Sunday, February 04, 2007

“You are going to listen to us or we are going to start on March 2 figuring out how to throw you out.”

Bill: Kill the TTC

February 4, 2007

By JOANN LIVINGSTON, Managing Editor
Waxahatchie Daily Light
Copyright 2007

A San Antonio-area lawmaker has filed a bill to kill the Trans-Texas Corridor.

State Rep. David Leibowitz, D-Helotes, told Waco-based KWTX that the massive toll road project would “destroy rural Texas as we know it.”

State Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, whose district includes Ellis and Hill counties, both of which would be impacted by the proposed toll road, said he would be supportive of the measure.

“I support efforts to get more control over TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation) and the Trans-Texas Corridor,” Pitts said. “The Trans-Texas Corridor will have enormous effects on this area and the people who live here, and too often it seems like this agency isn’t listening to the concerns people are expressing about the project.”

Although the project is much favored by Republican Gov. Rick Perry, the Trans-Texas Corridor is specifically identified in the state Republican Party’s platform as in need of repeal.

“Because there are issues of confiscation of private land, state and national sovereignty and other similar concerns, we urge the repeal of the Trans-Texas Corridor legislation,” the 2006 platform reads.

Leibowitz filed House Bill 857 on Jan. 25. The two-term lawmaker also has filed HB719, which would restrict TxDOT from turning a state highway into a toll road and would also prevent the state agency from transferring a state highway to a private entity for the purpose of letting it become a toll road.

Both bills are pending committee assignment.

“Texas is growing and our transportation system must grow, too,” said Joe Krier, Texans for Safe Reliable Transportation chairman, in a September 2006 press release. “Good roads positively impact all aspects of our lives. Texans should know that the alternative to not building the Trans-Texas Corridor is more gridlock, outrageously higher gas taxes and solutions that will take years longer to deliver. Opponents of the Trans-Texas Corridor offer no meaningful solutions.”

According to the pro-Trans-Texas Corridor organization’s Web site, 75 percent of Texans directly depend upon Interstate 35 for goods and services, and 45 percent of all Texans live within 50 miles of the roadway.

Perry announced his signature $184 billion mega-highway plan in 2002, with TxDOT holding more than 50 public hearings last year relating to the pending environmental impact statement for the TTC-portion.

The vast majority of people speaking at the hearings - including the ones in Ellis County - did so in protest of the project, which critics have said will remove hundreds of thousands of acres - much of it rural farm and ranch land - off of the tax rolls.

A coalition of anti-Trans-Texas Corridor groups and individuals, including David and Linda Stall of Corridor Watch, recently met in Austin.

“It’s not about transportation, it’s about revenue,” David Stall said. “We didn’t ask for it. We need better roads and we need better transportation (but) the TTC is not about doing any of those things. It’s about generating revenue.”

March 2 protest set

The coalition has called for a rally in Austin on March 2 that organizers hope will draw at least 100,000 people to march up Congress Avenue to the steps of the state Capitol.

“If we don’t babysit our elected officials, they’ll do some bad things,” said Sal Costello, founder of People for Efficient Transportation and TTC-critic.

Former land commissioner candidate and East Texas cattle rancher Hank Gilbert agrees.“We put them there, we can take them out,” he said. “We’ve been complacent too long.”

Gilbert points out that the TTC is the first leg of a proposed national system of roadways that would criss-cross the United States while connecting into Mexico and Canada.

“This thing started here and to save the country, we kill the darn thing here,” he said, saying his hope is for the March 2 rally - which is being deliberately held on Texas Independence Day - to increase people’s involvement while also getting state officials’ attention.

“You are going to listen to us or we are going to start on March 2 figuring out how to throw you out,” he said.

Perry’s transportation plan would include concrete and rail corridors snaking around the state and stretching as wide as 1,200 feet in some areas, with enough room for cars, trucks, trains, pipelines and utility cables.

If the corridor is 1,200 feet wide in some areas as planned, a farmer could lose as much as 146 acres per mile, estimates the Texas Farm Bureau, which adopted a resolution in 2004 opposing the Trans-Texas Corridor.

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