Tuesday, July 11, 2006

“I am asking, as a resident of Oklahoma, that the Texas people that have a reputation for fighting…to please do so.”

Trans-Texas Corridor-35 public hearings begin across North Texas

Jul 11, 2006

By Allen Rich
North Texas E-News
Copyright 2006

Long before anyone hears the sound of traffic on a proposed Texas-sized highway project that will run from Oklahoma to Mexico, the sound of debate is likely to echo from Red River to the Rio Grande. And, in an election year, it may echo loudest in Austin.

Monday night in Sherman and Gainesville, TxDOT held the first of 54 public hearings planned along the proposed route of Trans-Texas Corridor-35.

The well-attended meetings gave TxDOT officials an opportunity to clear up misconceptions and explain what the department feels is a definite need to improve the Texas highway system in response to the state’s population growth.

In turn, the public hearings gave residents most likely to be affected by this major project a chance to share concerns about eminent domain issues, the toll-road concept, foreign participation and whether or not it is prudent to place a massive north-south artery in such a highly populated area.

One Grayson County woman had the crowd behind her when she quoted Horace Greeley, telling TxDOT to “Go west, young man, go west” with TTC-35.

The TxDOT presentation explained that the population of Texas is expected to grow 118% from 2000 to 2060, with an even more dramatic 400% increase in freight vehicles predicted by 2060. Studies indicate that a Tran-Texas Corridor-35 is needed to alleviate an already heavily congested I-35 and allow for the future movement of goods and people through the central portion of the state, while a Trans-Texas Corridor-69 will be needed to handle the volume of traffic expected in East Texas.

TTC-35 would be approximately 1200 feet wide and enter Texas near Gainesville, veer southeast to pass just east of McKinney and Dallas, and then run basically parallel to I-35 from Waco to San Marcos before diverging to the east of I-35.

In 2005, TxDOT signed a comprehensive development agreement with Cintra-Zachary to fund a $3.5 million planning effort. With headquarters in Madrid, Spain and contingents on three continents, Cintra is one of the world’s largest transportation infrastructure developers in the private sector. Zachary Construction Company is based in San Antonio, Texas and currently employs of approximately 13,000 workers, primarily in Texas and along the East Coast.

To view maps, provide feedback and learn more about TTC-35, visit www.keeptexasmoving.org. A poll on the comprehensive Website indicates that 61% of those responding feel the most pressing issue TxDOT faces in developing the Trans-Texas Corridor project will be the acquisition of land.

Following the TxDOT presentation, public testimony was allowed. Of the approximately 215 people that filled the Sherman Municipal Ballroom, about a half-dozen took advantage of the opportunity.

Clint Winters, a representative of the state’s top fiscal officer, Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, spoke first, telling the audience that Strayhorn calls the project a “Texas-Trans Catastrophe that needs to be brushed off the books.”

“Texas property belongs to Texans, not foreign companies,” Winters relayed from the Texas Comptroller.

Strayhorn also called the Trans-Texas Corridor “a property tax problem of the worst kind.”
The fear voiced by Winters and others in the audience is that taking the land required to develop TTC-35 off the tax rolls would place an addition burden on schools, local governments and the remaining landowners.

The next speaker said his worries were limited access to TTC-35, the possibility of the major project destroying family farms and dividing Texas. Toll roads amount to another tax, he said, but he thanked TxDOT for trying to separate large trucks from other vehicles when possible.
The third speaker said America faces a loss of sovereignty as borders dissolve.

The fourth public speaker, a woman from Van Alstyne, asked about the noise pollution a project this size could generate. “I do not think we want to bring I-35 problems to Grayson County,” she stated, adding, “I think it is important that people get to vote on this.”

A lady from Collinsville spoke next, calling the stretch of Hwy 377 that winds through world-famous horse ranches “a Texas gem.”

“If you choose a route that cuts through that,” the Collinsville resident commented, “you will do Texas a disgrace.”

I see a disaster coming, said another public speaker. “We do not need to give land away so companies that left America now have a way to bring their products back into this country,” he remarked.

Another speaker feared the project could increase water demands that are already a serous problem across North Texas.

One person said major improvements were needed south of the Metroplex, but he doubted the need for a project of this magnitude in North Texas. “The public feels we have not had enough input,” he said in closing.

A speaker said that eminent domain looks to be a contentious process. “Who decides what a fair price is?” she asked. If TTC-35 cuts across her land, the lady questioned, “Who would want my property?”

One man spoke in support of TTC-35, although he seemed to feel strongly both ways.
“This will bring more people into the area,” he reasoned, “but it will also take them back out.”

A Tulsa, Oklahoma resident made an impassioned plea: “I am asking, as a resident of Oklahoma, that the Texas people that have a reputation for fighting…to please do so.”

In all, TxDOT will host 54 public hearings along the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor-35 between July 10 and August 10 to inform the public about the need and purpose of the project, as well as allow residents affected by TTC-35 to participate in the decision-making process.

Public hearings are set for Bonham, Decatur and Denton July 11.

Other public hearings to be held in North Texas are:
July 12 -- Paris -- Love Civic Center
2025 S. Collegiate Dr.
July 12 -- Cleburn -- Cleburn Civic Center
1501 W. Henderson St.
July 12 -- Waxahachie — Waxahachie Civic Center Ballroom
2000 Civic Center Ln.
July 13 -- Weatherford — Weatherford College, Alkek Fine Arts
Center, 225 College Park Dr.
July 13 -- McKinney — McKinney High School Cafeteria
1400 Wilson Creek Pkwy.
July 17 -- Greenville — Fletcher Warren Civic Center
5501 S. Bus. Hwy. 69
July 17 -- Fort Worth — Will Rogers Memorial Center, Exhibits
Hall, Round Up Inn, 3400 Burnett-Tandy Dr.
July 18 -- Mesquite — Poteet High School Auditorium
3300 Poteet Dr.
July 18 -- Granbury — GISD Pearl Street Conference Center
205 E. Pearl St.
July 19 -- Terrell — Terrell ISD Performing Arts Center
400 Poetry Rd.
July 20 -- Corsicana — Drane Intermediate School Auditorium
100 S. 18th St.
July 27 -- Dallas — Grauwyler Community Center
7780 Harry Hines Blvd.

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