Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"This is a significant milestone announcement in the construction of I-69."

I-69/TTC likely to go through Nacogdoches County, but officials say public will have say in its final route

November 13, 2007

Cox East Texas
Nacodoches Daily Sentinel

State officials say they hope by the end of 2008 to have a better idea of an exact route for the I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor after town hall meetings and public hearings are completed. But it will be years later — how many years is dependent on the availability of funding from the private sector — before the massive transportation project actually comes about.

Still, local officials and economic development leaders were keenly interested in what state transportation directors revealed at Tuesday's announcement at the Lufkin district office of the Texas Department of Transportation with the release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed I-69/TTC project, a highway plan mapped as coming straight through Angelina County using either the existing U.S. 59 or going to the east of Lufkin and Diboll with a completely new north-south highway.

"This is a significant milestone announcement in the construction of I-69," Lufkin Mayor Jack Gorden said. "A lot of work is yet to be done on exactly where that route will be, but we're working closely with TxDOT on this. Working together, we will come up with the best route. In our region, we've known for years that building I-69 is a key to bringing economic growth and new opportunities to our communities."

Existing highways will be considered first as state transportation officials continue work to narrow the proposed corridor or corridors for the I-69/TTC project, but new corridors will be looked at if improvements to existing highways and infrastructure can't be made to handle long-range transportation needs, state officials said.

"We are doing what the public asked us to do and that is look at existing highways first," said Steve Simmons, TxDOT deputy executive director, "but if what's in place cannot meet the need long-range — or if citizens and local officials tell us they prefer a new corridor — other options will be considered. Decisions will be made based on public input and detailed studies of environmental and social impacts."

Ted Houghton, a member of the Texas Transportation Commission, was on hand for Tuesday's announcement and said the project was necessary for making transportation safer, faster, more reliable and providing a faster hurricane evacuation route.

"We are the trade corridor to this hemisphere," Houghton said, adding that the TTC planned to set up regional advisory committees to provide guidance on how the project can be developed to best serve local communities. "Local officials will be more involved than ever before, and the public will shape the outcome of TTC-69."

The newly unveiled map of the I-69/TTC corridor showed two proposed areas for the route to come through Nacogdoches County — one using the existing U.S. 59 highway from north to south, and the other using a proposed alternate route around Nacogdoches, Lufkin and Diboll, with the highway going north-south through eastern Nacogdoches County and east-central Angelina County — roughly from the Moffett area through the Homer area and connecting to U.S, 59 south of Diboll.

The complete report is available on two TxDOT Web sites: www.keeptexasmoving.com and www.txdot.gov. It is also being sent to public libraries in the study area and is available at the TxDOT district office for citizens to review. A toll-free number is set up for questions at 1-866-554-6989.

Simmons said TxDOT will hold 10 town hall meetings beginning in January in various cities along the I-69/TTC corridor. In February, TxDOT begins formal public hearings on the environmental study.

Diboll City Manager Kenneth Williams said the proposed route to the east of Lufkin and Diboll would make a huge impact on the local economy when the highway is eventually constructed.

"It will be great for our economic growth," he said. "This could bring a lot of jobs and a lot of growth potential to our community and to the county."

DETAILS: View a PDF of the TxDOT's full I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor study area, along with some basic questions and answers about the proposed superhighway.

© 2007 Nacodoches Daily Sentinel: www.dailysentinel.com

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE