"How do you block out a corridor for 20 years? This area's growth will be stymied."
The Spring Observer
Community leaders are not on the same path with the proposed I-69 Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) discussed during an open house sponsored by the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) at the Humble Civic Center on July 20.
The corridor proposal includes a 1,600-mile interstate, multi-mode transportation artery, designed to carry cars (three lanes) and trucks (two lanes) and vital systems including water, electricity and natural gas, even a high-speed passenger, freight, and commuter rail system. The corridor would be 1,200-foot wide roadway and routed through Texas and eight other states (Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana) to connect the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
The estimated cost for the TTC is $33 million per mile with possible funding sources coming from a combination of toll fees, bonds, private funds, state funds and federal funds, according to Jack Heiss the advanced project development director for the Texas Turnpike Authority Division of TxDOT.
"That number is based on the entire 11 corridor crossroads plan," said Heiss.
Concerns from community leaders in attendance at the meeting focused on the possible crippling effect on economic growth within the extensive TTC study area that could result from property acquisition through the Right of Way Process associated with building the corridor.
The study area for the corridor generally parallels U.S. Hwy. 59 from the Texarkana and Shreveport area to Laredo with connections to the Rio Grande Valley following U.S. Hwys 77 and 281.
"The economic growth will stop for six years, just for the study," said Mike Byers, president of the Humble Chamber of Commerce, who attended the open house.
Property acquisition would occur at the end of Tier 2 (beginning in 2006) of the environmental study process with other properties acquired earlier under special circumstances. According to materials presented during the open house, the special circumstances will include corridor preservation.
"Is the state going to prohibit future development within the confines of the proposed route of this project in order to preserve the route and reduce future purchase costs?" asked Andy Dill, president of the Community Chamber of Commerce of East Montgomery County.
"That will have a staggering impact on future development within Texas and the ability to attract and retain jobs within the state," said Dill.
Byers expressed similar concerns about the long-range economic impact the proposal would have on the community.
"How do you block out a corridor for 20 years? This area's growth will be stymied," Byers said.
An alternative proposal by the I-69 Mid Continental Highway Coalition has been underway for more than 10 years. Community leaders have been working to improve U.S. Hwy. 59 to meet interstate standards and were working with other state leaders to utilize the future Grand Parkway route for a portion of the I-69 project. The alternative proposals have been overshadowed by the TTC proposal.
In addition, the revised route of the proposed TTC will not utilize the future Grand Parkway route and may adversely affect the surrounding areas including East Montgomery County, according to community leaders.
"We (EMC) are out of the running," said Dill. "The current route being studied has moved to just east of Navasota and continues north of Huntsville to tie into U.S. Hwy. 59 around Lufkin. This takes our area completely out of the project."
TTC's vulnerability to terrorist attacks was another concern of residents and community leaders.
"To include rail, gas, oil and water pipelines together with auto and truck traffic lanes is preposterous," said Ray Anderson of the Kingwood Service Association, Kingwood Area Super Neighborhood Council and the Kingwood Positive Interaction Program.
"Terrorists could cripple commerce with one or more well placed devices severing the corridor. I fail to understand why our elected officials have allowed a project of this scope, that cannot possibly be completed in 50 years, to see the light of day," said Anderson.
Studies for the TTC proposal were mandated by Governor Perry and have been conducted by TxDOT. The study includes Tier I, an environmental impact statement study that is currently underway and is scheduled to be completed in 2006. If the Tier 1 environmental impact results in a corridor being selected, the project will proceed to Tier 2 in 2006, when the exact route and funding sources for the proposed TTC will be determined. A "no action alternative" may also be selected.
"The earliest possible construction would begin in 2009 or 2010," said Heiss. "And it will take 30 or maybe 40 years to complete. It is a very long-term project. It is looking at traffic projections for 50 years out."
The benefits of the TTC would be the addition of capacity to the current roadway system, according to Heiss.
"In Houston, there is no sign of a let up in the growth, people are going to just keep coming here, and you are going to have to add capacity to the system somehow," said Heiss.
Community leaders are urging residents to support the "no action alternative" in order to stop the TTC proposal.
"Why do we waste time and tax payer money on these studies when we have momentum (the I-69 Mid Continental Highway Coalition) and later they decide that we can not do the project (TTC)," said Byers. "This is the governors 'pie in the sky' deal."
For information about future meetings about the TTC go to www.keeptexasmoving.org and for information about an alternative to TTC, call the 1-69 Mid-Continent Highway Coalition Inc. at 317-581-6320.
Residents can make comments to state legislatures about the TTC by calling Congressman Ted Poe at 281 446-0242 and Congressman Kevin Brady at 1-936-441-5700.
Judi Arbogast may be contacted at email@example.com
© 2005 The Spring Observer: