St.

The corridor is a statewide transportation plan involving the building of multi-lane roads; high-speed passenger, commuter and freight rails; and a dedicated utility zone for water, petroleum pipelines, electricity and data.

The meeting will be the second one in less than a month held in La Grange to discuss the Trans-Texas Corridor, which will parallel segments of Interstate 35, Interstate 37 and the proposed Interstate 69 from Denison to the Rio Grande Valley.

Last month, transportation officials held public hearings in every county in Texas to present an overview of the project, but Fayette County Judge Ed Janecka said the Feb. 25 hearing in La Grange left more questions than answers, so he invited Behrens and Johnson to come for another meeting.

While Johnson is no longer chairman of the transportation commission, he is still a member of the five-member commission, which governs the department of transportation. Commissioners are appointed by the governor and serve six-year terms.

"I think the whole reason for this meeting is to have individuals' questions answered. I'll be honest with you, there are probably more questions than there are answers, but I believe everything should be put out on the table. Let it hit the light of day and let's look at it. That's how I am," Janecka said, emphasizing the importance of looking at both sides of an issue. "Let me just tell you something, when you look at anything, and I learned this a long time ago, especially as a judge, if you look at one side and say 'oh, this is horrible,' you always should give everybody the opportunity to see the other side.

"When you look at it initially, yeah, it looks like a horrible deal," he added of the Trans-Texas Corridor plan. "I mean how is this going to benefit Fayette County? There are a 1,000 questions that I have had, and I don't see the benefit from it for this county, but, like everything else, we have to be rational about this and let's see what happens."

Behrens said he looks forward to getting healthy input from the public at the meeting.

"We'll just go visit with the folks and see if we can have a good discussion," he said. "We're, basically, just going to talk about the same thing we did last time, and see if we can answer some of the questions that they have. Of course, there will be some questions we won't have all the answers for, but it's going to be an open meeting and another opportunity to visit with the folks and talk about transportation."

The corridor, which could be as wide as 1,200 feet, will be designed to alleviate traffic congestion in large cities, like Houston and Dallas, and it will be built to move people, goods and utilities more safely and faster than ever before, according to information from the Texas Department of Transportation's Web site.

"One of the things we're facing is we just have a growing population in the state of Texas, and demographers tell us it's probably going to double by 2040, so we're trying to think ahead and think about ways we can handle that kind of thing as the years go by," Behrens said. "And we wanted to go out and sort of put out some of the ideas that we've been thinking about, and see what the public feels about them, and see what kind of input they have. And that's what we're doing, and we're going to continue doing it."

The corridor is estimated to cost between $145.2 billion and $183.5 billion, said Gabriela Garcia, who works in the department of transportation's pubic information office in Austin. It would be funded in various ways including tolls, the sale of bonds and a partnership between the state and the federal government.

Janecka said he also invited Gov. Rick Perry, state Sen. Ken Armbrister and state Rep. Robby Cook to the meeting.

The judge said he has not heard from Perry's office. Mike Sizemore of Armbrister's office said the meeting is on the senator's schedule, but there may be a conflict and the Democrat from Victoria, whose district includes Fayette County, may not be able to attend. Cook, a Democrat from Eagle Lake, who also represents the county, said he will attend.

Ann Rundle is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact her at 361-277-6319 or .

The Victoria Advocate:


Secretary Mineta Speaks at National Industrial Transportation League



March 22, 2004

U.S. Department of Transportation
Copyright 2004

Thank you, Tom Pellington, Chairman of the National Industrial Transportation League, for that kind introduction, and to all of you for that very warm welcome.

I greatly appreciate the opportunity to address you again today. I am here because of you – because a vital and vibrant freight transportation industry is absolutely essential to President Bush’s efforts to revitalize our economy and expand jobs and opportunities for the people of this great Nation.

Most of you recognized the early signals of the economic recovery when freight volumes started to pick up. We believe that this is a potentially powerful economic indicator – a leading indicator of future growth for the economy. So at the beginning of this month, the Department of Transportation introduced a new economic index – the Transportation Services Index (TSI) – which uses freight and passenger volumes to measure the transportation sector and the strength of the economy.

If you look at the historical data, it shows the TSI debuted at a record high, following four consecutive months of increases. This is encouraging news. What we saw while developing the index is that every time the TSI heats up, the economy follows.

The index shows just how much keeping the economy moving is about keeping America moving. That is why we have been looking at our national transportation system with fresh eyes – working to transform our programs in ways that will help you to serve our national economy far more effectively than ever before. We want to give states more resources and more flexibility to tackle their highway and transit needs to enhance mobility; to address the needs of our marine transportation system in a more comprehensive way; and to eliminate bottlenecks at critical intersections of our national freight system.

The U.S. transportation system annually carries more than 16.3 billion tons of freight – valued at over $12 trillion. And, as the economy takes off, we project freight volume will increase by more than 50 percent in the next 20 years.

We have seen how increases in freight volumes can strain the transportation network. So we are preparing now – to add capacity and to keep the economy moving. Critical first steps of our Freight Action Plan can be found in the surface transportation proposal that the President submitted to the Congress last May – entitled the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act, or SAFETEA.

Passage of this bill is long overdue. We are currently operating under our second temporary extension. The lack of authorization frustrates planning and slows construction, with impacts that are felt across the economy. So the Administration will continue to press the Congress to craft a fiscally responsible, six-year plan along the lines of the President’s proposal.

At a record $256 billion – a 21 percent increase over the last surface transportation act, TEA-21 – SAFETEA strikes the appropriate balance between the need for a substantial Federal infrastructure investment and the need to maintain fiscal discipline.

Those of you familiar with our legislation will appreciate the unprecedented emphasis that SAFETEA places on freight and goods movement. SAFETEA builds on an important idea that I introduced in the landmark ISTEA legislation in 1991– and that was, intermodalism. ISTEA, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, began to focus on the need for seamless connections between the various transportation modes.

In SAFETEA, we target investment on the critical “last-mile” road connections from the National Highway System to important intermodal freight facilities. Too often, the connections between trucks and trains and merchant ships are neglected, which causes needless congestion and slows the efficiency of the entire freight system.

We also are encouraging integration of freight planning into state and metropolitan plans, including a requirement in SAFETEA that each state designate a Freight Transportation Coordinator.

If you do business on the West Coast, then you know that the Alameda Corridor is an outstanding example of what can happen when jurisdictions work together – and with the private sector – to develop coordinated plans to keep the economy moving.

We see a similar dynamic developing in the Midwest with the Chicago Regional Environmental and Transportation Efficiency program, or CREATE, which is designed to solve serious bottleneck problems in the country’s largest rail hub.

And the Trans Texas Corridor project envisions an 800-mile, multi-modal corridor across the state, involving innovative efforts to enlist the financing and business acumen of the private sector.

SAFETEA facilitates this type of innovation and will make new financing tools available for intermodal freight projects, including those involving improvements to privately-owned facilities that offer public benefits.

We are also bringing “new thinking” to the maritime transportation system through our SEA 21 initiative.

The United States remains a Maritime Nation – the world’s leading maritime and trading nation. SEA-21 will do for the maritime transportation system what ISTEA did for surface transportation, and will ensure a more competitive and modern maritime transportation system.

One way to improve competition, of course, is to extend confidentiality rights to non-vessel operating common carriers. That is why we have submitted comments to the Federal Maritime Commission, urging them to make that change.

As part of the SEA-21 initiative, the Bush Administration also is taking a serious look at how the largely untapped maritime component of our transportation system can help move commercial goods more effectively and efficiently. Short Sea Shipping, by moving some truck traffic to our coastal and inland waterways, is one major component to help handle the dramatic cargo increase bearing down on our transportation system.

We must add capacity to keep vital shipments moving – to keep the American economy moving and competitive in the global arena. This is true across the system – land, sea, and air.
We have a lot in the works. But we also need your help in providing a tune-up to ensure that the system runs as efficiently as possible.

As you know, we recently implemented new safety rules regarding hours of service for commercial truck drivers. And one issue that keeps coming up is the delay that drivers face in getting their trucks loaded – delays that can last for several hours.

In today’s competitive market, such delays are unacceptable. Successful businesses depend on their ability to distribute products into domestic and international markets rapidly and efficiently. So I am calling on you for help. We need each of you to commit to doing your part to improve freight efficiency, mobility, and productivity nationwide.

We can achieve this goal by developing better ways to coordinate the connections between shippers and carriers. We are looking to you to make sure that goods are ready for shipping from the outset. In some cases, this may mean changes in the way you do business.

So I am urging you to work with the carriers to identify the bottlenecks that cause needless delays and to develop guidelines that will add efficiency, get goods to market even faster, and help all of us move the American economy forward.

Annette Sandberg, our Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator, will talk to you shortly about ideas for more effective collaboration to achieve this goal.

Transportation has never been more important to America’s economic future than it is right now. And working together, we can ensure that our transportation engine runs at peak efficiency and continues drivingto drive the American economy forward.

Thank you for allowing me to share our plans with you today. God bless each and every one of you, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

© 2004 Department of Transportation