“There’s one endangered species we need to take care of, and that’s the private landowner.”
Most at Texas Department of Transportation meeting have no love for the Trans-Texas Corridor
February 27, 2008
BY TARA BOZICK
Few Victoria residents at Wednesday night’s meeting were in favor of the Trans-Texas Corridor.
Josie Marbach walked up to the Victoria College Fine Arts Auditorium and saw a table offering a petition.
“Is this a petition?” she asked intently. “Where’s the place to sign?”
The retired Victoria resident doesn’t want the proposed highway system and came to the Texas Department of Transportation’s public meeting to see how much more of a plan developed.
Hundreds of people filled the auditorium to listen and give public comments on Interstate Highway 69 and Trans-Texas Corridor.
We’re informing people of the need and purpose of the project, public information officer Bryan Ellis said. Comments will be considered for the environmental impact statement, which will address socioeconomic effects of the road system.
The evening meeting began with a video presentation from the department explaining that the state could pay willing landowners now for an option to buy their land in the future.
Victoria County commissioner Gary Burns, of precinct 3, then joked about the words “willing landowners” to the laughs and cheers of the audience.
“There’s so many questions here,” he said. “There’s one endangered species we need to take care of, and that’s the private landowner.”
Sixth-generation Texas landowner Kathleen Reimann, of Victoria, agreed as she’s against the project in any “way, shape or form.” She would prefer expanding the existing roadways instead of the state grabbing up land for a new one.
She questions who would truly use the corridor and believes foreign investors are the only ones to gain. She risks losing the land that’s been in her family for 143 years, including a historic cemetery on site.
“The bottom line is all of our immigrant ancestors who came over here struggled for their land and now we’re going to take it away from them?” she asked, shaking her head. “It’s unTexan, it’s unAmerican.”
Chris and Dyris Lassman came to the meeting when they found out the corridor may run straight through their house. The Victoria landowners would like a timeframe on the project so they know when the destruction of their home is coming.
Mrs. Lassman asked Department of Transportation staff if the corridor was really happening. They replied that it wasn’t set in stone.
“This isn’t a little baby thing like 59. It’s huge,” she said, worried. “We’re going to get plowed over.”
Mayor Will Armstrong in his comment to the audience expressed a need for improving the road system in the area, adding there would never be as good a time for the rail. Armstrong looked at growth in Texas doubling and understands infrastructure doesn’t happen by accident.
“There are questions and we need to look at this process,” he said. “But we need to plan for the future.”
The audience booed heavily as he finished the comment.
The transportation system needs improving, Lee Swearingen, chairman of the Victoria County Navigation District, said. He understands that traffic won’t diminish.
He supports the southern route of the corridor, but would be against the project if the state chose the northern route.
“They can improve the existing highways,” Swearingen said. “I think that’s what everybody wants.”
Victoria Mayor Pro-Tem Lewis Neitsch is for the interstate using existing roadways. He stands against the corridor and developing roads that would run parallel to existing ones.
“From an economic standpoint, we need an interstate highway,” Dale Fowler, president of the Victoria Economic Development Corp., said. Fowler said the area could continue losing industrial opportunities as companies choose to build near interstates.
But Linda Jaynes, retired Victoria resident, doesn’t understand why the road needs to be so large and questions the devastating economic effects.
“Maybe we need extra roads,” she said, expressing worries about outsourcing to Mexico. “But jobs are going to be gone. People will go hungry. It’s scary.”
Tara Bozick is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact her at 361-580-6504 or email@example.com.
After 46 public hearings and when the state finishes taking public comments until March 19, the department will send written responses to substantive comments, public information officer Bryan Ellis said.
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