By GORDON DICKSON
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
More than 2,400 square miles of prime farm land, 13 square miles of parks and 63 landfills are potentially in the path of a proposed toll road from North Texas to Laredo, according to an environmental study released Tuesday.
Nearly 1 million Texans live within the proposed route. At least 46 threatened or endangered plant and animal species call it home, too.
Those are among the details in a draft environmental impact study released by the Federal Highway Administration.
The document brings Texas Department of Transportation officials closer to their goal of opening the futuristic, tolled highway by 2015. A private team, Cintra Zachry, has been hired to plan the $6 billion road. The mission is to relieve congestion and move much of the heavy truck traffic from the Interstate 35 corridor across the state.
Many bureaucratic steps remain, including about 50 public hearings that are tentatively scheduled across the state this summer to give residents a closer look at the road’s projected path. Meetings in the Fort Worth area likely will be in June, a TxDot official says.
Texans who want to read the environmental study can access it online at www.dot.state.tx.us — but be warned, including appendices it’s about 4,000 pages long. But residents can click on maps and see how close their property is to the route, which has now been narrowed to a width of about 10 miles.
It closely follows Interstate 35 and Interstate 35E east of Dallas.
# The toll road would be 521 miles long. Most of it would be new road, but the project also would incorporate a portion of existing I-35 from San Antonio to Laredo.
# Of the 980,667 people who live in the path, 48 percent are minorities and 24 percent are below the poverty level.
# The route includes five federally recognized historic sites of 23 acres or greater.
# The route would traverse three major and six minor aquifers.
Gordon Dickson, (817) 685-3816
© 2006 Fort Worth Star-Telegram: