Sunday, July 16, 2006

“This land belongs to us ... A lot of you are veterans, you fought for the right of ownership, and now it is being taken away ...”

Residents want corridor to steer clear of county

July 16, 2006

By Brian Knox
Wise County Messenger
Copyright 2006

To say that Wise County residents have not embraced the proposed Trans Texas Corridor might be a great understatement.

At least that’s the impression Texas Department of Transportation officials will be left with after listening to comments given at Tuesday’s public hearing at the Decatur Civic Center.

An estimated 200 to 300 people attended either the open house or public hearing.

Of the 20 people who spoke, only four spoke in favor of the Trans Texas Corridor-35 – and none were from Wise County.

The public hearing began with a 15-minute video and slide show presentation explaining what the Trans Texas Corridor will include. The proposed route of TTC-35 would run from Gainesville east of Dallas and then parallel Interstate 35 from Waco to the Texas/Mexico border.

However, an alternative route which would be located west of the Metroplex would include portions of south Wise County and could affect landowners near Boyd, Aurora, Newark, Rhome and New Fairview.

The corridor, which could be up to 1,200-feet wide, could include separate lanes for passenger vehicles and large trucks, freight railways, high speed commuter rail and a utility corridor for water lines, oil and gas pipelines and transmission lines. According to information provided by the Texas Department of Transportation, the corridor’s purpose is to improve the movement of vehicles throughout the state and address the transportation needs for the next 20 years as the population increases.

One of the main concerns expressed by those who spoke at the public hearing was that if the TTC-35 does pass through Wise County, local landowners will be giving up their property rights.

“Why should Wise County taxpayers give up land or future water resources so big corporations can make more profit?” said Wise County Democratic Chair Brenda Rankin, in reference to the tolls that will be collected to pay private companies for the construction of the roadway.

Hank Gilbert, the Democratic candidate for state agriculture commissioner, warned those in the audience that if an agreeable price cannot be reached on the property, it will be taken through eminent domain.

“This land belongs to us,” he said, drawing applause from the crowd. “A lot of you are veterans, you fought for the right of ownership, and now it is being taken away from us.”

Another common complaint was that Trans Texas Corridor would not accomplish its purpose of relieving traffic congestion and improving air quality.

“This does not address the biggest problem: urban congestion,” said Bill Lewis of Paradise. “It doesn’t attempt to reduce the number of vehicles on the road, it makes room for more. This will not help air pollution.

“What is main goal of the TTC? It has to be revenue. They will allow corporations to collect tolls – more vehicles, more revenue, more congestion. This is not a transportation plan.”

He added that Wise County will be an urban county within 10 to 15 years, so locating the TTC-35 in the county will not relieve congestion in the Metroplex.

Boyd resident Jim Marrs said the Trans Texas Corridor is the first step in creating the North American Free Trade Zone between the countries of Canada, the United States and Mexico. He said the group that controls the zone would become a political entity and could eventually lead to replacing the Canadian dollar, the United States dollar and the Mexican peso into a single currency called the “Amero.”

Several speakers also said that the Trans Texas Corridor will make it harder to secure the border between Mexico and Texas.

“How do we know that the container that doesn’t get checked includes a whole band of terrorists?” asked Brian Heise of Decatur.

Linda Ortberg of Rhome pointed out that even the Republican party – which includes Gov. Rick Perry, a strong proponent of the Trans Texas Corridor – has included in their official position statement, “Because there are issues of confiscation of private land, State and National sovereignty and other similar concerns, we urge the repeal of the Trans Texas Corridor legislation.”

Robert Waggoner of Decatur drew both laughter and applause for his analogy of the landowners and the corporations and government entities involved in the creation of the Trans Texas Corridor.

“It reminds me of the analogy of the ham and egg breakfast,” Waggoner said. “The chicken’s involved, but the pig is committed. Us land owners are the pigs, and all the interested parties who don’t have that (corridor) running through their lands are the chickens.”

The Texas Department of Transportation will continue to hold public hearings in potentially affected counties through Aug. 10. Public comments on the draft environmental impact statement will continue to be accepted until Aug. 21. Comments can be sent through the project’s Web site,, or mailed to TTC-35, P.O. Box 14707, Austin, Texas 78761-4707

© 2006 Wise County Messenger :