Tuesday, March 06, 2007

"I would be against this corridor, even if I didn’t live here."

Grassroots group opposes Trans-Texas Corridor, attends rally in Austin


By Cari Herr
Tomball Magnolia Tribune News
Copyright 2007

As part of a grassroots effort by organizations across Texas in opposition to the Trans-Texas Corridor, Citizens for a Better Waller County (CBWC) sponsored a chartered bus March 2 as part of a march to a rally held in Austin.

“I would be against this corridor, even if I didn’t live here,” said Don Garrett, CBWC president. “It is not good for Texas or the sovereignty of the U.S.A. or the county.”

Garrett is concerned that land acquisitions could begin as early as this winter.

“The publication of a draft environmental impact statement from TxDOT, (Texas Department of Transportation) as part of a Phase 1 environmental study, will be followed by environmental hearings this winter in preparation of Phase 2, the purchase of right-of-way properties,” he said.

Concerns of the group don’t linger on the issue of land acquisition alone, but also on the duplicity of county related civil, social, and educational services that must be met should the construction of the highway become a reality, said Garrett at a Feb. 23 Waller Area Chamber of Commerce meeting.

“It will transect our EMS services, our school districts, and our farm-to-market roads. It will have a devastating affect on our agriculture, which is primarily the major income producer for Waller County,” Garrett said.

Due to the lack of planned access ramps to and from communities, school districts may be impacted with increased transportation costs by an estimated $1 million. Emergency services personnel and equipment, as well as county law enforcement, would essentially be cut-off from countywide access.

The corridor will consume more than 5,000 acres of farmland in Waller County. That equates to 143 acres per mile of the corridor, said Garrett. Plans include six vehicle lanes, four trucking lanes, six high-speed rail lanes and easement for utilities, such as water, electric and cable wiring. All the lanes will be tolled with costs estimated at 11 to 13 cents per mile for cars, and 29 to 50 cents per mile for trucks.

Who benefits from a tolled, multi-billion dollar road construction project with an alleged monopoly on concessions, and connections only to interstate highways with little to no access by affected communities?

Zachry American Infrastructure Inc., a company based in Spain, and Bluebonnet Infrastructure Investors Cintra, also based in Spain, are only two of the foreign consortiums waiting at the head of a long line for a series of actions to occur.

Engineering plans for the projected 1,200-foot wide, 600-mile long corridor exist as a result of NAFTA trade agreements between the U.S., Mexico and Canada. The proposed highway would connect Mexico to Canada through a central port in Kansas City, essentially dividing the U.S. into two portions.

As part of that highway, TxDOT is currently engineering two Trans-Texas Corridor projects that span the length of Texas from the Mexican border to the northeast Texas border, roughly following the U.S. 59 Interstate.

Though the proposed highway bypasses Montgomery County, there may be nothing left of its neighbors west and south if the super highway finds enough legislation to become a reality. That’s more than enough reason for Waller County residents to get involved, said Trey Duhon, treasurer for CBWC.

For more information, log on to www.wallercountycitizens.org or www.keeptexasmoving.com.

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