“The citizens here are not going to bear the burden so Wal-Mart can get their cargo into the U.S. cheaper and faster.”
January 23, 2008
By Rosa Flores and Shern-Min Chow
11 News KHOU-TV (Houston)
More than 800 people packed a meeting hall in Hempstead for a public meeting on the Trans-Texas Corridor. Seven more public sessions are scheduled.
Residents are speaking out about a controversial highway that would cut right through the state.
The state plans to build a 4,000-mile network of super-highway toll roads. In Hempstead on Tuesday, many residents said that road could cost them their property.
Odis Styers owns hundreds of acres north, east and west of town. But the traffic that now travels through on State Highway 290 could interrupt his peace.
A TxDOT super highway could soon plow through the middle of his property.
“They are talking about going through prime ranch country, prime farm country and that's limited,” said Styers. "I'm in the cattle business and that would put me out of business."
The I-69 Trans Texas Corridor would run from Mexico to Texarkana. Exactly how it will get from Point A to Point B is still up in the air. But a proposed map shows the area the state is now studying.
It’s wide swath of Texas land cutting through Waller County.
“We are looking at a new system to provide us for the next generation of jobs and congestion,” said TxDOT spokesman Norm Wigington. “If we do not do anything that means that there will be congestion. We know that people are coming here in great numbers.”
But business owners already here, don't want to see their town split down the middle.
“It’s going to be like a huge river that's only going to have a bridge every now and then,” said property owner Matthew Menke. “And it's going to isolate certain areas. And where they decide to lay it. We are going to be at their mercy.”
TxDOT officials said the highway won't be different from any other roadway that would be built through a community.
“State law requires TxDOT to build crossings for all state and federal highways and to maintain as many local road crossings as possible,” said spokesman Chris Lippincott. “We are required to work with local officials to identify all roads of significance and create crossings for them.”
Property owners have been asking questions, but, “It doesn't seem like you can find answers from the state reps or the senate,” said Styers.
And so a lot of people who live in this quiet country are starting to make some noise.
Tuesday night, they packed in for a public hearing on the Trans-Texas Corridor. Most gave state officials more than just an earful.
Property owners worry the state will shortchange them on any land it buys, even as TxDOT insists fair market value will be observed.
The Trans-Texas Corridor would eventually include rail lines, toll ways for vehicles, utility lines for water, power and even data transfer.
Opponents, including the Waller County Commissioners Court, say that is a mistake.
Opponents have spent years protesting the proposed network of roads between Mexico and Texas.
They argue the total cost of $125 billion is really to help big business and not the small towns where they live.
“The citizens here are not going to bear the burden so Wal-Mart can get their cargo into the U.S. cheaper and faster,” said Trey Duhon, one of the estimated 800 who packed into the meeting Tuesday night in Hempstead.
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