Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"It’s a flawed concept" - Harris County and Houston do not support TTC-69

Coming Through Victoria?

Environmental impact study shows Interstate 69 running through the county

November 14, 2007

The Victoria Advocate
Cpyright 2007

Arnold Villafranca isn’t shedding any tears about it yet, but his land near Nursery might be needed for a major highway improvement.

On one hand, the land has been in his family at least since 1824, the 80-year-old Villafranca said. Losing that bit of family history would make him sad.

“If they offer me a good price, I’d feel good,” he said. “But at my age, I’m sure I’m never going to see that road anyway.”

The road he’s referring to is a plan to transform U.S. 59 and possibly U.S. 77 into Interstate 69 as part of the Trans-Texas Corridor super highway program.

An exact route hasn’t been determined through Victoria County or any place else in the state.

But a “corridor” that runs from North and East Texas to the Texas-Mexico border outlines the most likely areas for the highway.

In Victoria County, one possible path would take the highway north of Victoria near Nursery. The south leg would probably follow the existing U.S. 59 south of Victoria.

The Texas Department of Transportation on Tuesday released the results of a draft environmental impact study of the corridor.

“What this says is the Federal Highway Administration approves of the highway anywhere within that corridor that we’ve identified and it won’t have an adverse affect on the environment. That’s a big deal,” said Area Engineer Randy Bena with the Texas Department of Transportation.

That means, from an environmental standpoint, the highway could be built anywhere within the corridor. The next step is to conduct a series of town meetings along the corridor to narrow the corridor.

That study will look at what makes economic sense and consider the wishes of county and city officials, Bena said.

Victoria Mayor Will Armstrong said the city and county have passed resolutions calling for I-69 to follow the existing path of U.S. 59.

“We’ve already paid for that right of way,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to go out and buy completely new right of way.”

Victoria County Commissioner Kevin Janak said that’s the only way he’d support the project.

“If they start going and getting virgin soil, I’m against that,” he said. “That’s a concern of mine.”

Armstrong said he thinks the I-69 project will help the Victoria economy.

One of the questions local officials get repeatedly from industry considering moving to Victoria is whether an interstate is available, he said. They need a convenient, efficient way to transport goods.

But Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said that county and Houston no longer support the I-69 project.

“Once they designated that as a Trans-Texas Corridor, we pulled out of that whole alliance,” he said. “I think it’s a flawed concept and I did when I was a private citizen.”

Tolls would be charged for the heavily traveled sections of I-69, such as those in Harris County, Emmett said.

“Then the tolls from our area would be used to build something in another area,” he said. “We’re just not crazy about that idea.”

David Tewes is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6515 or

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