Monday, March 05, 2007

“Generations have worked the same pieces of land. If the corridor takes a rural route, where will these people go? What will they do?”

Locals Testify At Senate Hearing


The Hillsboro Reporter.
Copyright 2007

The public got its first official opportunity to address Texas senators concerning the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) and other transportation issues last week, and several local residents capitalized on the chance.

The Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee had over 100 people register to speak Thursday, March 1, and another 500 submitted written comments.

An overflow crowd forced capitol officials to open up three additional hearing rooms with video feeds of the proceedings.

Former Hillsboro mayor and Hill County Historical Commission Chairman Will Lowrance, County Judge Justin Lewis and City of Hillsboro Community Development Director Jerry Barker took their turns at the microphone.

Also attending was Jim Showers with the Hillsboro Economic Development Corporation.

As proposed, the TTC-35 leg of the corridor system would cut across the southeastern part of the county.

Lowrance told the senators that there are too many “unknowns” in the planning process between the state and foreign investment firm involved.

Local leaders have also pushed to have the corridor run closer to Hillsboro in order to reduce the economic impact on local restaurants, motels and other businesses.

The concern was voiced by Lowrance that local farms and ranches will be “cut asunder” by TTC-35 with no access provided for miles.

He urged that the Texas Transportation Commission not be allowed to become over reliant on toll roads.

As chairman of the county’s historical commission, Lowrance took exception to the transportation commission’s recent stance on federal enhancement funds.

Those funds played a major role in the restoration of the Hill County Courthouse following a 1993 fire.

“If we continue on the course plotted by the commission to refuse participation in the enhancement-fund project, we predict a severe negative impact on the state and local communities,” he added.

Lowrance called on senators to "reclaim your constitutional powers or oversight that have been compromised by legislative action (HB 3588 and HB 2702).

On behalf of the city, Barker expressed concern over the alignment and the possibility that local industries could relocate closer to the corridor, taking jobs with them.

“The city has just now begun its recovery of the mass exodus of manufacturing leaving to other countries by leaving large numbers of vacant buildings within our industrial areas,” Barker pointed out.

Judge Lewis discussed the impact the 1,200-foot corridor would have on the rural areas of the county.

He used Penelope as an example of the devastation it could cause for the school district.

Three-quarters of the Penelope Independent School District is in the 10-mile recommended preferred corridor alternative.

“In its current design, the construction of TTC-35 would deprive the school district of a large portion of its historical tax base, therefore shifting the tax burden to the remaining landowners,” the judge said.

The elected official also questioned the effect the corridor would have on rural infrastructure, such as volunteer fire departments and ambulance services.

“The farm-and-ranch economy is a large part of our heritage. As you traverse up and down the proposed TTC-35 corridor, Hill County is one of the few agriculturally-centered counties.

“Generations of Hill County people have worked the same pieces of land. If the corridor takes a rural route, where will these people go? What will they do?” he questioned.

There are currently bills pending before the legislature that would repeal the authority establishing the TTC, provide an increase in the gasoline tax to offset the need for toll roads, prohibit the creation of any new toll roads until 2009, limit the time tolls can be collected on a road and another would limit the amount tolls that can be collected.

The current legislative session continues through the end of May.

© 2007 The Hillsboro Reporter.:

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