Tuesday, March 06, 2007

"This scheme makes the railroad robber barons of the old west look like street corner hustlers. "


Corridor proposal looks like huge scandal waiting to happen


Kent Conwell
The Hardin County News (Lumberton, TX)
Copyright 2007

Now, I know most of us make fun of our politicians. Even politicians make fun of themselves. Henry Kissinger once made the perceptive comment that "ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad name."

Lincoln once commented, "you can't fool all of the people all of the time; you just have to fool the majority." Remember Enron, Whitewater, Watergate, and Sharpstown?

And the scandals continue. In fact, one news journal called 2006 the 'year of corruption.'We had to stomach Rep. Mark Foley and his obsession with congressional pages. Before that there was ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Louisiana Rep William Jefferson, Bob Ney, Duke Cunningham, and Texas own Tom DeLay.

I seldom make predictions because I'm usually wrong, but this time, I'm not. I predict that within five to 10 years, a scandal will rock Texas like no other. Enron and Sharpstown will be penny ante stuff compared to it.

And it will be because of our current governor, TxDOT, and the Trans Texas Corridor.

Trans Texas Corridor. Have you heard of it? Not many have. And the legislature passed the bill in 2003.

The governor and TxDOT have tried to keep it quiet. Almost 200 individuals have been forced to file charges to get the information that is supposed to be public.

The TTC is a proposed corridor four-football fields wide running from Laredo up I-35 and eventually all the way to Canada. It is to have six lanes for traffic, four for trucks, two for automobiles. The corridor will also carry pipelines for natural gas, oil, water, electricity, and electronic data.

The land will be taken by eminent domain. And you all know what eminent domain is. It is the loophole that lets politicians steal your land legally. This greedy serpent will ultimately be 4,000 miles long, each mile using 146 acres taken by eminent domain.

How does it sound so far? What about the cost to taxpayers? The state doesn't know.The governor implores us just to trust him.We'll all benefit, just trust him.

A super-super highway speeding goods and citizens across the country. On the surface, it sounds great, the sort of initiative someone courting the vice-presidency (U.S.) would come up with. But, what are the drawbacks?

There's a couple. Minor ones the governor suggests.

First, the initial contract was signed by the Spanish firm Cintra and its partner, Zachry Construction Corporation, with TxDOT for a 316-mile section of road to be built from San Antonio to Dallas. The contract includes what is known as a nocomplete clause. That means TxDOT has agreed not to improve any roadways that run parallel to the corridor for the duration of the 50 to 75 years of the Cintra lease, unless those improvements had already been approved prior to the signing of the contract.

That means when farm to market roads fall apart, citizens' only option is the TTC and pay the toll. Texans will be forced to use the TTC and pay tolls. Crossovers are from 24 miles apart. Farmers and ranchers whose property is cut in two must travel several miles to cross over.

Oh yes, I mentioned a toll to use the road, 44+ cents for cars and $1+ for trucks per mile in addition to the cost of gasoline; and the inconvenience of 40 miles between exits; and the fact the Cintra Zachary people will control all the gas stations, eating stops and whatever all along the route.

And then there is the little matter of about 700,000 acres ripped from farmers and ranchers by eminent domain.

Folks, this scheme makes the railroad robber barons of the old west look like street corner hustlers. Over my 70 years, I've seen many obscene efforts to make the rich richer, but this is the most outrageous I have ever witnessed.

This goes through, and then it is a matter of time before it reaches us.

Kent Conwell is retired from Port-Neches Groves ISD.

© 2007 The Hardin County News: www.thehardincountynews.com

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