"TxDOT is getting a bad name from what the governor has proposed. This proposal has set us back 10 years."
March 03, 2008
The Tribune (Humble, TX)
Heated comments flew around the room as more than 175 citizens gathered to voice their opinions at the TxDOT open house and public hearing on the I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor held at the Humble Civic Center on Feb. 28, 2008.
Congress designated I-69 as a high priority corridor in 1991 and again in 1998. In 2002, TxDOT unveiled the Trans-Texas Corridor project to accommodate Texas’ future transportation needs. The TTC is a part of a 4,000-mile system of rail lines, truck and car lanes and concentrated utility routes to improve international and intrastate movement of goods and people from Canada to the border of Mexico.
The TTC proposal has two phases
• Tier One, the current phase, is the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. It is a study designed to identify transportation corridors that will provide the best balance of meeting the project’s purpose while minimizing the effect on the environment. No property acquisition or construction can occur during this phase. The evaluation also includes, among many other aspects of the proposal, assessment of public and agency input. At the end of the public comment period, all comments will be compiled and reviewed by the Federal Highway Administration. Tier One must be approved by the FHWA for the project to go forward to Tier Two.
• Tier Two is a detailed study of the environmental impact, based on transportation needs (highway and rail), on the areas that were approved by the FHWA. It will then identify the preferred route of the TTC. Before any property acquisition or construction the study must have federal approval.
The TTC is the state’s initiative to improve the movement of goods through the state, provide economic enhancement to underserved areas and address the transportation needs of Texas for the next 20 to 50 years. The TTC will cover approximately 650 miles from Texarkana to Laredo with off shoots to McAllen, Corpus Christi and Shreveport.
“If the FHWA sees that there is no support from the citizens of Texas, the TTC will not be built, said Norm Wigington, TxDOT public information officer.
Promptly at 6:30 p.m., TxDOT opened the hearing to listen to comments from the public. Each citizen had three minutes to express an opinion. Thirty-one people from the surrounding area and from numerous counties in east Texas took turns expressing their opinions of the TTC.
Don Garrett, from Citizens for a Better Waller County, told the audience, “We are working to defeat the TTC; we are not against transportation, but we are against foreign investors who see our highway system as a cash cow.”
TxDOT has indicated that the entire TTC will be a toll road. “There has been talk that H.B. Zachry, a privately owned construction company in San Antonio, has partnered with Cinta in hopes of operating the highway,” Wigington said.
Humble Area Chamber of Commerce, chairman Mike Beyer commented, “First, we need to build U.S. Highway 59 to current standards. Several years ago, when I heard Governor Perry talk about the TTC, I thought he had lost his mind. TxDOT has done a lot of good for Texas, but it is getting a bad name from what the governor has proposed. This proposal has set us back 10 years. Shut down I-69 and the Trans-Texas Corridor.”
Numerous other citizens commented that the EIS did not attend to the environmentally sensitive areas, it disregarded historical sites, cemeteries and did not address environmental safety should a disaster strike. Others asked, among other concerns, what considerations were given to the influx of people who will now have direct access to enter the United States illegally, the plight of commuters on the congested highways in urban areas and what is being done to identify emergency evacuation routes.
TxDOT was not allowed to make comments or rebuttals to the opinions expressed during the public forum.
For additional information on the I-69/TTC, go to www.keeptexasmoving.com. To submit a written comment, mail to: I-69/TTC, P.O. Box 14428, Austin, TX 78761 or go to www.keeptexasmoving.com/index.php/contact. The final date for written comments is March 19.
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