Tuesday, July 25, 2006

"You can’t move the Blackland Prairie.”

Georgetown public hearing crowd speaks out against corridor plan

July 25, 2006

by Clay Coppedge
Temple Telegram
Copyright 2006

GEORGETOWN - The first of two public hearings on the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor 35 (TTC 35) in Williamson County drew about 300 people. One speaker asked for a show of hands, which indicated that about 298 of the people who showed up are opposed to the project.

Most of the two dozen speakers, including some who are running for office, criticized the concept of the project, the international consortium headed by Cintra of Spain and decried the loss of critical Blackland Prairie habitat that TTC-35 would bring about.

Ralph Snyder of Holland set the tone early when he criticized the state’s position that it needs “the Spaniards” to finance and build the project, which he estimated would take out 67,000 acres of prime farm acreage and 54 million bushels of corn in the Blacklands at a time when bio-diesel fuels, including ethanol made from corn, are being developed and ethanol plants are being built.

“You can’t move the Blackland Prairie,” Snyder said. “Since the Spaniards are going to rob us of a national treasure, it’s hard to believe they have our best interests at heart.”

The hearing opened with a presentation from the Texas Department of Transportation on the need and benefits of TTC-35 as part of the solution for meeting the state’s future transportation needs.

The vision of the Trans Texas Corridor was announced by Governor Rick Perry in 2002, and would eventually stretch 600 miles across Texas as a series of six-lane highways with separate lanes for cars and commercial trucks, high speed rail lines and utility corridors. The corridors could be as wide as 1,200 feet.

TTC-35 would run from Gainesville to Laredo, roughly parallel to Interstate 35. Construction would be phased in gradually over 50 years with the most congested areas getting the first segments.

An international consortium, Cintra-Zachry, would build the road, set the toll rates and operate concessions along the corridors.

The foreign flavor of the project did not sit well with many of Monday night’s speakers, including Democratic candidate for State Comptroller Fred Head.

© 2006 Temple Telegram : www.temple-telegram.com