Friday, October 06, 2006

"Costs of TTC-35 will be higher than what has been officially estimated."

TTC-35 could 'T-bone' near Valley View

October 06, 2006

Gainesville Daily Register
Copyright 2006

Does the meeting of the two ends of the “super loop” mean double trouble for Cooke County.

Local activists opposed to the Trans-Texas Corridor 35 route say a “T-bone” proposal in Valley View would negatively impact the county.

“Under this proposal Cooke County gets hit twice,” said Sheila Cox, a vocal opponent to the project, which proposes a multi-lane, “multi-modal” toll road through parts of the county connecting Laredo to Gainesville.

According to a map used by Cintra Zachry (the consolidation of a Spanish holdings company and a San Antonio construction outfit), Rodriguez Transportation Group (RTG, the consulting engineers), and EarthTech (a mapping company owned by Tyco) the TTC’s “super loop” around the Dallas-Fort Worth area merges west of Valley View at FM 2848 and at the northernmost point of the city near Spring Creek Road and Interstate 35. A route roughly parallel to I-35 would span the area from Valley View to the Red River.

The super loop or “doughnut” was proposed by the North Central Texas Council of Governments over the summer and was accepted by Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) officials as a viable alliterative. The previous “preferred route” featured a single line bypassing Dallas on the east and cutting through eastern Cooke County and western Grayson county to merge with I-35 near the Red River.

The map featured a large disclaimer, saying it is not official, and is only used for cost-estimation purposes (See Web link below for the full version of the map).

Larry Tegtmeyer, Wichita Falls district engineer for TxDOT, verified the map as legitimate but stressed that is merely a rough draft of what Cintra Zachry would prefer — not what TxDOT is proposing.

“That is Cintra Zachry’s assumption to help with putting together their plan,” Tegtmeyer said in an interview this morning. “It’s a work in progress.”

He said TxDOT retains the right to place the road where it chooses.

“The actual location of TTC-35 will be determined by TxDOT,” he said. “TxDOT is still evaluating the comments from the rounds of public hearings. And TxDOT has not made a decision to where the corridor routes are going to be.”

Tegtmeyer said Cintra Zachry’s preliminary map shows the portion of TTC-35 going from Valley View to the Red River to be half a mile west of I-35 on a separate corridor.

Tracking the corridor

Keeping up with the changes and proposals has been a challenge for those following the issue closely.

Cox’s dining room was strewn with maps Thursday night, in what she said has become “TTC Central.”

According to her understanding of the Cintra Zachry map, the Fort Worth side of the TTC-35 super loop will pass southeast of Era to just west of Valley View, and continue northward passing North Central Texas College’s Cooke County Campus on the west and Gainesville Municipal Airport on the east near FM 1201.

The Dallas side of the super loop will cut through the area just south of Collinsville from U.S. Highway 75 and head west in a “straight line” to just south of Spring Creek Road at I-35. She said that portion of the route would run about a half mile from the Lake Kiowa Dam.

Cox said the map did not show the 21-mile-wide “amber circle” which was proposed as an area for “inland ports,” railroad connector stations and warehouse districts.

Cox said some connector roads would create a “grid” around the Gainesville area.

“This has always involved the entire county, because there are two other corridors that will be built through here if everything goes according to plan.”

At the meeting at the State Theater Sept. 26, Cox said a conversation with an anonymous TxDOT worker revealed that a 16-foot-high barricade would block each side of TTC-35, “essentially creating a wall.” (The claim could not be verified.) She listed concerns regarding emergency evacuations if that were the case.

“We’re going to be in a ‘people pod’ — and that’s my word,” she said. “There are going to be a lot of people pods throughout Texas where people do not have proper egress from one point to another.”

Cox said Cintra Zachry’s map does feature small “blue lines” on the map where overpasses could be built over major routes such as farm roads, major streets and highways. She said if Cintra Zachry or TxDOT does not shoulder the cost, the county would be left to build them. The estimated cost for an overpass is $2.9 million, according to previous reports.

According to TxDOT press releases, it could take up to four years before the Federal Highway Administration approves the “environmental impact” study of how such a toll road network would affect the area. Tegtmeyer said TxDOT is still in the process of preparing an environmental study report to submit to the Federal Highway Administration, as there were many comments and much information submitted at a series of hearings hosted throughout Texas.

How much would it cost and when would it be built?

Individual drivers, at first, would shoulder the cost of repaying Cintra Zachry for the estimated $8.8 billion toll road.

(That figure does not include the 49-mile portion of State Highway 130 near Austin already being built at an estimated cost of $3.7 million, down from a 1998 estimated cost of $1 billion for right-of-way acquisition, according to the TxDOT Web site.)

According to TxDOT estimates, the cost per mile for commuter vehicles is 15.2 cents per mile and freight trucks would pay 48.5 cents per mile. The cost to take the 370-mile trip from Gainesville to Laredo would be $56.24 for cars and trucks and $216.45 for freight trucks.

The Trans-Texas Corridor was said by many to be a long time coming just a few years ago, but according to TxDOT construction of the north Texas portion may be underway before 2020.

The portion of TTC-35 from Central Expressway in Dallas to the Red River is expected to be the last stretch of the toll road to open — in August 2017.

That is, if the environmental impact study is not rejected and the government does not alter its policy after the November election, according to speakers from at the Sept. 26 Gainesville rally.

The Hillsboro to north of Austin route is scheduled to be completed and opened by 2013. Central Expressway to Interstate 30 is anticipated to be open by 2014. The I-30 to I-35-E stretch is expected to open by August 2015, with the San Antonio area opening that year as well.

Jack Ware, a Woodbine area resident and opponent to TTC-35, said the costs of the toll road will be higher than what has been officially estimated.

“No one, and I do mean no one, is talking about the big picture,” he said. “Look at the map and you’ll see it is 120 miles or so from completion. You only get 370 miles for $8.8 Billion. (The) additional 49 miles costs $3.6 billion at Austin so now we’re up to $12 Billion. That leaves about 75 miles or so from Laredo to San Antonio with nothing but the original I-35.

Everyone thinks you can go from Laredo to Gainesville on brand new toll road for $8.8 Billion! Not even close. It’s $12 billion for 420 miles and it ends 75 miles or so from the Mexican border. That 75 miles will probably run at least $2 billion to $5 billion which pushes TTC-35 — complete — to $15 Billion or more.

Ware said federal loans of about $3 billion to Cintra Zachry has not received much press coverage, either.

Vocal support for TTC-35 has been sparse in Cooke County, and no proponents could be reached for comment by press time.

Rita McCreary, Gainesville resident, said she was recently informed of the project by reading a newsletter from the Texas Eagle Forum, a conservative political action group.

“The thing that bothers me is the free trade with Mexico and the possible drug trade,” McCreary said. “Think about how many drug drop-offs there would be before they get to a Kansas City security check.”

An extensvie “inland port” is planned for Kansas City, Mo., in the North American Super Corridor plan, of which TTC-35 is expected to be a part.

On the Net:

Cintra Zachry’s cost estimate map of TTC-35 connections in Cooke County may be viewed at:

Reporter Andy Hogue may be contacted at andyhoguegdr[at]
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