Friday, May 13, 2005

“I would vote for a Democrat for governor based on this one issue.”


May 13, 2005
The Texas Observer Copyright 2005

It looked like Governor Rick Perry’s worst nightmare. Assembled in front of the Capitol steps on May 3rd, were more than 300 rural Anglos shouting, “Impeach Perry.” These folks, mostly from Central Texas, are supposed to be Perry’s base, but instead they left their homes to demonstrate against the governor and his plan for the Trans-Texas Corridor. As conceived, the TTC would be as many as 4,000 miles of toll roads, high-speed rail, freight rail, and utility pipes crisscrossing Texas. It would be built largely by private industry. Each company would have control of its piece of the corridor for decades. The first phase, the TTC-35, which would parallel I-35 from San Antonio to Dallas, has already been contracted out to a Spanish company called Cintra.

In order to make the TTC happen, the Legislature passed a bill that gives the state increased power to condemn property. Ranchers and farmers throughout the state are mobilizing to try and stop the project, which they are afraid will take their land. Many of those gathered for the rally consider themselves Republicans, and view Perry’s TTC as an attack against property rights. The Texas Farm Bureau—not generally recognized as a left-wing organization—has come out against the proposal.

Rod Spencer from Fayetteville County in Central Texas stood in the crowd and held aloft a sign that read: “Don’t confiscate our land to give it to a foreign company.”

“Perry is a former Agriculture Commissioner, he should be concerned about saving rural land,” said Spencer, whose grandfather struggled through the Depression to keep the family ranch together. Spencer identified himself as a “straight-ticket Republican,” but said, “I would vote for a Democrat for governor based on this one issue.”

Not surprisingly, state leaders have benefited handsomely in campaign contributions from highway contractors involved in pushing the corridor, according to an analysis by the Austin-based public interest group Campaigns for People. The top 10 TxDOT contractors and TTC-35 bidders gave $341,025 to Perry between January 1, 2001 and December 31. 2004. Just Zachry Construction alone, which has partnered with Cintra to build the first phase of the corridor, gave $45,500.

The star speaker at the rally was Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who is mentioned as a possible opponent for Perry in the Republican primary. As of yet, the undeclared potential frontrunner to take on Perry, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, has declined to take a position on the TTC. Hutchison’s campaign manager Terry Sullivan says that the Senator is focusing on doing her job in Congress. “She does not want to inject herself into the legislative session,” he said.

If Hutchison did decide to run against Perry, the corridor could be a potent way to peel off votes from the incumbent. It remains to be seen whether Hutchison will try. She is also the recipient of the highway contractor’s largess, including the maximum $2,000 contribution from at least three Zachry family members in the past three years.

The Texas Observer:


"The nation's biggest toll road project was paved with big campaign contributions."

Big Money Paves the way for the Trans-Texas Corridor

How Big Money Bought Texans the Nation's Most Expensive Toll Road Project

May 12, 2005

Campaigns for People
Copyright 2005

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) calls it the "Trans Texas Corridor".

Others, including Time magazine, are questioning whether it might better be called a "big, fat Texas boondoggle".

Whatever you call it, few Texans know that the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC) is the nation's biggest toll road project and that it was paved with big campaign contributions. The TTC is 4,000 miles of 10-lane divided toll roads plus high speed rail, freight rail and utilities spanning from Mexico to Arkansas, New Mexico to New Orleans, and skirting every major city in between. It's estimated to cost up to $183.5 billion dollars.

It's to be built with extremely limited public oversight. Except for the corridor cast and roughly parallel to Interstate 35 (TTC-35), it's a road system most Texans can hardly imagine will ever be built. But road builders and toll bond financers from around the world are lining up to participate. These interests contributed $166,000 to amend Texas' constitution and more than $2.7 million in Texas' last two elections to turn the nation's largest toll road project into a reality.

The Big Money Players in Texas Road Building

Big money has played a major role in rewriting state laws to make the TTC and local toll road projects possible. Over the past four years, road building and bond financing interests have given millions of dollars to support amending Texas' constitution and to pass laws that will create the TTC. This report examines only a portion of the total: $2.9 million in political contributions by the top 10 TxDOT contractors (TxDOT Top 10), entities that bid on the TTC-35 toll corridor (TTC Bidders), and their employees and related PACs. (1)

In the period spanning January 1, 2001 through December 31 2004, TxDOT awarded over $14.3 billion dollars in contracts to build and maintain roads in the state of Texas. More than 40% of this total (over $6 billion) went to the TxDOT Top 10. (2) In this same time period, the TxDOT Top 10 gave over $1.1 million in political contributions.

Contributions to Executive and & Legislative Candidates by Employees & PACs Representing the TxDOT Top 10: January 1, 2001 – December 31, 2004

TTC Table 1

The TTC Bidders followed the same pay-to-play pattern of big campaign contributions as they pursued the contract for TTC-35, the largest stretch of toll corridor under construction in Texas to date. This corridor runs north-south roughly parallel to 1-35 through rural land, starting east of San Antonio and ending northeast of Dallas. The cost of a 400 mile round-trip is expected to cost between $25 and $80 in tolls. (6) From January 1, 2001 through December 31, 2004, employees and PACs of bid participants contributed over $2 million dollars to candidates for executive and legislative state offices; those same entities gave another $85,500 to promote amending Texas' constitution. TxDOT awarded the TTC-35 contract to the CINTRA team in December of 2004. Members of the CINTRA team gave executive and legislative candidates for state office over $800,000.

Contributions to Executive and & Legislative Candidates by Employees & PACs Representing the TTC Bidders: January 1, 2001 – December 31, 2004

TTC Table 2

What Big Road Money Sought: Propositions 2 and 15 in 2001

Big money funded the campaign in 2001 to pass constitutional amendments authorizing the financing mechanisms behind the TTC. Together, Propositions 2 & 15 were touted as the way to buiid more roads more quickly without increasing existing taxes. Road building interests established the "Yes on 2 & 15 PAC" and quickly amassed over $400,000 in support of these constitutional amendments. Five of the TxDOT top 10 contractors gave $70,000 to the campaign. TTC Bidders gave $58,000. In total, the TTC Bidders and TxDOT Top 10 gave $123.000 or over 30% of the money used to Finance the Yes on 2 & 15 PAC. (10)

Contributions to "Yes on 2 & 15 PAC" by TTC Bidders and the TxDOT Top 10: August 2001 through November 2001

TTC Table 3

Proposition 2 marks the first time Texas has issued bonds to pay for roads. (11) This shift away from a pay-as-you-go approach to highway construction was sold to the public as the best way to finance road construction in Texas' disadvantaged border colonias. Few Texans knew that it would become a mechanism to fund the TTC and other mega-toll road projects across the state.

Proposition 15 created the Texas Mobility Fund and authorized grants and loans for state highways, toll roads, and "other mobility projects." There was no public mention at the time that "other mobility projects" would include the TTC. Rather, the public understood that the Texas Mobility Fund was a way to transfer existing state revenue from gas taxes and automobile fees into a start-up fund to underwrite highways bonds for additional highway projects (including toll roads) without raising existing taxes.

Big Road Money in the 78th Legislature: House Bill 3588

While Propositions 2 & 15 planted the seeds for Texas' massive toll projects, HB3588 brought those projects to fruition during the 78th legislature (2003). House Bill 3588 granted the state the broad, new powers needed to build the TTC by amending Texas' Transportation Code:

1. The state has new and expanded powers for acquiring public- lands for the purpose of building the Trans Texas Corridor. "...the commission has the same powers and duties relating to the condemnation or purchase of real property..." [Sec. 227.04(a)] A facility includes a turnpike (toll road) project.

2. The state may privatize any existing public road. "The commission by order may convert a segment of the free state highway system to a turnpike project and transfer that segment to an authority, or may transfer an existing turnpike project that is part of the state highway system, whether previously tolled or not..." [Sec. 370.035(a). (12)

3. The state may convert any existing public freeway to a public or private toll road. "An authority may impose a toil for transit over an existing free road, street, or public highway transferred to the authority under this chapter." [Sec. 370.176(a)]12

In the process of creating new financing mechanisms for building Texas highways, legislators re-wrote Texas' laws to the advantage of private corporations that will build, maintain and toll not only new roads as part of the TTC, but also existing and even partially-built public roads that may be "converted" into toll roads.

These private entities also have unusually broad powers to grant concessionary contracts and determine the final location of highways according to the "Comprehensive Development Agreements" (CDAs). Comprehensive Development Agreements (CDA) are a tool utilized primarily by third world countries whose governments do not have the ability to incur debt in order to build the infrastructure necessary for economic development. These governments negotiate with private partners (concessionaires) to build and operate the road infrastructure under the terms of the CDA. Private partners in these agreements utilize "revenue enhancers", terms negotiated in the CDA, to pay back their investment with a profit, such as tolls and taking additional right of way leased out by the concessionaire for private business development. Under Texas' CDAs, the contracted developers will plan, design, construct, finance, maintain and operate all toll corridor facilities. (13) According to David Stall of Corridor Watch, "The State of Texas claims one of the top economics in the world, and should not need to allow a private partner to build and operate critical elements of our infrastructure." CDAs grant the developers decision-making authority to eliminate public input, purportedly in the interest of expediting projects.

The TxDOT Top 10 and TTC Bidders gave generously to legislators who ultimately had a say over the content and passage of HB3588. These interests made over $2.7 million in campaign contributions from January 1, 2001 to December 31, 2004. These special interests steered more than half of this money to elected officials who either held statewide leadership positions in 2003 or who sat on key House or Senate transportation committees.

Recipients of Campaign Money from the TxDOT Top 10 and TTC Bidders: January 1, 2001 to December 31, 2004

TTC Table 4

All Contributions to Executive and Legislative Candidates for State Offices by Employees and PACof the TxDOT Top 10 and TTC Bidders: January 1, 2001 to December 31, 2004

TTC Table 5

More Big Road Money in 2003: Proposition 14

Big money then financed the campaign in support of Proposition 14 in the fall of 2003. Certain features of HB3588 could only he implemented if Proposition 14 passed. Proposition 14 gave the state and TxDOT the ability to borrow money by any form of loan to fund highway projects, so long as the term of the loan does not exceed two years. Proposition 14 also authorized up to $3 billion in bonds for highway construction, to be guaranteed by future gas taxes. (14)

Contributions to "Yes on 14 PAC" by TTC Bidders and the TxDOT Top 10 and TTC Bidders: August 2003, through November 2003

TTC Table 6

Road building interests established the "Yes on 14 PAC" and quickly amassed $165,000 in support of this constitutional amendment, including $12,000 in start-up funds from the Yes on 2 & 15 PAC. Three of the Top 10 contractors gave $8,000 to the campaign. TTC Bidders gave $52,000. In total, he TTC Bidders and TxDOT Top 10 gave $55,000 or over 33% of the money used to finance the Yes in 14 PAC. (15)

Propositions 2, 15 and 14 and House Bill 3588 provide the state with broad new powers and a variety of new ways to finance the nation's largest private toll system. Together, these changes to Texas' law enable what no single piece of legislation and no ordinary Texan sought; the construction of the $183.5 billion Trans-Texas Corridor.

The Public's Reponse

In June of 2004, Republican activists included a plank in their state party platform calling for the repeal of HB3588 and urging the state to rescind its broad new TTC-related powers. TTC critics worked with Representatives Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) and Robby Cook (D-Eagle Lake) in the 79th legislature to propose a bill (HB3363) that would have placed a two-year moratorium on TTC-related projects to allow public input. HB3363 also would have prohibited converting existing state roads into toll roads. A protest at the capitol in favor of HB3363 drew some 500 activists from all across Texas. HB3363 was assigned to the House Transportation Committee on March 23, 2005 but never even got a hearing.


All campaign contribution data in this study is compiled from reports that state candidates and PACs filed with the Texas Ethics Commission from January 1, 2001 through December 31, 2004. The compiled data was standardized and annotated, in part, by Tcxans for Public Justice.

As of September 2003, PACs and candidates were required to make their "best effort" to report the employer and occupation of contributors giving over $500, When not disclosed prior to September 2003, employment has been determined based on the best available information. This study docs not include lobbyist contributions to candidates and PACs, unless the lobbyist identifies his or her employer as one of the TxDOT Top 10 or a TTC Bidder. Contributions to candidates for judgeships, Land Commissioner, Railroad Commissioner and the State Board of Education are not included in this study.



(1) According to Texas state law, corporations cannot make campaign contributions. Corporations can, however, sponsor a political action committee (PAC) and pay the PAC's administrative expenses. Corporations also can spend unlimited sums to support or oppose ballot measures, such as constitutional amendments.

(2) TxDOT open records requests: December 14, 2004 and April 7, 2005. See Appendix A.

(3) All constitutional amendment contributions in this report were made by corporate entities, not by their employees or PAC’s.

(4) $189 million of these contracts were awarded in partnership with Gilbert Texas Construction, L.F.

(5) $63 million of these contracts were awarded in partnership with the Granite Construction Company.

(6) "Rollin, rollin, rollin ..." Jack Smith, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, January 28, 2005

(7) Members of bidding teams where no contributions could be identified arc not listcd.

(8) The legal firms listed have many interests at the Legislature, representing and lobbying for many different industries.

(9) Fluor-related contributions to Texas candidates came from three sources: Fluor's California-based PACs (Fluor Corporate California PAC and Fluor Public Affairs Committee) and James T. Hackett, a member of Fluor''s board of directors.

(10) There was a $5,000 overlap of coniribulions from TTC bidders and the TxDOT Top 10.

(11) House Research Organizaiion on Proposition 2: Authorizing bond issuance for access roads to border colonias.

(12) CorridorWatch is a Texas non-profit corporation working to increase public awareness and understanding fo the Trans-Texas Corridor and its impact on Texas.

(13) http://www.keeptexasmoving/projects/development_agreement.aspx -- TxDOT's official web site on the TTC.

(14) House Research Organization on Proposition 14: Allowing borrowing by the Texas Transportation Commission.

(15) There was a $5,000 overlap of contributions from TTC bidders and the TxDOT Top 10. In addition, since the TxDOT Top 10 and TTC Bidders contributed to the Yes on 2 & 15 PAC. the use of Yes on 2 & 15 funds to initiate the Yes on 14 PAC increases their share of the total to over 35%.

Appendix A: State-Let Construction and Maintenance Projects: January 1, 2001 - December 31, 2004.

Appendix B: All contributions to Yes on 2 & 15 PAC.

Appendix C: All contributions by employees and PACs of the TxDOT Top 10 and TTC Bidders to all legislative and executive state candidates.

Appendix D: Contributions by employees and PACs of the TxDOT Top 10 and TTC Bidders to all legislative and executive state candidates sorted by recipient and itemized by contributor.

Appendix E: Contributions by employees and PACs of the TxDOT Top 10 and TTC Bidders to all legislative and executive state candidates sorted by contributor and itemized by recipient.

Appendix F: All contributions to Yes on 14 PAC.


Appendix G: TTC-35 Toll Corridor Bidding Teams:


Cintra, Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A. (CINTRA)
Zachry Construction Corporation
Earth Tech, Inc.
Price Waterhouse Coopcrs
JP Morgan Securities
Bracewell & Patterson
Pate Engineers, Inc.
Aguirre & Fields LP
Rodriguez Transportation Group
Railroad Industries Inc.
Public Resources Advisory Group
Southwestern Capital Markets
National Corporate Network
HRM Consultants


Fluor Enterprises, Inc.
Parsons Brinckerhoff
Vollmer Associates, LLP
Goldman Sachs
S&ME, Inc.
Rodrigucz Transportation Group
RJW Operations


Trans Texas Express, LLC (TTEX)
Skanska BOT AB
Hensel Phelps Construction Co.
Chiang, Pale & Yerby, Inc.
Skanska USA Civil '
Turner Collie & Braden, Inc.
Morgan Stanley
First Southwcst Company
Lockwood Andrews & Newnam, Inc.
Hanson Wilson, Inc.
Nationwide Water Resource Services
W.P- Engineering Co., Inc.
Moreland Altobelli
Lea + Elliot
Cinnabar Service Company
Vinson & Elkins LLP
Shannon, Gracey, Ratiff & Miller LLP
Arredondo, Zapeda & Brunz, Inc.
APM & Associates, Inc.
Advanced Consulting Engineers

For an electronic copy of all appendices, please contact:
(512) 472-1007
700 West Ave.
Austin, TX 78723


Thursday, May 12, 2005

Cintra-Zachry Advances on Alamo RMA

Toll agency wants to transfer project

May 12, 2005

Patrick Driscoll
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2005

Two weeks after a private consortium made a pitch to operate toll roads here, the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority decided Wednesday to get moving on efforts to transfer a state tollway project to local authorities.

"It's time for the RMA to step up and say we're the tolling agency for Bexar County," said board member Bob Thompson.

Spain-based Cintra and locally owned Zachry American Infrastructure delivered a proposal to state officials to build and operate toll lanes on the northern arc of Loop 1604 and on U.S. 281 north of the loop without using public money.

The Texas Department of Transportation had planned to build part of the tollway, using $450 million in gas taxes and other public funds, and give it to the Mobility Authority, which would then use toll fees to expand the system.

The consortium would save public money upfront, but would collect toll fees for up to 50 years, money that local officials would otherwise reinvest in more toll roads.

Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Ric Williamson said in a letter last week that local officials could either help the state evaluate the Cintra/Zachry proposal or take over the project themselves and consider the consortium's offer.

Williamson made no mention of whether or not the state would pull public funds from the project.

But Mobility Authority Chairman Bill Thornton said there's no reason for that money not to be there.

''I am confident they will keep their commitment,'' he said.

Mobility Authority board members also fretted over how much they don't know about this new twist, such as weighing the saving of public money against reinvestment of toll fees over five decades, and how construction timelines would differ.

''I feel very uncomfortable that I don't know more about it,'' said board member Bill McBride, a retired Air Force general.

The authority's staff will meet with state officials to come up with answers and report back to the board within a month.

In related news, the Texas House late Wednesday approved a bill that would expand the Texas Department of Transportation's ability to construct, with a private partner, the Trans Texas Corridor. Cintra has signed a contract to build the first 600 miles of the system.

''This bill insures that TxDOT will have the necessary tools to address congestion on our highways and push the Trans Texas Corridor ,'' said Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, the bill's author.

The bill would provide the Texas Transportation Commission and the Texas Department of Transportation additional flexibility to acquire, finance, maintain, manage, operate, own, and control rail and highway facilities in Texas and allow the agency to enter into non-low-bid contracts in connection with the Trans Texas Corridor promoted by Gov. Rick Perry.

The measure specifies that TxDOT secure the permission of county commissioners and voters from the affected counties before the agency could convert a state highway into a toll road. The bill also orders that all toll revenue collected by TxDOT be deposited in the State Highway Fund.

Staff Writer Guillermo X. Garcia contributed to this story.

© 2006 San Antonio Express-News:


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

TxDOT creates its own "Myths & Realities" in PR Campaign

Common myths about Trans-Texas Corridor

By Gabriela Garcia
Texas Transportation Commission

The Texas Department of Transportation provided the following information about the Trans-Texas Corridor, a system of integrated transportation infrastructure and easements proposed by Gov. Rick Perry. The department provided responses to "myths" it identified from public comment about the corridor.

MYTH: There will be no access to the corridor. Small towns and rural areas will be bypassed or cutoff from the Trans-Texas Corridor.

REALITY: A transportation system with no access serves no purpose. There must be access from the Trans-Texas Corridor to small towns and rural areas. The facility must be able to feed and unload the system or it won't work. The frequency and location of entrance and exit ramps will be determined as a project is being designed. It is impossible to do that level of design work now because we don't know where the corridor will be located.

As we do on any project, TxDOT will work with local officials to determine where access should be located so that it meets local needs and benefits statewide transportation.

MYTH: Farmers and ranchers whose property is divided will be forced to drive many miles out of their way to reach the other side of their property so that they can move their livestock and crops.

REALITY: As with other highways, TxDOT will consider routes for the corridor (that) are between properties. TxDOT will work to minimize the impact on the landowner. Examples include reconnecting severed roads, providing crossovers, constructing limited access roads or through some other means. Where appropriate, livestock crossings may be included.

MYTH: The corridor will remove thousands of acres off the property tax rolls and cripple local governments' ability to provide services.

REALITY: It is true that some land, much of it undeveloped, will be taken off the tax rolls. But more and more local governments are realizing that new infrastructure brings new economic development opportunities. Development that springs up within and around the corridor will bring in greater tax revenues than what undeveloped property would bring.

MYTH: A 10-mile wide swath of land will be purchased for the Oklahoma-Mexico/Gulf Coast element of the Corridor.

REALITY: Not true. If approved by Federal Highway Administration, a 10-mile wide study area would become the starting point for a second phase of environmental studies. During the second phase, the additional studies will be conducted within the 10-mile wide study area to identify 1,200 feet or less for the location of the project. To minimize the amount of right of way needed, incorporating existing highways and railroads is being considered.

MYTH: TxDOT will transfer its eminent domain authority to a private entity or consortium hired to develop the corridor.

REALITY: Absolutely not. TxDOT cannot delegate the power of eminent domain to a private or third party. No developer for the corridor will be condemning anyone's land. The Trans-Texas Corridor is a state-owned project and any land purchased or transportation improvements built will be done so in the name of the state.

MYTH: TxDOT or its developer will condemn property adjacent to the corridor to develop other business interests.

REALITY: Not true. TxDOT can only acquire property for transportation facilities that directly benefit the users of the corridor. TxDOT cannot acquire property adjacent to the corridor for non-transportation related purposes.

MYTH: TxDOT will build service centers that will compete with locally-owned businesses.

REALITY: Customer service centers will be considered where they are needed to give motorists a convenient place to get gas and food or other necessities. Where there is sufficient right of way and the demand from corridor users, the private sector could lease the property on which to locate their business.

TxDOT will not be operating customer service centers. To the extent there is competition, it will be among private businesses and any revenue earned will be subject to state and local taxes.

MYTH: If a developer is unable to make payments to its lien holders, then the road would be shut down and the state would have to bail out the developer to keep the facility open.

REALITY: No. The Trans-Texas Corridor is a state-owned project and would remain open regardless of a developer's ability to make payments to the bondholders. All financial obligations for payments are between the developer and the bondholders. By law, the state cannot be held responsible for a private developer's financial obligations on a turnpike project, such as the Trans-Texas Corridor.

MYTH: TxDOT will pump groundwater located under the Trans-Texas Corridor and transport it to other parts of the state.

REALITY: TxDOT is not in the business of selling groundwater. Furthermore, it does not have the authority to transport water. The only reason that TxDOT may access groundwater beneath state property is if it is needed for the transportation facility, such as a restroom or customer service center.

MYTH: The utility corridor and its water pipelines would be exempt from local groundwater conservation districts.

REALITY: Not true. The transmission of any utilities located in the corridor is not exempt from any laws. Any business interested in transporting water, electricity or other utility must comply with all related state and federal laws. HB 3588 did not change these requirements.

Locating a utility on the Trans-Texas Corridor does not excuse anyone from following the laws.

MYTH: Once TxDOT takes over property, the department or the developer will strip the minerals beneath the surface.

REALITY: Absolutely not. TxDOT has no interest or authority to drill for minerals on state-owned land. Nor will TxDOT allow any private developer to engage in this on land intended for the Trans-Texas Corridor.

TxDOT has not routinely purchased mineral rights on state highways since 1946. The bottom line is that the owners of the mineral interests control the decision on the mineral rights, not TxDOT.

MYTH: Large tracts of land will be taken only to wait decades for the corridor to be built.

REALITY: One of the guiding principles of the corridor is that it will be built over time as the transportation demand warrants. Right now, the immediate need is for an alternative to I-35 and an interstate facility connecting Mexico to Northeast Texas, such as I-69. Environmental studies are ongoing for these two projects. Land can only be purchased after federal environmental clearance has been given. Even then, road and rail likely will be built in segments as needed. To preserve future transportation corridors, the state can sign an agreement with a willing landowner for an option to purchase the property at a future date.

Taylor Daily Press:


Monday, May 09, 2005

West Texas Pork

TxDOT eyes La Entrada’s potential

State to study making route part of Trans-Texas Corridor

May 9, 2005

By Julie Breaux
Odessa American
Copyright 2005

The Texas Department of Transportation will spend more than $1 million to see if the La Entrada al Pacifico trade route can be designed to include all the features of the Trans-Texas Corridor, department officials say.

La Entrada was envisioned as an overland trade route connecting the United States to Far East markets via West Texas and Northern Mexico. Its design is being revisited in light of the proposed $175 billion Trans-Texas Corridor, a megahighway paralleling Interstate 35 in Central Texas.

La Entrada runs from Lamesa to Odessa-Midland along state Highway 349, then west on Interstate Highway 20 to U.S. Highway 385, south to McCamey to U.S. 67 and south-southwesterly to Presidio, where it connects with Mexican 16.

The Trans-Texas Corridor would parallel Interstate Highway 35, in Central Texas, and include lanes for cars or trucks and a 200-foot wide utility zone to accommodate oil, natural gas or other energy ipelines, water lines, telecommunications fiber-optic cables and high-power electric lines. It would be flanked by rail lines for the movement of people and freight.

One example of what TxDOT will be considering is a proposal by the LEAP Rural Rail District to build a new rail line connecting with the TxDOT-owned South Orient Express at McCamey and continue north to Seagraves via Odessa-Midland.

TxDOT will study the feasibility of linking the new line with La Entrada, he said. “We know there ought to be a north-south trade corridor in West Texas,” Larum said. “As we look at the development of LEAP, we need to step back first and say, ‘Is this a potential TTC and, if so, how do we need to accommodate that?’ ”

In 2002, Gov. Rick Perry proposed the $175 billion Trans-Texas Corridor to handle heavy traffic volumes associated with explosive population growth in Central Texas and increased international trade between the United States, Texas and Mexico.

While it may not be feasible to try to build West Texas’ version of the TTC through the mountains of the Trans-Pecos or the oilfields of the Permian Basin, “we’re required to look at every possible option,” Larum said.

James Beauchamp, executive director of the Midland-Odessa Transportation Alliance says it really doesn’t matter to him how La Entrada is developed as long as it gets developed.

“MOTRAN has been a driving force in trying to bring the funds for LEAP and that includes both cities, both counties and both chambers,” Beauchamp said. “We’ve been the ones working toward this, and what we’re looking for is that these funds get put into use and things start moving forward.”

To date, Texas has received about $13 million in federal funds for La Entrada feasibility studies and route improvements.

The $1 million LEAP-TTC feasibility study will also address improvements to historic U.S. Highway 90 in the Trans-Pecos, TxDOT District Engineer Lauren Garduño said.
Garduño said the department will pool $200,000 from the city of Alpine to consider improvements to US 90 in the Alpine-Marfa area.

“Since we’re studying the corridor anyway, let’s not study it two or three time,” Garduño said. “We’re going to study it one time … look at some of the TTC elements and see whether it’s a go or a no-go.”

© 2005 Odessa American: