Wednesday, August 24, 2005

TxDOT gets "an earful, with very little of the commentary being positive."

Residents speak out on SH 130

August 24, 2005

By Bryan Kirk
The Seguin Gazette-Enterprise
Copyright 2005

SEGUIN — Posters sat horizontally on easels inside the Seguin-Guadalupe County Coliseum on Tuesday night, detailing the proposed schematic of the State Highway 130 project and giving some angry ranchers and property owners the chance to confront the state.

“This gives us a real good idea on whose land you’re going to take,” said Dr. Charles Branch to state officials before the start of the meeting.

Officials with the Texas Department of Transportation got an earful, with very little of the commentary being positive.

It was just the latest round of meetings and public hearings on the 91-mile tollway project that has been under construction in Georgetown and Round Rock since October 2003. Designed to relieve congestion on Interstate 35, the highway is projected to eventually extend from I-35 north of Georgetown to I-10 just east of Seguin. Only the northern legs of the project are now under construction.

Some of the residents were concerned that SH 130 could usher in the the larger Trans-Texas Corridor project, which is still in the early planning stages.

“It could be part of the TTC-35 project, but right now, it is still SH 130,” said Greg Malatek, Seguin area engineer for TxDOT. “They are still two separate entities.”

Citizens were treated to a presentation from Lone Star Infrastructure that included a brief history of the project and a technical presentation on SH 130’s environmental impact and information on the right-of-way acquisition process from TxDOT.

Local rancher Dennis Huber, who has been a fixture at the TxDOT public hearings, was among those concerned about how the tollway — most specifically the preservation corridor recently added to the plan TxDOT has said will be used for rail — would affect his way of life.

“You say you are going to try and help people relocate, but what about cattle relocation?” Huber asked. “Where are they going to put the cattle?”

A show of hands filled the room at Huber’s request of those against the preservation corridor.

“That ought to tell you something right there,” Huber said.

Meanwhile, R.J. Henry, who is also a rancher, was concerned about the environmental impact the tollway could have on 100-year-old Live Oak trees on his property, as well as a tank on his property used to feed livestock and wildlife.

He was advised by Environmental Task Manager Ashley McLain and Right-of-Way Administrator Don Toner that they would try address his problem.

Robert Daigh, TxDOT’s district engineer for the Austin district said the state understands the delicate nature of right-of-way acquisition and how it ultimately affects people.

“We take it very seriously,” Daigh said. “We understand the pain that it causes. What we endeavor to do is work through the process as quickly as we can and provide the best information that we can, to make the best decisions we can for the public good.”

TxDOT officials will host another public hearing on SH 130 this winter.

The Seguin Gazette: