Tuesday, October 17, 2006

"I can't endorse doing it in a manner that disregards the concerns of local government and citizens."

Trans-Texas Corridor hot issue in governor's race

October 17, 2006

Copyright 2006

The governor's race is becoming a referendum on the Trans-Texas Corridor toll road.

Republican incumbent Gov. Rick Perry supports the TTC that would parallel Interstate 35 from Laredo to Oklahoma.

However, it could gobble up 81,000 acres of rural land according to the Texas Department of Transportation. Also, a large chunk of the land used would be in North Texas.

Lance Haynes, a Republican, said he wonders if his family's 68 acres in rural Collin County might be covered in concrete in the near future.

The land lies within the path where the state could route the TTC and he's worried.

"It has the potential to completely wipe out everything that our family has here," he said.

With population and traffic congestion growing in Texas and funds tight, Perry said the TTC is the quickest answer.

"We must build more roads and we must build infrastructure that works safely, thoughtfully and that's economically viable," he said.

While wide open spaces separate the landowners in the path of the TTC, they are very much together in opposing it and have lots of company. The Texas Farm Bureau, and even the Texas Republican Party, is against the TTC.

Perry's opponents, Democrat Chris Bell and Independents Kinky Friedman and Carole Keeton Strayhorn, are also adversaries of the plan.

Strayhorn attended many of the public hearing on the TTC over the summer.

"They are literally cramming toll roads down Texans' throats; and the people don't want it," she said.

A TxDOT video explains that a private company would finance and build the corridor in return for collecting tolls for 50 years.

Cintra-Zachry, mostly owned by a Spanish company, is designing the TTC and will bid to build it.

"If someone has a better plan bring it to the hearings," Perry has responded to the criticism.

But opponents, partially financed by Strayhorn, made a web video as well that lampoons the TTC and Perry.

Perry, whose hometown of Paint Creek is north of Abilene, said he is listening.

"I'm sensitive to those landowners," he said. "I come from a very rural area."

But many rural voters deeply disagree.

"But doing it in a manner that disregards the concerns of local government and citizens, I can't endorse that," Haynes said on Perry's position.

© 2006 WFAA-TV: www.wfaa.com