Tuesday, August 08, 2006

'The 8-minute and 6-second presentation on the Corridor is about 8 minutes longer than the state’s legislators discussed it before they passed it."

Trans-Texas Corridor: State's big secret?

August 8, 2006

By Dan Lauck
11 News-KHOU-TV
© Copyright 2006,

Supporters of the traffic congestion relief project called the Trans-Texas Corridor promised the project would ease traffic congestion as the state grows over the next 20 to 30 years.
But what if the corridor not only bypasses Texas towns, but runs them into the ground?

“The bulk of the people you see here don’t live or work in the county. They’re passing through, on their way to San Antonio or Austin,” said David Stall.

Mention tourism and most people think of the Johnson Space Center or the Alamo not the Columbus exit, 72 miles west. on Interstate 10.

But Stall says tourism is vital to Schobel’s and to this entire town.

“If you look at the economy of Columbus, within 1500 feet of this intersection, is the generation of 80 percent of the tax revenue in this city,” said Stall.

But now, to put it in the vernacular of Texas, someone is threatening to mess with Columbus’ revenue stream.

That someone is the governor, Rick Perry.

“The Trans-Texas Corridor allows needed roads to be built faster and ultimately, cheaper,” Perry said.

This is Perry’s baby. The Trans-Texas Corridor is an alley way of high-speed transmission lines, rail and toll roads that basically parallels the interstate highway system and promises to ease congestion by siphoning off some of the traffic.

Best of all, for the governor,who introduced the idea, it does this “without any tax dollars being expended for construction,” he said.

Stall, an ardent critic, says siphoning off vehicles does more than reduce congestion.

“This is the economic center, the wallet of this community and if you diminish the traffic by taking it to another corridor, you’ve taken money from this county and this community,” he said.

“We recognize there are going to be impacts to people, and we’re trying to minimize those impacts as much as we can,” said State Highway Commissioner John Johnson.

Johnson said he’d like to see the new corridor side-by-side with I-10 because at five miles, 10 miles or 20 miles away, fewer and fewer drivers will exit the corridor to come into town.
The big question is how far out it will go. It could be 40 miles.

La Grange is 27 miles north and west of Columbus.

A block from the town square are the visible signs of a town bypassed by the highway.

The International Harvester dealer that long ago went out of business, the gas station turned into a video-rental place and the Texaco station, which is now a tire store.

The bypass is just a mile from downtown yet, it stole the town’s business and it bustle.
“The reality is that they now stay on the highway. They don’t want any side trips,” said Stall.
But Johnson thinks Stall is forgetting the obvious.

“People are not going to drive a toll road when they can drive a free road,” said Johnson.
Go to the TxDOT Web site, and you’ll find an 8-minute and 6-second presentation on the Corridor which apparently, is about 8 minutes longer than the state’s legislators discussed it before they passed it.

“The Trans-Texas Corridor is something that was passed in the night without many people knowing anything about it,” said Stall.

They still don’t.

State officials note that they have held public hearings in all 254 Texas counties, which is apparently true.

But there was so little notice in advance that those hearings, on average, drew 16 people in each county.

Smaller counties averaged five and one county had two people.

In La Grange, Fayette County Judge Ed Janecka demanded a second public hearing.

“Look, if we need roads, if we need to continue to build roads, let’s get it out in public,” he said.
The last thing towns like La Grange can afford is to be bypassed again.

© Copyright 2006, KHOU-TV: www.khou.com