Saturday, July 15, 2006

TxDOT is discussing corridor links with neighboring states.

Hearings set to begin in area on corridor

July 15, 2006

by Clay Coppedge
Temple Daily Telegram
Copyright 2006

Though the Texas Department of Transportation is beginning a series of public hearings in Central Texas on the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor, the state’s transportation director said Friday that neighboring states, especially Oklahoma, need to be prepared for the impact the corridor might have on them.

Michael Behrens, executive director of TxDOT, said his department has had discussions with neighboring states. He singled out Oklahoma, which he said is interested in the corridor concept.

“We’re looking at some of their facilities in Oklahoma, like I-35 and U.S. 69,” Behrens said. “We haven’t talked beyond Oklahoma.”

Behrens made his comments during a teleconference arranged by TxDOT as a briefing and interview session before a round of public hearings begin in Central Texas on Monday.

Hearings, all of which start at 5 p.m. with an open house and oral comments beginning at 6:30 p.m., are scheduled in the McGregor High School Auditorium, 903 Bluebonnet Parkway, on Monday, July 17, and at the Cameron Performing Arts Center at 303 E. 12th St. on Tuesday, July 18. Hearings are scheduled the following week in Georgetown’s Klett Center for the Performing Arts, 2211 N. Austin Ave., on Monday, July 24; at the Taylor High School Auditorium, 3101 N. Main St. in Taylor, Tuesday, July 25; in Temple at the Frank W. Mayborn Civic & Convention Center Main Hall, 3303 N. 3rd St., on Wednesday, July 26; and Thursday, July 27, Knights of Columbus Hall, 655 US E. Highway 79 in Rockdale.

The first segment of the Trans-Texas Corridor, usually referred to as TTC-35, would run north-south several miles east of Interstate 35, from Laredo to the Oklahoma border.
The plan calls for a six-lane highway with room in a 1,200-foot wide area for freight and passenger rails, two high-speed rail lines, a natural gas pipeline and a fiber optic and water utilities zone.

“Eighty percent of the trade from Mexico comes through Texas,” TxDOT public information officer Randall Dillard said. “The problem is that it’s being forced onto an overloaded and congested highway. One of the main purposes of the Trans-Texas Corridor is to relieve congestion on I-35.”

Among other concerns, opponents say that rural landowners will have their property split by the corridor and access to their property will be limited.

© 2006 Temple Daily Telegram :


Roads and bridges leased to or owned by foreign companies, followed by a list of proposed projects.

Highways Glance

July 15, 2006

The Associated Press
Copyright 2006

WASHINGTON -- Roads and bridges leased to or owned by foreign companies, followed by a list of proposed projects.

ALABAMA: On Dec. 30, 2005, a subsidiary of Australia-based Macquarie Infrastructure Group bought the Foley Beach Expressway bridge for $95 million between Orange Beach and Baldwin County mainland.

CALIFORNIA: In November 2003, construction began on Route 125, a four-lane, 9.5-mile toll road in eastern San Diego. California Transportation Ventures, primarily owned by Macquarie, paid $400 million for a 35-year lease. The road, which is expected to open in the fall, will serve international truck traffic crossing the California-Mexico border at Otay Mesa.

ILLINOIS: On Jan. 25, 2005, the city of Chicago leased the 7.8-mile Chicago Skyway to the Australian-Spanish consortium Macquarie-Cintra for 99 years in exchange for $1.83 billion. The Skyway links I-90 from the Toll Road at the Illinois-Indiana state line to the Dan Ryan Expressway in the Loop.

INDIANA: On June 29, a deal closed for Macquarie-Cintra to enter into a 75-year lease for the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road in exchange for $3.85 billion.

MICHIGAN: In January 2001, Macquarie North American Infrastructure Inc., a subsidiary of Macquarie's Global Infrastructure Fund, bought the Detroit & Canada Tunnel Corp., which ran the U.S. side of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel connecting Detroit with Windsor, Canada.

VIRGINIA: On Aug. 31, 2005, Macquarie Infrastructure Group said it paid $533 million to buy 86.7 percent ownership of the 14-mile Dulles Greenway and is negotiating for the rest. The Greenway is a toll road that runs from Leesburg to Washington Dulles International Airport.

On June 29, Melbroune, Australia-based Transurban paid $519 million for a 99-year lease on the 8.8 mile Pocahontas Parkway, which connects the Richmond airport with highways south of the city.


ALASKA: Backers of the Knik Arm Bridge say they will look to private funding for the $600 million bridge that will connect Anchorage to Point Mackenzie. Recent legislation allows the bridge authority to team up with private companies to build, maintain, operate and collect tolls on the bridge.

COLORADO: The Front Range Toll Road Company proposes a 210-mile toll corridor from Wellington to just south of Pueblo. Popularly known as the Super Slab, it would be an alternative for commercial truck traffic, railroads and hazardous waste transportation around the heavily congested I-25 urban areas.

FLORIDA: The Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority requested proposals from investors to build a 3.1 mile toll road connecting Interstate 275 to New Tampa Boulevard in central Tampa. The road is expected to cost $150 million.

ILLINOIS: Privatization of the 274-mile Illinois Tollway is the subject of legislative hearings and study.

INDIANA: Gov. Mitch Daniels wants a private company to help build a $1.8 billion, 142-mile extension of Interstate 69 from Indianapolis to Evansville and then manage it as a tollway.

MISSOURI: In May, the Legislature approved a plan that would allow a $910 million bridge to be built between St. Louis and Illinois by a public-private partnership with the right to collect tolls.

NEVADA: In May, Boulder City agreed to study a toll road _ possibly privately financed and operated _ along a 10-mile stretch between the new junction of Interstates 93 and 95 and the new Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge.

NEW JERSEY: The Legislature is considering selling 49 percent of 173-mile Garden State Parkway and 148-mile New Jersey Turnpike to private investors.

NEW YORK: Privatizing the Long Island Expressway and the Tappan Zee Bridge have been proposed, but the state needs to change its laws to enable such deals.

OHIO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell proposes leasing the 241-mile Ohio Turnpike for $4 billion to $6 billion for 99 years.

OREGON: Oregon has invited a group led by Macquarie to assess the feasibility of three toll projects outside of Portland: an 11-mile bypass, a new corridor and a widening of an existing corridor.

TEXAS: On June 29, The Texas Transportation Commission approved a deal in which Cintra and San Antonio-based Zachry Construction Co. agreed to pay $1.3 billion to build 40 miles of state toll road from Austin to Seguin in exchange for the right to collect tolls for 50 years. The state will receive a share of the toll revenue. It's expected to open to traffic in 2012.

In March 2005, the state entered into a $7.2 billion deal with Spanish-American consortium Cintra-Zachry to develop a 600-mile toll road from Oklahoma to Mexico and the Gulf Coast parallel to the existing Interstate 35. The partnership could operate the toll road, though that has not been decided yet. Cintra and Zachry have separately led teams that recently bid for the right to develop another part of the Trans-Texas Corridor, from Shreveport, La., and Texarkana through Houston to Mexico.

VIRGINIA: The state is negotiating with Fluor-Transurban for a $913 million project to add a high-occupancy toll lane to the existing HOV lanes between the 14th Street bridge and Dumfries, Va. From Dumfries down to Massaponax, Va., two new lanes would be built. Fluor is a construction company based in Aliso Viejo, Calif.; Transurban Group, a Melbourne, Australia-based toll road developer.

The state is also negotiating with Fluor-Transurban over a $900 million proposal to build four new toll lanes on a section of the Capital Beltway in Virginia. The companies would fund the entire project in exchange for toll concessions on two high-occupancy lanes in each direction of the beltway over a 14-mile stretch from Springfield to the Great Falls area. Carpoolers would get to use the lanes for free, while others would pay a variable toll that would increase during peak use.

© 2006 The Associated Press:


Friday, July 14, 2006

“The route as currently proposed would be disastrous to the economy of Hillsboro.”

Hillsboro crowd blasts plan to build Trans-Texas Corridor east of town

July 14, 2006

By Dan Genz
Waco Tribune-Herald
Copyright 2006

HILLSBORO — Hundreds of business owners, ranchers and politicians greeted preliminary plans to build the Trans-Texas Corridor about 15 miles east of Hillsboro with strong reservations at a public hearing at Hill College Thursday night.

“The route as currently proposed would be disastrous to the economy of Hillsboro,” Hillsboro Mayor Pro Tem John Erwin said.

But Texas Department of Transportation officials told the crowd that the state will need a much larger highway system to accommodate projected population growth over the next few decades and said the rural area east of town makes for the best route for connecting Laredo to Oklahoma.

They said after assessing numerous alternatives over the last two years, they believe the best option is within a 10-mile-wide zone announced in March that crosses the eastern portion of Hill County.

Opposition speakers warned the plan would eliminate more than 2,000 acres of Hill County farmland and devastate a thriving commercial sector.

Gas stations, hotels, auto dealers and outlet mall retail stores depend on the existing highway, Interstate 35, for their survival, Erwin said.

Independent gubernatorial candidate and Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn received applause throughout a pointed speech opposing the corridor, calling it the “Trans-Texas Catastrophe.”

State officials said they were not surprised by the heavy turnout — more than 325 attended Thursday’s public hearing.

Department of Transportation spokesman Ken Roberts said one of the toughest aspects of the hearings is that it is much too early in the process to answer the most pressing questions of attendees.

“People want to look at this map and know how this is going to affect them, but we’re not there yet,” Roberts said.

Years away from route

The state is years away from announcing a specific route for the road and construction won’t begin for five years.

He also said convincing the public of the advantages to the new highway has been hampered by misinformation about the project.

He said some opponents presume any territory within the 10-mile proposed zone for the road will be impacted, while the road will make up just a fraction, one-fortieth, of that space.

A state presentation demonstrated how the corridor will be divided between passenger traffic lanes, truck lanes and passenger and freight rail, with each phase developed as demand arises.
Roberts challenged opponents to present other options for meeting the traffic demand.

“It’s easy to say, ‘No.’ It’s easy to say, ‘Don’t build it.’ What we’re not hearing are viable alternatives,” he said.

Strayhorn said the state can build freeways instead of tollways, using bonds to finance the construction. Hillsboro Mayor Will Lowrance and Hill County Judge Kenneth Davis proposed building the road much closer to Interstate 35, instead of in rural territory.

“There is no doubt that the proposed plan is destructive to farmers and to the economy. It is unacceptable, and we cannot accept this as a possibility,” Lowrance said.

Abbott ranch owner Leta Eastland says she sees both sides, because slow traffic along Interstate 35 needs to be relieved somehow, but she hopes it can be done in a way that best accommodates rural landowners.

“Hopefully, they’ll leave the farmland alone, but it’s hectic out here. We need some extra highway, but the land we’re talking about has been in some of these farmers’ families for more than a century,” Eastland said. “It’s not going to be easy.”

© 2006 Waco Tribune-Herald :


"It's wrong and it's un-American."

Many oppose plan at hearing

Jul. 14, 2006

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2006

WEATHERFORD - Their reasons varied, but about 150 people stood almost as one Thursday against the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor toll road.

Some worried that the toll road, which as currently drawn bypasses the Metroplex to the east of Dallas, would increase illegal immigration in North Texas. Others said they objected to the Spanish-led firm, Cintra Zachry, having control of tolls on a U.S. highway.

Others just don't want more truck traffic in the region.

"I have a microview: Just keep it out of my back yard," Parker County Commissioner Jim Webster said during a public hearing at a Weatherford College auditorium, as the audience clapped and cheered. "I may not understand anything beyond my back yard, but I still don't want it."

The hearing was part of an environmental study. State officials say they'll use residents' input to determine not only where to build the road but whether to build it at all.

While many Texans support Trans-Texas as a way to relieve suffocating traffic congestion and to ensure that the state's economy continues to grow through the 21st century, Thursday's forum wasn't their stage.

About two dozen people spoke, nearly all of them firmly against the project.

Albert Gearing of Burleson opposed bringing more trucks through Texas en route to Mexico or Canada. "This Trans-Texas Corridor is one major step toward getting our borders annihilated, and when we do that, we lose our sovereignty," he said.

Pat Bullard, Aledo-based president of the National Association of Royalty Owners, said she doubted landowners would be fairly reimbursed for land, especially those with mineral rights.

"Property owners would get fair market value, as long as it was your version of fair market value," she said to Texas Department of Transportation officials on the stage. "That would lead to condemnation and eminent domain, and it's wrong and it's un-American."

No one spoke in favor of Trans-Texas, which is the department's plan to crisscross the state with a new network of toll roads, rail lines and utilities. The first leg would be a toll road stretching from Gainesville around the far east side of Dallas to San Antonio.

Several speakers vowed to vote against Gov. Rick Perry, who unveiled the Trans-Texas Corridor plan more than four years ago. Perry faces several prominent gubernatorial candidates who oppose Trans-Texas, including Democrat Chris Bell and independents Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman.

Only a couple of people expressed the view of the Metroplex's official planning body, the Regional Transportation Council, which opposes the current version of Trans-Texas but would support a redrawn plan that attached the toll road to Texas 360 near Mansfield and formed an outer loop around Dallas-Fort Worth.

"We envision not developing around the outer loop until the region is ready," testified Vic Suhm, executive director of the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition.

But the private team Cintra Zachry, which is planning to build the project with little or no tax money, says going east of Dallas would generate the most toll road traffic, and therefore the most money.

The next hearing is Monday in Fort Worth.

Gordon Dickson, 817-685-3816

© 2006 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:


Rising fuel prices hit toll roads Down Under

Toll roads bow to the bowser as petrol wins war of the wallets

July 14, 2006

Rod Myer
The Age (Australia)
Copyright 2006

RISING petrol prices are starting to hurt Australia's growing toll-road sector, with traffic numbers weakening as the price at the bowser rises.

Analysts found fewer motorists were using listed company toll roads.

Andrew Chambers, an analyst with Austock Securities, said he believed the spike in petrol prices was linked to a 2 to 3 per cent drop in toll-road traffic.

Mr Chambers said CityLink reported a 0.6 per cent increase in traffic volumes in the June quarter when the average growth over the year to June 30 was 3.05 per cent.

Traffic figures on the newly built Westlink M7 in Sydney over the past three months "had been stagnant when we would have expected them to grow at about 2 per cent per month", Mr Chambers said.

The M7 is a Transurban and Macquarie Infrastructure Group venture.

Last month, MIG's Sydney roadways — the Eastern Distributor and M5 — reported traffic increases of 2.4 per cent and 4.3 per cent on a year earlier. For the June half-year, the rises were 4.7 per cent and 5.1 per cent respectively.

MIG's Canadian investment, Route 407, experienced an even bigger slump, with traffic last month up 0.5 per cent. For the six months to June 30 it was 3.3 per cent.

JPMorgan analyst Kirsty Mackay-Fisher observed similar trends but did not believe the drop in figures would significantly affect the companies' returns. "It's a marginal impact."

Ms Mackay-Fisher said the dampening effect of rising fuel prices was showing up more at weekends and holidays than on weekdays. That was because motorists were more likely to drop recreational trips.

Mr Chambers agreed that the figures were lower at weekends, saying that CityLink traffic had risen 1.8 per cent on weekdays during the past quarter, compared with only 0.6 per cent for the average of all days.

Both analysts said the traffic drops tended to be short-lived, with motorists returning to the roads once they got used to the higher prices.

Transurban spokesman Andrew Head said the company had regularly surveyed the effects of petrol prices and could find no correlation with traffic levels.

A MIG spokeswoman said it was difficult to say what caused traffic fluctuations, and all the company's roads were experiencing growth.

The reporter owns Transurban shares.

© 2006 The Age :


CAMPO delays toll road plan two more months

Naked City

Austin Chronicle
Copyright 2006

A vote to add additional toll roads to the region's short-term transportation plan – known as the Transportation Improvement Plan – was delayed at least one – and possibly two – more months as CAMPO hashes out questions on the financial viability of toll roads.

Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, had asked some pointed questions about the cost of the region's transportation plan, with and without toll roads, but those won't be answered until the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority sees the full traffic-and-revenue estimates on the proposed toll road plan, due at the end of the month.

Those same numbers will be used for the independent Charles River Associates' study of the plan's feasibility and other mobility alternatives, as requested by a committee spearheaded by Council Member Brewster McCracken.

Those who support the studies consider the questions critical to a final vote on the toll roads.

Others on the board say it simply delays a vote on the inevitable, which is to acknowledge a need for a bunch of new roads under the state's serious long-term funding constraints.

The latest projection under the Texas Metropolitan Mobility Plan predicts a need for another $26.7 billion in road and rail projects to fully address current congestion needs in the three-county region. The gap between funded and unfunded road projects – funded projects would include the proposed toll road system – is about $10 billion. – K.R.

© 2006 Austin Chronicle Corp. All rights reserved. :


Blackland Coalition PAC endorses Strayhorn


Strayhorn gets group's support

July 14, 2006

Compiled from staff and wire reports
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2006

Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, prevailing over two other challengers to Gov. Rick Perry, Thursday received the endorsement of a rural group formed to oppose the governor's pet transportation project.

The Blackland Coalition political action committee picked Strayhorn — a former Austin mayor, former Democrat and now former Republican running as an independent — over Democrat Chris Bell and independent Kinky Friedman. All three appeared at a well-attended coalition event in March near Temple to ask for the group's support.

The coalition formed in 2005 to oppose the Trans-Texas Corridor, Perry's dream of a network of cross-country toll roads in Texas. The first road, paralleling Interstate 35, under the current draft environmental document would run east of the interstate and cut through the rich Blackland Prairie farm swath.

© 2006 Austin American-Statesman:


Thursday, July 13, 2006

“We had the Super Collider. We battled the bullet train. And what was achieved by this was a waste of tax dollars.”

Road kill

July 13, 2006

Waxahatchie Daily Light
Copyright 2006

After public hearings began for the Trans-Texas Corridor this week, the Texas Department of Transportation has become an easy target for residents across the state.

Monday night more than 200 residents gathered in Ennis to question and voice their concerns over the Trans-Texas Corridor and last night more than 400 gathered in Waxahachie to do the same.

The TTC 35 portion of the statewide, 50-year, transportation plan is still in the early design phases but after public hearings wrap up in August, TxDOT will submit its proposal to the Federal Highway Administration for approval and begin whittling down the current 10-mile environmental study to a 1,200 foot right-of-way that stretches from Laredo to the Texas-Oklahoma border.

According to TxDOT, the TTC 35 will use existing infrastructure whenever possible and in some locations, two or more corridors may be used to carry rail, commercial trucks, passenger vehicles and utilities from one end of the state to the other.

The state has released 12 alternative routes for the TTC 35 with seven of the routes showing Ellis County as path for the 1,200 foot wide right-of-way.

The state’s preferred route has the corridor stretching through Ellis County from Milford to east of Ferris.

State Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, was joined by representatives from the offices of U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, and state Sen. Kip Averitt, along with a number of local elected officials from Lancaster, Desoto and others.

Waxahachie City Council members Joe Jenkins and Chuck Beatty were also on hand, along with Ellis County Commissioners Heath Sims, Pct. 3, and Ron Brown, Pct. 4.

“I cannot support the current draft for the TTC,” Pitts said. “I see that for most of the corridor, the Interstate 35 corridor is used. I believe that is sound. I do not agree that it veers to the east north of Waco and it cuts completely through Ellis and Hill County. I cannot believe that is the best alternative.”

Pitts said that in November of 2005 a group met formally in his office to discuss a solution to the TTC for Ellis and Hill County.

The group agreed upon connecting the corridor to the Highway 360 and Loop 9 corridor.

“I find it makes better sense,” Pitts said. “For many years TxDOT has been talking about Loop 9 and this would solve a problem with high volumes of traffic. The North Central Texas Council of Governments and the commissioners’ courts in Hill and Ellis County have looked extensively at the idea and hope TxDOT gives this its close attention. The current route will destroy prime farming acreage. I do not believe we can destroy this much land. Land owners are not only concerned that too much land will be required, not to mention revenue from the land, but that they’ll also lose access to their land. I’m asking TxDOT to give careful consideration to an alternative route that’s being supported by the NCTCOG. I believe the citizens of Ellis County will be more agreeable to this route.”

The Loop 9 corridor was planned originally in 1956 to loop around the metroplex, south of Interstate 20.

The loop is planned to run along the border of Dallas and Ellis counties.

The Ellis County Commissioners Court passed a resolution Monday morning showing its support for looking closely at the Highway 360 and Loop 9 corridors.

Joe Tillotson, mayor of Lancaster, also came out in support of the Highway 360 alternative.

“I’m not here to discuss the merits of the TTC,” Tillotson said. “I’m here representing the interests of the residents of Lancaster. We have no direct fight with the TTC and we understand the goal is to facilitate the movement of goods and people. But when it gets to Hillsboro is where our problems begin.”

Tillotson pointed out that the current preferred route skips Lancaster and South Dallas.

“I recall what happened to Mineola and others along Interstate 80 when Interstate 20 was built,” Tillotson said. “We prefer the NCTCOG’s route on Highway 360 and Loop 9. If the route follows the 360 corridor it alleviates 60 miles of roadway. We’re hopeful wisdom will prevail because if it doesn’t, politics will.”

Sims also expressed a number of his concerns and issues with the TTC 35 cutting through Ellis County.

“I have a number of concerns about a highway cutting through prime farm land,” Sims said. “I’m concerned about what this highway will be. I’m concerned about water, school bus routes, emergency response. It may take traveling six miles one way just to get to a crossing over or under this highway.”

Sims pointed out that the Ellis County Commissioners Court approved a resolution supporting the Regional Transportation Council and NCTCOG’s plan for 360 and Loop 9.

“I’m concerned about a foreign company having control over construction,” Sims said. “As I figure, the likely route between Lake Bardwell and Lake Waxahachie, I’m estimating there will be 40-50 county roads that will be cut off. Who will be responsible for building overpasses or underpasses for those roads? Will it be the local authorities or the state? There are 30 different drainage systems in that area and a lot of flood areas. Twelve soil conservation lakes. If you build this highway there’s no where to put the water. I estimate there will be 10 farm-to-market roads affected and three major highways affected. Highways 34, 45 and 287. Our local residents will have increasing gas prices to get around a highway they likely won’t use very often. I do believe the rail will relieve congestion and I believe we should take a closer look at that.”

Along with current elected officials, GOP party leaders in the county as well as several Democratic candidates added their issues with the giant toll road.

“As the chair of the Republican party in Ellis County I hear quite a bit of feedback from the area,” Rusty Ballard said. “We had the Super Collider. We battled the bullet train. And what was achieved by this was a waste of tax dollars.”

Ballard said that the American Civil Engineers recently gave the American highway system a grade of D- and suggested the money be spent on improving the current highway system before expanding it.

“I’d also like to mention that Saturday, June 3, 2006, at the Republican Party Convention the party reaffirmed our position against the TTC because there are issues with the taking of land. We urged the legislature to repeal the TTC. There are too many concerns and until we can get answers we don’t need to move forward.”

David Honeycutt, a GOP precinct chair, added that the party also voted in 2004 to have HB 3538 rescinded, the legislation authorizing the TTC.

“We oppose toll roads being created from previously free roads,” Honeycutt said. “TxDOT has refused to release all documentation on the TTC and I urge you to recognize you have a moral and ethical reason to do so. And recognize that until you do, you are going against the platform of the majority party of the state of Texas.”

With Republicans coming out against the Gov. Rick Perry plan, state Rep. District 10 candidate Kerry Horn used the situation to point a finger at the governor and the GOP leadership.

“It’s sad for me to be here today to have to defend Texas from Texans,” Horn said. “TxDOT has done a beautiful job of putting lipstick on a pig. But it didn’t create it. The same people who said the Superconducting Super Collider was going to help us - trust us; the people who said utility deregulation would save us money - trust us; these things have been brought to us by the leadership of the majority party of Texas. And unlike my political opponent, I don’t support it from the Valley to the Waco, let alone from Waco to where it splits from Interstate 35. This is still a pig even if you put the lipstick on it.”

Democratic candidate for Agriculture commissioner, Hank Gilbert, also added his concerns.

“I am here as a representative of agriculture,” Gilbert said. “This is about everybody’s quality of life. You can’t put a price tag on it. The cost on family farms is priceless. You’re talking about putting a major highway over quality farm land. All this will benefit is the governments of Mexico and Canada and South America. I would like to know if the same time and money was used examining our current roads. Eminent domain in my part of the state and where I grew up means you better have a bigger gun than I do. This will be detrimental to rural Texas. I believe in democracy. Both political parties have denounced this. Talk to your elected officials. Look them in the eye and ask them where they stand on the issue. If they don’t disagree with the plan vote them out of office.”

Resident Jimmie Simmons suggested adding new lanes to Highway 77 to alleviate some issues.

“I wouldn’t be against adding lanes to Highway 77,” Simmons said. “And we used to have rapid transit here in Ellis County; it was called the Interurban Rail. But they stopped that in the late ’40s. Are the foreign countries gonna be here to maintain this system? Let’s just elevate lanes along Interstate 35 where TxDOT already has the right-of-way. There’s lots of grass along 35 as well. Let’s put some extra lanes there. Much of the growth is coming from illegals anyways.”

Paul Perry also shared his suspicions.

“We remember when the Superconducting Super Collider came to Ellis County,” Perry said. “So forgive us if we’re suspicious of the government. The problem with foreign companies is they aren’t as transparent as our companies. We don’t know what the right hand is doing while the left hand is in Texas.”

Perry also shared his displeasure with the TTC legislation.

“HB 3538 appears to supplement Chapter 21 of the Property Code,” Perry said. “It says you can be evicted from your homestead before you’ve even had your day in court.”

“I’m against the preferred corridor,” Cathy Scott of Forreston said. “I cannot see a 1,200 foot highway coming in that would not adversely affect us.”

“Do we really need this thing?” Bill Norvell asked. “Why is it (the information) so dark? We don’t even know how much it will cost. This is a bad business plan. What happens if this company goes bankrupt? How did something like this get so far along with nothing known about it?”

“I don’t understand the logic behind it,” Todd Bell said. “The road bed is already there up the 360 corridor. Toll roads are by their nature very limited access. And in Kansas you don’t get off the toll road to buy gas or food. How is that beneficial to the surrounding areas?”

But despite the hundreds who showed up unhappy with the statewide project, there was one loan dissenter with the courage to speak up and give his explanation for the project.

“You’re nuts if you don’t think this needs to be built,” Grady Smithey said. “Eighty percent of NAFTA traffic comes through Texas. The best thing that ever happened to my family growing up was when they took the black dirt road outside our house and built a farm-to-market road so we could get to town. But if we’re honest we simply don’t want to tax ourselves to maintain our current highway system. But you like your iPods, CD players and DVD players to remain cheap. TTC is about getting goods into our country. And we’ve been subsidizing everybody else in the country so they can get their goods too. With this plan the users pay the tolls to get the goods in to our country, we don’t pay for the roads. All of you concerned that a foreign country is going to run our highway system - what do you think they’re going to do - are they going to pick up the road and take it with them?”

Upcoming meetings

TxDOT will take its presentation to Hillsboro, Weatherford and McKinney tonight and will be in Corsicana on July 20.

The meetings begin with an open house from 5-6:30 p.m., followed by the hearings.

At 6:30 p.m. a presentation will be given by TxDOT with a short intermission and public testimony to follow.

Those not wishing to give oral comment at the hearings may give written comments at the hearing, mail their comments to TxDOT or comment on the TTC Web site,


© 2006 Daily Light, Alvarado Post,Bonham Journal, Ellis County Chronicle, Ennis Journal, Midlothian Mirror, WAXAHATCHIE, The Magazine :


Blackland Coalition endorses Strayhorn for Texas Governor

Gubernatorial candidate speaks in Temple

July 13, 2006

KCEN-TV Channel 6
Copyright 2006

This week many cities are hosting public hearings on the controversial Trans-Texas Corridor, the 184 billion dollar system of toll roads from Laredo to north Texas; Thursday one outspoken opponent made a stop in central Texas.

Carole Keeton Strayhorn took time to meet supporters and members of the Blackland Coalition Thursday afternoon in Temple.

The coalition, that also opposes the highway plan endorsed Strayhorn for Governor.

She told those in attendance that the toll roads are not needed.

Strayhorn explained, "This 180 billion dollar boondoggle, Texas property belongs to Texans not foreign companies."

She also said she filed a lawsuit to get her nickname "grandma" on the ballot, but she is focusing on the bigger issues Texans care about.

© 2006 Copyright KCEN-TV Channel 6, Inc.


"I don't like anything about this."

Strayhorn hopes toll road leads to victory

Jul. 13, 2006

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2006

DENTON - "Grandma" lost her argument for a contrived ballot nickname.

But Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn of Austin might have found a plank on which to build a campaign against Gov. Rick Perry.

It's a plank 600 miles long and a quarter-mile wide. It's a giant, privately owned, multilane tollway that would part the Texas countryside the way the governor parts his ample hair.

Strayhorn, a Republican running as an independent candidate, has criticized the Trans-Texas Corridor tollway plan loudly for months. So have the other principal challengers in this traffic jam of a race, novelist Kinky Friedman of Medina and Democrat Chris Bell, a Houston lawyer.
But when uneasy Texans filed into a new round of public hearings this week, Strayhorn was first up to speak at a Denton meeting.

When she shouted that she wants to "stop Governor Perry from shoving toll roads down Texans' throats," the crowd in a University of North Texas ballroom broke into applause.
She isn't finished. Strayhorn will bring her tollway tough-talk to Hillsboro tonight for a hearing in the Hill College auditorium.

She had 800 Cooke County residents standing on their chairs and cheering last month when she spoke at an anti-tollway rally in Woodbine, where trucks from Laredo, Mexico and Pacific Ocean ports would cross a quarter-mile-wide swath of horse pastures.

Rural Texans fearing a 10-lane tollway are now connecting with a fringe anti-immigration crowd that fears a superhighway from Mexico. The cross-pollination of criticism can only hurt Perry, an incumbent easily leading the polls although 62 percent of Texas voters favor one of his three major opponents.

The Woodbine rally "was a happening," Strayhorn said after her speech. "This is a major issue that is going to decide the vote in at least 30 counties. Rural Texas has been concerned all along, and now North Texas is catching on."

The route is opposed by local leaders because it loosely follows Interstate 35E to the east of Dallas, an hour's drive from Dallas/Fort Worth Airport or Fort Worth.

Strayhorn drew the distinction that she does not oppose an international highway or trade.
"I'm opposing toll roads," she said. "I am adamantly opposed to this governor's boondoggle."
In the crowd, Shirley Spellerberg of Corinth, a former state Republican committeewoman, sat waiting to speak.

"I don't like anything about this," said Spellerberg, mayor of Corinth for 16 years and a lobbying force for the religious-conservative Texas Eagle Forum.

"It's going to open the flow of truck traffic bringing illegal aliens, drugs, terrorists -- who knows what? It's a horrible idea," she said. "Plus, these poor people will lose their land to this monstrosity."

Spellerberg pointed out that Texas Republicans passed a platform plank last month opposing the condemnation of land for use by a private business. Madrid-based Cintra is investing $6 billion in the project along with partner Zachry Construction of San Antonio.

The Republican platform calls for canceling the project.

Perry supports the corridor "because President Bush wants it," Spellerberg guessed. "I think it started out at the top. Perry's just doing what he's been told."

Strayhorn sidestepped the issue of border security. But she criticized Perry for agreeing to let Cintra negotiate in secret.

The state highway agency is the Texas Department of Transportation, she told the audience -- "not the European Department of Transportation."

Denton County Commissioner Sandy Jacobs of The Colony came to support the tollway.

Jacobs, a 24-year commissioner, is not only a reliable leader in Denton County's long-standing Interstate 35 expansion effort, she is a board member of a suddenly controversial Dallas lobbying organization, North America's SuperCorridor Coalition (NASCO).

Her e-mail has been busy lately. On a June 21 show, CNN entertainment host Lou Dobbs moved into the black-helicopter zone when he asked suspiciously whether a U.S.-Canada-Mexico trade agreement signed last year might mean the "end of the United States as we know it." The show depicted a borderless map from NASCO's Web site that draws a "supercorridor" from Mexico City to Canada, including the Texas tollway.

"All we're looking for is a trade corridor," Jacobs said in an interview before Tuesday's forum. "If we can help a Wal-Mart truck cross the border faster and go safely from Mexico to Minneapolis in less time, then we've helped the economy."

A new highway is needed no matter what happens with security along the Mexico border, she said: "Free trade is going to continue as long as we're part of the global economy."

When Strayhorn finished speaking, Jacobs' turn was next.

She challenged the comptroller-candidate head-on: "Carole Strayhorn, I totally disagree!"

Jacobs continued: "Not once up here, Carole Strayhorn, did you say anything but 'No! No! No!' ... Mrs. Strayhorn, tonight you filled the air with political rhetoric, not answers!"

When Jacobs sat down, Strayhorn rushed up.

"I only had three minutes!" she protested.

I get the feeling we'll hear a lot more in this campaign.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. 817-390-7538

© 2006 Fort Worth Star-Telegram :


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Speed freaks at the helm


It's the Texas 130 toll road, not the Texas Motor Speedway

July 12, 2006

Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2006

Is an 85-mph speed limit too high for part of the Texas 130 toll road being built southeast of Austin? Highway safety advocates think so, and they have common sense on their side.

If Texas allows cars and trucks to go 85 mph on the southern section of Texas 130, that would be the highest speed limit in the country. It would mean more money for the state treasury, but more danger for drivers negotiating the toll road between Seguin and Mustang Ridge.

Although the state Legislature approved speeds of up to 85 mph on roads within the Trans Texas Corridor, it would be up to the Texas Transportation Commission to approve the speed limit. Commission members should seriously study the deleterious effects of higher speeds before setting a limit as high as 85 mph.

Raising the speed limit from the restrictive 55 mph established in the 1970s to 65 and 70 mph has not resulted in the carnage that some safety advocates predicted in the 1990s. But hiking the top speed to 85 is unknown territory, and potentially quite dangerous.

A speed limit is only an approximation for many drivers on major highways. They routinely assume that the "real" speed limit — the point at which they may get a ticket — is higher, so they drive 5 to 10 mph above the posted limit.

If the southern portion of Texas 130, which is expected to be included in the Trans Texas Corridor, is posted for 85 mph, drivers will be flying along it at 90 and 95 mph or higher. At those speeds, there is no such thing as safe driving, only dangerous driving.

Thankfully, the upper reaches of the legal limit will not be allowed on the section of Texas 130 nearest Austin, which can expect heavier traffic loads. That portion of the highway was built to different standards and the top legal speed will be 70 mph. Parts of that section of the highway are scheduled to open in December.

The Texas Department of Transportation raised the speed limit on some rural interstate stretches in West Texas to 80 mph in May. That action has drawn criticism from safety advocates who argue that Texas is abdicating its role of ensuring safety on the highways.
Cintra-Zachary, the international conglomerate building the southern segment of Texas 130, will give the state more money for setting higher speed limits. Isn't that encouraging the state to abandon safety for revenue? Highway officials must be concerned about selling lives for money.

The National Highway Safety Administration reports that speed is a factor in 31 percent of traffic fatalities in this country. Speed shortens reaction time, lengthens stopping distances and increases the force of impact.

If 85 to 95 mph isn't too fast for safe driving, what is?

© 2006 Austin American-Statesman :


Lone Star Infrastructure is the main contractor for the huge project.

Barrientos Asking For Safety Report On SH 130 Construction

July 12, 2006
Copyright 2006

An Austin lawmaker is asking several groups for safety reports on the largest highway construction project in Central Texas history -- State Highway 130.

The SH 130 toll road is meant to give drivers a parallel route to I-35.

State Senator Gonzalo Barrientos says he's asking TxDOT and construction companies for a report on the rate of injures and fatalities during SH 130 construction.

A company called Lone Star Infrastructure is the main contractor for the huge project. A spokeswoman told KXAN NBC Austin their safety record outperforms the industry average.
Supervisors say that every person who sets foot on the project goes through safety orientation, and there are also safety meetings that happen in the field.

In the three years since the project started, two people have died on the job.

"Certainly there are investigations that go through. We learn from those investigations, and we pass that information on and we include it in our training, improve our training," Lone Star Infrastructure Safety Supervisor Randee Wagstaff said.

"This is one of the projects I believe has gone over and beyond safety and the environment. We do extensive training for all employees, not just new hires," Safety Training Supervisor Ignacio Guerra.

There was a non-construction related accident at the project Wednesday. We're told two mechanics who were sent out to service equipment were injured when a pressure washer malfunctioned.

One of them had signs of burns around the mouth and nose. Both were taken to Brackenridge Hospital.

© 2006 WorldNow and KXAN. :


Forth Worth: “Thumbs down” on TTC-35 route

Council opposes planned corridor route

Jul. 12, 2006

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2006

FORT WORTH - City Council members officially gave a thumbs down Tuesday to a planned route for the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor that would run east of Dallas.

Without public discussion, council members unanimously approved a resolution opposing the Texas Department of Transportation's plans to bypass Tarrant County with the planned corridor, saying such action would hurt jobs and economic growth in Fort Worth and throughout the county.

Instead, the council supports a proposal by the Regional Transportation Council and the North Central Texas Council of Governments that would locate the corridor along Texas 360, eventually creating an outer loop around the Metroplex.

© 2006 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

New America Foundation calls for a 'Tex-Mex Marshall Plan'

It's time for a North American Union

Jun. 11, 2006

By Steven Hill
Special to The Washington Post
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2006

WASHINGTON - Immigration issues are always ripe for demagoguery, particularly in an election year. But the solution to the very real problems along the U.S.-Mexican border can be found, ironically, in that other part of the world that demagogues love to ridicule: old Europe.

Two years ago, the European Union admitted 10 new members. Like Mexico, all of these nations were poor, some of them fairly backward and most recently ravaged by war and dictatorship.

The leaders of the European Union wisely created policies for fostering regional economic and political integration that make the North American Free Trade Agreement "look timid and halfhearted by comparison," according to Bernd Westphal, consul general of Germany.

Europe realized it had to prevent a "giant sucking sound" of businesses and jobs relocating from the 15 wealthier nations to the 10 poorer ones. It also had to foster prosperity and the spread of a middle class and prevent an influx of poor workers to the richer nations.

So for starters, it gave the new states billions in subsidies to help construct schools, roads, telecommunications and housing, thus making these nations more attractive for business investment. It was expensive, but the result has been a larger economic union in which a rising tide floats all boats.

In return, the 10 poorer nations had to agree to raise their standards on the environment, labor law, health and safety -- and more.

Worker migration is regulated. Immigrants will be carefully integrated so as to cause the least disruption to the developed economies, with the goal of having open borders down the road.

This bold yet carefully planned EU approach suggests the direction that policy between the United States and Mexico should take. The demands of the global economy will push North American regional integration out of the realm of a shadow economy and flawed free-trade agreement. But what might such a U.S.-Mexico union look like?

It would start with massive subsidies from the United States to Mexico, a Tex-Mex Marshall Plan, with the goal of decreasing disparities on the Mexican side of the border and fostering a climate riper for investment. This would create more jobs in Mexico and foster a middle class, homeownership and better schools, roads and health care. Mexicans would stay home, becoming consumers of U.S. products.

But Europe's union is not just an economic one. It also includes continentwide political institutions for all 25 nations. As American-Mexican economic integration unfolds, regional political structures also make sense to allow better coordination and supervision of the regulatory regime and common goals.

We always assume that opening the border means hordes of Mexicans streaming north, but under this scenario, more Americans also would begin emigrating to Mexico. With the cost of living spiraling along the U.S. coasts, many Americans would find not only the cheaper prices but also the warm climate of Mexico a more attractive alternative than relocating to Kansas.

Call it the Mexican safety valve, with American workers migrating to Mexico in search of jobs, homeownership, even to start businesses. They would chase the American dream in Mexico.

The Census Bureau predicts that by 2050, the number of Latinos and Asians will triple in the United States and Anglos will make up only 50 percent of the nation's population. For many people, these changes are alarming, but economic disparities guarantee that poor Mexicans will continue seeking entry into El Norte.

Given these demographic realities, gradual integration of the American and Mexican economies is the only sensible solution.

The United States is missing out on huge economic opportunities; the European Union has grown to the largest trading bloc in the world.

Old Europe is looking spry, while the United States is looking clumsy and stuck to the flypaper of old ideas.

Steven Hill is director of the political reform program of the New America Foundation. This essay appeared previously in The Washington Post.

© 2006 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:


“I just want people to wake up and realize what’s about to happen to America.”

Good-bye USA, hello North American Union?


Andy Hogue
Gainesville Register
Copyright 2006

The North American Union, an “economic and security community” similar to the European Union, was proposed by the independent Council on Foreign Relations in the Spring of 2005 before summit in which President George W. Bush proposed a guest worker visa with which to reform U.S. immigration policy.

Since then, the proposal of the union — which some say includes a new flag, a common currency, increased travel between borders and a parliament and court system to oversee Canada, Mexico and the U.S. — has been the subject of some radio talks shows and political publications and much hype.

Word of the proposal is spreading quickly at meetings regarding the Trans-Texas Corridor. The Trans-Texas Corridor is suspected to be a part of a movement to make Interstate Highway 35 a major artery between Canada and Mexico.

William Baldwin, a Gainesville area farmer and one of a growing number of county residents questioning the plan, distributed CD recordings of an opinion talk show interview on Israel National News discussing the proposed North American Union at recent meetings about the Trans-Texas Corridor.

“I think it’s all linked together with this road,” Baldwin said Friday. “I just want people to wake up and realize what’s about to happen to America.”

How likely the proposal will become political reality would be determined by the powers-that-be.

Baldwin said he has discussed the matter with many lawmakers and government officials, and most are unaware of the proposal. Maybe that’s because the proposal itself was made by former government officials — not current leaders.

According to a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) press release, three former high-ranking government officials from Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. called for a North American economic and security community by 2010 “to address shared security threats, challenges to competitiveness, and interest in broad-based development across the three countries.”

Former Governor of Massachusetts and Assistant U.S. Attorney General William Weld, former Canadian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance John P. Manley and former Finance Minister of Mexico Pedro Aspe made the recommendation of forming the North American Union in “the Chairmen’s Statement of the Independent Task Force on the Future of North America,” which may be downloaded on the CFR’s Web site.

Weld was unavailable for comment by press time, as he recently withdrew from the race for New York governor and is on vacation.

The report was sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations in association with Mexican and a Canadian business advocacy organizations.

The CFR was founded in 1921 and makes policy recommendations. It is not a government agency, but was a major cheerleader for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which led to the North American Super Corridor Organization (NASCO) recommendation to build a superhighway between Mexico and Canada.

The goals listed in the CFR’s task force report, according to its Web site, are to:

• Create a common tariff to be shared between Canada, Mexico and the U.S. to compete with the European Union.

• Build a tighter security perimeter around North America.

• Host summit meetings between the three countries and create the North American Advisory Council to help implement summit decisions.

• Develop a border pass for all North Americans to facilitate easier travel.

• Adopt a shared border patrolling plan and implement improved intelligence gathering tactics to enforce immigration laws.

• Foster cooperation between the three nations’ military forces and the establishment of a North American Aerospace Defense Command.

• Spur Mexican economic development through increased trade.

• Develop a natural resource conservation strategy and form a North American alternative to the Kyoto Protocol which laid out environmental protection standards via a treaty (which the U.S. never signed onto).

• Establish an educational scholarship and exchange network to develop cultural unity between the three countries.

A plan discussed but not proposed was the creation of a common currency, which could be called “the Amero” (as opposed to the Euro).

It did not call for the abandonment of the United States of America, or the Republic of Mexico or the Dominion of Canada for that matter.

On the CD Baldwin distributed, Tamar Yona, a radio talk show host on Israel National Network, interviewed Dr. Jerome Corsi, a regular contributor to the conservative and the co-author of a soon-to-be released book about the Minuteman movement.

Yona has in the past noted the North American Union in her broadcasts. One caller on a recent show identified himself as being from “San Francisco, N.A.U.,” to which she replied, “Cute.”

In the interview, dated June 13, Corsi said, “I fear. I fear what’s happening to them (Americans).”

Corsi said when investigating the reasons why conservative Republican president Bush would not favor stricter border control policies, his findings surprised him.

Corsi alluded to the Security and Prosperity Partnership plan (which may be found at, which is intended to facilitate cooperation between the executive branches of the U.S., Canada and Mexico on such matters as avian flu prevention and anti-terrorism.

Corsi said a goal is to create increased trade through the U.S. via a superhighway, which would begin in Texas. He said a customs port would be based in Kansas City, Mo., which he considered a security risk.

Corsi said it would “import a huge underclass” from Mexico, which would offset any economic benefit to the U.S. He said the Mexican government is influenced by criminal cartels, which he said would negatively affect the U.S.

Sheila Cox, an opponent of the Trans-Texas Corridor, said she has concern — not alarm — regarding the North American Union proposal.

“I think more than cause for alarm is cause for concern,” she said. “Even reading on the Web site it talks about this agreement, but does not use the term ‘North American Union.’ But if you read that with the understanding of a trilateral agreement, and what we’re seeing in a lack of border protection from our president, you can start connecting the dots.”

The CFR didn’t propose the first such plan to unify countries with the U.S. or loosen border restrictions to increase trade. Other movements have come and gone to increase international cooperation — to varying degrees.

The Republican Party of Texas Platform called for a rescinding of the Texas Legislature’s petition to the federal government calling for a new Constitutional Convention (or “Con-Con”) during the ’70s. The convention was called to make the U.S. Constitution more compatible with the United Nations, among other goals.

Lech Walesa, the former prime minister of Poland, has called for an end to “nationalism” for many years speaking at American universities, including a 2002 address at the University of North Texas in Denton.

The Trilateral Commission has for years promoted lesser tariffs and trade restrictions between the U.S., Europe and Japan.

Global government is a concept of many religions. The Baha’i Faith, which has few adherents in Cooke County, promotes world government as a step toward peace.

Many “premillenialist” Christians predict a world government would be ushered in by an antichrist figure who would go on to challenge Jesus Christ at the Battle of Armageddon after several years of rule. Some who subscribe to that belief feel a global government is inevitable and not worth fighting. Others “sound the trumpet” frequently.

For now, the call for global government — let alone joining forces with Canada and Mexico — is a far cry in Cooke County.

Ron Melugin, Democratic Party chairman of Cooke County, did not lend any credibility to the seriousness of the concept of a three-way government in North America.

“I’ve never heard of it,” Melugin said. “I don’t think it deserves any comment on my part.”

Republican Party Chairman Frank Rust could not be reached for comment by press time.

Cox recommended contacting government representatives at all levels as a preventative measure.

“I see even this as losing hold of sovereignty for the United States,” she said. “And if we lose control of the sovereignty of the U.S., it stands to reason we may lose the freedoms we Americans hold near and dear.”

On the Net:

Security and Prosperity Partnership of America:

Council on Foreign Relations:

North America’s Super Corridor Organization:

Reporter Andy Hogue may be contacted at

© 2006 The Gainesville Register:


“Texas won its independence in 1836, and this year we have lost it. “


Tuesday, July 11

Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2006

The Spanish conquest

Texas won its independence in 1836, and this year we have lost it.

Gov. Rick Perry and his followers in the Legislature have given part of our state to Spain. The giveaway is covered up with pretty words, but the state has signed a contract with Spain giving absolute control over 30 miles of Texas 130, another toll road.

I can foresee Spanish policemen stopping citizens of Texas demanding to see their IDs and passports. I guess that Spain will have its own courts and punishments. I wonder if burning at the stake will become popular again.

By the way, Texans will have to pay for the right-of-way through their taxes, including their property taxes.


© 2006 Austin American-Statesman:


“I am asking, as a resident of Oklahoma, that the Texas people that have a reputation for fighting…to please do so.”

Trans-Texas Corridor-35 public hearings begin across North Texas

Jul 11, 2006

By Allen Rich
North Texas E-News
Copyright 2006

Long before anyone hears the sound of traffic on a proposed Texas-sized highway project that will run from Oklahoma to Mexico, the sound of debate is likely to echo from Red River to the Rio Grande. And, in an election year, it may echo loudest in Austin.

Monday night in Sherman and Gainesville, TxDOT held the first of 54 public hearings planned along the proposed route of Trans-Texas Corridor-35.

The well-attended meetings gave TxDOT officials an opportunity to clear up misconceptions and explain what the department feels is a definite need to improve the Texas highway system in response to the state’s population growth.

In turn, the public hearings gave residents most likely to be affected by this major project a chance to share concerns about eminent domain issues, the toll-road concept, foreign participation and whether or not it is prudent to place a massive north-south artery in such a highly populated area.

One Grayson County woman had the crowd behind her when she quoted Horace Greeley, telling TxDOT to “Go west, young man, go west” with TTC-35.

The TxDOT presentation explained that the population of Texas is expected to grow 118% from 2000 to 2060, with an even more dramatic 400% increase in freight vehicles predicted by 2060. Studies indicate that a Tran-Texas Corridor-35 is needed to alleviate an already heavily congested I-35 and allow for the future movement of goods and people through the central portion of the state, while a Trans-Texas Corridor-69 will be needed to handle the volume of traffic expected in East Texas.

TTC-35 would be approximately 1200 feet wide and enter Texas near Gainesville, veer southeast to pass just east of McKinney and Dallas, and then run basically parallel to I-35 from Waco to San Marcos before diverging to the east of I-35.

In 2005, TxDOT signed a comprehensive development agreement with Cintra-Zachary to fund a $3.5 million planning effort. With headquarters in Madrid, Spain and contingents on three continents, Cintra is one of the world’s largest transportation infrastructure developers in the private sector. Zachary Construction Company is based in San Antonio, Texas and currently employs of approximately 13,000 workers, primarily in Texas and along the East Coast.

To view maps, provide feedback and learn more about TTC-35, visit A poll on the comprehensive Website indicates that 61% of those responding feel the most pressing issue TxDOT faces in developing the Trans-Texas Corridor project will be the acquisition of land.

Following the TxDOT presentation, public testimony was allowed. Of the approximately 215 people that filled the Sherman Municipal Ballroom, about a half-dozen took advantage of the opportunity.

Clint Winters, a representative of the state’s top fiscal officer, Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, spoke first, telling the audience that Strayhorn calls the project a “Texas-Trans Catastrophe that needs to be brushed off the books.”

“Texas property belongs to Texans, not foreign companies,” Winters relayed from the Texas Comptroller.

Strayhorn also called the Trans-Texas Corridor “a property tax problem of the worst kind.”
The fear voiced by Winters and others in the audience is that taking the land required to develop TTC-35 off the tax rolls would place an addition burden on schools, local governments and the remaining landowners.

The next speaker said his worries were limited access to TTC-35, the possibility of the major project destroying family farms and dividing Texas. Toll roads amount to another tax, he said, but he thanked TxDOT for trying to separate large trucks from other vehicles when possible.
The third speaker said America faces a loss of sovereignty as borders dissolve.

The fourth public speaker, a woman from Van Alstyne, asked about the noise pollution a project this size could generate. “I do not think we want to bring I-35 problems to Grayson County,” she stated, adding, “I think it is important that people get to vote on this.”

A lady from Collinsville spoke next, calling the stretch of Hwy 377 that winds through world-famous horse ranches “a Texas gem.”

“If you choose a route that cuts through that,” the Collinsville resident commented, “you will do Texas a disgrace.”

I see a disaster coming, said another public speaker. “We do not need to give land away so companies that left America now have a way to bring their products back into this country,” he remarked.

Another speaker feared the project could increase water demands that are already a serous problem across North Texas.

One person said major improvements were needed south of the Metroplex, but he doubted the need for a project of this magnitude in North Texas. “The public feels we have not had enough input,” he said in closing.

A speaker said that eminent domain looks to be a contentious process. “Who decides what a fair price is?” she asked. If TTC-35 cuts across her land, the lady questioned, “Who would want my property?”

One man spoke in support of TTC-35, although he seemed to feel strongly both ways.
“This will bring more people into the area,” he reasoned, “but it will also take them back out.”

A Tulsa, Oklahoma resident made an impassioned plea: “I am asking, as a resident of Oklahoma, that the Texas people that have a reputation for fighting…to please do so.”

In all, TxDOT will host 54 public hearings along the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor-35 between July 10 and August 10 to inform the public about the need and purpose of the project, as well as allow residents affected by TTC-35 to participate in the decision-making process.

Public hearings are set for Bonham, Decatur and Denton July 11.

Other public hearings to be held in North Texas are:
July 12 -- Paris -- Love Civic Center
2025 S. Collegiate Dr.
July 12 -- Cleburn -- Cleburn Civic Center
1501 W. Henderson St.
July 12 -- Waxahachie — Waxahachie Civic Center Ballroom
2000 Civic Center Ln.
July 13 -- Weatherford — Weatherford College, Alkek Fine Arts
Center, 225 College Park Dr.
July 13 -- McKinney — McKinney High School Cafeteria
1400 Wilson Creek Pkwy.
July 17 -- Greenville — Fletcher Warren Civic Center
5501 S. Bus. Hwy. 69
July 17 -- Fort Worth — Will Rogers Memorial Center, Exhibits
Hall, Round Up Inn, 3400 Burnett-Tandy Dr.
July 18 -- Mesquite — Poteet High School Auditorium
3300 Poteet Dr.
July 18 -- Granbury — GISD Pearl Street Conference Center
205 E. Pearl St.
July 19 -- Terrell — Terrell ISD Performing Arts Center
400 Poetry Rd.
July 20 -- Corsicana — Drane Intermediate School Auditorium
100 S. 18th St.
July 27 -- Dallas — Grauwyler Community Center
7780 Harry Hines Blvd.

© Copyright 2006 North Texas e-News, llc :


Regional Transportation Council pans proposed TTC-35 route

Don't exit here


Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2006

A proposed initial leg of the Trans-Texas Corridor that would loop around the east side of Dallas, while snubbing the fast-growing western half of the Metroplex, would be strongly detrimental to Fort Worth and Tarrant County.

With the Texas Transportation Commission having just launched a series of 54 public hearings on this topic, it's vital that local and regional elected officials, transportation planners and residents speak up on this topic.

The Fort Worth City Council should unhesitatingly adopt a proposed resolution at its meeting at 7 tonight that cites the negative effects of the proposed corridor leg and expresses support for a much more sensible alignment endorsed by the Regional Transportation Council of the 16-county North Central Texas Council of Governments.

As drafted, the City Council resolution states that the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor 35 (TTC-35) alignment around the east edge of Dallas County "would reroute the movement of commerce and the related jobs" away from Fort Worth and Tarrant County. The alignment would encourage urban sprawl and worsen air quality, while forcing about 70 percent of trucks using the corridor route to exit it and "make a significant detour in order to load and unload cargo" in cities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the resolution said.

The Regional Transportation Council, which includes numerous city and county elected officials, wants the corridor to run up the Metroplex's middle, along the path of an extended Texas 360 and on to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.

It also favors constructing an east-west corridor at the southern edge of the Metroplex and looping it northward around the west side of Fort Worth and the east side of Dallas. The loop's transportation modes could include passenger cars and vehicles, rail freight and 18-wheelers.
More public hearings are scheduled this week in Metroplex cities, including meetings in Denton and Decatur this evening. A schedule of all 54 hearings is available at the Texas Department of Transportation Web site:

Get involved. Choosing the right corridor alignment is crucial to maintaining a strong Metroplex economy, improving air quality and thwarting freeway gridlock.

© 2006 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:


Monday, July 10, 2006

Hundreds of residents spoke, saying they oppose the corridor.

North Texas residents protest super tollway

July 10, 2006

Brad Watson
Copyright 2006

GAINESVILLE — The state heard an earful at public hearings on the Trans-Texas Corridor after residents learned of plans to build through Cooke County.

Gov. Rick Perry and the Texas Department of Public Transportation expressed beliefs the highway and rail corridor from Laredo to the Red River will meet the state's transit needs in the decades ahead. However, some landowners along the way are fighting it.

TxDOT prefers the corridor of superhighways and rail lines to run east of the Dallas-Fort Worth area and then veer northwest through Collin County, Grayson and Cooke counties.
Hundreds of residents spoke before a public hearing saying they oppose the corridor.

"It will hit the hardest when it hits their wallet," said Mark Whitfield, a Cooke County resident. "So it's my income, so of course I'm going to fight for it."

Both Whitfield and Cooke County resident Jerry Ware own Lavender Ridge Farms, where visitors can cut their own flowers. The property is in the middle of the 10-mile-wide path where the state could build the quarter-mile-wide corridor.

"We're going to lose that peaceful country atmosphere...that we love," Ware said.

TxDOT can't say exactly how many thousands of acres of Cooke County land would be gobbled up in the highway plan. However, along with rural land, homes are potentially in the way.
About 1,000 homes surround Lake Kiowa where Fred Bradley retired to get away from traffic.
"It would be like living in downtown Dallas because you'll have railroads and highways and everything in one corridor," Bradley said.

TxDOT said construction won't start for three to five years.


© 2006 WFAA: /


“Safety is for sale in Texas”

Money could create need for speed on Texas 130

Contract for southern segment increases state revenue if speed limit goes to 80 mph and beyond.

July 10, 2006

By Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2006

The higher the speed limit, the more money the state would collect on Texas 130's southern 40 miles under the contract recently signed with road developer Cintra-Zachry.

A highway safety advocate says that means "safety's for sale in Texas." No, the state's turnpike director says, the provisions in that contract are just a recognition that the Legislature has already allowed an 85 mph speed limit on a road that likely will become a part of the Trans-Texas Corridor. With a higher allowable speed, logic dictates that more drivers would choose the toll road as an alternative to Interstate 35. And more vehicles equal more toll revenue, boosting Cintra-Zachry's income.

Under that scenario, the state would be irresponsible if it did not try to recoup more of that revenue for taxpayers, said Phil Russell, director of the Texas Department of Transportation's turnpike division. As for the safety questions raised by that potential higher speed, Russell said the agency is working on design standards for Trans-Texas Corridor roads that would make them as safe at 85 miles per hour as existing interstates are at 70 mph.

"Whatever the speed limit is, we're going to make sure our design standards can accommodate it," Russell said today.

Judie Stone, president of the Washington-based Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, doesn't buy it.

"I just think it's a violation of public health responsibilities on the part of the state," Stone said. "It's the first time I've ever heard of anything like that. Following on the heels of raising the speed limit to 80 on some segments of the interstates, it's very disturbing.

"It sounds like safety's for sale in Texas."

Last month, the state's Department of Transportation changed some speed limits on West Texas interstates to 80 mph.

None of this applies to the northerly 49 miles of Texas 130 toll road being built from Georgetown to south of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, some of which is due to open in December. The state is building and will operate that toll road, not Cintra-Zachry. And it was designed several years ago, long before the Trans-Texas Corridor and its 85 mph limit was contemplated. Russell said that part will open with a 70 mph speed limit.

Not so with the southern 40 miles from Mustang Ridge to Interstate 10 at Seguin. The state last month signed a thousand-plus-page contract with Cintra-Zachry, a Spanish-American partnership, for the company to build the four-lane road at an estimated cost of $1.3 billion and operate it for 50 years.

The contract contemplates that Cintra-Zachry would pay the state an up-front concession fee of $25 million and 4.65 percent of the toll revenue until total revenue reaches certain thresholds in any given year. Then the portion for the state would grow to 9.3 percent until a second revenue threshold, jumping to 50 percent after that.

But that's only if the speed limit is 70 mph.

The contract says that if the speed limit is 80 mph, the upfront payment would jump to $92 million. At 85 mph, the concession payment would be $125 million.

Or the state could choose, rather than taking more up front, to collect higher percentages of the toll revenue in the future. The higher speed limits would have to be imposed within the road's first six months of operation for the state to get the extra money. The road is expected to open by 2012.

Although Cintra-Zachry will operate the road, the speed limits will be controlled by the state. The Texas Transportation Commission, appointed by the governor, sets those limits, but only within upper limits set by the Legislature.

In 2003, when the Legislature passed a 300-page bill creating the legal framework for the Trans-Texas Corridor (and other toll road activities), it said that proposed 4,000-mile system of toll roads could have speeds up to 85 mph.

The idea is that the cross-state roads would be more lightly traveled than the parallel, toll-free interstates and thus could accommodate the higher speeds. And the faster travel would be the carrot drawing paying customers.

At this point, pending an environmental review that could take two to three more years, Texas 130 is not a part of the Trans-Texas Corridor. But it falls within a 10-mile-wide study area in the draft environmental document, and most people familiar with the situation assume that it eventually will become a corridor road.

When that occurs, it would be up to the transportation commission to decide if 85 mph will be the limit. Despite the lure of the extra money, Stone said she hopes that commissioners will look at the demonstrated role speed plays in highway deaths and turn down the windfall.

"If people in the decision-making positions believe there aren't going to be consequences for people going that fast, on any road," Stone said, "they're wrong."; 445-3698

© 2006 Austin American-Statesman:


“That tag will be taking my money like a taxi meter.”

Hunting the wily TxTag

July 10, 2006

Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2006

Well, I did it.

Last week, I signed up for a toll tag, called "TxTag" for Central Texas customers. Dallas and Houston have different systems and different names for their tags, although all of them will work in all three places.

Given all the hullabaloo over toll roads, it seemed almost like a political act to order one of the stickers. But given the situation, it would be an act of stupidity not to get one.

The tag, which you attach to your windshield just below the rearview mirror, will communicate with overhead toll readers and allow tagholders to drive without stopping at booths on the coming Austin-area toll roads. Plus, tag holders will get a 10 percent discount. And it costs nothing to get one. Well, kind of.

I decided to pretend I wasn't a reporter who knew a lot about this, but rather a regular Joe out to get a tag. I Googled "Austin toll tag."

There was no sign of the site on the first five pages (at least) of the almost 491,000 entries this churned up. The first entry was "magnifisyncopathological: Austin Toll Roads" which turned out to be "the opinions of a libertarian anarchist in Austin, Texas." As you might expect, these were not supportive opinions about toll roads.

Anyway, unless you know the name of the tag, finding it could be a bit difficult. The Transportation Department plans to address that starting in August with a multi-front ad campaign.

I then went to, and there was a prominent box on the home page saying, "Get your TxTag account" and "click here." So, I clicked.

The application seemed doable. Then I saw a box that will probably hang up most people trying to finish it someplace where they have Internet access and a lot of free time. Like, you know, at work.

It asks for your license plate number. So, a trip out to the parking lot. Got it. Back to the Internet.

Then I decided, as some of you might, "I'm about to make a lasting commitment to these toll people. I ought to have a personal relationship with them."

So I called 1-888-GoTxTag (468-9824). After a short trip through the voice mail matrix, I found myself talking to a cheerful woman named Martha from the turnpike authority's North Austin service center who explained it all.

You have to give them a major credit card number, at least over the phone or on the Internet, and they immediately take $20 for your account. The agency will have other ways you can obtain a card with cash.

With the credit card, it will automatically dun me for $20 whenever my balance falls below $10. You have a couple of long numbers you'll have to keep handy to access the account, she said. Your name alone won't be enough.

Martha says business has been a bit slow so far. I found out later that the agency has signed up about 2,700 tag users in the 10 weeks or so since they became available.

In about 15 minutes, we were done. Three days later, I got the toll tag. And in about five months, that tag will be taking my money like a taxi meter. Can't wait.
Getting There appears Mondays. For questions, tips or story ideas, contact Getting There at 445-3698 or

© 2006 Austin American-Statesman:


The first all-electronic toll road in North Texas is open

The first all-electronic toll road in North Texas is open

It has no tollbooths, but you still pay


Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2006

The first all-electronic toll road in North Texas is open and, although it's not in Tarrant County, many area residents who commute to north Dallas and surrounding suburbia may find it useful.

And everyone gets to use it for free until Sept. 1.

The main lanes of Texas 121 in Denton County were completed last week through Lewisville just north of Grapevine Mills mall, Coppell and Carrollton.

The Texas Department of Transportation is still installing the electronic toll machinery, signs and pavement markings but decided to open the road in segments Thursday and Friday.
Motorists may use it without paying tolls during a two-month "trial period," spokeswoman Angela Loston said.

Even when toll collection starts, there will be no toll plazas. Instead, traffic will travel under gantries equipped with sensors and video cameras.

Motorists will have two choices:

Those with TollTags will be charged on their TollTag accounts the same way they are when they use Dallas-area toll roads, such as the President George Bush Turnpike, operated by the North Texas Tollway Authority. TollTag accounts are usually backed up by a credit card.

As for vehicles without TollTags, license plates will be photographed as the cars pass under the gantries and the owner sent a monthly bill.

But there's a catch: If you go for the license-plate option, you'll be billed about 33 percent more than TollTag users, and you'll also have to pay a $1-a-month statement fee.

The agency hasn't settled on a precise amount for the tolls, but officials believe that it will start in the neighborhood of 13.3 cents per mile -- or about 80 cents for those who travel the entire six miles of the new road (more for those without TollTags). Then, it'll be raised every five years or so, at a rate comparable with the cost of living.

Ultimately, Texas 121 will be extended into Collin County. Motorists will be able to travel the main lanes all the way to McKinney. That'll be a toll road, too, and it'll be all-electronic.

Gordon Dickson, 817-685-3816

© 2006 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:


Sunday, July 09, 2006

TTC resolution

County to consider TTC resolution

July 9, 2006

The Waxahachie Daily Light
Copyright 2006

Before the Texas Department of Transportation holds two public hearings in Ellis County this week, the Ellis County commissioners will consider a resolution proposing an alternative to the departments proposed location of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

The corridor is being billed as a multi-use transportation alternative to the heavily congested Interstate 35 and will connect Laredo with the Texas-Oklahoma border and a 10-mile swath between Waxahachie and Ennis is being considered for the final location of the roadway through Ellis County.

“The Trans-Texas Corridor will provide unprecedented trade opportunities, a faster transportation system that moves freight and hazardous materials out of city centers and thousands of new jobs,” Gov. Rick Perry said after TxDOT released its initial corridor study areas.

TxDOT began its environmental study for the corridor in February 2004 and held the first public meetings in the spring of 2004.

The department’s report, released in April, shows a narrowed study area, 10 miles wide, mainly parallel to Interstate 35 and shows 12 different possibilities for the alignment of the highway. Seven of those dozen plans show the statewide corridor splitting right through Ellis County.

The report is not final and public hearings are being held this summer for input from Texas residents on the final alignment, including the two meetings in Ellis County this week.

The final corridor will be about 1,200 feet wide.

“It is important to point out that Tier One is done from a very high level,” Behrins said. “From a high level we look at where a potential 1,200 foot corridor from Oklahoma to Mexico can fit. We don’t look at where individual pieces, like rail or roadways, should connect to existing cities. That will come in Tier Two. To try and figure out those connections now would be like trying to put in the electrical wiring of a house before you design it or even purchase a lot to build it on.”

About 45 percent of the 21 million Texans live within 50 miles of Interstate 35. By 2030, TxDOT estimates more than 13 million people will live within the Interstate 35 corridor.

With so much of the population centered around the interstate corridor, it is no longer a viable option for intercity and freight travel.

TxDOT already predicts Interstate 35 will meet or exceed capacity by 2025, even with planned improvements to the roadway. The Trans-Texas Corridor report predicts that the interstate would need to be widened to 16 lanes in metro areas and 12 lanes through Central Texas to meet the corridor’s future traffic demands.

The commissioners will discuss a resolution Monday morning that supports moving the corridor’s study area to the Highway 360 corridor, closer to the Ellis County and Johnson County line.

“The current alignment essentially cuts Ellis County in half,” county planner Clyde Melick said. “Our biggest concerns are for the farmers in that area and tearing up Blackland Prairie areas. We’re asking TxDOT to do further studies towards putting the TTC along the 360 corridor.”

Melick said the resolution was drafted after concerns were raised by one of the commissioners, but Melick added that he was unsure how the rest of the commissioners felt.

Commissioner Ron Brown, Pct. 4, sits on the Regional Transportation Council, a group which has also said placement of the TTC along the 360 corridor would be its preferred method as well.

“No federal dollars can be spent without their approval,” Melick added. “We’re not saying we won’t accept it unless you put it there, but we’re asking TxDOT to do some further studies on this other option. We can help by asking them to do further studies.”

TxDOT will hold a public hearing Monday night in Ennis at the Knights of Columbus Hall. A second meeting will be held Wednesday night in Waxahachie at the Waxahachie Civic Center.

Both meetings will offer an open house beginning at 5 p.m., with a public hearing scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m

For more information on the meetings or the TTC, visit


© 2006 The Daily Light: