Monday, March 12, 2007

"Getting on the bandwagon."

Legislation Filed To Delay Corridor Process


Hillsboro Reporter
Copyright 2007

Senators and representatives were getting on the bandwagon last week in Austin as legislation was filed in the Texas House of Repre-sentatives and Senate targeting the Trans-Texas Corridor process and toll roads in general.

Senator Robert Nichols, who previously served on the Texas Transportation Commission, filed SB 1267 and 1268, while Representative Lois Kolkhorst filed a companion bill, HB 2772, in the House.

If passed, the legislation puts a two-year moratorium on state commitments to private companies building toll roads and prevents the conversion of existing highways to toll roads.

That would cover the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) proposed by Governor Rick Perry.

The Spanish-Texas consortium, Cintra-Zachary, has been selected by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to build and operate the section of the corridor paralleling Interstate 35 (TTC-35).

The TTC would create up to a 1,200-foot right-of-way to handle vehicle and truck traffic, freight and passenger rails and utilities.

Amadeo Saenz Jr., assistant executive director with TxDOT, spoke at the recent “Hill County Day in Austin” event.

He said that the state agency is still attempting to identify a 10-mile study area for further environmental studies.

The current TTC-35 path cuts across the southeast part of Hill County, but there is also a push to have the study area shifted closer to Hillsboro.

At the time, Saenz said that a decision on the study area could come later this year, which would trigger another round of public hearings.

An exact alignment was not expected to be identified for another two years, with the development of the corridor system taking over 25 years.

But the new legislation would put that time line in doubt if it passes and is signed by the governor.

The Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee held an all-day hearing week before last as speaker after speaker attacked toll roads and the TTC-35 project.

Former Hillsboro Mayor Will Lowrance, County Judge Justin Lewis and Hillsboro Community Development Director Jerry Barker were among those testifying.

The Senate bills had momentum from the start as 24 of the 31 senators signed on as sponsors.

That number is more than enough to put the bill into effect immediately and override a veto by the governor.

On the House side, Representative Kolkhorst’s bill already had 56 sponsors from the 151-member body by Thursday afternoon, March 8.

Senator Kip Averitt, R-Waco, and Representative Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, were among those sponsors.

Pitts said, “I am happy to sponsor this bill. It will give the public time to get answers to questions they have been asking the Texas Department of Transportation.”

© 2007 The Hillsboro Reporter:

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