Monday, February 12, 2007

“I’m not opposed to toll roads. They’ve got their place—in Oklahoma.”

Trans-Texas Corridor comes under fire

Bastrop-based activist terms political process in Austin 'corrupt'


The Gilmer Mirror
Copyright 2007

The proposed Trans-Texas Corridor—a superhighway that would stretch from Mexico to Canada—came under fire here Tuesday night from a representative of “Independent Texans” and a longtime local Republican Party activist.

Linda Curtis of Bastrop, a coordinator for the Austin-based political reform group, and John Melvin Dodd, the unsuccessful GOP candidate for Upshur County judge last November, blasted the proposed project at a meeting attended by about 35-40 persons. The gathering was held at the First Assembly of God.

“Independent Texans,” which is not a political party, says in its literature that it is comprised of “swing voters” who want “statewide initiative and referendum”; “redistricting reform through a non-partisan independent citizen’s commission”; and “fair ballot access for independent candidates and parties.”

Ms. Curtis said the state legislature approved the project without reading the 300-page bill that authorized it, and urged the audience to contact state and federal legislators to try and stop the corridor. She said the legislature thought the bill was for allowing the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to do what it normally does, and that the corridor was approved by Texas voters passing a proposition which didn’t mention the project.

She distributed literature complaining that TTC is “an unbelievable land grabbing, monopoly building, autocratic scheme developed without public input and devoid of collaboration with regional or metropolitan transportation organizations.”

The literature said both Republicans and Democrats oppose the TCC, initiated by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican.

Dodd, who said Friday he plans to join the group, told the gathering that the Trans-Texas Corridor would eventually be 4,000 miles long, starting at Mexican seaports, bringing in Chinese goods, and running to Canada.

The project will be more than 300 yards wide with 10 lanes of traffic, rail lines, a pipeline, utilities and concessionaires, he said. Dodd said a Spanish corporation (Cintra) will have a lease to the project, operate its toll booths, maintain the road, and make money.

Dodd said the project would require more than a half million acres of land, obtained through eminent domain (condemnation), and that he suspects it would enable the entrance of Mexican drugs, illegal immigrants, and “maybe a few terrorists” to the United States.

The literature distributed by Ms. Curtis listed numerous complaints about the planned corridor, including that it would require an “excessive taking” of privately-owned land; and that it would take “economic assets away from Texas communities by rerouting the flow of commercial trucks and limiting traveler access to local services, lodging and attractions.”

The material also said state-owned land for the corridor would “be removed from county and school district tax rolls,” and that taxpayers in those areas “will shoulder the burden of making up the losses” of tax revenue from that.

Among other things, the literature also criticized the “high cost of” toll roads to the traveling public under the project. Dodd said toll roads are being built without the approval of people in the area where they are being located, and that many persons are “up in arms” over it.

He said he agreed with a man who said, “I’m not opposed to toll roads. They’ve got their place—in Oklahoma.”

Dodd also charged that an Australian firm affiliated with Cintra is buying 40 weekly newspapers along the corridor route to silence weekly papers’ opposition to the project.
He and Ms. Curtis noted the state is holding a March 1 hearing in Austin on the project, which Ms. Curtis said is already partly underway in the Austin area.

Although the project is planned over a 50-year period, she said, “We need to worry about this. It is starting soon.”

She said 14,000 persons attended hearings this summer on the proposed project, and officials “want to rush this thing as fast as possible because there’s been so much concern about this.”
Ms. Curtis said the public would have no input on toll rates, which would be set by persons appointed by county commissioners. (Three members of the Upshur County Commissioners Court—Commissioners James Crittenden, Buddy Ferguson and Glenn Campbell—attended Tuesday night’s meeting.)

She also described the corridor project as “already sort of this corrupt institution.” She called it an “unbelievable outrage” that Perry signed a contract whose details are secret to pay Cintra for a $200 billion project.

“A full contract has not been signed. Therefore, this is not a done deal,” she asserted.
She also said the project “is about money” and a push for a “North American Union” interested in trade deals.

“My problem is we don’t get to vote on it,” Ms. Curtis said.

“$200 billion out of the Texas economy. Can you imagine what that’s going to do to everybody’s taxes?” she asked. She also quoted one state legislator as saying all Texas highways will be toll roads.

Ms. Curtis said Perry, who was reelected in November, received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from companies involved in toll roads, and “a lot of contractor money and road building money came into his accounts.”

© 2007 The Gilmer Mirror:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE