Tuesday, July 19, 2005

“We need to protect I-35.”

Editorial: Protecting I-35

Interstate is important to Waco, no matter what happens with TTC-35

July 19, 2005
Waco Tribune-Herald
Copyright 2005

It's good that the McLennan County Commissioners Court supports efforts to upgrade Interstate 35.

It also is good that city of Waco officials want to make sure that if the Oklahoma-to-San Antonio portion of the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor is built, it is built as close to Waco as reasonable to ensure that Waco and McLennan County are not bypassed by a new north-south superighway.

The commissioners recently joined the River of Trade Corridor Coalition established to protect I-35.

The coalition, which was formed by the city of Dallas, has about 30 members representing cities, counties and businesses along I-35.

The chairman of the coalition, Dallas City Council member Bill Blaydes, said the group wants to make sure that the portion of the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor that will parallel I-35 does not hurt the cities and businesses that rely on I-35.

That's a laudatory goal because the north-south tollway portion of the Trans-Texas Corridor certainly has the potential to do considerable economic damage to cities and businesses that depend on I-35 in the same way that many communities bypassed by the railroads more than a century ago dried up while those located on a rail line prospered.

The coalition, in the words of McLennan County Judge Jim Lewis, supports “the maintenance and expansion of I-35 – that's the heartbeat of the community.”

Lewis is right that regardless of the outcome of the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor, “we need to protect I-35.”

Gov. Rick Perry proposed the Trans-Texas Corridor in 2002 as a way to meet Texas' transportation needs far into the future and to ensure the state's economic prosperity.

Perry's multibillion-dollar transportation plan envisions a 1,200-foot-wide network of tolled highways, railways and utility infrastructure crisscrossing 4,000 miles of the state at a projected cost of $184 billion.

Texas highway officials have said the corridor will be built near communities that want it and away from those that don't.

This is the potential problem for Waco and McLennan County.

The Legislature has already authorized the Texas Transportation Commission to build the corridor. The state is expected to sign a contract with private developer Cintra-Zachry to build the Dallas-to-San Antonio stretch of the corridor, known as TTC-35.

If the TTC-35 portion of the corridor plan is going to be built despite opposition to it, then Waco and McLennan County officials do not want to do anything to push it far away from Waco where it would be guaranteed to have a negative economic impact on Greater Waco.

At the same time, city and county officials should continue to push for improvements to I-35.

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