Wednesday, June 27, 2007

“The governor and (Transportation Commissioner) Ric Williamson are treating this like a victory, and that bothers me.”

Corridor opponents still express hope


by Clay Coppedge
Temple Daily Telegram
Copyright 2007

Opponents of the Trans-Texas Corridor admit they have a long road ahead of them if they are going to stop the project, but they point to recent actions by the Legislature that they say indicate their point of view is making its way to Austin.

Chris Hammel, president of the Blackland Coalition, a grassroots group opposed to the corridor, said Monday that opponents still hope the project can be diminished or stopped despite setbacks in the Legislature. Gov. Rick Perry’s veto of bills that addressed concerns about the corridor are balanced by a Legislature that he said honestly tried to address those concerns.

“There has been an incredible outcry on the part of the public to their legislators against the corridor,” Hammel said Monday.

He said some of the bills passed by the Legislature, including the ones vetoed by Perry, indicate that legislators are listening.

Two bills that caught a lot of attention - one modified in committee and one vetoed by the governor - related directly to the Trans-Texas Corridor.

The first, Senate Bill 792, calls for a two-year moratorium on most new privately financed toll roads. That bill was signed by Perry but without Amendment 13, which would have closed loopholes that made exceptions for certain projects, including TTC-35, the first phase of the corridor project.

Legislators have made it clear that even though the bill does not ban private contracts for TTC-35 that no contracts on that stretch of proposed road should be signed.
“The governor and (Transportation Commissioner) Ric Williamson are treating this like a victory, and that bothers me,” Hammel said.

The Texas Transportation Coalition, a group that favors the Trans-Texas Corridor, applauded the passage of the bill, minus Amendment 13.

“Senate Bill 792 allows critical infrastructure projects to move forward while allowing further review of the value of public-private partnerships to Texans,” spokesman William Noble said in a release.

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