Friday, August 04, 2006

"Grab everyone you know and bring them to this crucial meeting."

Corridor meetings next week likely to reach fevered pitch


Patrick Driscoll
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2006

A wave of raucous public hearings for the Trans Texas Corridor is wrapping up with a tour through South Texas, where critics and advocates alike are attempting to stack a Tuesday hearing in San Antonio.

The Texas Department of Transportation began holding 54 hearings last month and will finish next week for the planned segment paralleling Interstate 35 from Mexico to Oklahoma.

A draft environmental report recommends narrowing the study area to a 4- to 18-mile-wide swath east of I-35, where officials hope to build toll lanes, rail lines and utility lines. Separate studies would be done for exact routing of specific projects.

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More than 1,000 people showed up at hearings in Waco and Temple, and many of them hammered away at Gov. Rick Perry's vision to crisscross the state with a 4,000-mile network of corridors financed and operated by private companies.

San Antonio activists on both sides of the issue have sent out e-mail alerts to rally supporters.
"Grab everyone you know and bring them to this crucial meeting," said Terri Hall of San Antonio Toll Party. "Let's top Temple's turnout and overwhelm TxDOT with opposition."

The San Antonio Mobility Coalition, a nonprofit group of government and private entities, also hopes to get people to the local hearing.

"These hearings are being targeted by toll opponents on a statewide basis," Director Vic Boyer said. "We absolutely need supporters to show up and provide testimony."

TxDOT scheduled the following hearings, each beginning at 6:30 p.m.:

Monday in the Pearsall High School cafeteria at 1990 Maverick Drive.
Tuesday in the East Central High School cafeteria near San Antonio at 7173 FM 1628.
Wednesday in the Seguin-Guadalupe County Coliseum at 810 S. Guadalupe St.

Proponents say the corridor would better connect Toyota, Toyota suppliers, the Port of San Antonio and other businesses to Texas markets and growing international trade that extends into Mexico and even China.

Opponents say it would suck away U.S. jobs, compromise border security and run up the cost of goods. They also say the corridor — up to 1,200 feet wide — would gobble 75,000 acres of land, split farms, ranches and wildlife areas and deny access to many property owners.

Nearly a million people, almost half of them minorities, live in the recommended study area. About a fourth of households are below the poverty level, twice the state average, and prime farmland makes up 45 percent of the acreage.

The preferred area also crosses three major and six minor aquifers and includes 13 square miles of parks; 25 square miles of surface water; 38 square miles of wetlands; 13 federally listed and 46 state-listed threatened and endangered species; 63 landfills; and five national historic sites of 23 acres or more.
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