"Only here in Texas has a simple highway improvement project turned into a monstrosity of such magnitude."
By TRACY DANG, Managing Editor
The Sealy News
The Sealy High Schools auditorium was filled almost to capacity Monday night as residents from Austin County and the surrounding area attended the Texas Department of Transportation public hearing to express their opinions about the proposed I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor.
Although some chose to submit their comments in writing, approximately 50 people stood up to speak, and every one of them had the same message: "I am opposed to the I-69/Trans Texas Corridor."
"It's not hard to understand - we don't want it here," Sealy mayor Russell Koym said. "We think it'll be bad for our community, our farmland and our rural setting. One time we were all in a rural setting. We know progress has been made. But this may not be the best way to do it. The main thing is, common sense right now is not through our county."
"We didn't want it yesterday, we don't want it tonight, and we don't it tomorrow," Sealy councilman Nick Tirey said.
Even though the community's reasons for opposing the TTC have not changed since it first heard about the project, people felt it was important to keep fighting something they were so strongly against.
"We (have to) stand up for ourselves," Hank Gilbert said. "We (have to) stand up for our property and say, 'Stop cramming this down our throats.' Hopefully this is our Alamo that we're going to win."
"This is not an interstate; this is not a highway; this is something different," Jennifer Duhon said. "Agricultural land is a natural resource, and it is not replaceable. This is the second corridor of eight proposed projects. Everything is worth fighting for."
The introduction video explained the federal government developed a proposed Interstate 69 and labeled it as a high priority in 1991, but some say the proposed I-69/TTC is not the same concept.
"I-69 would not require an environmental impact study," Ed Campbell said. "The right of ways are already there. But we are not here because of a simple highway improvement project, a simple widening of a highway that could please most of the people here, including the TxDOT employees.
"Only here in Texas has a simple highway improvement project turned into a monstrosity of such magnitude of environmental impact, land acquisition, security concerns and monetary waste that it brings hundreds of normally quiet citizens out to meeting after meeting to protest something that would normally be seen as an improvement to their transportation needs."
Among the issues was the concern that the project would require resident to give up their land - land that has been in their families for generations.
"This is going to wipe me out - all my land, my house, my animals," Dee Bond said. "This is the most massive land-for-profit I have ever seen. Do you think Cinta or Zachary is going to care? Who is going to feed our cattle? Mexico? I don't think so. Who is going to grow the food for the U.S. citizens? China? No." We are left with the option that the no build-alterative is the only alternative."
"My father is buried in one of the family farms that the corridor will take," Frances Leveridge Gorman said. "I relive the history my father told of Santa Anna camping along the river. As Texans we stand as one family, unwilling to stand at anything. These people want to build a road nobody wants and expects us to pay for it. I am against the corridor, my father's resting place, my homeland and my children's heritage is sacred ground. This heritage is not for sale."
Many were upset because the land has a rich history.
"Our church will be 100 years old in May," Gene Eschenburg said. "Many of the parishioners and their sons came back safely from the war, and a memorial was built to honor them. I know what kind of honor they had when they built the Grotto. Let's say no to the corridor and go home and forget about all this stuff."
"Putting a barrier road corridor through Austin County would be a disappointment to Stephen F. Austin if he were here today," Fred Strauss said.
Others said the environmental impact study is flawed, using outdated data.
"Specifically the DEIS have obsolete data from 1990 to analyze the land use along the corridor," Michelle Sorenson said. "Specifically, the DEIS used 2004 and 2005 maps of the flood plain areas. Specifically, the DEIS failed to identify and address the negative impact the TTC would have on our watershed areas."
One after another, many expressed the same thing: "I prefer the no action alternative."
Despite fears the TTC cannot be stopped, there are things individuals can do.
"If you have a cemetery, make sure it's registered," Mark Stolarsky said. "They can't go through registered historic places. (A ranch) was nominated for the National Registry of Historic Places. The corridor has to stay off the ranch. If you have any historic property, get it registered, and keep the (TTC) out of Austin County."
Others said now is the time for people to write to their state lawmakers.
"Your comments here will not stop the Trans Texas Corridor," said Linda Stall, co-founder of the anti-TTC group CorridorWatch. "Your legislators are the only ones who can do that. So go home tonight and feel empowered. You need to write letters to the Sunset Review Committee because those commissions and committees will make recommendations to the 2009 legislature. That is what's going to put it to an end.
"Many of you are going to talk about your family heritage. What are your grandchildren going to say about you? Are they going to say, 'My grandparents stood up?' I hope so."
Those who wish to submit a letter to TxDOT may do so by mail to I-69/TTC, PO Box 14428, Austin, Texas 78761 or online at www.keeptexasmoving.com.
All comments must be received by March 19.
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