Monday, February 27, 2006

Transportation commission pushes conversion of I-69 to TTC-69

Bid vote ties I-69, 'Corridor'

February 27, 2006

By Stephen Palkot
Fort Bend Herald
Copyright 2006

A bid procedure that was approved last week will cement the connection between the Trans Texas Corridor and the I-69 project.

The TTC is described by Texas Department of Transportation officials as a "master plan" for future transportation development. It calls for building new highways, side-by-side with rail lines and utility lines, to run across the state in very wide swaths of land.

I-69, or the "NAFTA corridor," is a proposed highway that would extend from the Texas/Mexico border to Port Huron, Mich., where it would continue into Canada.

Since the introduction of the TTC concept, TxDOT officials discussed the possibility of making the proposed highway a portion of the TTC. Now, a study corridor along East Texas is being called "TTC-69" by TxDOT, and the department is looking for a single company to develop the project.

On Thursday, Feb. 16, a procedure was approved for companies to submit proposals for developing TTC-69.

In a break from past policy, TxDOT hopes to fund the project entirely through the private sector. A private company would pay for all construction costs, according to the department. The company would likely charge tolls for use of the road and other facilities, in hopes of earning a profit.

Proponents of the plan, most notably Gov. Rick Perry, say it will speed development of the project and will save taxpayers billions of dollars. Opponents, however, say the project could give private interests too much control over state-wide transportation projects.

A request for qualifications will be issued by TxDOT in March, and companies will be asked to submit their experience in developing and financing transportation projects similar to TTC-69, according to TxDOT. Also, TxDOT wants companies to outline a conceptual proposal, explaining how they would finance, design, construct, operate and maintain TTC-69.

A second phase will begin after TxDOT hears from applicants. A set of companies will be given approval to submit more detailed proposals for the project.

The entire process is expected to last 15 months, according to TxDOT.

© 2006 Fort Bend Herald