Wednesday, August 10, 2005

"TxDOT should not forget to 'dance with the one that brung them.' "

Super-sized highway won't meet our needs

Citizens concerned about the state's road priorities should attend a public hearing tonight at Calallen High School.

By Josephine Miller
Corpus Christi Caller-Times
Copyright 2005

SINTON - I've spent my life promoting things. When a new idea comes along that I cannot embrace, I feel uncomfortable. I'm referring to the Trans Texas Corridor proposal up for public comment by the Texas Department of Transportation.

Commonly referred to as the I-69/Trans Texas Corridor, this new approach to moving goods and people through Texas is touted as a forward- thinking plan that combines private investment, public money and tolls to build a wide corridor. This corridor would contain rail, separate truck and passenger roads, and utility easements. This super corridor would have limited access, more like an autobahn concept than our current route planning which "connects the dots" from one urban area to another.

On this super corridor, you would be able to drive fast, be safer, as the truck traffic would use a separate road, and you would be able to get to your destination quicker. So what's not to like? A lot.

For one thing, you will have to pay a hefty premium for this whiz bang road. It would cost you up to 10 cents a mile in tolls. For another, it is already costing the Texas Department of Transportation an arm and a leg to get it permitted. One contract for $50 million does nothing more than co-ordinate and monitor the other contracts that have been let for segments along the route. Some of these areas have already been studied during the planning for the I-69 and now are being reviewed again, and potentially moved in the process. So you have the issue of letting folks plan and believe one thing, when in fact something else may be in the works. This will add delay and cost to road projects we need now.

A case in point: When you travel in this state to or through major cities, you plan your travel times - no five o'clock for Houston, San Antonio, or Dallas.

That's not true for Corpus Christi because we are not on the road to anywhere else. We're where the Interstate stops. You have to come here to get here. Our only chance to be on the road to some place is to develop the I-69/U.S. 77 route.

Transportation determines much of our history and by analogy, much of our future. I live in Sinton because of transportation. If the ferry crossing over the Nueces River at San Patricio City were still important as part of the route from San Antonio to Monterrey, the courthouse would still be close to Mathis. The railroad came to Sinton and the courthouse was moved. Corpus Christi's economic engine is the port, a transportation spot of national significance. I rest my case.

Today, from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m., there will be a public meeting at Calallen High School on this new transportation plan. This is our opportunity to express to TxDOT officials that in their search for innovative ideas for moving traffic, they should not forget to dance with "the one that brung them."

We need the U.S. 77 route brought up to Interstate standards from Victoria to the Valley. We need SH 44 improved from Laredo to the port. And South Texas needs U.S. 59 upgraded. Imagine a four-lane, divided route from Laredo to the Port of Corpus Christi on up U.S. 77 to Houston.

The U.S. 77 route from Corpus Christi to the Valley only lacks the Driscoll and Riviera interchanges upgraded to meet Interstate standards.

I invite concerned citizens to the hearing to learn more about these vital plans for the future of our area. If there were ever a time for first things first, this is it. If you want all the traffic from these new trade corridors going right by you, or, more to the point, not by you, plan on staying home.

The current plan routes most of the traffic west of U.S. 281. Let the department know that we have our feet firmly planted in the reality of what is possible now, what we need now, and urge them, for heaven's sake, to finish what they have already started.

Josephine Miller, former San Patricio county judge, is the executive director of the San Patricio Economic Development Corporation. E-mail: execdir@

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