Saturday, July 22, 2006

Have Gun --Will Toll

Former Westlake Hills Mayor Had Gun At Airport

Jul 22, 2006

Dwight Thompson Charged After Trying To Board With A .38

CBS 42 Austin
Copyright 2006

(CBS 42) AUSTIN Austin Bergstrom International Airport police told CBS 42 Saturday that former Westlake Hills Mayor Dwight Thompson was arrested Friday after trying to board a plane with a handgun.

Thompson reportedly had a loaded, .38 caliber pistol.

He was arrested at checkpoint two at ABIA early Friday morning.

Thompson was charged with possession of a prohibited weapon at an airport, a third degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

(© MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc. :


Some see an assault on private property rights; some object to putting the project in foreign hands; and some dislike the secret contract.

Texans Who Oppose Highway May Spell Trouble for Governor

July 22, 2006

The Associated Press
Copyright 2006

HILLSBORO, TX — Farmers and landowners across Texas are angry about a proposed 600-mile superhighway, and that could pose a problem for Gov. Rick Perry as he runs for re-election.

Mr. Perry, a Republican , proposed the project, the Trans Texas Corridor, in 2002, envisioning a combined toll road and rail system that would whisk traffic from the Oklahoma line to the border with Mexico.

That would be the first link in a 4,000-mile, $184 billion transportation network. The corridors would have up to six lanes for cars and four for trucks, railroads, energy pipelines, utility lines and broadband cables.

The route has not been drawn up, but many farmers and landowners would lose property to the state. Construction could begin by 2010.

The opposition comes in several forms: Some see it as an assault on private property rights; some object to putting the project in foreign hands (the state accepted a proposal by a United States and Spanish consortium to build and operate it); and some dislike that part of a development contract with the consortium, Cintra-Zachry, is secret.

Of Mr. Perry’s major opponents — Chris Bell, a Democrat, and Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman, independents — Ms. Strayhorn stirs the most fury. She calls the plan the “Trans Texas Catastrophe” and a “land grab” of historic proportions.

Cintra-Zachry proposes paying $7.2 billion to build the first segments. For that, it would get to operate them and collect tolls for years.

“The governor recognizes the concerns that rural Texans have,” Robert Black, Mr. Perry’s spokesman, said. “But he also believes that you have people out there who are spreading bad information.”

Supporters say the corridors are needed to handle an expected boom in the flow of goods to and from Mexico and in Texas’s population. The state will own the land and will oversee toll amounts, Mr. Black said.

Anger percolated at a recent public hearing in Hillsboro.

Janet Walters said she believed that Mr. Perry would eventually see that the corridor was a critical campaign issue. “I don’t think Rick Perry will back off until he feels like, ‘This is going to cost me the election,’ ” Ms. Walters said. “Then he’ll back off.”

The New York Times:


"We don't need infrastructure owned and managed by overseas companies. "


A sinister plot? Well, yes

July 22, 2006

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2006

We don't need infrastructure owned and managed by overseas companies.

Bud Kennedy wrote in his Tuesday column ('Notes from Conspiracy HQ') that some people see the Trans- Texas Corridor 'as part of a sinister plot to merge Canada , Mexico and the United States into a 'North American Union.'' Well, that's exactly what it could do.

President Bush , Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin announced in Waco on March 23, 2005, the establishment of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPPNA). This plan would integrate the infrastructure, security and ultimately the economies of the three nations. The SPPNA would mean the free flow of goods, services and people.

That's why Bush won't secure America's borders.

If you like the idea of illegal, taxpayer-subsidized labor from Mexico, you'll love this concept -- an unending flow of unskilled, low-wage workers looking for a better life with no worries about cumbersome immigration laws.

The Council on Foreign Relations, with which Bush seems to agree, has recommended the creation of permanent tribunals that could overrule U.S. courts to resolve trade disputes among the three nations. This is scary stuff.

Wake up, Americans. Bush seems to be following these recommendations.

We don't need infrastructure owned and managed by overseas companies.

Della Coffman, Weatherford

Stand up for Texas before it's too late.

Because Monday's public hearing in Fort Worth by the Texas Department of Transportation on the Trans-Texas Corridor was well-funded by taxpayers and perfectly orchestrated, it might have seemed it was about including local residents in the process. But one must not be deceived.

This is not just about building 'a toll road from Gainesville to Seguin.'

As an enormous amount of traffic would move through this '$184 billion boondoggle,' transporting goods (and illegal aliens) between Mexico, Central and South America and Canada, Texans would be left eating dust -- merely another notch in the belts of the globalists and internationalists with their one-world agenda.

An estimated 580,000 acres of privately owned land would become state land and be removed from the tax rolls. Private ownership would be threatened when the state uses eminent domain to acquire the land. Agricultural land will be destroyed. The peace and tranquility of rural communities will be forever changed.

For the politicians who created this monster, the sound of TTC fits in nicely with NAFTA, CAFTA, FTAA and the most recent agreement with Mexico and Canada, SPPNA (Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America).

It's time for Texans to wake up and learn about plans to forever change the face of Texas. Foreign control of our national highway system is unacceptable. Become informed and contact your representatives. Urge them to stop this project.

Stand up for Texas before it's too late. No Trans-Texas Corridor!

Marianne Alderman, Willow Park

Copyright © 2006 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:


Friday, July 21, 2006

“This should be considered a treasonous act."

Area residents give thumbs down to TTC


By Justin Jones
Terrell Tribune
Copyright 2006

Kaufman County residents opposed to the Trans Texas Corridor strongly voiced their opinions Wednesday during a public hearing at the Terrell ISD Performing Arts Center for the proposed multi-use, statewide network of transportation routes in Texas that will incorporate existing new highways, railways and utility right-of-ways.

“I think we have had good turnouts and we are getting mixed comments,” said Dieter Billek, the advance project development director for the Texas Turnpike Authority Division. “This is just part of the process. The purpose of these public hearings is to get public comment.”

A majority of the comments criticized the corridor, which, if approved, would parallel Interstate 35 and extend from Oklahoma to Mexico, with possible connections to the Gulf Coast, according to the Web site

“While we are not inherently opposed to road projects or even toll projects, where toll projects are voted on by communities, there has not been any input from the regional planning organizations,” said Linda Stall of “This toll road will never be paid for. It's not like the Dallas turnpike, which was paid for and made a free road. This is a profit-making venture and I believe if we are going to build roads in Texas, we should build them ourselves.”

Another strong opinion opposing the corridor, which is proposed by the Texas Department of Transportation, is the possibility of land being taken away.

“In order to build the Trans Texas Corridor, the state will take more than a half a million acres of land from private land owners,” a Wood County resident said. “This should be considered a treasonous act. The corridor will also damage the tax base of the counties it passes through. Communities [also] will be separated and farms will be destroyed.”

Other concerns about the corridor involved air pollution increasing due to more cars being on the highway, noise, how the project will damage the environment and how rural areas should remain that way.

Some questions asked - in objection to the corridor - were, is the routing being impacted by big city politics; whose private pockets are being lined with the project and will this project just become wide-open space?

“My husband and I own 52 acres and if this goes through, we will lose all of our property we purchased back in 1995 and we thought we would leave this land to our sons and grandchildren one day,” Darlene Ray said. “I don't feel that any person who has put this dreadful plan together stands to lose anything. I want you to know that I will fight you every step of the way on this.”

According to, the purpose of TTC-35 is to improve international, interstate and intrastate movement of goods and people.

It's also designed to address the anticipated transportation needs of Texas from the Texas/Oklahoma state line to the Texas/Mexico border and or Texas Gulf Coast along the I-35 corridor for the next 20 to 50 years and sustain and enhance the economic vitality of the state of Texas.

Overall, says, as envisioned, the corridor may include separate lanes for passenger vehicles and large trucks, freight railways and high-speed commuter railways.

The corridor also would have infrastructure for utilities, including water lines, oil and gas pipelines, and transmission lines for electricity, broadband and other telecommunication services.

Plans call for TTC-35 to be built in phases over the next 50 years.
© 2006 Terrell Tribune :


“We’re the smallest county in Texas... It’s too big for Rockwall County."

Rockwall County residents voice opposition to TTC-35 project

July 21, 2006

By BRIAN PORTER, Managing Editor
McKinney Courier-Gazette
Copyright 2006

MESQUITE -- An assemblage of mostly Rockwall County residents voiced their opposition Tuesday to the Trans-Texas Corridor Interstate-35 (TTC-35) proposal during a public hearing with the Texas Department of Transportation at Mesquite’s Poteet High School.

The TTC-35 proposal is intended to meet the state’s future transportation needs, as it will complement the existing north-south highway system by providing an alternative route to I-35.

A TxDOT study determined that about 45 percent of 21 million Texans live within 50 miles of I-35, or within the study area of the project. Traffic volumes for most segments of I-35 exceed design capacity, the study indicates. The study adds that commercial truck traffic is projected to increase by 403 percent from 1998 to 2060.

From Laredo to San Antonio, the recommended preferred corridor alternative (RCA No. 5) follows I-35. The RCA No. 5 is then offset to the east on a parallel with I-35 from San Antonio to Dallas and ends at Gainesville.

About 600 miles in length, the project could separate commercial truck traffic from occupancy vehicle traffic.

The public hearing Tuesday was one of 54 taking place within the study area between July 10 and Aug. 10. Rockwall County residents were most concerned, as the RCA No. 5 begins an eastern turn just south of Waxahachie and proceeds through Ennis and continues in a northeastern direction through Rockwall County before turning back west just north of McKinney.

Thom Bouis, a candidate for Rockwall County Judge, and Linda Stall, a leader of a citizen’s group titled Corridor Watch which is opposed to the TTC-35 proposal, were among 17 speakers all in opposition to the project. About 200 people attended the public hearing.

“We’re the smallest county in Texas,” Bouis said. “Therefore, this will have the highest impact on us. It would be a fundamentally changing fact of life. It’s too big for Rockwall County. The folks in Rockwall County have not been given a hearing.”

Robert Barton, a landowner in Rockwall County, also voiced his opposition to the project and requested a public meeting in Rockwall County.

Stall indicated that her objections are more far-reaching than just the opposition to the project’s course through Rockwall County.

“I have a litany of objections,” Stall said. “I’m not opposed to building roads where necessary and charging tolls where approved by the community.”

Rockwall County residents in opposition to RCA No. 5 were in support of RCA Nos. 1 to 4, which would take the project west outside of Fort Worth.

The TTC-35 project would be 1,200 feet wide if roads, rail and a utility corridor are located adjacent to each other. The project would be constructed over the next 50 years in projects prioritized by need.

The goal of the Tier 1 study is to narrow the study area from a 50 to 60 mile area to a 10-mile area. The RCA No. 5 was selected as the preferred option as it included 195 miles of existing highway and 214 miles of existing rail.

The RCA No. 5 would cross the southeastern edge of Dallas County and would exit the county before reaching Balch Springs. Then it turns east outside of Sunnyvale and Rowlett to cut through Rockwall County. The current I-35E dissects downtown Dallas, as does I-35W in Fort Worth. The RCA No. 5 would continue to Gainesville, where the current I-35E and I-35W merge in Denton.

Project information is available at Corridor Watch, the organization opposing the project, has information available at

© 2006 Star Community Newspapers:


"If we just instilled some discipline in our state budget, we wouldn't need a lot of these toll roads."

Bexar politicians say toll roads shouldn't be the only option


Jaime Castillo
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2006

They seem like odd questions in a so-called red state, but has Lyle Larson become the rare fiscal conservative in the Republican Party? Or is state Sen. Jeff Wentworth the uncommon Republican willing to buck the party line?

The state's GOP leadership, from Gov. Rick Perry to Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Ric Williamson, is convinced that building toll roads is the only way to meet Texas' highway needs of the future.

Larson, the Bexar County commissioner who has refused two pay increases since joining Commissioners Court in 1997, has a different idea: return to that seemingly forgotten Republican principle of reining in spending.

As he sees it, the state Legislature has created a self-fulfilling highway crisis by continually robbing the state highway fund for purposes other than road construction and maintenance.

From fiscal year 1986 to 2005, nearly $8.7 billion, or $10.6 billion in 2004 dollars, of the fund was spent on non-highway items, including state historical and arts commissions, parking lots and roads at state prisons and the Department of Public Safety.

Compare that to the projected $8 billion shortfall over the next 25 years for new highway lanes and bus service in San Antonio, and Larson can't help but wonder: "If we just instilled some discipline in our state budget, we wouldn't need a lot of these toll roads."

Is this the oversimplified view of a local official who doesn't walk the halls of the state Capitol? Or is there some truth to his analysis?

Both, said Wentworth, who was a county commissioner in the 1980s.

"The charge is made that we began allowing funds to be siphoned off from the highway fund," he said. "It's absolutely true."

But Wentworth, whose six-county district includes the northern Bexar County area slated for toll projects along Loop 1604 and U.S. 281, said politics has reduced the available solutions for lawmakers.

Earlier this year, the senator's office received 16,000 responses to a highway funding survey.

Seventy-seven percent said they don't want gas taxes raised up to 50 cents a gallon, and 54 percent said they don't want to use toll roads to fund more highway construction.

"The message is: 'I'm a Texan, and I'm entitled to the best roads, the best schools, the safest streets and the best parks,'" Wentworth said. "And then they say, 'Oh, and while I've got you on the phone, senator, I don't want you to raise any taxes.'"

Wentworth said it doesn't help that state leaders like Perry won't even consider options other than toll roads, like raising the gas tax, which has been stuck at 20 cents since 1991.

"I think he's been co-opted by the drum beat of no new taxes," Wentworth said of the governor. "Unfortunately, there's some people in my party who think that's the only requisite to being a Republican."

Perry spokeswoman Kathy Walt said the governor remains firmly against increasing the gas tax, particularly as prices approach $3 a gallon at the pump. And a more frugal approach to the state's highway fund is welcomed but won't address all of the state's needs.

Maybe. But it sure would be easier to swallow if it at least looked like state leaders hadn't unilaterally decided that toll roads are the only option.

To contact Jaime Castillo, call (210) 250-3174 or e-mail

© 2006 San Antonio Express-News:


Editorial: "Many Texans rely on 'information' from blathering nincompoops."

Trans-Texas confusion

Jul. 21, 2006

By Jack Z. Smith
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2006

It's officially called the Trans-Texas Corridor, or TTC.

But "Trans-Texas Catastrophe" is the name that state Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, the motor-mouthed independent candidate for governor, has given the massive statewide toll road network that could be 50 years in the making and cost $184 billion.

"Trans-Texas Confusion" would be a more apt moniker, based on the level of understanding that the general public seems to have about the huge, amorphous project that is, among other things, designed to alleviate congestion on the increasingly bumper-to-bumper and reliably unpleasant Interstate 35.

Public befuddlement over the TTC was evident in Fort Worth on Monday night, when the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) held one of 54 hearings to help determine the route for a primary leg of the TTC-35 system, the corridor segment that will take traffic off I-35 from the southern Oklahoma border to Laredo.

The public confusion is unsurprising, particularly given that many Texans rely on "information" from blathering nincompoops on radio talk shows and blogging conspiracy theorists. The TTC is being tagged as a "land grab" that strips Texans of their property rights and as a cog in a shadowy plan to create a new trade corridor that would run from Mexico to Canada and presumably foster more illegal immigration.

Yes, the TTC (like any massive transportation project) would take a sizable amount of property -- but owners would, by law, have to be fairly compensated. And, yes, the TTC naturally would improve the traffic and trade flow in the Mexico-U.S.-Canada corridor (just as I-35 did when it opened), but illegal immigration should be dealt with separately through reform legislation.

Conspiracy theories aside, it's still understandable why there is widespread confusion about the TTC.

It's in its early stages, so much remains undecided. It's a bigger and more complex undertaking than any road project in Texas history, with the corridor expected to be up to 1,200 feet wide with separate lanes for multiple transportation modes (passenger vehicles, large trucks, freight rail, commuter rail, high-speed rail and conduits for water, oil and natural gas transmission). And the proposed financing, with private investment and tolls, is a sharp break from traditional Texas highway funding.

Complex issues surround TTC routing in metropolitan areas. Local elected officials and transportation experts in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are united against a preliminary TxDOT proposal to swing a primary leg of TTC-35 around eastern Dallas County, thus snubbing the Metroplex's western half.

Local leaders instead favor a far superior proposal to have TTC-35 run up the Metroplex's middle via an extended Texas 360 and on to D/FW Airport. They also favor constructing an east-west corridor that would straddle the southern edge of the Metroplex and then loop northward around Fort Worth and Dallas. The loop's modes might range from passenger cars to freight trains.

It's vital that Metroplex leaders such as Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief and Tarrant County Commissioner Glen Whitley continue touting the regionally favored alternative, as they and others from Fort Worth, Arlington, North Richland Hills and Haltom City effectively did Monday night.

I have some serious concerns about the TTC, including the possibility of Texas' becoming overly reliant on high-priced toll roads. The Legislature should raise the state gasoline tax significantly to provide badly needed new funding for non-toll roads.

I'm also concerned that the TTC, if not designed and routed properly, could hurt the economy of older central-city areas in communities such as Fort Worth and Dallas and needlessly trigger harmful leapfrog development and urban sprawl.

But the TTC could be enormously successful if it relieves traffic congestion and reduces traffic fatalities and if its concept of multi-modal corridors proves to be a hit.

Gov. Rick Perry, the Texas Transportation Commission (headed by Ric Williamson of Weatherford), top TxDOT staffers and the Legislature deserve credit for having the courage to try a bold new approach to solving Texas' transportation headaches. But there could be many years of continued "Trans-Texas Confusion" before we know whether the TTC is a winner.

Trans-Texas Corridor,
Jack Z. Smith is a Star-Telegram editorial writer. 817-390-7724

© 2006 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:


“This is not progress. It’s prostitution of our great state.”

Bosque County Says ‘NO!’ To Corridor

July 21 , 2006

By David Anderson, Associate Editor
The Clifton Record
Copyright 2006

CLIFTON — An estimated 400-plus packed the Clifton High School cafetorium Wednesday evening to issue a resounding “no thanks” to the Trans-Texas Corridor 35 running through Bosque County. An open house and public hearing hosted by the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Transportation Commission ran into unanimous opposition locally, and citizens almost as strongly opposed the entire project statewide.

TxDOT Turnpike Division Project Manager Jack Heiss served as the evening’s moderator, and presented an overview of the project. However, the citizens who testified at the hearing seemed to already be well-educated on the subject.

Bosque County Judge Cole Word opened the public testimony by reading a resolution passed last year by Bosque County Commissioners’ Court. Word emphasized the court still opposes the project, whether it comes through the county or not.

Verlie Edwards, chief of staff for District 58 State Rep. Rob Orr, spoke for the legislator, urging TxDOT to “listen closely, and slow down the process so all options are explored.” From there, the elected officials gave way to speakers from the general public, who one by one pled for the project’s elimination.

“No one has been able to give me a list of benefits of the corridor to Bosque County. I don’t believe it exists,” John Faubion said to applause from the crowd.

John Campbell asked anyone in the crowd of over 400 who supports the project to identify themselves, if they weren’t too afraid to.

No one stood, to laughter from the crowd.

As to the alternative route that could slice Bosque County in half, many pointed to the effects it would have on the landscape.

“Our rolling wooded hills, valleys, the abundant wildlife, the fertile soils. The attractions that brought the settlers here in 1854 remain the very essence of the county today,” Walt Lewis said.

“We’re known as the Top of the Hill Country,” Morgan Mayor Pro-Tem Keith Vandiver said. “Bringing the corridor through here would mean blasting the tops of many of our mesas. We don’t want to become known as the Flat-Top of the Hill Country.”

Jamie Finstad wanted to know what the state believes is “just compensation” for taking land and memories that has been in his family for 150 years.

“I wonder where all the wildlife that’s being displaced will go, and I wonder why we’re all in such a hurry,” Finstad continued.

“If we give it up (the land) now, it’s gone forever, and they’ll just want more later on,” Carl Aspen said.

“We haven’t adjusted yet to the second stop light in our county,” Judge Word jokingly remarked. “We’re not for one inch of the Trans-Texas Corridor in Bosque County. If we wanted to live in the Metroplex, we’d move there. We don’t want the Metroplex brought here.”

Several spoke to the corruption they believe underlies the Trans-Texas Corridor, and the lack of legislative action to end the project.

“Do you believe in communism or dictatorships? That’s what we appear to be headed for,” Sam Wells told the panel receiving the comments. “I hope TxDOT feels like General Custer, because the public is like Sitting Bull’s tribe, and we’ll do what we need to stop this. We won’t stand for somebody taking our land.”

“I’m appalled the state legislature has not stopped this. Our legislators have yet again turned a blind eye to the needs of this district,” said former Clifton Mayor W. Leon Smith.

“It gives me heartburn to think we’ll build a toll road and send the money to a company in Spain,” said David Pieper, adding that the state is diverting billions of dollars that should be earmarked for transportation improvements to other uses.

“This is not progress,” said Martha West. “It’s prostitution of our great state, and with filthy money.”

Aspen, who said he spoke with a TxDOT official before the public hearing, was not surprised at a comment he received.

“He told me, ‘We don’t want to hear, “Not in my back yard.”’

“Of course, he also told me the corridor won’t affect him where he lives,” Aspen added.

Many testifying suggested that, if the infrastructure is built, the name should be changed. Suggestions ranged from “The Corridor of Regret,” to the “Trans-Texas Horror-Door,” to “Ben Dover.”

Other concerns centered on the facilities being outdated before they are finished, especially considering quantum leaps in technology from year to year.

“It’s like trying to build a better manual typewriter,” Smith told the commission.

While many of those who spoke addressed generations of families that have lived in the county who will lose land should the corridor be brought through, others told of being proud transplants to the county, including Ron Harmon, Les Bowers, and David Anderson.

One by one, most of those testifying put the onus on the state’s legislators. Many said it was past time to send them comments. Most said it was time to send them home by voting them out in the next election.

“House Bill 3588 passed, effectively, unanimously, so they all need to go,” said Linda Curtis, founder of Independent Texans. “We need to get organized, and tell them where to put this corridor.”

Harmon agreed, saying Texas needs to get rid of any politician who supports or does not specifically oppose the TTC.

TxDOT’s officials remained after the public hearing to answer questions, but most of the crowd began filing out of the cafetorium as the public testimonies came to end, apparently having heard enough.

© Copyright 2006 The Clifton Record:


CorridorWatch debunks TxDOT's 'Myth Versus Reality' Press Release

TxDOT’s "Myth Versus Reality" Press Release Misses the Mark

July 2006

Copyright 2006

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) recently issued a press release titled, "Myth Versus Reality." A more accurate title might have been, "Myth Versus PR Response." What’s missing in large measure is the Reality. Media outlets that receive this press release should do some fact checking before presenting it to the public without qualification.

Granted it is difficult to address every issue in black and white terms. However, TxDOT has a vested interest in making every pig’s ear of the TTC a silk purse. At our goal is education and to call a pig’s ear a pig’s ear. We try our best to be objective and sometimes you might find a very nice pig’s ear, if you like that sort of thing. takes this opportunity to share the list of eighteen ‘Myths’ provided by TxDOT (source or sources unknown), the TxDOT Response, and add to that a touch of Reality provided by The Myth and Response portions reprinted below are verbatim from the TxDOT press release and appear in the same order.

Mysterious Myth Number 1

TxDOT’s Myth: TTC-35 will be 10 miles wide.

TxDOT’s Response: No. If federally approved, the study area would be 10 miles wide. Then, additional studies would be conducted within the 10-mile wide study area to identify a final route. If roads, rail and a utility corridor are located adjacent to each other, TTC-35 would be no more than 1,200 feet wide. Also, where existing roads and railways can be incorporated, the amount of right of way needed would be less.

CorridorWatch: No. 1,200 feet is wide enough. In fact it is more than 400 feet wider than necessary to accommodate all four truck lanes, six vehicle lanes, six rail lines, the 200-foot utility right-of-way, and all required drainage, highway shoulders, barriers and safety buffers. It is unlikely that the already oversized corridor will exceed 1,200 feet in width except at interchanges and in areas where cut-and-fill construction is required.

Mysterious Myth Number 2

TxDOT’s Myth: TxDOT already knows the location of the project and will direct Cintra Zachry where to build it.

TxDOT’s Response: No. The location of TTC-35 is not yet known. Like all transportation projects, TTC-35 must go through a federally-required environmental study to identify a route. Property cannot be purchased and construction cannot begin unless TTC-35 has been environmentally approved by the Federal Highway Administration.

CorridorWatch: Maybe and No. Cintra Zachry has submitted a proposal to build more than 300 miles of TTC-35 facilities and in doing so they calculated a cost associated with that work. Does anyone really suspect that Cintra Zachry did that without looking at a map and determining, even if in relatively general terms, the location of that road? There are physical constraints created by topography and design criteria for roads and rail that dictate the most suitable and economic routes. Those are engineering and economic driven design decisions. Potential environmental impact is also reduced to an economic decision; the cost of avoidance versus the cost of mitigation. Unfortunately, every indication is that TxDOT will not direct Cintra Zachry where to build it.

Mysterious Myth Number 3

TxDOT’s Myth: By taking thousands of acres off the tax rolls, the corridor will remove thousands of dollars and cripple local governments' ability to provide services.

TxDOT’s Response: No. Businesses generate more in tax revenue for local communities and school districts than undeveloped. As with any transportation project, business development will occur near the corridor bringing increased tax revenue for local services.

CorridorWatch: Yes and Maybe. No recognized study that we are aware of has attempted to assess the economic impact that the TTC will have on local communities and school districts. What is certain is that thousands upon thousands of acres of taxable land will be removed from the tax rolls of counties, school districts, rural hospital districts, and utility districts. That action alone will result in a direct and immediate loss of local revenue. It is impossible with any certainty for TxDOT to assert that local governments will not be severely affected, if not indeed crippled. There are however numerous examples of communities across Texas that have suffered significant economic losses as the result of highway relocations and bypasses. No road project anywhere in the world has ever taken 146 acres of land for each lane-mile as the TTC promises to do across thousands of miles of Texas. TxDOT is asking local government to take an extremely long shot bet that property tax losses today and forever will be somehow offset by potential revenues produced by yet unknown and uncertain business developments at least five years into the future if and when the road is completed and accessible to the local community. Who pays the bills until then?

Mysterious Myth Number 4

TxDOT’s Myth: TTC-35 will make it impossible for small communities to exist due to access issues.

TxDOT’s Response: No. According to state law, there must be a direct connection to the TTC with interstate, state, and US highways. Connections to farm-to-market, county and local roads will also be considered as design plans are developed.

CorridorWatch: Maybe. The original plan suggested connections to interstate and US highways, but only 60% of the state highways. In 2005 legislation was adopted adding that the TTC will connect with all state highways. If a small community is not presently served by one of these highways it may find that it has serious access issues. Other ‘considered’ connections will be based on criteria that small communities may never achieve.

Mysterious Myth Number 5

TxDOT’s Myth: TTC-35 will wipe out entire towns and communities.

TxDOT’s Response: No. TTC-35 will go around populated areas. In fact, the potential impact to communities is one of the environmental factors considered in the study. In addition, to encourage economic development along TTC-35, there will be connections from TTC-35 to communities along the corridor.

CorridorWatch: Maybe. Going around populated areas is exactly how you remove the economic benefits of a highway. With the traffic go business opportunities, tourism, and access to local revenue generators. Motorists on a toll road with a full range of traveler services will pass thousands of Texas communities, large and small. Entire towns and communities have been wiped out as a direct result of moving a railroad or moving a highway. Chances are pretty good that there are entire towns or communities that will be wiped out by the TTC.


Mysterious Myth Number 6

TxDOT’s Myth: Counties will have to pay to build crossings over the corridor and residents will have to pay to cross.

TxDOT’s Response: No. Interchanges and overpasses will be constructed as part of the TTC-35. Counties will not have to pay for these connections nor will motorists be charged to cross TTC-35.

CorridorWatch: Maybe. TxDOT has never said that all roads interrupted by the TTC will be provided with a crossing. In fact TxDOT has the authority to decide which roads will and will not be provided with a crossing. Who will pay for those crossings? The concessionaire is building the TTC because they can collect a toll for it’s use. What return on investment do they have on a non-toll 2-lane county road crossing that TxDOT estimates to cost $2,661,750 to construct? If your county wants that crossing it may have to pay to build it. Maybe your Regional Mobility Authority (RMA), an entity comprised one or more counties will foot the bill. With TxDOT aggressively pushing tolls across the state it’s not difficult to imagine paying a toll to cross their quarter-mile wide corridor. We seriously doubt the TxDOT employee who wrote this response has the ability to guarantee Texans that they’ll never pay a toll to cross the TTC.

Mysterious Myth Number 7

TxDOT’s Myth: All land will be acquired under eminent domain at pennies on the dollar.

TxDOT’s Response: No. Any land needed will be purchased and property owners will be paid fair market value. There will be an independent appraisal, an offer, and opportunity for negotiation. If the property owner is still not satisfied with the TxDOT offer, he has the same due process rights of a jury trial through the judicial system.

CorridorWatch: No. Property owners will get more than pennies on the dollar. Some may get full market value or even more. But for sure everyone will get the absolute minimum that TxDOT can get away with paying. This is a very complex legal process and every land owner should have the advice of an attorney before accepting any offer.

Mysterious Myth Number 8

TxDOT’s Myth: TxDOT has the authority to condemn property for private use and operate commercial facilities associated with the Trans-Texas Corridor.

TxDOT’s Response: No. TxDOT can only acquire property for transportation purposes. If customer service facilities are needed, such as gas stations or convenient stores, TxDOT may acquire the land but the private sector will provide those services. In other words, any competition will be among private businesses and the landowner retains development rights. According to state law, Cintra Zachry, nor any other developer of TTC projects, will be allowed to operate these facilities.

CorridorWatch: Yes. The TTC was specifically excluded from the recently adopted law that otherwise prohibits the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes. TxDOT can and will use eminent domain to acquire property for the TTC which will be operated as a commercial for-profit enterprise. The concessionaires are private businesses that will use the TTC to generate a profit. It appears from the limited information made available to the public that Cintra Zachry will have a monopoly on at least the toll road portion of the TTC. Providers of service facilities located within the TTC must negotiate with a single entity. The result is monopoly that will drive provider location costs well above the real market value. This is not unlike other turnpikes, airports or sports stadiums. The result is also equally common, highest bidder gets the location and the consumer with limited options pays a premium for goods and services. When was the last time you went to the ballpark for dinner?

Mysterious Myth Number 9

TxDOT’s Myth: TxDOT will transfer its eminent domain authority to a private entity hired to develop the corridor.

TxDOT’s Response: No. TxDOT cannot delegate the power of eminent domain to a private or third party. A developer for the TTC will not be condemning land.

CorridorWatch: Technically No. But does it really make any difference? Remember that it is the concessionaire who has decided which segment of the TTC system they want to build and operate. They are the ones doing the design work and construction and they will have tremendous say in both general and specific terms where the corridor will be located. If necessary, TxDOT will use their power of eminent domain to condemn land for the TTC whether they identified the parcel or the concessionaire did.

Mysterious Myth Number 10

TxDOT’s Myth: All land will be owned by the Spanish government.

TxDOT’s Response: No. TTC-35 is a state-owned project and any land purchased or transportation improvements built will be done in the name of the state. All property acquired will be the property of the State of Texas. Should Cintra Zachry or another private group develop any portion of TTC-35, their role will be to finance, design, build, maintain, operate and collect a portion of tolls for a period of time.

CorridorWatch: No. All land acquired will be the property of the State of Texas. TxDOT concessionaires will however be granted yet unknown rights and powers to control the use of, and operations on, that land for fifty or more years. For practical purposes the care, custody and control exercised by the concessionaire may be virtually the same as if they owned the land themselves.

Mysterious Myth Number 11

TxDOT’s Myth: TTC-35 will open up the borders to Mexico and allow unlimited access for Mexican immigrants.

TxDOT’s Response: No. International crossings will not be built as part of the TTC-35 but will connect to existing border crossings. These international crossings are subject to state and federal laws.

CorridorWatch: No. The TTC itself is not anticipated to facilitate increased illegal immigration.

Mysterious Myth Number 12

TxDOT’s Myth: Tolls on TTC will be set at whatever Cintra Zachry wants.

TxDOT’s Response: No. TxDOT will establish toll rate methodology for how toll rates will be set. Tolls will be set at a price that the market will bear. If it is too expensive, motorists will not use the road.

CorridorWatch: Yes. TxDOT will establish "how toll rates will be set," but it is still the concessionaire who will determine toll rates. In 2005 language was added to the law allowing TxDOT to establish a toll rate methodology. While TxDOT dictates the method used to calculate the toll, they will have a limited ability to regulate tolls, fees, fares or other usage charges. TxDOT’s response itself tells the reader that the only limit they anticipate is the "price that the market will bear" and that, "if it is too expensive, motorists will not use the road." Nothing in that response indicates that TxDOT will exercise authority to control excessive toll charges.

Mysterious Myth Number 13

TxDOT’s Myth: Traffic is not bad and can be handled by upgrading existing facilities.

TxDOT’s Response: No. Planned improvements to I-35 will continue but are not expected to substantially reduce the congestion levels that are predicted for 2025 and beyond. Some studies indicate that I-35 would need to be expanded to 16 lanes in metro areas and 12 lanes through Central Texas.

CorridorWatch: No. Of course we have serious traffic congestion problems. Experts agree that you can’t build your way out of congestion. Added lanes mean added capacity and soon those lanes are filled by more and more vehicles. Other alternatives need further examination and yes more roads and highways are required for today and the future.

Mysterious Myth Number 14

TxDOT’s Myth: The Cintra Zachry contract is a big secret and no details have been made available to the public.

TxDOT’s Response: No. The contract is a public document and is available online at Just as no business owner wants to share his financial investments with his competitors, potential TTC developers do not want to share theirs. Texas needs an even playing field among competitors so that it can attract private sector capital to build needed transportation improvements. For these reasons, proprietary information on Cintra Zachry should not be released.

CorridorWatch: Yes and No. The contract is a public document. The Texas Attorney General has ruled that the entire contract is a public document. Yet approximately half of that document (about 200 pages) is still not available to the public and is not online anywhere. Arguably the most important parts of the contract are "a big secret." The missing information includes the TTC-35 design and financial details. As a result Texans don’t know what they are buying or what they are paying for it. This is a public project and the public has the right to know all of the details that will impact their lives and that of several future generations. The public interest should always be put above that of a private business. Unlike national security, state transportation matters should not be shrouded in secrecy.


Mysterious Myth Number 15

TxDOT’s Myth: TTC will pave over cemeteries and destroy historic properties.

TxDOT’s Response: TxDOT's goal is to avoid cemeteries and historic properties. TxDOT works with local, state and federal agencies to identify these areas so that any impacts are minimized. It is during route-specific studies (Tier Two) that actions to avoid or minimize potential impacts will be developed.

CorridorWatch: Maybe. TxDOT has a good and honorable record of accomplishment in avoiding cemeteries and historic properties. Sometimes however it is unavoidable. But never before has TxDOT worked under the pressure of a private partner who will define the route in terms of lowest cost and highest profit. Take note that this isn’t one of the myth ‘Responses’ that starts with an unequivocal "No."

Mysterious Myth Number 16

TxDOT’s Myth: Large tracts of land will be taken only to wait decades for the corridor to be built.

TxDOT’s Response: If property is not immediately necessary for the transportation project, the department will strongly consider purchasing options and offer lease-backs to allow the property owner to continue occupying the land.

CorridorWatch: Yes. Unless TxDOT builds all elements of the TTC immediately there will absolutely be large tracts of land waiting decades for some speculative transportation use. Before TxDOT can "strongly consider" leasing-back land and becoming a government landlord, the property will have been taken away from the private owner. Those tracts taken for state land speculation may be 600 feet wide and hundreds of miles long, totaling thousands of acres. If this is a valid and acceptable concept then why not abolish all private land ownership and let the state lease our property back to us until they decide it is necessary for some other government project?


Mysterious Myth Number 17

TxDOT’s Myth: If a developer is unable to make payments to its lien holders, the road would be shut down and the state would have to bail out the developer.

TxDOT’s Response: No. TTC-35 is a state-owned project and would remain open regardless of a developer's ability to make payments to the bondholders. All financial obligations are between the developer and the bondholders. By law, the state cannot be held responsible for a private developer's financial obligations.

CorridorWatch: No. Of course there are all kinds of complications that would arise in the unlikely event of financial a failure. There are already examples of failures occurring during the construction phase of highways in Texas that caused substantial project delays.


Mysterious Myth Number 18

TxDOT’s Myth: TxDOT has the authority to pump groundwater and strip the minerals beneath the surface.

TxDOT’s Response: No. State law prohibits TxDOT from extracting groundwater for commercial purposes. TxDOT does not acquire the mineral rights and has no authority to drill for minerals on state-owned land.

CorridorWatch: No. But until the legislature took that ability away in 2005 TxDOT and their concessionaires could have extracted groundwater from the TTC without any limit or regulation. While TxDOT does not take subsurface mineral rights they could effectively block your ability to access those minerals. Another time when you need to consult an experienced attorney.

© 2006 CorridorWatch

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Public Opinion: TTC-35 is DOA in Navarro County

‘Bunch of baloney’

Trans-Texas Corridor not popular here

July 21, 2006

By Bob Belcher
Corsicana Daily Sun
Copyright 2006

If public opinion means anything, a Justice of the Peace would have pronounced the Trans-Texas Corridor project dead on arrival in Navarro County.

“A 184 billion dollar boondoggle” and “a bunch of baloney” were just two of the opinions shared at Thursday’s public hearing held in Corsicana.

About 200 people attended a public hearing Thursday at Drane Intermediate School’s auditorium, held by the Texas Department of Transportation as part of its requirements to get public input on the recommended route for the Trans-Texas Corridor project that would combine highway, rail and utility transportation from Mexico to Oklahoma.

What officials presented as the “preferred corridor” cuts a path across the western part of Navarro County, then runs north through Ellis County, looping east around Dallas and terminating near the Oklahoma border near Gainesville.

While some of those who spoke out against the project Thursday were not from Navarro County, everyone who did speak out was opposed to construction of the highway project, which could be as much as a quarter-mile wide and disrupt existing roads, farms and homesteads.

Proponents of the corridor say that even expanding existing roadways won’t accommodate the increase in highway and rail traffic that Texas is expected to see over the next 50 years, necessitating the construction of the super highway. The project calls for separate highways for passenger cars and trucks, rail lines for both freight and passenger service, and a right-of-way for utility use, which could include pipelines, electric transmission lines and communications.

Those opposed to the Trans-Texas Corridor at Thursday’s public hearing spoke out against what they called “back room politics” and economic impact on the agricultural landscape of western Navarro County.

“This project offers no economic development opportunities for us,” Navarro County commissioner John Paul Ross said. “The commissioner’s court voted to oppose this project in 2005 and we are still opposed to it.”

“The corridor would stop economic development,” added Navarro County judge Alan Bristol.

Navarro County resident Rick Saunders told TxDOT officials that the slide show they presented prior to the public comment was lacking in several areas.

“What it failed to show us were the families and businesses that will be displaced by the project, or the homesteads that have been in some families for a hundred years,” Saunders said.

“It will affect a lot of families and farmers,” Carlos Gonzalez of Corsicana said. “Some of these people, farming is all that they know.”

Many of the comments about the proposed corridor were directed toward a Spanish company, Cintra Zachry, and its involvement in the development of the corridor project. Cintra Zachry is partnering with TxDOT for the initial design, construction and financing of the Trans-Texas Corridor. TxDOT maintains that there will be no foreign ownership of land or improvements, saying that the company’s role will be to “finance, design, build, maintain, operate and collect a portion of tolls for a period of time,” according to information provided at the hearing.

“Who thinks that a Spanish company is going to come here to make a donation?” local attorney Glenn Sodd asked. “This is all a bunch of baloney. When you put that sign up with that blue line on it, you just lowered the value of property,” Sodd said of the map displayed with the proposed corridor shown in blue.

The Corsicana public hearing was one of 54 being held across the state. Public comments on the proposed corridor project can be filed through Aug. 21. The proposal then goes to the Federal Highway Administration for their review.

Should the project gain federal approval, environmental studies on a final, detailed route for the highway will begin, possibly as soon as late 2006, according to TxDOT officials.


Bob Belcher may be contacted via e-mail at

© 2006 Corsicana Daily Sun:


Thursday, July 20, 2006

“This will pave over my ancestors' legacy.”

Area residents critical of TTC plan

Jul 20, 2006

Jeff Blackmon
Editor & Publisher
The Cameron Herald
Copyright 2006

It could be a long road trip for Texas Department of Transportation officials presenting plans to Texans about the Trans Texas Corridor toll project.

The TTC-35 promotional tour hit Cameron Tuesday night, with nearly 150 attending. Around 20 speakers spoke in the meeting, going on public record, and all but one of those speakers were not in favor of the ambitious project that could cut through thousands of acres of blackland farms.

“It's a bad idea,” Cynthia Miller, one of those speakers, said in the public hearing. “It will bury and destroy acres and acres of farmland.

“I'd like for us to look to the future and consider other options.”

The presentation before the hearing detailed the TTC-35 project, and how it would be constructed over a 50-year period of time. The project includes plenty of lanes for truck traffic and could even include a light rail system. There are also 13 alternate options to the project, including one option where the project would not be built. The project is billed as helping cut down on traffic fatalities and as a solution to thinning congested traffic on I-35.

Option 5 is the route TxDOT is recommending be taken for the toll road, which just misses Milam County but does go through Falls, Bastrop, Caldwell, McLennan and Bell counties.

TxDOT also detailed its Design Environmental Impact Study (DEIS) which has yet to be finalized. That could happen after all the public hearings held regarding TTC-35.

Concerned citizens also criticized the project's use of Cintra Zachry, a corporation out of Spain to build the project. Others voiced concern over losing valuable family land passed down from generation to generation.

“This will pave over my ancestors' legacy,” Cameron resident Emily Stanislaw said.

Others said they were concerned that EMS vehicles couldn't reach wrecks or fires in time once the corridor is built since exit ramps won't be available at every nearby town.

“It's a quandry for EMS workers,” Coleman Berry said.

Other statements were given concerning the environmental impact and ecosystem that will be trampled along with taking money away from small towns since the tollway will have its own gas stations and eateries and could prevent drivers from stopping in small towns.

The meeting was attended by plenty of area political figures including State Representative Dan Gattis, Pat Berryman with State Senator Steve Ogden's office as well as Democratic candidates Jim Stauber, Fred Head, Mary Beth Harrell and Diane Henson.

Copyright © 2006 The Cameron Herald :


"Governor Perry started it with a pen. Another governor with a different pen could stop it."

Texas farmers furious over superhighway

July 20, 2006

The Associated Press
Copyright 2006

HILLSBORO, Texas — Leroy Walters has survived many a threat on the farm that has been in his family for 120 years _ droughts, hailstorms, tornadoes, grasshopper attacks.

But now he sees a manmade danger on the horizon: a colossal, 600-mile superhighway that will plow clear across the state of Texas, perhaps cutting through Walters' sorghum and corn fields, obliterating the family's houses and robbing his grandchildren of their land.

"I don't think they're going to want to pay a toll to go across this land," he said. "They want to enjoy it free, as Texans should enjoy it."

That kind of fear and anger among farmers and other landowners across the Texas countryside could become a political problem for Republican Gov. Rick Perry as he runs for re-election in November.

It was Perry who proposed the Trans Texas Corridor in 2002, envisioning a combined toll road and rail system that would whisk traffic along a megahighway stretching from the Oklahoma line to Mexico.

The Oklahoma-to-Mexico stretch would be just the first link in a 4,000-mile, $184 billion network. The corridors would be up to a quarter-mile across, consisting of as many as six lanes for cars and four for trucks, plus railroad tracks, oil and gas pipelines, water and other utility lines, and broadband cables.

The exact route for the cross-Texas corridor has not yet been drawn up, though it will probably be somewhere within a 10-mile-wide swath running parallel to Interstate 35. Whatever course it takes, it is clear many farmers and property owners will lose their land, though they will be compensated by the state. Construction could begin by 2010.

The opposition comes in several forms: Some see it as an assault on private property rights; some object to putting the project in foreign hands (it will be built and operated by a U.S.-Spanish consortium); and some see the project as an affront to open government because part of the contract with Cintra-Zachry is secret.

Of Perry's major opponents --Democrat Chris Bell and independents Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman --Strayhorn has stirred the most fury.

At campaign stops she calls the plan the "Trans Texas Catastrophe," a "$184 billion boondoggle" and a "land grab" of historic proportions. She refers to Perry's appointees on the transportation commission as "highway henchmen." She lets loose with Texas-twanged jabs at the contract with the "foreign" Cintra-Zachry.

"Texans want the Texas Department of Transportation, not the European Department of Transportation," she says, often to loud applause, whoops and hollers.

Cintra-Zachry is paying $7.2 billion to develop the first segment. For that, it will get to operate the road and collect tolls for years to come. It is part of a growing privatization trend in the United States.

A week ago, Strayhorn picked up a $6,500 campaign donation and endorsement from the Blackland Coalition, a group of anti-corridor farmers who work the rich black soil of central Texas.

Coalition chairman Chris Hammel said Texas needs a new governor who will halt the corridor project, start over and do it right. "One man started it with a pen. One person with a different pen could stop it," he said.

Perry's spokesman, Robert Black, dismissed suggestions that the toll road will hurt the governor's re-election campaign.

"The governor recognizes the concerns that rural Texans have. Remember, he's from rural Texas," Black said. "But he also believes that you have people out there who are spreading bad information."

Supporters say the corridors are needed to handle the expected NAFTA-driven boom in the flow of goods to and from Mexico and handle Texas' growing population.

Despite a state attorney general's ruling that the Cintra-Zachry contract be made public, the Perry administration has gone to court to prevent the disclosure of what is says is proprietary information.

"We don't know for sure whether this is a concept that we can endorse or not because we have not seen it," complained Mayor Will Lowrance of Hillsboro, a town of 8,200 people 55 miles south of Dallas. "I happen to still believe in the open records law in Texas."

Hill County Judge Kenneth Davis, who like Lowrance is a conservative Democrat supporting Strayhorn, agreed with Lowrance and added: "If we're going to build a highway in Texas, let's build it with Texas money, not a foreign company's money."

Both local leaders dislike the rural location under consideration for the corridor route because it bypasses Hillsboro.


On the Net:

Trans Texas Corridor:

Blackland Coalition:

© 2006 The Associated Press:


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

"I've never heard of a North American Union."

Notes from Conspiracy HQ


By Bud Kennedy
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2006

Some words just don't go together. For example, county commissioner and global conspiracy.
If I heard that some dirty commies were plotting to overthrow our government, the first place I'd check would not be under the Tarrant County Courthouse dome. Most of our county officials would be lucky to overthrow a domino table.

But there on the Web is Commissioner Glen Whitley's name in black and white, on loony extremist political pages from both the right and left wings, blaming him for promoting a Texas tollway that is portrayed as part of a sinister plot to merge Canada, Mexico and the United States into a "North American Union."

Now, Whitley is not exactly your rebel-leader type. He's a Hurst Republican and an accountant. Because he does not have a Democratic opponent on the November ballot, Whitley is the Tarrant County judge-in-waiting to succeed Tom Vandergriff in the courthouse's highest office.
Because he doesn't have to campaign, Whitley took the time this month to go on a 10-day vacation to England and Scotland.

He left America with a Methodist church choir. He came home to hear Dallas talk-radio donkeys describing a new, wider version of Interstate 35 as a "secret plot."

"I've never seen anything like this," Whitley said Tuesday over lunch among the workaday crowd in a Watauga gas station-cafe.

"We're trying to figure how to keep traffic moving, keep the economy growing and keep Texas' quality of life," he said. "I don't know how people can turn that into a plot to tear down the border."

Whitley supports the Trans Texas Corridor, a proposed tollway from Laredo to Gainesville, both as a county official and as a board member of a Dallas group lobbying for a north-south superhighway.

That group is called North America's SuperCorridor Coalition (NASCO). It landed in the spotlight June 21 when CNN entertainment host Lou Dobbs displayed a borderless NASCO map that shows a highway running from Mexico City to Canada.

Moving from his usual anti-immigration tirade into conspiracy-theory territory, Dobbs asked whether a U.S.-Canada-Mexico trade agreement signed last year might lead to a common currency, a North American Union and the "end of the United States as we know it."

"People should look at the maps that show the congestion on Texas highways in the next 25-30 years," Whitley said. "A lot of the congestion is trucks delivering goods from Mexico or Pacific ports.

"We as a nation have decided that we want to shop at Wal-Mart. We want the cheapest goods we can buy. Those goods are going to come from outside the U.S. and maybe through Mexico -- and to keep the economy growing, we've got to keep the I-35 corridor open."

The idea of a superhighway from Mexico doesn't threaten America, Whitley said.

The idea of a Pan American Highway for tourists and trade dates to at least 1923. Both old U.S. 81 (now Hemphill Street and Main Street) and I-35 were promoted as international trade corridors.

"We're not going to sacrifice any critical national security concerns," Whitley said. "I've never heard of a North American Union."

The free-trade flap caught Whitley by surprise. On his third day back from vacation -- he toured London, Inverness and Edinburgh with the First United Methodist Church of Hurst choir -- a woman with a plain Texas accent asked him about the Trans Texas Corridor at a forum hosted by U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, a Lewisville Republican.

She said something about the Trans Texas Corridor "tearing down the border," Whitey remembered. "I told her we're not trying to tear down any border. We're just trying to get trucks off I-35."

The fantasy of the TTC and a "secret plot" has been heavily promoted by anti-immigration Web sites, mostly in articles by a writer who is -- maybe not coincidentally -- also peddling a new book supporting the anti-immigration Minuteman Project.

But the same fantasy has now spread to fringe liberal Web sites, including one Austin-area blog devoted to Democrats. Tollway opponents are turning to anyone who'll criticize Republican Gov. Rick Perry, including not only anti-immigration groups but also anti-eminent domain, pro-organized labor and anti-free-trade groups.

On one Democratic Web site, Whitley and other corridor backers are criticized by name. One blogger writes: "This goes to the heart of what Republicans do now. Sell out the interests of the US for 'fun' and profit."

Whitley, commissioner for nine years and a former school trustee, has worked quietly for years to watch public budgets and promote better highways and mass transportation. He seemed almost stung that anyone would criticize a highway.

"I wish we could just have a open discussion without everyone trying to vilify the other side," he said.

Commissioner, welcome to the fringe political blogosphere.

It's full of wild rumors. Just like the county courthouse.

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

© 2006 Fort Worth Star-Telegram :


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"I'm very opposed to a foreign country coming in and doing this.”

Hearing draws hundreds

July 18, 2006

by Clay Coppedge
Temple Daily Telegram
Copyright 2006

MCGREGOR - The proposed Trans-Texas Corridor would take land off county rolls, provide an inviting target for terrorists and benefit a foreign country more than it would benefit Texas, according to some of the 18 people who spoke at a public hearing on the corridor at McGregor High School Monday night.

The public hearing, attended by several hundred people, was one of 54 being held across the state this summer to gather comments on the draft environmental impact study on the corridor completed in April.

The meeting was hosted by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT,) which will oversee construction and administration of the long-term, multi-billion dollar project.

But several speakers disputed the idea that TxDOT will have much to do with the project, since the Texas Transportation Commission chose Cintra, based in Madrid, Spain, to construct the 800-mile traffic and trade route from Oklahoma to Texas known as TTC-35.

“I object to a foreign country having any part of Texas,” Suzanne Lammert said.

Falls County commissioner Bernhard Neuman said he is “very opposed to a foreign country coming in and doing this.”

Neuman said the elaborate plans, which call for a 4,000-mile, 1,200-foot wide six-lane highway along with freight and passenger rails, two high-speed rail lines, a natural gas pipeline and a fiber optic and utilities zone, will provide a hardship for rural communities.

“In Falls County, we need all the tax base we have,” he said. “This would take a lot of real estate off the county rolls, as well as cutting through some of the most productive farmland in the Blacklands. It’s hard to build a road and make it stand up. It shifts.”

Presley Donaldson said that TxDOT has said it has the technology to build solid and reliable roads in the Blacklands. “My question is: Why haven’t they done it?”

© 2006 Temple Daily Telegram:


“It seems to me to be a heavy investment in a losing strategy.”

Frosty reception for proposed corridor

July 18, 2006

Herald-Banner Staff
Copyright 2006

GREENVILLE — Richard Shaw was just one of more than 250 people who attended Monday’s public hearing in Greenville regarding the Trans-Texas Corridor.

Shaw, who lives near Caddo Mills, was also among the 18 people who got up to speak during the session. And, like many of those who did offer public comments, Shaw said he was opposed to the superhighway project.

“Personally, if it comes within five miles of either direction of Caddo Mills, that’s too close,” Shaw said.

The hearing also brought out residents from Rockwall and Collin counties, as well as politicians and protesters who are staging a statewide challenge of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

Bobby Littlefield, area engineer with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Paris District, said he expected there to be opposition to the idea.

“It’s understandable, nobody wants something like this in their back yard,” Littlefield said, although he added the state’s rapidly growing population and need for transportation alternatives dictate something be done soon.

“It’s got to go somewhere,” Littlefield said. “If we’re going to build a relief route, something to relieve that Interstate 35 corridor, it has to go somewhere. We’re trying to select the path of least resistance. We’re trying to find areas where it will have the least impact on the majority of people.”

The current preferred route of the Corridor section referred to as TTC-35, stretching from Oklahoma to Mexico, passes through Caddo Mills and stretches westward across Rockwall County to Lake Lavon.

The majority of the route passes through Rockwall County, with Royse City sitting dead center.

The Trans-Texas Corridor would include separate lanes for passenger vehicles and large trucks, along with freight railways, high-speed commuter railways and infrastructure for utilities, covering a path up to 1,200 feet wide.

Most of those who did speak out Monday objected to the state’s contract with a Spanish company, Cintra, for the construction of the Corridor, or noted how the land obtained for the project would be leased back to the previous owners until such time as the highway would be built.

Others called for a statewide referendum vote on the issue, or feared the project would be a prime target for terrorists.

Mayor Tom Oliver read a letter of support on behalf of the City of Greenville for the Corridor, and encouraged state officials to find a way to provide rail connectivity to Majors Field Municipal Airport.

Lone Oak Mayor Harold Slemmons said he also backing the project.

“It is good idea that will help move a lot of traffic,” Slemmons said.

On the other hand, Guy Anderson, who lives near Merit, said he could not understand why the state was pursuing another highway project.

“It seems to me to be a heavy investment in a losing strategy,” Anderson said.

Representatives were on hand from two opposition groups, CorridorWatch and “Rout Rick’s Route”.

Following the meeting, Guy and June Walker of Royse City and Sue Westin of Farmersville spent time looking over the maps on the wall of the Civic Center which detailed the preferred path and said they did not like what they saw.

The Walkers said they hadn’t even heard about the session until the last minute and came away unimpressed.

Westin said she and her husband bought their property 14 years ago and two years ago hand built a home on the site, which also lies in the proposed path of the Corridor. Now, Westin said, they are faced with the possibility the state would purchase the land and lease it back to them.

“I’m not pleased with it at all,” Westin said. “That’s a crock.”

TxDOT officials at the meeting said the agency would be taking public comment about the project at additional public hearings, on the Internet or in writing, through August 21. A draft proposal is to be presented to the Federal Highway Administration by the end of this year, after which a more detailed plan would be created.

Additional information regarding TTC-35 is available on, or through

© 2006 Rockwall County Herald Banner :


"Proper infrastructure is owned by the people and managed by the people, not an overseas company."

Toll road opponents speak up

Jul. 18, 2006

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2006

FORT WORTH -- Political barbs were exchanged Monday during a hearing on the Trans-Texas Corridor, including a salvo between gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn and one of her supporters and Tarrant County Commissioner Glen Whitley.

Strayhorn, an independent, was among more than 50 people who signed up to speak during the hearing, one of 54 being held statewide this summer as the Texas Department of Transportation considers allowing a Spanish-based private firm to build a toll road from Gainesville to Seguin, near San Antonio.

Strayhorn called the 50-year plan to build toll roads, rail lines and utilities across the state "the governor's $184 billion boondoggle." She also said the tolls were "a double tax" that Texans would have to pay to escape gridlock.

But Whitley backed the Trans-Texas concept, originally unveiled by Republican Gov. Rick Perry in 2002, saying privately backed toll roads were a creative way to make up for a lack of highway funds. Then he took a shot at Strayhorn.

"Ms. Strayhorn has been to three hearings, and she has not yet offered a solution," Whitley said. "I applaud TxDOT for trying to come up with a solution for our funding shortfall."

More than 300 people attended the hearing at the Will Rogers Memorial Center, including representatives of several candidates who handed out anti-toll road literature at the doorways. About 50 to 100 people in the crowd appeared to back Strayhorn, but they were vocal.

As Whitley left the podium, one woman yelled "Boo!" repeatedly and called him an "idiot." There were gasps from the crowd before state officials on the stage urged calm. Whitley did not respond to the woman.

The hearing continued and was mostly civil, but Trans-Texas opponents still cheered those who agreed with their position.

The Trans-Texas hearings this summer have been attended by many people against the plan, not only Strayhorn supporters, but also supporters of gubernatorial candidates Chris Bell, a Democrat, and Kinky Friedman, an independent.

But the Fort Worth hearing was different. State officials heard a mix of support and opposition. They also got a clear message from several dozen of the Metroplex's elected leaders that they like the Trans-Texas concept. However, they oppose it as currently drawn, bypassing the Metroplex east of Dallas.

The region's leadership has offered a counterproposal that instead would route traffic northward onto a Texas 360 toll road extension near Mansfield, then east and west on a new road connecting Fort Worth and Dallas south of Interstate 20. Eventually, an outer loop would be formed around the two cities.

"It just makes better sense," Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief said while giving the agency unequivocal support for the Trans-Texas concept. "It's a better mousetrap."

Others speaking in favor of Trans-Texas included Arlington Councilwoman Kathryn Wilemon, four North Richland Hills council members and many other elected officials.

One opponent was Nile Fischer, a special projects manager for state Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth. Fischer opposed foreign control of roads.

"Proper infrastructure is owned by the people and managed by the people, not an overseas company," he said.

Gordon Dickson, 817-685-3816

© 2006 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:


Senator Cornyn purports to be a champion of private property rights.

This land is my land

by Senator John Cornyn

East Texas Review
Copyright 2006

Texas is growing and our housing market is strong. The value of housing is rising. New home construction is growing rapidly in many areas.

Encouraging home ownership has been a national priority for decades, for good reason: Nothing better symbolizes achievement of the American dream than owning your own home. It provides economic security, peace of mind and the assurance that you will be able to pass to your heirs something of value. So imagine this: One day the long arm of the government reaches out and makes a grab for your home – not for a road or a fire station, but for a new shopping center or a manufacturing plant.

The reality of that danger was underscored by a U.S. Supreme Court decision handed down a year ago in the case of Kelo v. City of New London.

Disregarding the Constitution’s specific protection of private property, the high court ruled that your home, business or family farm – any private property – may be seized by the government not just for public use, but for the benefit of another private entity, such as a real estate developer. The purpose of this could be to generate more tax revenue for government, or even to make the area look more attractive.

The City of New London, Conn. condemned the home of Susette Kelo and 114 other residential and commercial lots to carry out its economic development plan. The plan included a new hotel and conference center to help attract a drug manufacturing plant to the area. Homeowners protested, but the high court agreed with the city.

Our country was founded on a respect for private property. It’s troubling to realize that right stands on such shaky ground.

A silver lining has already appeared. The decision sparked a new awareness about abuse of eminent domain – the government’s ability to take private property without the owner’s consent in particular cases. Kelo didn’t create the abuse, but it certainly put a spotlight on it across the country, and since the case there’s been a major outcry.

The critics have a strong legal argument. The Fifth Amendment makes clear that “private property” shall not “be taken for public use without just compensation.” The same amendment provides protection against abusive eminent domain by only permitting the government to seize private property for “public use.”

In my view, Kelo veered far off course, allowing property to be taken far outside the limits envisioned by our founding fathers. The Institute for Justice has identified more than 10,000 properties either seized or threatened with condemnation for purposes of private development in a recent five-year period. If anything, Kelo encouraged that practice.

But other parts of the government are taking action to bring balance to the practice of eminent domain.

The Texas Legislature last year approved a measure that protects property from being seized for purposes of economic development. The Texas Senate this summer is studying proposals for additional protection for private property owners.

President Bush last month signed an executive order preventing taking of private property by the federal government “merely for the purpose of advancing the economic interest of private parties to be given ownership or use of the property taken.”

I’ve introduced a bill, The Protection of Homes, Small Businesses and Private Property Act (S. 1313) to ensure the power of eminent domain is used only for true public uses, as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. Under my proposed legislation, the government could not seize property simply for private economic development.

As we work to protect private property rights, I’m well aware we must be cautious. There is no question that, where appropriate, eminent domain can play a positive role in society, through true public use of property.

But no American, rich or poor, should have to live under the constant threat of a questionable taking of his property by the government. The protections of the Fifth Amendment represent some of the most fundamental principles conceived by our nation’s Founders, and we must take all necessary actions to preserve them.

For Sen. Cornyn’s previous Texas Times columns:

© 2006 East Texas Review Newspaper :