Saturday, February 05, 2005

Road Show: "TxDOT needs to rethink its meeting format."

Opionion: Road Show

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2005

If you'd like to learn more about a proposed new Texas toll road that would parallel Interstate 35 from the Oklahoma border to Mexico, you'll have a chance at a series of public meetings planned for North Central Texas and other regions.

Meetings in North Central Texas will kick off with one in Dallas on Monday, followed by others Tuesday in Fort Worth and McKinney.

Other meeting locations this month in North Central Texas include Bowie, Cleburne, Denton, Gainesville, Granbury, Hillsboro and Mineral Wells.

At the meetings, you can look at maps outlining preliminary plans for the general route of the Trans -Texas Corridor , dubbed TTC-35.

You can learn about the environmental impact study for the road, individually ask questions of transportation officials and submit comments for the record.

But what's regrettably not planned for these meetings is an in-depth, informative presentation by Texas Department of Transportation officials on the project -- a presentation that could give a detailed overview of the project, followed by a question-and-answer session in which everyone could jointly participate.

Instead, the meetings are to be held from 5 to 8 p.m. in the same general format as a typical public school open house, where visitors come and go on a random basis.

That format, similar to meetings that the department conducted several months ago on the corridor development, should prove considerably less beneficial to the public than a full-scale presentation to an audience all gathered at one time, followed by questions from the audience.

It's good that transportation officials are holding these meetings, and we urge everyone to attend. But the chosen format is very disappointing -- much less information will be conveyed to the public, and fewer people are likely to attend.

TTC-35 is just part of a huge 4,000-mile network of high-speed toll roads that might one day serve as the state's solution for a mushrooming population and increasingly choked freeways. The projected price tag is anywhere from $145 billion to $183.5 billion.

Portions of the corridor eventually might be 1,200 feet wide and include separate segments for passenger vehicles, freight trucks, high-speed passenger rail, freight railways and a utility zone for transmission of water, oil, natural gas, electricity and broadband.

It's a huge undertaking, and the public needs to become much better informed about it -- which is why the Texas Transportation Department needs to rethink its meeting format.

Trans -Texas Corridor meetings


All meetings are 5 to 8 p.m. in an open-house format in which people can stop by at any time.

Monday: Dallas, Grauwyler Community Center, 7780 Harry Hines Blvd.

Tuesday: Fort Worth, YWCA, 512 W. Fourth St.; and McKinney, Holiday Inn (Magnolia Room), 1300 North Central Expressway

Wednesday: Denton, University of North Texas , Gateway Center Ballroom, 801 N. Texas Blvd.; and Bowie, Legend Bank Community Room, 307 N. Mason St.

Thursday: Gainesville, Civic Center, 311 S. Weaver St.

Feb. 22: Mineral Wells, High School Cafeteria, 3801 Ram Blvd.; and Hillsboro, Hill College Performing Arts Center South, 112 Lamar Drive

Feb. 23: Cleburne, Civic Center Auditorium, 1501 W. Henderson St.

Feb. 24: Granbury, Granbury ISD Conference Center, 600 W. Bridge St.


Copyright 2005 Star-Telegram, Inc.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram:


Thursday, February 03, 2005

TTC Project Manager: "Cintra will not ask for local, state or federal contributions."

Trans Texas Corridor ambitious undertaking for developers

February 3, 2005

David Hendricks
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2005

Texas' highway capacity hardly is keeping up with the state's population and vehicle registration growth.

The Texas Department of Transportation can't do much about that, since its budget increasingly must be devoted to maintaining current highways.

The main plan to address long-term highway capacity is the Trans Texas Corridor . At 4,000 miles long and 1,200 feet wide, with a 50- to 100-year timetable and a $184 billion price tag, it is the biggest and most ambitious highway project since the U.S. interstate highway system was built almost half a century ago.

It also is difficult to visualize, with so many questions not yet having answers.

But the privately operated corridor will come into focus over the next 15 months, said John Bourne, corridor project manager and associate vice president of HNTB in Austin, a transportation engineering and planning firm.

First, TxDOT and a consortium of companies led by Spain-based Cintra is finishing negotiations and could sign a contract within a week, two months after Cintra was chosen from three competing consortiums.

San Antonio's Zachry Construction Corp. is a 15 percent partner in the Cintra consortium.

The contract will call for a fairly specific plan to be completed in 15 months for the corridor 's first leg, stretching from the Oklahoma border to the Mexico border, terminating either in the Rio Grande Valley or Laredo, with construction taking 10 years.

That highway and other Trans Texas Corridor highways that follow eventually could feature 10 lanes of traffic - two devoted to trucks only - plus freight, commuter and high-speed rail lines and utility lines carrying water, natural gas, oil, electricity and telecommunications.

It likely would incorporate the Texas 130 route that has started construction east of Austin, extending the currently funded segment south to near Seguin to create an alternative to the congested Interstate 35.

The Texas 130 portion is slated tentatively for completion within five years.

The entire corridor will be tolled, of course.

Outside of the rail lines, very little public money will go into the corridor 's construction, as it is conceived so far.

The developers, not taxpayers, will carry the project's risk, which is why the project is not on any ballot.

With Southwest Capital Markets as a member of the Cintra team, the project likely will be financed by revenue bonds repaid by the tolls, not gasoline taxes.

"Cintra will not ask for local, state or federal contributions," Bourne said.

The land for the corridor will be obtained by state condemnation. The state legally cannot delegate eminent domain responsibilities to private developers.

TxDOT also is responsible for public hearings on federal environmental clearances, Bourne told members of the San Antonio Transportation Association on Wednesday.

The TxDOT-Cintra contract is expected to call for Cintra to invest $6 billion and make a $1.2 billion "concession payment" by 2014 to TxDOT, which can use the money for enhancements along the corridor , such as connecting highways and/or passenger/freight rail lines.

If this project can stick close to its 10-year timetable, it will take pressure off TxDOT to further widen I-35.

Already controversial, this Oklahoma-to-Mexico segment will become a much hotter issue as the route is selected, with some interested parties not wanting it near them, others wanting it closer and some landowners fighting condemnation.

Who controls development rights along the route will be another issue that must be hashed out.

Moreover, who can say that court rulings on what projects can be subject to condemnation won't affect the corridor 's plans over the years?

The fight over where the first corridor highway turns south of San Antonio, either to Laredo or the Valley, will be bloody by itself.

Some members of the San Antonio Transportation Association believe there is no sign of public support for the Trans Texas Corridor , which it is being driven by engineering and construction companies who make money from these projects.

If those members are right, it is just another barrier the corridor developers must overcome as plans are drawn, ground is broken and the cement begins to pour.

© 2005 San Antonio Express-News:


"We are about to witness eminent domain taken to a level unforeseen before."

Trans-Texas Corridor plan raises concerns


The Gonzales Inquirer
Copyright 2006

To the Editor:

Media sources have given the Trans-Texas Corridor Project minimal coverage, and the coverage there has been has had little scrutiny.

This project will change the face of Texas forever, and somehow the project has gone from Gov. Rick Perry's "vision" to the first bid for construction being awarded to a tune of more than $7 billion. Yet in talking to people it seems the majority of the people are clueless when you mention Trans-Texas Corridor.

I have written six elected officials expressing my opposition to this project, and a month later only one politician has responded.

The funding for this project is a joint venture between our state government and private businesses that will manage the corridor.

I have numerous grave concerns regarding this project:

As Texans we have always protected our private property rights, yet we are about to witness eminent domain taken to a level unforeseen before. Each corridor will be three to four football fields wide with the first of these corridors running from Oklahoma to Mexico. The amount of private property that landowners will be forced to sell to the government is mind-boggling.
Eminent domain will be invoked, and then the land will be managed through tolls by private companies. This is highly questionable. Where does this lead?

Some property owners might willingly sell part of their land with the assumption that this could increase their remaining property value. This may be true for a very small number of property owners who can profit from business operations near exit and entrance ramps. They may not realize that these will be very far and far between due to cost restrictions. Many small- and mid-sized towns will see their economic vitality lost due to traffic route changes.
The designers are specifically proposing that the corridors be located far enough away from larger cities to deter using the corridor as a means of traveling across town (eliminate rush-hour users). Let's work together to resolve our road and traffic problems, not ignore them.

Intentionally bypassing the cities just far enough to deter today's local traffic ensures additional outward sprawl toward the new corridor.

This project drains thousands of acres away from agricultural use, and thousands more will disappear over the years to sprawl. Yes, of course, our population will grow, but some foresight and intelligent planning needs to be applied. How will this impact agricultural production and other valuable natural resources?

Instead of our elected officials ensuring that our Mexican neighbors abide by our traffic safety and clean air laws they are building a monstrous road through Texas. Whoever said Texas hospitality was dead!

These corridors will have passenger car lanes, truck lanes, freight rail, passenger train rail, pipelines and other types of utilities. What will one derailment or gas line rupture do to a corridor? Can you say, "shut down?"

The minimal media coverage does quote politicians. From their quotes, it does seem they think this project will be a legacy of theirs.

Dane Sullivan


Copyright © 2006 The Gonzales Inquirer