Wednesday, August 16, 2006

"The commission is really focused on Rick Perry's vision."

Perry backs D-FW's corridor route bid

State transit officials to get letter conveying study wishes today

August 16, 2006

The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2006

A plan to bring the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor project closer to the heart of North Texas is getting a boost from Gov. Rick Perry.

Since April, North Texas leaders have prodded state officials to alter their study maps to include a highway route that circles Dallas and Fort Worth. Until now, the state's preferred study area has prominently featured a route that only clips southeast Dallas County.

The local lobbying efforts may have paid off.

Mr. Perry has asked the Texas Department of Transportation to take into consideration North Texas' wishes, department officials said late Tuesday. In a letter to be formally delivered to the Transportation Department today, the governor has asked that area leaders' concerns be reflected in an ongoing study to determine the path for the corridor's new toll roads, rail lines and utility lines.

"That is a victory," said Dallas City Council member Bill Blaydes, who joined many other elected leaders in pushing for the closer route. "It's the right thing to do. When North Texas leaders step up as one body, you've got to sit up and take notice."

The closer route, Mr. Blaydes said, would help spur economic development in more urban areas, including South Dallas.

State leaders want to build the corridor – complete with new toll roads, rail lines and utility lines – to ease congestion on Interstate 35. The road could run from the Red River to the Rio Grande.

With months or years of federal reviews still to come, it's difficult to say whether Mr. Perry's request will change the final decision. A final route could be decided next year. That route would then be subject to lengthy environmental studies.

But getting the route on the board now means less worry later for local leaders.

"This tells me there needs to be a good reason that the North Texas route would not move forward," said Michael Morris, director of transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

North Texas planners have pushed for a corridor route that would include the future Loop 9 project, which is to run near the Ellis-Dallas county line. That loop would tie into the Trans-Texas Corridor south of Dallas, where motorists could then continue to Austin and other points south.

The department still has a lot to review, and no route has been put ahead of another, said Ric Williamson, chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission. A Loop 9 route could work, but only if rail lines were built in a different location nearby, he said.

"The commission is really focused on Rick Perry's vision. It's more than a passing matter," he said of Mr. Perry's request. "This is a pretty significant event."


© 2006 The Dallas Morning News Co