Monday, February 07, 2005

Texas 130: Six lanes of Trans-Texas Corridor already under construction.

Sit up and take note of Perry's plan

Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2005

Back when the Trans -Texas Corridor seemed to be only a 4,000-mile, $180 billion gleam in Gov. Rick Perry's eye -- that is, a year ago -- it was easy not to take it seriously.

The Texas Department of Transportation held informational meetings in all 254 Texas counties, and almost nobody came. At the one in Bastrop, there were three real human beings, plus me and about a half-dozen Transportation Department employees who looked like they'd much rather have been at home with a cold one and their feet up.

A second round of 26 meetings in the spring drew about 30 civilians each, then the third go-round in the fall ginned up 2,891 people. Or about 1 out of every 7,600 Texans.

It's a little embarrassing to admit, but the Austin American-Statesman's transportation reporter was among the 7,599 no-shows.

But everything changed in mid-December, when the Texas Transportation Commission, with Perry on hand looking like a cat who had consumed an entire pet shop of canaries, announced that a consortium led by Spanish toll road builder Cintra was willing to build 300-plus miles of Trans -Texas Corridor, from San Antonio to the Oklahoma border, footing the $6 billion cost alone and throwing another $1.2 billion the state's way.

That instantly reframed the discussion from "What was Rick thinking?!!?" to "Is this superhighway going through my barnyard?" And that gives the next round of 47 public meetings, due to start today in Dallas and Sherman, considerably more cachet.

Not so much in Central Texas , where, as it turns out, we already have six lanes of Trans-Texas Corridor under construction: Texas 130. What Cintra builds, assuming the Spanish company and the state reach accord on an initial planning contract, would connect to the 49-mile Texas 130 tollway on its south end near Creedmoor and its north end near Georgetown.

But even here, Texas 130 might not be all of the Trans -Texas Corridor we see. As Perry proposed it, the corridor would have six lanes for cars and four for trucks, six rail lines and room for pipelines and electric lines.

So, what are these meetings about? Well, there's a long process under federal law that requires highway builders to take into account environmental, sociological and economic effects in deciding where and what to build. These public meetings are part of the fact-gathering. Transportation Department officials say that what they hear will help them narrow the road's path to a 10-mile-wide corridor .

The Austin meeting is at 5 p.m. Feb. 28 at the East Communities YMCA, 5315 Ed Bluestein Blvd. (U.S. 183).

Right now, the state has a thoroughly baffling map (available at www.keeptexas, along with a list of the meetings) that shows a tangle of 10-mile-wide snakes going from Oklahoma, circling around or through the Metroplex, going east of Waco, Austin and San Antonio, and then heading to Laredo or the Rio Grande Valley.

If you want to help the state select a snake, you have your chance in the next two months.

Getting There appears Mondays. For questions, tips or story ideas, contact Getting There at (512) 445-3698 or

Copyright (c) 2005 Austin American-Statesman

Austin American-Statesman: