Monday, April 07, 2008

"That line in the sand is the Trans-Texas Corridor, and it's a threat to our sovereignty again, just like at the Alamo."

Trans-Texas Corridor foes march on Capitol

Critics say proposed toll-rail-utility routing will usurp property rights and harm the environment.

April 06, 2008

By Patrick George
Austin American-Statesman

For Peyton Gilbert, the battle over the Trans-Texas Corridor is reminiscent of the moment in 1836 when Lt. Col. William Travis drew a line in the sand at the Alamo and invited those willing to fight thousands of Mexican soldiers to step across.

"That line in the sand is the Trans-Texas Corridor, and it's a threat to our sovereignty again, just like at the Alamo," said Gilbert, 14, who is from Whitehouse, near Tyler.

Gilbert was among a large crowd of people who marched down Congress Avenue to the Capitol on Saturday afternoon to demonstrate against the proposed highway-rail-utility corridor and the placement of toll roads on existing freeways. The corridor would go from the Texas-Mexico border to the Oklahoma state line and have special trucking lanes, rail lines and communications and utility cables.

Opponents say Gov. Rick Perry's plan for 4,000 miles of cross-state tollways will usurp private land, will use private companies to operate toll roads and could hurt the environment. The corridor is slated to be built by private contractors, primarily Spanish firm Cintra.

"In a nutshell, we are against it because of the devastation it's going to cause rural and urban landowners, the effect it will have on the middle class and the consequences it will have on our liberty," said Hank Gilbert of Texas TURF, or Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, the San Antonio-based group that organized Saturday's rally.

"TxDOT says these corridors are for trade out of Mexico and ultimately China, but it's Texans who will have to pay out the nose for it," said Gilbert, Peyton's father.

Both spoke at the rally.

Supporters of the corridor and toll roads say they are the only way to accommodate the state's growth without increasing gasoline taxes.

"Texans need and deserve real solutions to our growing traffic challenges, not just blind opposition to new lane and highway construction," said Bill Noble, a spokesman for Texans for Safe Reliable Transportation, a pro-tollway group. "Every day we delay building new roads means higher construction costs and more frustration for drivers."

In the warm, breezy spring weather, most rally participants carried signs with slogans like "No TTC!" and "Who does TTC benefit?" while listening to the band the Texicans play "The Trans-Texas Corridor Blues."

Many sported shirts and paraphernalia from Republican U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's presidential campaign, expressing their support for the Libertarian-leaning lawmaker.

"Ron Paul stands up for the Constitution," said Charles Walker, who hails from Lake Jackson, which is in the lawmaker's district. "He was one of the original people to oppose the corridor."; 445-3851

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