Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"I personally think it's a slap in the face for Texas..."

Corridor: All in favor? None

February 26, 2008

By Stephen Palkot
Fort Bend Herald
Copyright 2008

A handful of Kendleton residents were among several dozen to speak out against the Trans-Texas Corridor at a public hearing Monday night in Rosenberg.

“I personally think it's a slap in the face for Texas to take the land for pennies on the dollar, to put a road on it and to make you pay a toll for it,” said Jeremy West, one of the speakers from Kendleton.

The Trans-Texas Corridor is a proposal for a network of highways, rail lines and utilities throughout Texas that would be financed by private interests who would seek to profit through tolls and other fees. In 2005, the Texas Department of Transportation unveiled plans to build and finance the already-proposed I-69 by making it a component of the Trans-Texas Corridor, to be known as TTC-69.

TTC-69 today consists of a 650-mile route from the Mexican border to Texarkana that in most sections would replace U.S. 59. However, TTC-69 would make an arc around Fort Bend County and the Houston area, due to high-density development and right-of-way limitations.

TxDOT has proposed an east-west swath that would connect the main artery of the corridor with the southern half of the Houston area, and that route would run through Fort Bend County.

The Kendleton residents expressed concerns that this connecting corridor, known as Section S, would cut through their small town, which includes historical structures such as churches and Powell Point Elementary School.

TxDOT officials could not respond to those remarks during the comment phase of Monday's hearing, but they said in open house portions that the agency continues to accept input on TTC and the final route will be a portion of what is now a two-mile-wide study area.

More than one person expressed fears about the loss of U.S. sovereignty as a result of TTC. Mike Currie, a Harris County political activist, drew cheers for saying TTC is a product of agreements between the U.S., Mexico and Canada for what critics contend is a future “North American Union,” complete with its own currency to replace U.S. dollars.

Politicians at the event included Precinct 1 Commissioner Tom Stavinoha, who urged the examination by TxDOT of ongoing rail projects as an alternative to TTC-69, and District 27 State Rep. Dora Olivo, D-Rosenberg, who said she opposes the concept due to the proposed privatization of public resources.

Also speaking against the idea were representatives of the Texas Farm Bureau, the Sierra Club and the Houston-based Citizen's Transportation Council.

Public comments will be accepted by TxDOT in written form through March 19. The agency has completed a Draft Environmental Impact Study, which is required for it to receive federal approval for planning to continue. Some of the speakers Monday criticized the DEIS.

The actual route for TTC-69 would not be determined until the next major round of studies, which is not expected to get under way until at least 2009, say TxDOT officials.

No person spoke in favor of TTC-69, though several expressed interest in developing I-69 as planned before it was lumped with the Trans-Texas Corridor.

Comments can be submitted through the TxDOT Web site www.keeptexasmoving.com or mailed to: I-69/TTC, P.O. Box 14428, Austin, TX 78761.

© 2008 Fort Bend Herald: www.herald-coaster.com

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