"Hitler took the autobahn and took all the land. What are we going into? Imperialism?"
Tracy Dang, Managing Editor
The Sealy news
While the Texas Department of Transportation continues to conduct studies for the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor (TCC), one group is saying there is hope that either the project will be stopped or changed from the current proposal.
Citizens for a Better Waller County representative Martha Estes and Corridor Watch cofounders David and Linda Stall led an anti-TTC public meeting in Wallis last Sunday, explaining what citizens can do to address their concerns.
"Is this a done deal? Absolutely not," said Linda Stall. "We have the opportunity to have laws passed that will affect this project. Our goal is to get legislation passed that would affect the project in its current form."
Although the state is further along with the proposed TTC-35, the proposed TTC-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 and Shreveport to Mexico.
Citizens in rural communities are concerned the proposed corridor would take their property away from them.
"Eminent domain has to pay you for your land," Linda Stall said. "But you will get what the TxDOT appraiser says it's worth. It's not a question of if. It's a question of how much. If you see a TxDOT appraiser out on your land, get yourself an eminent domain attorney. An eminent domain attorney only gets the percentage of the increase he gets you."
David Stall explained once a TxDOT appraiser has surveyed the land, he would make the property owner an offer. If the property owner chooses to reject the offer, the TxDOT appraiser would reconsider and make the property owner a second offer. If the property owner chooses to reject the second offer, TxDOT can file a lawsuit. Once the return has been filed, the property is turned over to TxDOT.
"Hitler took the autobahn and took all the land," a concerned citizen said. "What are we going into? Imperialism?"
David Stall said President Dwight Eisenhower had proposed a similar concept when he came up with the interstate system for the purpose of transporting defense.
"Congress turned down the system three times," Stall said. "It passed on the third time. But it went from toll to what we would call 'freeways,' and it routed traffic through the cities."
Stall said the corridor would not go through the cities, and only interstates and 60 percent of state highways would intersect it.
"It seems to me that putting up these barriers would be a problem for hurricane evacuations and emergency vehicles," a concerned citizen said.
TxDOT is still working on its Tier 1 environmental study before conducting a series of public hearings scheduled for the spring. TxDOT would have to do a Tier 2 environmental study to narrow the 45-50-mile-wide study area to a four-mile-wide study area before conducting more public hearings.
"They have not revealed specific routes yet, but they do have proposed routes," Linda Stall said. "But the TCC route has moved a couple of times since this began in 2004."
However, citizens questioned how long they had before TxDOT would begin acquiring land.
"TxDOT cannot acquire any land until after it gets the record of decision," Linda Stall said. "But Cintra is not bounded by that, but Cintra can only go through willing sellers."
TxDOT signed a comprehensive development agreement with Cintra-Zachry last March, authorizing $3.5 million in planning efforts for TTC-35. If the project is given federal clearance, construction contracts may be considered in the future. To date, no contracts have been signed to develop or finance TTC-69.
But the Stalls said there is hope in the new legislative session.
Senator John Corona, who was recently named chairman of the transportation and homeland security committee, has filed SB 149, which puts an end to non-compete agreements, an important tool in making toll roads financial feasible.
Also, Rep. Gary Elkins has filed Joint Resolution 59, which puts on the ballot a constitution amendment that if any bill is vetoed by the governor at the end of a session, an automatic special session will be scheduled.
"There is hope to stop it," a concerned citizen said. "We don't have to get an eminent domain lawyer or anything like that if we can stop it."
Corona has scheduled a transportation hearing March 1, and citizens are encouraged to either attend the hearing or write to Corona at P.O. Box 12068 Capitol Station, Austin, TX 78711-2068.
A rally on Congress Avenue in Austin has been scheduled for March 2. Those wanting more information about the rally can visit wallercountycitizens. com/ann_detail.php?ID=11.
You may contact Tracy at firstname.lastname@example.org or (979) 885-3562.
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