Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"The announcement, coming the same week of the Republican Party Convention in Houston, is probably no accident."

TxDOT abandons plans to build TTC-69 in rural areas…Was there a political reason?


by Vince Leibowitz
The Capitol Annex
Copyright 2008

This is astonishing news:

The Texas Department of Transportation said today it has abandoned plans to build part of the controversial Interstate 69/Trans-Texas Corridor through rural areas north and west of Houston.

Instead, TxDOT said it will stick to major highways — principally U.S. 59 — for most of the route. Through the Houston area, it could stay on U.S. 59 or go on Loop 610 or the planned Grand Parkway. In South Texas, where many residents welcomed the corridor plan, part of the superhighway would go on U.S. 281, U.S. 77 and Texas 44.

The change of plans came after months of grass-roots opposition from rural residents in the areas under study for the route in East Texas and counties west of Houston.

Merchants along U.S. 59 who had supported the idea of making the route an interstate highway were incensed at TxDOT’s announced plan to name a private partner to build and operate the corridor as a toll road and develop its own concessions along it.

It’s amazing that TxDOT has finally woken up to the opposition to TTC-69. But, what about the rest of the Trans-Texas Corridor? And does this mean there won’t be toll roads? Hell no:

The initial phase likely would involve adding toll lanes to the current lanes of U.S. 59 and building bypasses around many built-up areas, Saenz said. Other corridor components, such as truck lanes and rail, could be added later as needed, he said.

In other words, they’ll add the toll lanes but we’ll never see the truck lanes or the rail lanes.

It appears, from all accounts, TxDOT has–at long last–had enough of grassroots Texans bitching about the state taking their farm land.

Let’s face facts: the TTC isn’t about moving people–it is about moving goods. And, it has become the biggest political disaster for TxDOT and the Perry administration one could imagine.

Of course, that leads us to asking, “why now?” Well, it’s pretty simple really.

Everyone in Austin knows that, for months, GOP lawmakers in districts that will be crossed by TTC 69 (or other TTC routes) have been begging TxDOT to do something in private. The truth is that the Republican Party of Texas realized that this was the biggest possible albatross that Perry could have strapped to the necks of many legislators, and that folks at all levels of state government were trying to get this announcement forced out before the November elections.

That the announcement came the same week of the Republican Party Convention in Houston is probably not by accident, we’re told by some Austin insiders. It was expected that Ron Paul supporters would raise not an insignificant amount of hell about the TTC at this weekend’s convention.

© 2008, The Capitol Annex capitolannex.com

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