Thursday, January 31, 2008

"I don’t think Sam Houston or Stephen F. Austin struggled over this land to give our highways away to foreign countries."

Kolkhorst: There are other road options


By Kristin Edwards
The Huntsville Item
Copyright 2008

State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst expressed her disapproval of the proposed I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor and offered possible alternatives at the Texas Department of Transportation town hall meeting at the Walker County Fairgrounds Wednesday night.

“I’m proud of you for coming out twice to tell your state what you think about the proposal,” Kolkhorst told the estimated crowd of 800. “I’m going to say the same thing I said in Austin County — we don’t want this thing and I don’t want this thing.
“The blame for what is proposed should surely go right to our commissioners, our governor and even to me in a way, but I’ve been trying to make it right for you.”
Kolkhorst said she has been working against toll roads during the last few years and worked to pass a moratorium on the construction of tollways by private entities. “I have spent the last four years of my life trying to say we don’t want this thing, and my favorite saying is ‘We may need new highways in Texas, but this ain’t it,’” she said. “I helped secure a moratorium against private investors taking over our highways for the next 50 years or more.”
“I don’t think Sam Houston or Stephen F. Austin struggled over this land to give our highways away to foreign countries.”
While Kolkhorst said she was opposed to the current plans for the Trans-Texas Corridor, she said Texas did have a need for improvements in the field of transportation.

“Let me also say that I would not be a very good leader and I wouldn’t represent you very well if I didn’t say that Texas needs new highways,” she said. “We are a growing and vibrant state, and I believe Texas and Texans are rich enough to build their own highways.

“We’ll have to think about a gasoline tax, we’ll have to think about whether toll roads will be in the mix, but if we use toll roads, I believe we should keep that money in Texas, working for Texans.”

During the meeting, Kolkhorst was asked to address Gov. Rick Perry’s involvement with the Trans-Texas Corridor, and she said she believed he would listen to the requests of Walker County residents.
“Perry and I have had some very tense conversations, but I still believe he’ll listen,” she said. “I still have that faith, and hopefully this executive branch of TxDOT will take a message back to the governor saying ‘We don’t think these people want this.’”

Kolkhorst mentioned several alternatives to the Trans-Texas Corridor which she said the public may be called to vote on later.

“We’re going to come up with some proposals, but we’ll still have to make some tough decisions next session,” she said. “We might have to have an index gas tax, but I honestly believe that’s better than selling our roads to foreign companies.

“We have until September 2009 to come up with a new way to do this, and I think we can — right now, we need to say this is not the way to do it.”

In order to cause change in the planning process for the corridor, Kolkhorst told those in attendance to continue to participate in the TxDOT public hearings.

“Continue to talk to these people and ask questions, but do not think it stops here,” she said. “What you can do is show up on Monday, write the governor and write TxDOT. You don’t need to write me, I’m with you.

“Get 10 of your closest friends and come out Monday, and tell them to bring 10 of their closest friends, because we need to tell TxDOT we can do this in a different way that is better for Texas.”

Kolkhorst said the input of the public was very important to the planning and deliberation involved with the corridor.

“I see a lot of people out there who have owned land, and their fathers before them and their fathers before them,” she said. “Let’s tell them why we don’t want a 1,200 foot [road] coming through here. I think we’re all a little tired of the ‘top down’ process — I know I am as a citizen.

“It’s time for us to go from the down up, that’s what our founding fathers wanted, and that’s what I’m asking you to do.”

The Huntsville Item wants to know your opinion on the proposed I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor. To cast your vote, visit, scroll down to the poll link and type your comments.

The responses received before Feb. 5 will be included in an upcoming story.

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