Tuesday, August 16, 2005

"I think what they need to do is widen the roads they have and make improvements."

What effect will planned corridor have here?

Property, environmental concerns surface at Trans-Texas Corridor meet

August 16, 2005
Victoria Advocate
Copyright 2005

Victoria area residents who attended Monday evening's meeting on the Trans-Texas Corridor were concerned not only about losing land that has been in the family for generations, but also its impact on wildlife.

The meeting, held at the Victoria Community Center, provided people with information on route options being suggested for the specific section of the Trans-Texas Corridor known as the "Northeast Texas to Mexico element" or the Interstate 69/Trans-Texas corridor that would pass through the Victoria area.

The Texas Department of Transportation is holding similar meetings, all from 5 to 8 p.m., this week in Goliad, Edna, Beeville, El Campo and Wharton.

No presentation was given at Monday's meeting where more than 60 people had already arrived by 6 p.m. Instead, engineers and consultants on the project walked among the crowd answering questions posed by the attendees who closely examined the maps and statistics on display.

Shane McAdams said that he is concerned with the scope of the project.

"I think they are taking too much land," said McAdams, who has family property along the existing U.S. Highway 59 in Victoria County.

His concern, he said, was that corridor project would consume property that was once used for farming and ranching and will become "in my opinion, a lot of wasted land."

His alternative was to use the existing right of way of Highway 59 for the proposed I-69.

Kevin Janak, of the Mission Valley area, agreed.

"I think what they need to do is widen the roads they have and make improvements," Janak said.

However, he also proposed a solution he said is being used where land is at a premium.

"Why couldn't we do like California and double layer it?" he said. "That would be something to consider."

Both Janak and McAdams and others attending had the chance Monday to either submit their opinions and concerns in writing or verbally to a woman taking dictation.

The corridor is a proposed multi-use, statewide network of transportation routes that would incorporate existing as well as new highways, railways and utility right-of-ways.

The portion of the corridor through the Victoria area would be developed as a stretch of the proposed I-69, a planned 1,600-mile national highway connecting Mexico, the United States and Canada.

The proposed I-69/TTC project area is about 1,000 miles long and 20 to 50 miles wide and generally follows U.S. Highway 59 from Texarkana through Victoria to Laredo, with connections to the Rio Grande Valley following U.S. Highway 77 through Refugio, and U.S. 281, which intersects Highway 59 southwest of Beeville.

Sid and Mary Beck of Raisin said one of their concerns is for the wildlife of the area.

The corridor will cut up the state, reducing breeding possibilities for deer and other animals, thus limiting the gene pool, she said.

She, too, wasn't opposed to the corridor but to its expanse.

While some had already formed their opinions, others were there to find out more about the corridor.

"I have not heard a whole lot about it," Victoria resident Douglas John said as he stood in front of one of the many displays.

Jack Heiss, project manager from Austin, said that he has heard a spectrum of responses about project.

"A lot of people are concerned about their property especially those in the study," he said.

"Our purpose here is to provide the populace with information about the environmental issues," Heiss said.

Those environmental issues aren't just flora and fauna but also the corridor's impact on people and their cultural.

This is just one of the first steps.

"We are in the process of writing the Environmental Impact Study for Tier 1," Heiss said.

That report will ready by late spring of 2006, at which time additional meetings or hearings will be held.

An Advocate poll that began last month has also garnished both favorable and opposing opinions on the corridor.

Kenneth Schustereit, in the Advocate online poll wrote on Aug. 9, "Both the TTC and the new state surcharges on traffic offenses are nothing but a constitutionally illegal revenue scheme/scam hatched by Rick Perry."

Rick Merlin, in the poll, wrote Aug. 4, "This is just another example of the rich helping the rich get richer at taxpayers' expense (see Bush's energy bill)... The TTC will be nothing more than an easier way for illegal aliens and drugs to come into Texas."

Andre Salm, in the poll on Aug. 3, wrote, "More populated states than Texas, such as California, have not found a need for a corridor from north to south and east to west in their state... This is a land grab to make Rick Perry and other politicians rich at taxpayers' expense."

Hollie Ragle, on July 30, wrote, "This is about the biggest waste of money they could think of. Utility companies will not use it. When they lay a pipeline or an electric line they use the shortest route. To run the utilities down the Trans Texas Corridor would be out of the way and too expensive."

Janice Dickerson, on July 31, wrote, "As a truck driver who has traveled from coast to coast, all I can say is it's about time. It should help to bring in business; therefore, more jobs, which result in better economic conditions... One last thought, the farther the trucks have to travel in round about ways to deliver our merchandise, the higher the cost to purchase same."

Dwight Mutschler, on July 31, wrote, "It is imperative that I-69 be built to accommodate the number of vehicles that utilize the highways that are proposed for that sector. I am not sure that the TTC needs to be 20-50 miles wide however... With the population of Texas continuing to grow at the current rate, something like the TTC will become a necessary evil, but it doesn't have to become a monster."

Some poll responders were also concerned that an investor in the corridor was from outside the country.

Mary Jahn, on Aug. 3, wrote, "I understand the need for a better highway system; however, the Trans-Texas Corridor will be solely owned by a corporation from Spain at the cost of over 600,000 acres of privately owned land. Not to mention the fact that American taxpayers will still be bearing the burden for this by loaning the money to the Spain corporation."

To post comments at the Advocate's poll, go to www.thevictoriaadvocate.com and click on the "Quick Links" box and then on "Trans-Texas Corridor."

Jason Collins is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6521 or jcollins@vicad.com.

The Victoria Advocate: www.thevictoriaadvocate.com