Monday, May 09, 2005

West Texas Pork

TxDOT eyes La Entrada’s potential

State to study making route part of Trans-Texas Corridor

May 9, 2005

By Julie Breaux
Odessa American
Copyright 2005

The Texas Department of Transportation will spend more than $1 million to see if the La Entrada al Pacifico trade route can be designed to include all the features of the Trans-Texas Corridor, department officials say.

La Entrada was envisioned as an overland trade route connecting the United States to Far East markets via West Texas and Northern Mexico. Its design is being revisited in light of the proposed $175 billion Trans-Texas Corridor, a megahighway paralleling Interstate 35 in Central Texas.

La Entrada runs from Lamesa to Odessa-Midland along state Highway 349, then west on Interstate Highway 20 to U.S. Highway 385, south to McCamey to U.S. 67 and south-southwesterly to Presidio, where it connects with Mexican 16.

The Trans-Texas Corridor would parallel Interstate Highway 35, in Central Texas, and include lanes for cars or trucks and a 200-foot wide utility zone to accommodate oil, natural gas or other energy ipelines, water lines, telecommunications fiber-optic cables and high-power electric lines. It would be flanked by rail lines for the movement of people and freight.

One example of what TxDOT will be considering is a proposal by the LEAP Rural Rail District to build a new rail line connecting with the TxDOT-owned South Orient Express at McCamey and continue north to Seagraves via Odessa-Midland.

TxDOT will study the feasibility of linking the new line with La Entrada, he said. “We know there ought to be a north-south trade corridor in West Texas,” Larum said. “As we look at the development of LEAP, we need to step back first and say, ‘Is this a potential TTC and, if so, how do we need to accommodate that?’ ”

In 2002, Gov. Rick Perry proposed the $175 billion Trans-Texas Corridor to handle heavy traffic volumes associated with explosive population growth in Central Texas and increased international trade between the United States, Texas and Mexico.

While it may not be feasible to try to build West Texas’ version of the TTC through the mountains of the Trans-Pecos or the oilfields of the Permian Basin, “we’re required to look at every possible option,” Larum said.

James Beauchamp, executive director of the Midland-Odessa Transportation Alliance says it really doesn’t matter to him how La Entrada is developed as long as it gets developed.

“MOTRAN has been a driving force in trying to bring the funds for LEAP and that includes both cities, both counties and both chambers,” Beauchamp said. “We’ve been the ones working toward this, and what we’re looking for is that these funds get put into use and things start moving forward.”

To date, Texas has received about $13 million in federal funds for La Entrada feasibility studies and route improvements.

The $1 million LEAP-TTC feasibility study will also address improvements to historic U.S. Highway 90 in the Trans-Pecos, TxDOT District Engineer Lauren Garduño said.
Garduño said the department will pool $200,000 from the city of Alpine to consider improvements to US 90 in the Alpine-Marfa area.

“Since we’re studying the corridor anyway, let’s not study it two or three time,” Garduño said. “We’re going to study it one time … look at some of the TTC elements and see whether it’s a go or a no-go.”

© 2005 Odessa American: