Saturday, June 04, 2005

Strayhorn: "European, foreign-run toll roads will turn TxDOT into EuroDOT."

Corridor rally draws crowd, politicans

Texas Comptroller Carole Strayhorn's fiery presentation Friday drew an enthusiastic response from the anti-corridor crowd.

By Mike Peck, Managing Editor

She bills herself, as "one tough grandma" and state Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, pulled no punches while voicing her disdain for the proposed TransTexas Corridor project.

Keeton-Strayhorn was keynote speaker for a Blackland Coalition rally opposing the proposed transportation system. The rally was held Friday night at the Seaton Star Hall near Temple and drew a crowd of nearly 1,000.

"It's great to be an American, it's great to be a Texan and it's great to be the first woman comptroller, but it'll never get better than being here this evening with the fine men and women who are speaking up and speaking out and saying 'no' to the largest land grab in Texas history," Strayhorn said to a roar of applause.

"Mickey (Burleson, another speaker) you had it right when you said to say 'no' to destroying irreplaceable high value natural resources, 'no' to destroying necessary crop land and necessary farm and food production, 'no' to replacing freeways with toll ways and 'no' to the governor's $184 billion boondoggle."

The TransTexas Corridor, or more specifically, TTC-35 is a proposed corridor of toll ways and rail and high-speed rail systems that roughly parallels Interstate 35 from Oklahoma to Mexico or the Texas Gulf Coast. The proposed toll way system would be a quarter mile wide and include six lanes for autos, four lanes for truck traffic, two passenger rail lines, two freight rail lines and a utility zone.

The proposed corridor is to be financed, built, operated and maintained by a company from Spain for an estimated period of 50-70 years.

"Governor Perry and his land-grabbing highway henchmen want to cram toll roads down Texans throats," Strayhorn said. "He calls it TransTexas Corridor, we call it TransTexas catastrophe and it ought to be blasted off of the bureaucratic books."

Strayhorn said a man who spoke at one of the Texas Department of Transportation meetings on the TransTexas corridor told members of her staff to 'tell the comptroller that we know TxDOT is going to whatever the hell they want to do.'

"I'm here to tell you that as long as there is a breath of air in Carole Keeton Strayhorns lungs, you will have a strong voice in Austin and TxDOT will not do whatever the hell they want to do."

"Texas property belongs to Texans, not foreign countries," Strayhorn said. "Texas farmers, ranchers and homeowners will not sit quietly by and let a European consortium take their birth right."

"European, foreign-run toll roads will turn TxDOT into Eurodot," Strayhorn added. "You cannot tell Texans to give up their land and then tell them to pay to drive their tractor across it."

"This is nothing more than Governor Perry's way to make you pay to play," she said. "Under Gov. Perry's toll scheme, you can get on his foreign-built toll road and you can pay the foreign-based company to travel from McAllen to McKinney, Belton to Brownsville, from Harlingen to Henrietta, Wichita Falls to Weslaco, from Sherman to South Padre for the next 50 years and you will pay $120 each day, each way. That's not democracy that's highway robbery."

Strayhorn on several occasions repeated "let the people vote," referring to the massive corridor proposal.

Other speakers during the evening included Holland businessman Ralph Snyder, who chairs the Blackland Coalition. Mickey Burleson, introduced as an activist, landowner and fellow neighbor and Mike Barron, an eminent domain attorney.

Snyder welcomed the crowd and offered his own evaluation of the proposed corridor.

"My job is to speak about the TransTexas corridor," Snyder said. "We've heard about the length, the width and about the close to 100,000 acres that our government's going to seize from us, but we haven't heard much about the Texans who are directly affected by the TransTexas nightmare."

"I guess our elected officials think we're just a bunch of dumb farmers, that we'll just take a few bucks and be on our way," Snyder said. The fact is we all went to the same schools they did, we're educated and we have means."

"The fact is Texans spent the last 100 years building the finest road system in the world," he said. "To chop it into pieces is gross intolerance. The fact is the 50,000 acres of blackland that this road will destroy produces $13 million a year in ag products. To take that money away from the economy of Texas is indefensible."

"The fact is, we Texans are enjoying one of the best economies in the world right now, in large part because of our agricultural production," Snyder continued. "The fact is the TransTexas nightmare is a direct assault on our economy."

"The fact is, Texans don't like toll roads. We live free, we pay at the pump, we drive free and toll roads are double taxation."

"The fact is, Texans don't like the idea of a foreign company occupying a part of our Texas," Snyder said. "We took care of that problem once and by God, we'll do it again."

"The fact is, we're Texans, and fighting for our home is nothing new to us," Snyder said. "We've done it many times. We're going to stand with each affected landowner and use every legal recourse to make it as hard as possible to take our land."

"If they do manage to build this toll road on our land, we're going to boycott it and bankrupt it just like the Camino-Columbia toll road in Laredo."

"He's one final TTC-35 fact, we know which of our elected officials are representing this foreign company instead of the people who elected them - and we will work to defeat them in the next election," Snyder concluded.

The Cameron Herald: