Friday, July 14, 2006

"It's wrong and it's un-American."

Many oppose plan at hearing

Jul. 14, 2006

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2006

WEATHERFORD - Their reasons varied, but about 150 people stood almost as one Thursday against the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor toll road.

Some worried that the toll road, which as currently drawn bypasses the Metroplex to the east of Dallas, would increase illegal immigration in North Texas. Others said they objected to the Spanish-led firm, Cintra Zachry, having control of tolls on a U.S. highway.

Others just don't want more truck traffic in the region.

"I have a microview: Just keep it out of my back yard," Parker County Commissioner Jim Webster said during a public hearing at a Weatherford College auditorium, as the audience clapped and cheered. "I may not understand anything beyond my back yard, but I still don't want it."

The hearing was part of an environmental study. State officials say they'll use residents' input to determine not only where to build the road but whether to build it at all.

While many Texans support Trans-Texas as a way to relieve suffocating traffic congestion and to ensure that the state's economy continues to grow through the 21st century, Thursday's forum wasn't their stage.

About two dozen people spoke, nearly all of them firmly against the project.

Albert Gearing of Burleson opposed bringing more trucks through Texas en route to Mexico or Canada. "This Trans-Texas Corridor is one major step toward getting our borders annihilated, and when we do that, we lose our sovereignty," he said.

Pat Bullard, Aledo-based president of the National Association of Royalty Owners, said she doubted landowners would be fairly reimbursed for land, especially those with mineral rights.

"Property owners would get fair market value, as long as it was your version of fair market value," she said to Texas Department of Transportation officials on the stage. "That would lead to condemnation and eminent domain, and it's wrong and it's un-American."

No one spoke in favor of Trans-Texas, which is the department's plan to crisscross the state with a new network of toll roads, rail lines and utilities. The first leg would be a toll road stretching from Gainesville around the far east side of Dallas to San Antonio.

Several speakers vowed to vote against Gov. Rick Perry, who unveiled the Trans-Texas Corridor plan more than four years ago. Perry faces several prominent gubernatorial candidates who oppose Trans-Texas, including Democrat Chris Bell and independents Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman.

Only a couple of people expressed the view of the Metroplex's official planning body, the Regional Transportation Council, which opposes the current version of Trans-Texas but would support a redrawn plan that attached the toll road to Texas 360 near Mansfield and formed an outer loop around Dallas-Fort Worth.

"We envision not developing around the outer loop until the region is ready," testified Vic Suhm, executive director of the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition.

But the private team Cintra Zachry, which is planning to build the project with little or no tax money, says going east of Dallas would generate the most toll road traffic, and therefore the most money.

The next hearing is Monday in Fort Worth.

Gordon Dickson, 817-685-3816

© 2006 Fort Worth Star-Telegram: