Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"It's no longer an alliance for I-69. "It's an alliance for the Trans-Texas Corridor."

County quits Alliance for I-69

Vote to withdraw from organization is unanimous

May 15, 2007

Houston Chronicle
Copyright 2007

Commissioners Court voted Tuesday to withdraw the county's membership in the Alliance for I-69 Texas, an organization that has supported converting U.S. 59 into an interstate highway.

"It's no longer an alliance for I-69," said County Judge Ed Emmett.

"It's an alliance for the Trans-Texas Corridor."

Emmett said the county joined the alliance to help build support for upgrading U.S. 59 to an interstate, not to promote building the Trans-Texas Corridor — a proposed network of toll roads, railways, and pipelines crisscrossing the state.

The I-69 Alliance now supports a corridor toll road, some of which would run parallel to U.S. 59.

John Thompson, I-69 Alliance chairman and Polk county judge, said he still favors converting the present road into an interstate through East Texas, with the toll road being used mainly by heavy trucks going long distances.

The vote on Emmett's motion to withdraw from the organization was unanimous.

Emmett became irked when the I-69 Alliance earlier this month asked Gov. Rick Perry to veto a state transportation bill because it includes a two-year moratorium on long-term contracts between the state and private firms to build and operate toll roads for profit.

The county wants the bill signed into law because another largely unrelated provision would empower the Harris County Toll Road Authority to build toll roads on Texas Department of Transportation right of way.

A TxDOT spokesman has declined to comment on the legislation or whether the department favors building a toll road or I-69.

Harris County this year paid a $50,000 membership fee to the alliance, a coalition of counties, towns, chambers of commerce and others.

It will ask the alliance to return more than two-thirds of this year's fees.

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