TxDOT to hold town hall and public meetings for TTC-69 in 2008
October 18, 2007
By Matthew Stoff
Nacodoches Daily Sentinel
A more detailed map of the long-anticipated Trans-Texas Corridor interstate highway project will become available at the end of the year with the release of a draft environmental report, according to Texas Department of Transportation officials.
Doug Booher, a manager in the turnpike division of TxDOT, said the report will document the proposed route of TTC-69, which is projected to run through East Texas and has been narrowed from an area 60 miles wide to a strip only a half mile to four miles wide. TTC-69 is one of a series of "priority corridors," including TTC-35, designated for development throughout the state.
The final placement of the highway and related facilities, which will extend from Texas to the Mid-Western United States, will not be planned for another three-to-five years, according to Booher, and construction may not begin until years after that.
As part of the planning and public education process, the state agency will host a series of town hall meetings and public hearings to answer questions and receive feedback about the project sometime next year.
"The corridor may change, it may be tweaked, it may be adjusted based on public comment as it is a draft corridor," said Booher. "That's one of the reasons we're going out to the public."
Booher said his agency is heeding advice from the public to look at expanding existing infrastructure like U.S. Hwy. 59 before building new structures.
"We're certainly not going to propose building anything that's not needed. That's a common misconception," he said. "It's not going to be this grandiose highway unless it's needed. Unless we need separate truck lanes, they're not going to be built."
The highway project was added to the national highway system in 1994 and has received mixed amounts of publicity since Gov. Rick Perry announced his vision for a series of Trans-Texas Corridors in 2002. According to www.keeptexasmoving.com, the official Web site of the project, new highways are necessary to face the state's rapidly growing population.
TxDOT spokeswoman Gaby Garcia said a series of town hall meetings will provide information to citizens that hasn't previously been available. A more formal public hearing later next year will permit the public "to review the document, see the recommended study areas in the document and provide comment on that we'll then go back and analyze after those hearings are over," she said. "It is their comments that's going to shape the final decisions on TTC-69."
The task of bankrolling the project is almost completely in the hands of the state government, according to Booher and Garcia.
"There is not any federal funding identified for I-69 for construction purposes," Booher said. "State funds are also challenged right now."
TxDOT is considering a combination of government funds, private investment, equity bonds and tolls to pay for the construction, though the agency has repeatedly said that no existing lanes will be tolled to pay for the project.
"A lot of things have to happen," Booher said. "It's a very long and complex process."
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