Tuesday, January 08, 2008

TTC-69: Concerns about non-disclosure requirements of Citizen Advisory Committee members are still unresolved

Trans-Texas Corridor / I-69 Segment Committees, public meetings move forward


By Cari Herr
Tomball Magnolia Tribune New
Copyright 2008

While Waller County constituents have been instrumental in legislation affecting the proposed TransTexas Corridor I-69 (TTC/I-69), concern over non-disclosure requirements for TxDOT Segment Committee members remains unresolved even as public meetings move forward.

The orange shaded area represents the proposed TTC/I-69 corridor through Waller County.

Public meetings

Informational town hall meetings to review and receive comments on the TTC/I-69 Draft Environmental Impact Statement are scheduled for January and February.

Citizens for a Better Waller County have been opposed to the TTC/I-69 corridor since its inception. President Don Garret said the group would hold its own meetings on Jan. 10 and Jan. 16. For more information, visit: citizens@wallercountycitizens.org.

Garret said the purpose of these meetings would be to prepare for the upcoming TxDOT town hall scheduled for Jan. 22 at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Hempstead.

A presentation from representatives of TxDOT concerning the TTC/I-69 development is on the 8:30 a.m. agenda for the Jan. 23 Waller County Toll Road Authority (WCTRA) meeting to be held at the county Road and Bridge Administration building, also in Hempstead.

Corridor plans can be reviewed and comments can be submitted at two TxDOT public hearings scheduled for Feb. 27 in Waller County. Open house is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. with hearings to commence at 6:30 p.m.

For more scheduled meetings, visit www.keeptexasmoving.com. All comments on the I-69/TTC must be submitted by March 19.

TTC Legislation

Many in Waller County opposed to the corridor heralded Senate Bill 792 as a welcome killjoy for TTC/I-69 funding. A common interpretation of the bill, approved in the last legislative session, is that it suspends funding of Commercial Development Agreements (CDA) with foreign investors through Public-Private Partnerships over the next two years.

That is considered by some as a deterrent to the investment interest of Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras of Spain who has entered into limited contracts with San Antonio-based Zachery Construction Company for the TTC.

In reality, the bill exempts most CDAs that have execution dates within the two-year moratorium.

However, SB 792 does require CDA revenues, such as concessions and tolls, be used only for other projects in the region in which it is generated and limits CDA terms to 50 years. That could be considered prohibitive to foreign investors.

In addition, it makes provisions for local Toll Road Authorities to have the first option in building new toll projects. The bill in no way suspended construction on the TTC/I-35 corridor, but did put a damper on available funding mechanisms for the TTC/I-69 for at least two years.

Segment Committees

In the interim, TxDOT, a self-professed “financially challenged” entity, has responded with a $9 million marketing campaign designed to promote awareness on the proposed project.

As part of the campaign, TxDOT initiated local segment committees to be comprised of community members who are charged with gathering public preference for the project. However, one of the proposed rules of membership for Segment Committee members is to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

“How does that impact transparency and a member’s ability to report back to his constituents on the project?” asked WCTRA Director Trey Duhon at a recent meeting.

Duhon said he had requested an opinion on the proposed rule from the state Attorney General’s Office. WCTRA directors approved a resolution at a Dec. 19 meeting requesting at least one position on the TxDOT local Segment Committee.

Meanwhile, TxDOT is moving forward with its campaign to gather information for the purpose of narrowing the TTC/I-69 corridor down from the proposed 1,200-foot, six-lane behemoth of original conception, to a more rural-friendly mobility structure.

TTC/I-69 Town Hall Meetings
  • Jan. 22 Hempstead 6:30 p.m. Knights of Columbus Hall 22892 Mack Washington
  • Jan. 28 Bellville 6:30 p.m. Austin County Fairgrounds SH 159 East
TTC/I-69 Public Hearings
Open House 5 p.m.
Hearing 6:30 p.m.
  • Feb. 19 Magnolia High School
    14250 FM 1488
  • Feb. 26 Katy High School PAC
    6331 Highway Blvd.
  • Feb. 27 Knights of Columbus Hall
    22892 Mack Washington, Hempstead
  • Feb. 27 Waller High School
    20950 Fieldstore Rd.
  • Feb. 28 Grimes County Expo Center
    5220 FM 3455, Navasota

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