Friday, November 24, 2006

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

Trans Texas Corridor running around a town near you

November 24, 2006

By Stefanie Ackerman
McKinney Courier-Gazette
Copyright 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Those things freaked everybody out,” Heckman said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments are limited to 200 words or less.

© 2006 McKinney Courier-Gazette:


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

183-A Toll Road: "They've lied about everything at every turn."

Neighbors feel betrayed over tollway

Residents of Forest Oaks Subdivision in Cedar Park are concerned about how a new toll road will impact their neighborhood.


Copyright 2006

Highway 183-A between F.M. 1431 and Brushy Creek Road, which is north of Lakeline Mall, runs through the neighborhood.

Tuesday night, residents planned a meeting to air their concerns. Several residents say they feel like they are getting run over by this project.

"They've lied about everything at every turn," said Kent Ambrose, resident. Ambrose wasn't happy when construction on the 183-A tollway began in his back yard. As work progressed, his anger only grew.

Ambrose says he expected the road-bed behind his house would not be elevated but would cut lower than the subdivision. He also expected sound proof walls to be higher than 12 feet.

And the latest shocker, these metal power poles next to the homes. The poles run the entire length of the 183-A project, which is part of an agreement with Pedernales Electric.

Some residents got really upset when they saw buried electrical lines to the tollway office. The toll authority spent $60,000 have underground utilities. Why? Because the office building will have a metal roof. That doesn't sit will with some.

"We had no idea the poles were going to be there... come home from work one day and there, there," said Cindy Speck, resident.

The utility pole issue will be discussed next week. As for the sound walls, residents will be offered a compromise.

"It would be very difficult to add to the height of the walls because of the significant cost additions, that would make the walls no longer feasible, therefore, we essentially say we can not build the walls at all," said Steve Pustlnyk, Central TX Regional Mobility Authority.

Instead, extra landscaping buffers will be built. Most will go in near the Brushy Creek interchange.

The meeting with the toll authority is being held at the Community Club House on East Park. It is expected to last until 8.

© 2006


TxDOT "clears up the facts" about TTC 69

TxDOT addresses I-69 concerns


By: TRACY DANG, Managing Editor
The Sealy News
Copyright 2006

Residents of Austin County and the surrounding area have expressed concerns lately about the proposed Interstate 69/Trans-Texas Corridor, and the Texas Department of Transportation (Tx-DOT) is addressing some of the concerns to "clear up the facts."

Interstate 69 is a planned 1,600-mile national highway stretching through eight states connecting Mexico, the United States and Canada. The initial study area is approximately 650 miles long, extending from Texarkana/Shreveport to Mexico.

"We're in the middle of our Tier 1 environmental study that is looking at several different options," said Paul Frerich, Director of Transportation Planning and Development from the TxDOT Yoakum District office.

"Our first option is expanding the existing U.S. 59 because I-69 will go in the same direction as U.S. 59. Our second option is trying to find another location where a roadway can be built.

"Right now, the study area is 45-50 miles wide. The more we study the area, the more we narrow it down. At the end of the Tier 1 environmental study, we will be able to narrow it down to a four-mile area."

A series of public hearings to review and comment on results of the initial study phase is tentatively planned for the spring.

Frerich explained if TxDOT determines that expanding U.S. 59 is not practical and that a new roadway is needed, TxDOT would need to do a Tier 2 environmental study to narrow down the four-mile area to an actual location.

"That study would probably take about the same amount of time as the Tier 1 study, in the neighborhood of a year to two years," he said.

Frerich explained even after the Tier 2 environmental study is completed, TxDOT would need to find some way to fund the project.

"Right now, a funding mechanism hasn't been identified," he said. "There is no money available, so this project is several years down the road."

TxDOT encourages people to keep up with the status of the project at and pay attention to any notices regarding the upcoming public meetings.

You may contact Tracy at or (979) 885-3562.

© 2006 Sealy Publications, Inc. :


Texas Reps claim they "have been trying to stop the TTC (in its current form)"

Area reps voice opinion over TTC


By: TRACY DANG, Managing Editor
The Sealy News
Copyright 2006

With rising concerns about the proposed Interstate 69/Trans-Texas Corridor, state legislators from the area said they will continue to fight for the best interest of their constituents.

District 13 Rep. Lois Kolkhorst said she fought against the Trans-Texas Corridor during the 79th Legislative Session and will continue to do so in the upcoming session.

"No doubt, I have been trying to stop the corridor (in its current form)," Kolkhorst said. "My concern is that we're going about it in a manner that is not good for Texas. I am not against new highways because we obviously have a growing population, but we need to be good land stewards and have a more conservative approach that would be better for Texas."

Kolkhorst authored HB 1273, which was passed during the 79th Legislative Session, reducing TTC from 1,200 feet to 800 feet.

The bill also required on and off access ramps to every FM road and interstate highway and allowed hotels, restaurants and other companies to build along the feeder road. In addition, the bill prohibited the use of a non-complete clause and required the approval of any tolling.

"Basically, we were trying to make the Trans-Texas Corridor more like regular interstate style," Kolkhorst said.

Kolkhorst also added an amendment to HB 2707, authored by Rep. Mike Krusee, which was a large agency bill for transportation in Texas. The amendment allowed local and county governments to have a voice in what is going on in their area.

"HB 2707 did get some victory but not enough to make more Texans more comfortable," Kolkhorst said. "If we need to build new highways, we need to make it in the style of our interstates and look at the financial impact on the rural area. My goal is to have us revisit what the Trans-Texas Corridor is."

Glenn Hegar served as State Representative of District 28, which includes Waller County, Wharton County and part of Fort Bend County, during the 79th Legislative Session and is replacing Ken Armbrister as Senator of District 18 during the upcoming legislative session.

"In the last legislative session, any and every change that occurred was a result of myself and Rep. Lois Kolkhorst," Hegar said. "My personal opinion is we don't need an addition 1,200 feet of road with high-speed trains, power lines, etc.

"Who in Sealy and Bellville is going to drive to Katy to get on a train to get to Austin? It works on east or west coast, but here in Texas, things are so spread out, it just doesn't make sense."

Hegar said the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) evaluate how much of a benefit the Trans-Texas Corridor will create and look at whether it is worth hurting the rural communities.

"At the end of the day, you have to look at the traffic and see if it justifies the road. TxDOT needs to look at it in the local area and ask if it is needed, and typically, the answer is going to be no. If you want to look at 50 years down the road, that's fine. If you want to look at it today, that's okay too. But you have to look at reality."

Both legislators welcome comments from citizens in their constituents. Kolkhorst can be contact at P.O. Box 1867, Brenham, TX 77834, and Hegar can be contact at P.O. Box 1008, Katy, TX 77492.

You may contact Tracy at or (979) 885-3562.

© 2006 Sealy Publications, Inc.:


"Ultimately, the whole nation will pay."

Trans-Texas corridor is a big issue for the state legislature to address

Nov 20, 2006

KCEN-TV Channel 6
Copyright 2006

The state legislature convenes for its 80th session in January.

With more than 80,000 people driving on I-35 from Dallas to San Antonio on any given day, state officials said something must be done.

TxDot officials said the Trans Texas Corridor is in the environmental testing stage, which will last another two years.

TxDot spokesman Ken Roberts said, "What this is is a 10 mile wide study area we're looking at from a standpoint where to best locate a 1200 foot corridor for the Trans-Texas 35."

Anything along the path, up to several hundred thousand acres, and as many as one million people could be affected.

At a cost of $8 billion just for the corridor, people want to know who will foot the bill.

Governor Rick Perry’s advisor Kris Heckman said it won't be taxpayers, “Centa-Zachary is paying for that.

They are the private sector developer, that they will either raise their own money or spend their own money to pay for the front cost of that road so it doesn't cost the taxpayers a single cent for the construction of that road."

Property owners and farmers claim they will pay the price by losing their homes and livelihoods. Others say, ultimately, the whole nation will pay.

Farmer Vince Cortese said, "If they bring the corn in from another country the other country's not going to let you have that corn as cheap as you can buy it from us."

There are also questions about the Trans Texas Corridor being a part of a planned super highway from Mexico to Canada, which raises more questions about homeland security.

Homeowner Cynthia Ross said, "This is a super highway that goes from Mexico to Canada, and will, in effect, erase the borders allowing anyone to come across. There will be no illegal aliens."

Heckman said that speculation is untrue and the corridor will only go from Dallas to San Antonio.

However, a TxDot map showed the corridor running from the Texas-Mexico border to the Texas-Oklahoma line; an inconsistency that has yet to be explained. Construction could begin as early as 2010 and be completed by 2015.

© 2006 KCEN-TV Channel 6, Inc.:


Monday, November 20, 2006

"Krusee, like Perry, won. But not by much."

Turnpikes take toll on Krusee

November 20, 2006

Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2006

The continuing political parlor game of "What price tolls?" took an interesting turn Nov. 7.

The Big Toller himself — Gov. Rick Perry — seemed to suffer little damage from what was a sustained battering on the issue, losing only three of the dozens of counties in the paths of the two proposed Trans-Texas Corridor routes. But voters in Texas House District 52 alongside the new Texas 45 North tollway put something of a scare into state Rep. Mike Krusee.

The Williamson County Republican is the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, stage-managed the birth of the controversial Phase 2 toll road plan in Austin and has been a blunt advocate for Perry's transportation plans.

His Democratic opponent, Karen Felthauser, made sure as many District 52 voters as possible knew about Krusee's fondness for tolls.

Her Web site and signs featured this slogan: "Schools yes! Tolls no!" And she told voters that Krusee was lying when he said the Trans-Texas Corridor highway through Central Texas will be Texas 130, which is partially open and should be complete by next year. Her point to the eastern part of District 52 in and around Taylor and Granger: the REAL Trans-Texas Corridor is yet to come and will take your land.

Actually, Krusee was telling the truth, although other elements of the Trans-Texas Corridor — rail, pipelines, electric lines — could end up requiring more land buys.

Now the punch line: Krusee, like Perry, won. But not by much.

In supposedly rock-ribbed Republican Williamson County, Krusee got just 49.7 percent of the vote, according to the unofficial final tally. Felthauser got 44.8 percent, and Libertarian Lillian Simmons got 5.4 percent. All in all, something well short of a rout. Krusee got almost 94 percent two years ago when Felthauser ran as a write-in.

And this after a campaign when Krusee (not counting costs in the final eight days, which won't be reported until January) spent almost $118,000 to Felthauser's $13,300.

Asked about this, Krusee said tolls mattered, but mostly because Felthauser was putting out falsehoods (in his view) that were largely unchallenged in the media.

But Krusee also maintains that he, like former GOP House member Jack Stick from northern Travis County in 2004 and Travis County Republican Ben Bentzin this year, was hurt by a district morphing from solid Republican to swing district. District 52 runs from Austin at the Travis County line, through Round Rock to Georgetown, and then covers the county's eastern half.

A look at a sampling of 20 precincts in District 52 shows that, yes, the Democrats, though still behind, are surging. But Krusee performed worse than other Republicans in those precincts, finishing about 2 percentage points behind GOP state Sen. Steve Ogden and almost 7 percentage points behind Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

I asked Krusee, who has shown an interest in higher education issues, whether he might be eyeing a different, less heated, committee to head up in the 2007 session. No, he said, if the House leadership gives the nod, he'll stay on Transportation.

He may or may not have that option in 2009.

Getting There appears Mondays. For questions, tips or story ideas, contact Getting There at 445-3698 or

© 2006 Austin American-Statesman: www.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

"The trouble with the TTC isn’t the highway itself. It’s how the project is being done."

That curious corridor plan


Gary Johnson, guest column:
The Waco Tribune-Herald
Copyright 2006

MCGREGOR — Do we need additional capacity for vehicular travel? Of course we do.

The recent fiery 18-wheeler crash on Interstate 35 points out a very serious problem. We already know what it is: That road is about three or four times too small for the traffic it bears.

Every time it rains, somebody is killed because there is not enough room to drive at a safe following distance. Even if you drop back, desperate drivers jump into the unsafe opening.

I-35 hasn’t kept pace

I-35 is still the very same four-lane divided road in the rural stretches that it was when it was built more than 40 years ago. Most expansions have been in cities. I-35 has never kept pace with need.

Compounding the problem is the increase in truck traffic, which by its nature does not mix well with automobiles. If you look during non-rush hour in Waco, trucks often outnumber cars.

This massive increase in truck traffic is due in part to NAFTA cross-border trade, and in part to the decline of railroads. The medium- and short-haul freight business is now all trucking.

The controversial Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) project is supposed to be the answer. But consider this:

We’d already have an answer to the problem if the pace of expansion of I-35 had been adequate all these years.

That highway ought to be about 12 lanes wide and double- or triple-decked by now, all the way from Laredo to Duluth.

The fact that it is not points directly toward a failure of elected and appointed officials (state and federal) to effectively address this over the past 40 years.

The damage from that type of governmental neglect accumulates slowly.

But once it’s too late, the fact hits you right in the face, just like the truck that jumped the barrier.

The trouble with the TTC isn’t the highway itself. It’s how the project is being done.

A “self-supporting toll road,” which will require tax dollars to acquire the land by eminent domain, really means someone operates this thing at a profit — in this case a foreign company.

I have a problem with a million acres being condemned by eminent domain to build a project specifically for someone’s profit. I really get mad when that profit goes to a foreign company.

Texans in the dark

I also have a serious problem with having no vote on any aspect of such a major undertaking. I really get mad when elected officials file lawsuits to prevent revealing what they signed us up in secrecy to do.

I have a major problem with losing a million acres of the best farmland in Texas at a time when we will increasingly need that land to grow energy crops as well as food.

We need to be laying the concrete and asphalt on the bad land, and quit covering up the good.

The demand for a new superhighway is there, but the form it has taken is an enormous boondoggle at the expense of nearly all Texans.

That must change.

Gary Johnson of McGregor is a engineering consultant and school teacher.

© 2006 The Waco Tribune-Herald: