Friday, November 24, 2006

Perry's Transportation Policy Coordinator: The TTC is "just a road."

Trans Texas Corridor running around a town near you

November 24, 2006

By Stefanie Ackerman
McKinney Courier-Gazette
Copyright 2006

The controversial Trans-Texas Corridor was a topic of discussion at the Plano Republican Women’s meeting Tuesday morning.

The group of politically motivated women listened and asked questions of Gov. Rick Perry’s transportation advisor, Kris Heckman.

It was confirmed by Heckman that the TTC’s outer loop will encompass Plano, something for which the Collin County Commissioner’s Court members have been lobbying. There is still much planning before the road is constructed and of use to drivers.

“This road is about economic development,” Heckman said.

TTC is a proposed multi-use, statewide network of transportation routes in Texas that will incorporate existing and new highways, railways and utility right-of-ways, Heckman said.

Specific routes for the TTC have not been determined. The proposal is 341 miles of a limited access toll road, which will stretch from the Oklahoma-Texas border south to San Antonio.

The road is just a road, said Heckman, and not an easier way for illegal immigrants to gain access into the U.S., or a means of making North America a super-sphere or encourage drug trafficking.

“This is to move traffic and goods quickly,” Heckman said.

The overly congested Interstate 35 is no longer a viable road for the nearly 10 million Texas residents that travel on and live near the interstate. A study from 1997 stated that I-35 would need 18 lanes by 2025 to accommodate all the traffic.

“Those things freaked everybody out,” Heckman said.

Perry presented his idea of the TTC starting in 2002, but only now that it’s on the road to fruition, has it become controversial. Heckman said it’s a valid criticism that the new road will take land away from private ownership, but state officials and residents need to learn from the mistakes of building I-35. Those mistakes, like not buying enough right away around I-35 for expansion and not planning for other modes of transportation to follow the interstate, are reasons the TTC needs to be built.

The TTC will not only be a limited access toll road, but Heckman said, there are plans to move railroad tracks along the highway and include infrastructure for miles of power, water, oil, broadband and transmission lines as well.

“We can provide with this new corridor a track system that is out of our cities,” Heckman said.

Plans call for the TTC to be completed in phases over the next 50 years with routes prioritized according to Texas’ transportation needs. TxDOT will oversee planning, construction and ongoing maintenance, although private vendors, Cintra Zachry, will be responsible for much of the daily operations. It will be toll road, Heckman said, and it is necessary for it to be built by private companies to ensure that it will be completed in a timely manner.

There are still two years of environmental study to be completed, which will determine the exact route of the road, Heckman said. The builders, Cintra Zachary LLP, said that within five years of the completion of the environmental study, a huge portion of the road can be built.

“We want to put as little tax dollars as possible to this project,” Heckman said.

The road will cost about $8 billion to complete, which will be made back through the tolls. No cost has been set concerning the tolls. The state will own the toll road in about 50 years, Heckman said. At that time, the state will decide if the road will stay or a toll or not.

Contact staff writer Stefanie Ackerman at 972-398-4265 or

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