“What part of 'no' do you not understand?”
BY ROSEMARY SMITH
The Navasota Examiner
Grimes County commissioners and County Judge Betty Shiflett made sure they attended a TTC/I-69 meeting at the Walker County Fairgrounds last week, as residents previously demanded they take a stronger stance against the proposed route through Grimes County.
Shiflett received a roaring applause from audience members with her speech that ended with the question, “What part of “no” do you not understand?”
Shiflett added that Grimes County was not given an option for having a town meeting, just the environmental meeting.
“Representative Lois Kolkhorst stole the show as she announced loud and clear that she was against TTC I-69,” said Edna Keasling of Richards, who attended the meeting, with approximately 800-1,000 other people.
Following the meeting, Commissioner John Bertling said he was approached by residents who believed he spoke in favor of I-69, as he opened his speech with the words, “I am not against I-69.”
Bertling further explained that he said that because he understands the need for another highway in order to relieve excessive traffic on the interstates. However, he is against the currently proposed route.
“I said” I was in favor of the I-69 corridor if it was put in a straight line. I am not in favor of I-69 going through Grimes County or any other county when it's not logical and cost effective. I don't want to see Grimes County residents lose their land either. US 59 is the only logical path for this corridor “the shortest distance between two lines is a straight line!” declared Commissioner Bertling.
He added that proposed route through Grimes County would cost the trucking companies 400 extra miles and a lot of extra gas.
“Grimes County's objection to the I69 corridor has been stated in the Commissioners Court ‘s resolution opposing the proposed route. I have visited with TxDOT representative Gary Bushell, and have requested that any statements about Grimes County would express this opposition,” Judge Shiflett said in regards to a previous accusation that TxDOT misrepresented Grimes County during a separate meeting she was unable to attend. Shiflett was sent a series of random quotes from previous I-69 corridor meetings that could have been misinterpreted as such.
This included the following remarks by Transportation Commissioner Ted Houghton as he addressed question from Grimes County regarding Camp Allen during a January 22 meeting in Hempstead.
“One of the things that they look at is the highest and driest piece of dirt and avoiding the ecological issues and cemeteries and on and on and on. In this case in the Brazos Valley, the Research Partnership up there, which is their economic development group, came to us and they raised their hand and said why not right through here. That is how all this stuff morphed that way to Highway 6 and it has taken a life of its own.”
“I visited with Judge Betty Shiflett from Waller, I mean Grimes County, and said, Judge what do you think about the road over here, and she said, Not down the center of our county. And at the chagrin of most of my TxDOT employees, I agree with her. I can explain to you these wide swaths and how they get there in the EIS and DEIS, but at the end of the day Brazos Valley in my opinion is going to move 69 onto Highway 6. That's my opinion - because logic will prevail here that, why would anybody else, including us, build a parallel asset to that thing that is now being improved, upgraded to a four lane interstate quality highway. The answer is no one should or in their right mind would.
And it is coming to the fact that it ought to go on existing footprint, and improve the existing footprint. So that is the logic behind it. And I can't explain why it went through Camp Allen.”
He added later, “This Transportation Commissioner is lobbying this group as well as the judges that I have met including Judge Ralston and Judge Shiflett, and the other judges, is the existing footprint looks pretty nice, and you know what, with a little improvement it is a nice asset that we have. “
A Public Hearing on the I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) will take place at the Grimes County Expo Center in Navasota on February 28. Individual or public comments on I-69/TTC must be submitted by March 19, 2008. They may be given as verbal testimony during the hearing or submitted as written comments at the hearing, by mail, or on the Trans-Texas Corridor website at www.keeptexasmoving.com
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