Tuesday, February 05, 2008

“Mr. Perry, we don’t want your road and if you want it, you can come and get it, but you won’t get it without our blood.”

TxDOT hearing comments focus on corridor opposition


By Kristin Edwards
The Huntsville item
Copyright 2008

Approximately 600 area residents attended the Texas Department of Transportation public hearing Monday at the Walker County Fairgrounds.

At the hearing, a brief video presentation was given on the I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor tier one draft environmental impact statement, followed by a chance for the public to make official comments.

“This was just a formal presentation done by TxDOT followed by a chance to receive pubic comments about the project,” said Bob Colwell, TxDOT public information officer for the Bryan District. “We had an open house at 5:30 p.m., and TxDOT representatives were available to answer questions.

“Then, at 6:30 p.m., a presentation was made on the tier one environmental study of the I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor.”

The presentation of the environmental study was made in the form of an informational video.

The video included information about tier one draft environmental impact statement, specific areas in the study area for the Trans-Texas Corridor, benefits of the construction and alternatives to the current I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor proposal.

According to the presentation, tier one research focused on broad issues but did not identify specific locations for construction and did not authorize construction, making advanced acquisition of land impossible at this time.

Alternative courses of action including the no-action alternative, which would prevent any action except measures already planned, were also discussed.

Following the presentation, audience members who had previously signed up to make public comments were given three minutes each to speak.

“From what I’ve been hearing, the citizens of Walker County want the no-action alternative,” Walker County Precinct 1 Commissioner B.J. Gaines Jr. said. “There’s an item on next Monday’s agenda to discuss resolution and opposition through the county as [the plan for the Trans-Texas Corridor] presently stands.

“While I appreciate what you representatives are doing, we feel like we’re caught in a fight between two trucking companies or two factories — we don’t know where we are.”

Fifth-grader Justin Wilson also made public comment against the construction of the Trans-Texas Corridor, and said that while he was too young to vote now, he would vote against it later.

“I’m smart enough to know this big road is not needed in Texas, and I’m smart enough to know the land it’s going on is going to be taken out of my inheritance,” he said. “I’m smart enough to know this is just another way of robbing Peter who is poor and paying Paul who is wealthy.

“So officials, are you smarter than a fifth-grader?”

In his comment, Trinity County resident Gary Smith literally raised his voice and addressed Gov. Rick Perry directly.

“As this road comes into my county, it crosses over river beds and possibly 12 cemeteries,” he said. “Our entire economic system will be destroyed, and while that might not mean much to Rick Perry, it means a lot to us. I’m mad — I’m very mad.

“Mr. Perry, we don’t want your road and if you want it, you can come and get it, but you won’t get it without our blood.”

According to Colwell, fewer people attended the public hearing compared to the number who attended the town hall meetings.

“I believe the lower attendance is due to the fact that fewer people wanted to see the advertisements from TxDOT and more wanted to have their voices heard,” he said. “Just because people make their comments here tonight doesn’t mean they will outweigh those we receive online or in writing. We’ll be addressing all of the comments we receive.”

Bryan Wood, moderator and district engineer, said all comments would have to be received by March 19 in order to be included in the official record.

“Public comments may also be submitted online, but in order to be included in the official record, we have to have them no later than 10 days after the last hearing date,” Wood said.

To make online comments concerning the Trans-Texas Corridor, visit www.keeptexasmoving.com.

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