Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"If you come after my land I will show you the working end of my gun."

Public says highway isn't my way:

All in attendance at Lufkin's TxDOT town hall meeting voice opposition to proposed I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor

February 12, 2008

The Lufkin Daily News
Copyright 2008

Everyone who spoke at the Texas Department of Transportation's I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor public hearing on Tuesday night was against the superhighway.

The hearing was one of 46 that TxDOT has been and will continue holding throughout Texas to take public comments on the issue. TxDOT offers numerous ways to submit comments, including both verbal and written submissions, but all of the public comments made Tuesday were against the corridor.

The I-69/TTC is part of a proposed 4,000-mile multi-modal transportation system that would include car and truck lanes, freight and passenger rail lines, and a space for a future utility use. The corridor was proposed as a possible solution to the growing traffic congestion problem in the country.

The main arguments against the proposed corridor included the loss of land and homes that have been in families for generations; the loss of history, including historical markers and cemeteries currently in the path; lower property values since nobody wants to live next to a superhighway; and additional property taxes. Many fought the corridor as though fighting a monster ready to devour the rural way of life.

Hank Gilbert, with the Texas Turf organization, spoke against the corridor for two reasons. First, he believed the environmental assessment was wrong since it didn't include the oil and gas industry or the agricultural industry, two industries Gilbert said are vital to the state. Gilbert also questioned why TxDOT decided to combine the I-69 project with the TTC project. He pointed out that one was about moving people and the other about moving freight — and that East Texans wouldn't allow the second to happen.

"That's not the way we do things," Gilbert said. "We're Texans first and this is not a Texas idea."

Some compared Gov. Rick Perry to Bin Laden, arguing the government was terrorizing the Texas people, while many more voiced fears that such a massive corridor would serve as one big target for terrorists.

"This is a terrorist's dream," said T.J. McFarlen of Trinity County. "One hit could cripple our state.."

McFarlen added that his father had always told him there were two things he should never sell — his land and his gun.

"If you come after my land I will show you the working end of my gun," McFarlen said. Others voiced the same threat.

Ronald Hodge suggested that TxDOT not move forward on I-69/TTC, but instead work to improve the roads already in existence. He said he didn't want a toll road running through his part of the state.

"We pay enough for everything else," Hodge said.

One teacher from Martinsville read what some of her third-grade students had said concerning the corridor when it was discussed in class. The corridor would cut through the middle of the Martinsville school district, according to Jan Tracey.

Some of the children's arguments included not wanting to hear the traffic outside their homes, fears that their homes or their friends' homes would be torn down and they would have to move, loss of wildlife, and a loss of the community. A couple of the kids even suggested TxDOT put the corridor in another city such as Fort Worth or Longview.

"I know you want to make the world better, but for us it's too much," one child said.

Another asked that TxDOT look to a great leader for guidance.

"You are bad if you build this road," the child said. "What would George Washington do?"

One man, John Torres, implored residents to tell all of their loved ones currently in the armed forces about the corridor and let their voices be heard.

"Let them write to Rick Perry," Torres said. "Let them tell Perry what they think while they're defending this great nation."

The public hearings are part of the first tier in an environmental impact study. Comments can be submitted one of five ways: by public testimony at any of the hearings; privately to a court reporter at the hearings; by submitting written comments at the hearings; by submitting written comments by U.S. mail to I-69/TTC, P.O. Box 14428, Austin, TX 78761; or by visiting the Web at http://ttc.keeptexasmoving.com/comments_questions/comments_i69.aspx. The last day to send comments will be March 19.

The next public hearing will be held at 6:30 tonight in the Logansport High School Gymnasium in Logansport, Texas. For more information on the I-69/TTC, visit the Web site www.keeptexasmoving.com.

© 2008 The Lufkin Daily News: www.lufkindailynews.com

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