Thursday, February 07, 2008

"Trans-Texas Corridor 69 will not only break us financially but shackle the future generations if this plan goes through."

Residents warn of toll from planned highway

February 07, 2008

Longview News-Journal
Copyright 2008

Not one of the 11 East Texans who approached the podium at Wednesday's hearing on Interstate 69 voiced support for the planned highway.

"This is highway robbery, and we should not pursue this project," said David Simpson, a Longview resident and fifth-generation Texan. "This process has bypassed the Constitution. It has bypassed the U.S. Congress, and I'm opposed to it because of the unconstitutional way that it has been pushed through."

The public hearing, held at Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center, was a chance for residents to comment and ask questions about Interstate 69/Trans-Texas Corridor. The corridor would extend about 650 miles from Laredo to Victoria to Houston's north and west suburbs. It would then travel through East Texas to Texarkana parallel to the U.S. 59 route, according to environmental impact studies released in December.

The corridor is a collection of passenger and freight highway lanes, utility and rail lines and pipelines. Its width could reach 1,200 feet — more than three football fields from end zone to end zone.

The Texas Department of Transportation is holding 47 public hearings in three weeks along the corridor route. TxDOT Tyler District held Wednesday's hearing in Longview because U.S. 59 touches the southeastern tip of Rusk County, according to TxDOT spokesman Larry Krantz.

About 105 residents attended Wednesday's meeting, Krantz said. Would-be participants had three options for communication: speak at the microphone, speak in private with a court reporter or write their comments. Comments are being accepted until March 19. After that, substantive comments will be addressed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement. The Federal Highway Administration then will announce whether it has selected the recommended corridor route, selected an alternative route or taken no action — an alternative that would mean that no location for the corridor has been identified.

Nearly everyone who spoke publicly Wednesday were in favor of the no-action alternative.

Some East Texans dressed the part. Nancy Falster, a Winnsboro farm owner, wore a prison outfit to depict that she and other Texans were becoming prisoners because of the corridor.

"Trans-Texas Corridor 69 will not only break us financially but shackle the future generations if this plan goes through," she said. "We already pay for the roads by taxes. What else will we be paying in the future?"

At least one person who attended the Longview hearing was not opposed to Interstate 69/Trans-Texas Corridor. Longview District 2 Councilman Daryl Williams, who did not speak in public comment, said the planned corridor would bring benefits to his city.

"It really won't impact us much," he said. "I just want it west of Marshall."

TxDOT officials were not allowed to respond to any comments entered into record.

© 2008 Longview News-Journal:

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