Monday, May 19, 2008

"The TTC is a boondoggle of Biblical proportions!"

Trans Texas Calamity

The Trans-Texas Corridor is far and away the most expensive construction project in Texas history!

Environmental Defense Fund
Copyright 2007

Governor Rick Perry envisions the Trans Texas Corridor as a 4,000-mile-long, 1200-foot-wide swath of land containing 10 auto and truck lanes, six railroad tracks for high-speed freight and commuter trains, and right-of-way for electric power lines and gas and water pipelines.1 The $183 billion TTC would require nearly a thousand square miles of right-of-way.2

While proponents tout the Trans Texas Corridor as an answer to traffic congestion, the TTC is first and foremost a massive system of tolled highways designed to ensure the fast flow of goods from Mexico and South America through Texas to the Midwest, the Northeast and Canada. Bypassing major cities, it will gobble up more than 900 square miles of valuable land to create straightaways for trucks to sail through Texas at 85-95 miles per hour.

But as the Christian Science Monitor editorialized, “Ensuring the flow of goods and services from trade agreements remains a valid concern, but not at the expense of more enduring values.” 3

The TTC is a boondoggle of Biblical proportions!

After carefully analyzing the TTC master development plan, travel data, environmental impact statement, economic impact study and other public documents, Environmental Defense has compiled a substantial list of objections to the TTC:
  • It’s an environmental disaster. The TTC will change the landscape of Texas by disrupting approximately a million acres of land and negatively impacting 600,000 acres of terrestrial and aquatic habitat. It will destroy vast tracts of prime farmland, harm water quality, air quality and human health, and literally bisect rural communities. It will promote greater sprawl, more miles driven, greater dependence on imported oil and increased greenhouse gas emissions.
  • It doesn’t address Texas’ most critical transportation needs. As the governor’s own Business Council agrees, Texas’ most serious transportation problems are within our major urban areas: “The largest transportation problem for Texas, now and well into the foreseeable future is the movement of people, goods, and services from point to point within the urban area [sic]. Transportation improvements are needed to maintain the competitiveness of the Texas metropolitan regions.”4
  • TxDOT’s economic impact analysis of the Trans Texas Corridor is flawed. It has major shortcomings which should motivate lawmakers to either pay for a legitimate economic evaluation of the TTC or subject the report to extensive peer review before relying on it to make the case for the Corridor.5 For example, the economic analysis relies upon input-output modeling to quantify the indirect effects of the TTC on the economy, but it doesn’t compare the TTC investment to other potential transportation investments.
  • Promises of reduced congestion are vastly overstated. New roads will generate more travel (so-called "induced travel") which will absorb a significant portion—about 40-50% as a rule of thumb—of the new capacity. This induced travel shows up on existing, connecting roads, too, increasing the levels of congestion on them.6 Thus, the benefits of the new capacity are significantly overstated; it is conservatively estimated that an additional annual 5.4 billion vehicle miles will be induced by the TTC over the long run.
  • TxDOT has ignored feasible alternatives that would perform better and cost less than the TTC. TxDOT has failed to consider how cost-effective urban mobility improvements would increase the efficiency of existing infrastructure. For example, in the TTC-35 Draft Environmental Statement, TxDOT asserts a fixed 132 percent forecast for growth in freight vehicles on Texas roads by 2025 to justify the proposal. It fails to consider the significant role that transportation investment and pricing policies have in shaping the growth and character of freight traffic.
  • The TTC plan has moved forward without serious legislative debate or discussions with County Courts, other local officials and local and regional planning agencies.So far, more than 30 county commissioners courts on the TTC-35 route have passed resolutions against the TTC. Organizations representing millions of Texans have publicly denounced it, including the Texas Republican Party, the Texas Democratic Party, the Texas Farm Bureau, the Texas League of Women Voters, environmental organizations, many local citizen groups, and newspaper editorial boards. The autocratic process steamrolling the TTC over and through a surprised citizenry is simply bad policy, and it undermines any notion of local planning. It has deprived communities of any substantial say in the type of communities they envision in 10, 20 or 30 years.7
  • Where’s the accountability? There are major unanswered questions about the TTC and the public-private partnership agreements to build and maintain the TTC and to set toll rates and collect the tolls. Texans deserve full public disclosure of all the agreements and contracts with private entities. What are the transaction costs, including fees to investment banks, financial advisors, lawyers and other professionals retained by the public sector to analyze and craft the partnerships? What are the allowable toll rates, both at startup and into the future? What is the possibility of variable tolling? How much potential revenue will we give up to the private partners? What are the agreed-upon operation and maintenance benchmarks for the TTC? What environmental protections and labor standards are included, and what enforcement mechanisms will ensure that these standards are met?8 Where does the money come from for the eminent domain compensation?
  • If we build it, will they come? The major purpose of the TTC is to provide quick movement of goods through Texas, but major questions remain unanswered. What percentage of long-haul truckers will opt for a toll road instead of a freeway? (The American Trucking Association has opposed the TTC.) What are the prospects for—and impacts of—rail freight. Has TxDOT considered the role that transportation investment and pricing policies have in shaping the growth and character of freight traffic?

For more information: Contact Mary Sanger at 512-478-5161 or

1 The TTC was authorized by HB 3588 in 2003.

2 This excludes the property needed to provide road and rail connection systems.

3 Christian Science Monitor, February, 2005

4 “Shaping the Competitive Advantage of Texas Metropolitan Regions,” prepared by the Texas Transportation Institute for Governors Business Council’s Task Force on Transportation, December 2006.

5 “Moving Toward Prosperity Report, The Potential Impact of the Trans Texas Corridor on Business Activity in Texas: an analysis of the Effects of Key Trans Texas Corridors and the State of Texas relies upon input-output modeling to quantify the indirect effects of the TTC on the economy, but it doesn’t compare the TTC investment to other potential transportation investments. Prepared by the Perryman Group, October, 2006

6 Ronald W. Holder and VergilG. Stover at the Texas Transportation Institute in 1972 (An Evaluation of Induced Traffic on New Highway Facilities, Research Report 167-5). Based on the work of Cervero ("Induced Travel Demand: Research Design, Empirical Evidence, and Normative Policies", Robert Cervero, Journal of Planning Literature, Vol. 17, No. 1, August 2002, pp. 3-20),

7 Communities across the state have experienced the dictatorial style of the Texas Transportation Department

8 “Proceed with Caution on Public Private Partnerships: Ground Rules for PPP,” Regional Planning Association, January 8, 2007. Environmental Defense’s Director of Transportation Projects, Michael Replogle, was a principal contributor to the Report

© 2007 Environmental Defense Fund

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