Monday, March 10, 2008

"We are fighting the hierarchy at TxDOT, and we’re fighting the governor of this state. If they can be controlled, this issue will be solved."

Does public opinion on I-69 matter?

Texas transportation officer says it does, but opponents not so sure


The Victoria Advocate
Copyright 2008

Carl Bedgood doubts anything he or anyone else said about the proposed Interstate 69/Trans-Texas Corridor will make a difference in the long run.
“I really don’t think they are listening to the public,” said Bedgood, who owns land in Victoria and Goliad counties that the highway project could affect. The highway department has “made up its mind and doesn’t care what the public says.”

Bedgood, who spoke at two of the highway department’s public hearings last month on the project, thinks the only recourse to challenge proposed routes or stop the project altogether is through the state legislature.

But Bryan Ellis, public information officer for the Texas Department of Transportation’s Yoakum District office, said public comments are indeed part of the decision-making process.

“In Victoria, for instance, the majority of the comments we received were not in favor of the northern route. Most people said stay on the existing highways 59 and 77. That is an example of how the public involvement process can shape how the route eventually looks. The public does have a huge part in determining where the route is intended to go,” Ellis said.

Others who attended and spoke at the public hearings in the area also offered opinions on how much impact their statements might make.

“We hope they take what we had to say into consideration. That was the purpose of the hearing,” said Edna attorney and business owner Dennis Simons. “Our hope is that it didn’t fall on deaf ears. Whether it did or not, we’ll probably never know.”
Ganado’s Donald Egg was a little less optimistic.
“It was just a dog and pony show so they can say the public had input,” said Egg,who not only spoke at the public hearing in Edna but also has written letters to federal and state legislators about the project. “If the decision is being made in Washington, D.C., it makes no difference what we say and do in Texas. It’s more of a trade issue than a transportation issue.” If the highway expansion becomes a reality, Egg stands to lose his homestead in Edna, which has been in his family for five generations, and property in Ganado, where he has retired.

Others are hopeful that public input can make a difference.

“If you have the idea that you can’t fight Texas, then possibly we aren’t being heard. If you have the understanding we aren’t fighting Texas –Texas is a piece of dirt – we are fighting the hierarchy at TxDOT, and we’re fighting the governor of this state. If they can be controlled, this issue will be solved,” said Charlie Faupel, a seventh generation owner of Reeves Ranch that would be affected by both the northern or southern I-69 route in the Victoria area. “I’m glad they had the meetings and so many people turned out for them.”

“There was a lot of participation. We had six hearings in our district and every one was very well attended,” Ellis said.

Statewide, the highway department held 46 public hearings – including seven in the Victoria area – on the draft of the proposed project’s environmental impact study. Public comments can continue to be made through March 19 via the highway department Web site. People who took comment cards at the meetings also have until March 19 to get those in.

“All substantive comments will be addressed,” said Ellis, explaining that highway department staff, along with consultants hired to conduct the environmental impact study, will review the comments.

“I think, for example, one of the main things we were hearing at all the meetings in the Victoria area was ‘keep it on existing 59.’ We heard it over and over and over. Certainly that’s going to be something that’s going to carry a lot of weight,” Ellis said.

Sonny Long is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6585 or

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