Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Most are not wanting to have to sell their land just so people can get cheaper goods from China routed through Mexico."

Corridor would gobble up land

January 27, 2008

The Palestine Herald
Copuright 2008

Have you ever stopped to think how big a million acres is?

I sat down to do a little calculating the other day to try and put it in perspective. It takes 640 acres to make a section, which equals a square mile. That means a million acres is equal to 1,562 square miles.

In local terms, Anderson County covers an area of about 1,077 square miles, so a million acres would be about 1 1/2 times the size of this county, or an area roughly measuring 35 miles wide by 45 miles tall.

Why the lesson on land measurement; that’s just so you know how much land the state of Texas is wanting to steal from Texas landowners.

Maybe steal is too strong of a word, because the landowners will get some money out of it when the state goes ahead with its plans of building the I-69 Trans Texas Corridor, but most are not wanting to have to sell their land just so people can get cheaper goods from China routed through Mexico.

Now just for the record, Texas Transportation Vice Commissioner Ted Houghton said this newest planned corridor is not a NAFTA superhighway, but a way to help keep Texas’ ever increasing population on the move.

Now the commissioner is right about some things. Texas is experiencing a lot of population growth and some of our roads are getting crowded, but one question I do have is, how can a road stretching from the border town of McAllen, or Laredo, all the way to Texarkana, benefit anybody but overland freight haulers?

The I-69 TTC is nothing more than a superhighway around the state’s largest population center and then a fast lane out of the state up to the future inland ports in the center of the country.

“I don’t know how this couldn’t be (a NAFTA highway,)” said Corridor Watch co-founder Linda Stall. “This road would go from Texas’ border with Mexico deep into the U.S.

“They (transportation officials) have always used truck traffic as a justification for these roads, but that’s not real popular right now,” she added.

At a meeting in Hempstead, Houghton said it didn’t connect to Mexico because it stopped in Brownsville or McAllen — two cities that share a border with Mexico.

“They like to play word games,” Stall said of transportation officials.

Back in May, a moratorium was placed on TxDOT executing agreements with private partners for collecting tolls.

“They can’t sign an agreement, but that doesn’t stop them from negotiating,” Stall said.

The moratorium also doesn’t keep TxDOT from doing environmental impact studies and other necessary work needed to see the roads get built.

TxDOT hopes to have the final Environmental Impact Statement prepared and made available for public review by this summer, with federal approval expected by this winter.

Now, once again, to put the size of these corridors in context, the corridors, as designed by the state, would cover an expanse approximately 1,200 feet wide and would include several lanes for traffic, rail, along with energy and telecommunication lines. In other words, for every mile of TTC, 146 acres would be gobbled up by the state.

Take a look at the Family Land Heritage site and you’ll find a large number of counties in deep East Texas with large number of farms that have been in the same family for more than 100 years.

That doesn’t matter to the state, if they want it, they’ll get it.

It may seem distant for those of us living in Anderson County, but for our neighbors living in southern Houston and Cherokee counties, Trinity, Walker, Angelina and Nacogdoches counties, the specter of a quarter-mile swath being taken from middle of the beautiful East Texas Piney Woods is unthinkable.

There is something we can do. For those who oppose the coming of the I-69 corridor, Stall advises they attend the series of town hall meetings set for across East Texas and she also advises people to write their state representative and senator.

“Numbers count,” Stall said. “When an elected official sees hundreds of their constituents at a meeting opposed to something, they will take notice.

“Write letters to them if you are opposed to it, express your feelings because our state representatives pay attention to those letters,” Stall added.

For more on the TTC, visit

To get a list of upcoming public hearings on the I-69 TTC, visit the TxDOT Web site at


Wayne Stewart may be contacted via e-mail at

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