“This is not progress. It’s prostitution of our great state.”
July 21 , 2006
By David Anderson, Associate Editor
The Clifton Record
CLIFTON — An estimated 400-plus packed the Clifton High School cafetorium Wednesday evening to issue a resounding “no thanks” to the Trans-Texas Corridor 35 running through Bosque County. An open house and public hearing hosted by the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Transportation Commission ran into unanimous opposition locally, and citizens almost as strongly opposed the entire project statewide.
TxDOT Turnpike Division Project Manager Jack Heiss served as the evening’s moderator, and presented an overview of the project. However, the citizens who testified at the hearing seemed to already be well-educated on the subject.
Bosque County Judge Cole Word opened the public testimony by reading a resolution passed last year by Bosque County Commissioners’ Court. Word emphasized the court still opposes the project, whether it comes through the county or not.
Verlie Edwards, chief of staff for District 58 State Rep. Rob Orr, spoke for the legislator, urging TxDOT to “listen closely, and slow down the process so all options are explored.” From there, the elected officials gave way to speakers from the general public, who one by one pled for the project’s elimination.
“No one has been able to give me a list of benefits of the corridor to Bosque County. I don’t believe it exists,” John Faubion said to applause from the crowd.
John Campbell asked anyone in the crowd of over 400 who supports the project to identify themselves, if they weren’t too afraid to.
No one stood, to laughter from the crowd.
As to the alternative route that could slice Bosque County in half, many pointed to the effects it would have on the landscape.
“Our rolling wooded hills, valleys, the abundant wildlife, the fertile soils. The attractions that brought the settlers here in 1854 remain the very essence of the county today,” Walt Lewis said.
“We’re known as the Top of the Hill Country,” Morgan Mayor Pro-Tem Keith Vandiver said. “Bringing the corridor through here would mean blasting the tops of many of our mesas. We don’t want to become known as the Flat-Top of the Hill Country.”
Jamie Finstad wanted to know what the state believes is “just compensation” for taking land and memories that has been in his family for 150 years.
“I wonder where all the wildlife that’s being displaced will go, and I wonder why we’re all in such a hurry,” Finstad continued.
“If we give it up (the land) now, it’s gone forever, and they’ll just want more later on,” Carl Aspen said.
“We haven’t adjusted yet to the second stop light in our county,” Judge Word jokingly remarked. “We’re not for one inch of the Trans-Texas Corridor in Bosque County. If we wanted to live in the Metroplex, we’d move there. We don’t want the Metroplex brought here.”
Several spoke to the corruption they believe underlies the Trans-Texas Corridor, and the lack of legislative action to end the project.
“Do you believe in communism or dictatorships? That’s what we appear to be headed for,” Sam Wells told the panel receiving the comments. “I hope TxDOT feels like General Custer, because the public is like Sitting Bull’s tribe, and we’ll do what we need to stop this. We won’t stand for somebody taking our land.”
“I’m appalled the state legislature has not stopped this. Our legislators have yet again turned a blind eye to the needs of this district,” said former Clifton Mayor W. Leon Smith.
“It gives me heartburn to think we’ll build a toll road and send the money to a company in Spain,” said David Pieper, adding that the state is diverting billions of dollars that should be earmarked for transportation improvements to other uses.
“This is not progress,” said Martha West. “It’s prostitution of our great state, and with filthy money.”
Aspen, who said he spoke with a TxDOT official before the public hearing, was not surprised at a comment he received.
“He told me, ‘We don’t want to hear, “Not in my back yard.”’
“Of course, he also told me the corridor won’t affect him where he lives,” Aspen added.
Many testifying suggested that, if the infrastructure is built, the name should be changed. Suggestions ranged from “The Corridor of Regret,” to the “Trans-Texas Horror-Door,” to “Ben Dover.”
Other concerns centered on the facilities being outdated before they are finished, especially considering quantum leaps in technology from year to year.
“It’s like trying to build a better manual typewriter,” Smith told the commission.
While many of those who spoke addressed generations of families that have lived in the county who will lose land should the corridor be brought through, others told of being proud transplants to the county, including Ron Harmon, Les Bowers, and David Anderson.
One by one, most of those testifying put the onus on the state’s legislators. Many said it was past time to send them comments. Most said it was time to send them home by voting them out in the next election.
“House Bill 3588 passed, effectively, unanimously, so they all need to go,” said Linda Curtis, founder of Independent Texans. “We need to get organized, and tell them where to put this corridor.”
Harmon agreed, saying Texas needs to get rid of any politician who supports or does not specifically oppose the TTC.
TxDOT’s officials remained after the public hearing to answer questions, but most of the crowd began filing out of the cafetorium as the public testimonies came to end, apparently having heard enough.
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