"Who is this highway for? Who is it really going to benefit?"
by Christa Lollis
KTRE Channel 9 (Lufkin, Nacodoches)
LUFKIN- A continuous 10-lane interstate complete with restaurants, and rail lines could soon run throughout Texas. It could even run right through Lufkin and Nacogdoches, and that's not sitting too well with some people.
"The main reason is who is this highway for? Who is it really going to benefit," Hank Gilbert wonders. Those are questions Gilbert wants answered. He and his organization are against construction of the interstate but TxDOT says it's nothing they aren't used to. One representative, Steve Simmons said, "We're not seeing anything different that we're hearing at the I69/TTC debate as what was discussed during the building of the interstate highway system. It's a new concept. It affects people. It affects their communities. It affects the state of Texas."
TxDOT reps answered questions and told the audience why I-69 and the Trans-Texas corridor are a good thing, and important to the growth of the state. "1000 new people move to Texas everyday. We basically add the population the size of San Antonio every 5 years," Simmons explained. Opponents of the plan came armed with stats of their own. "The federal housing and our developments says just the opposite, that Texas has been basically zero growth for the last 5 years. We've had a large migration from the rural to urban areas but not a whole lot of growth," Gilbert argued.
The growth argument wasn't the only negative East Texans saw in TXDOT's plans. "I am very concerned about foreign entities in this plan," one East Texan said. Another asked, "To the extent that you could use the existing footprint would that part be tolled also?" This wasn't the first, and it won't be the last of town hall meetings throughout the state but TxDOT hopes that when they leave each city, there will be a few more supporters than when they arrived
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