"These are the people who made Texas what it is today, and now they feel betrayed by their own state"
1,100 attend meeting to discuss Trans-Texas Corridor, I-69
January 29, 2008
BY DAVID TEWES
The Victoria Advocate
Linda Bournias stood at the entrance to the Victoria Community Center dome and looked out over the hundreds of people there Tuesday evening.
“Look at their faces,” she said. “They’re heartbroken.”
These are the people who made Texas what it is today, and now they feel betrayed by their own state, she said.
Bournias, who lives in rural Jackson County, was talking about the 1,100 people attending a Texas Department of Transportation town hall meeting.
While the meeting was designed to provide answers to questions about any state transportation issues, most of the conversation centered on the Trans-Texas Corridor and the proposed Interstate 69 through the Victoria area.
This was the eighth of 12 town hall meetings being conducted by the Texas Department of Transportation along the proposed corridor. It was one of the highest turnouts of any of the town hall sessions so far, said Area Engineer Randy Bena with the state transportation department.
Amadeo Saenz Jr., the state transportation department’s executive director, said the meetings are designed to provide a forum for everyday taxpayers. That includes comments about the controversial Trans-Texas Corridor plan that could take property that has been owned by the same families for generations, he said.
“We understand property rights are very important,” Saenz said before the meeting. “They’re important to us, too.”
And while not everyone has left the meetings happy, Saenz said he believes many were pleased they were able to hear the facts.
“They may not like the corridor,” he said. “But they thanked us for coming.”
The state also provided space for organizations with opposing views, such as Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom. A banner behind the booth stated the group defends citizens’ concerns about toll roads and North American Free Trade Agreement highways.
Among those visiting the booth was James Duran, who owns 89 acres that could be affected by the Trans-Texas Corridor in south Victoria County.
A draft environmental impact study shows a preferred route north of the city for the corridor. Duran said he’s heard city and county officials prefer the corridor go south of Victoria along U.S. 59.
As the existing industrial plants south of Victoria expand, the economy and population will grow, he said. The area south of Victoria would then become more populated and putting a super highway through there would be counterproductive, he said.
That could force the existing business along U.S. 59 to close or move because they would lose their property.
“It just stands to reason,” Duran said. “That’s not going to bring growth.”
David Meek, who owns 1,800 acres near Inez and 400 acres in Jackson County, said he could be forced to sell his land to the state for the corridor.
“If a person owns something, they ought to be able to sell when they want,” he said. “This land has been in the family over 50 years. We’ve worked on it and we’ve sweated over it.”
Some might accuse him of being against progress, Meek said. The problem is not that he opposes progress, but that the project is senseless, he said.
The money would be better spent taking care of the transportation problems in the big cities, he said.
David Tewes is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6515 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2008 The Victoria Advocate::
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