Friday, October 19, 2007

Is proposed I-69 'in no way associated' with Trans Texas Corridor (TTC-69)?

Commissioners hear BVCOG alternate I-69 plan


By Dave Kucifer, publisher
The Navasota Examiner
Copyright 2007

A room full of Grimes County residents, along with members of the Grimes County Commissioner Court and other county officials turned out Thursday morning to hear Michael Parks, Assistant Executive Director of the Brazos Valley Council of Governments, outline a change in the proposed route of I-69.

Prior to turning the meeting over to Parks, Grimes County Judge Betty Shiflett told the audience that the meeting was strictly an information session and commissioners would not be endorsing any particular plan. “We are on record as opposing I-69, especially the current proposed route which would bisect the county north and south.” Mr. Parks is here to explain an alternate route, one endorsed by the Council of Governments, that would use existing highways (State Hwy. 6) as much as possible and bring the proposed project closer to Bryan/College Station,” the judge said.

Parks began his remarks as saying it was the belief of the Council of Governments that it was important to get individuals involved. “The Texas Department of Transportation is expected to release its first I-69 environmental impact report soon. When the report is made public, people will have an opportunity to voice an opinion,” Parks stated.

The speaker went on to explain the reasoning behind the I-69 highway and emphasized it is in no way associated with the highly controversial Trans Texas Corridor, which also has a proposed route through Grimes County. In explaining the proposed interstate project, Parks touched on the projected state and area growth in the next 20 years and the need for additional highways. “Grimes County,” he said, “can expect a 30 percent increase. The rest of the area will also have like growth.”

In talking about the reasons for the highway project, and more especially the route change proposal, Parks listed the planned 10, 000 acre recreational park at TMPA. “This is a project the Council of Governments have been working on for over 10-years, it will be a valuable recreational asset for Grimes county and the area. Eighty percent of the state's population will live within 50 miles of Grimes County and have access to the park.” He stated.

After making his remarks and a Power Point presentation Parks took questions from the floor, again stressing that the meeting had nothing to do with the Trans Texas Corridor. “We're not talking about a 1200-1300 foot roadway that will carry automobile, truck and train traffic as well as natural gas transmission lines, we're talking about a 600-800 roadway for auto and truck traffic.” He reiterated.

In the course of his presentation Parks pointed out there was a strong possibility that I-69 could well be a toll road. “By 2009 the U.S. Highway Trust Fund will be insolvent, there is not, nor will there be sufficient gasoline tax collections to support highway construction and maintenance. The funds will have to come from somewhere, so additional toll roads are part of the solution for funding.” Parks said

Susan Boggess, president of the Anderson-Shiro CISD voiced her opposition to the I-69 issues citing tax revenue losses from property that would be taken by the highway project.

Others in the audience voiced their opinions, most of which were in opposition to any route through Grimes. Some said they have recently moved to the area from Houston to get away from the type of problems (air and noise pollution) the highway would bring. Others opposed the project saying it would lead to a higher trade deficit, after Parks pointed out that Mexico, not China, was our largest trading partner. One person expressed the belief that it would result in still more jobs leaving the country and going Mexico.

The meeting concluded with Precinct 3 Commissioner Julian Melchor making the motion that commissioners draft a resolution regarding its position on the I-69 project and hold another meeting after County Attorney Jon Fultz suggested that while the county did not endorse the project, but left with the choice it would probably favor the BVCOG proposed over the original proposal.

City to invite BVCOG to make presentation

City Manager Brad Stafford and Mayor Bert Miller said they intend to invite Parks to make his presentation to City Council in the near future.

The mayor and city manager both said they have mixed feelings regarding the proposed project but did see more advantages to the Council of Governments' route proposal than the original route.

“There may be a long time before anyone looks at the environmental impact report; some say it will be released soon, others are not so sure. Regardless, we need to wait. We would like an opportunity to talk with our industries and learn their feelings. Grant Prideco ships a lot of material; so do other industries,” the pair said.

Both said they thought the Thursday morning meeting was informative and interesting. “It was obvious there is a great deal of interest in the project and the possibility of alternate routes. We think Michael is very knowledgeable about every aspect of I-69 and its effect on Navasota and Grimes county. We were glad to see that he did an excellent job of separating the interstate proposal from the Trans Texas Corridor. It was obvious some had the two confused,” the mayor said.

Related Links:
Gov. Rick Perry: "Let's resuscitate I-69 as TTC-69."

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