Friday, June 13, 2008

"It's too early to breathe a sigh of relief because TxDOT makes no guarantees that all of I-69/TTC will remain within existing corridor routes."

Legislators pleased with 'corridor' decision

June 12, 2008

By B.J. Pollock
Fort Bend Herald
Copyright 2008

Sen. Glen Hegar, R-Katy, and State Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, each issued press releases Wednesday lauding the Texas Department of Transportation's (TxDOT) announcement that it will use existing roadways for the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC), rather than carve out new ones through private land.

While the declaration is a welcome one that “provides some evidence that the department has finally begun to listen to the voices of local residents,” stated Hegar's press release, “this long saga is by no means over, as many questions regarding key portions of the route remain unanswered.”

He said the decision was doubtless made as a result of overwhelming public opposition and the Legislature as well. Among TxDOT's shortcomings, Hegar continued, is that is continually turns “a deaf ear” to both.

“The public showed its strong concerns early this year when some 12,000 Texans attended the I-69/TTC hearings and 28,000 comments poured in on the subject,” he stated. “The legislature targeted TxDOT with 23 interim charges and one of its arms, the Sunset Advisory Commission, issued a scathing report that took the department to task for its lack of openness, disjointed planning practices, and refusal to follow the department's core mission of listening to the people they serve -Texas taxpayers.”

Hegar described TxDOT's announcement as “a foundation for the host of further reforms that must be instituted by the department,” and said landowners can take comfort that their land is no longer threatened by eminent domain.

However, he added, it's too early to breathe a sigh of relief because TxDOT makes no guarantees that all of I-69/TTC will remain within existing corridor routes. Questions remain, he said, over whether new routes will be needed to bypass existing cities.

“Fundamentally, transportation decisions must not be based on politically timed decisions, but instead based on a sound policy of moving Texans and giving Texans true reasons to once again put their trust in the department,” said Hegar.

The “unfortunate reality” of TxDOT's announcement, he said, is that it reaffirms “what thousands of Texans had already determined a long time ago: that the construction of an entirely new route is neither economically feasible nor practical.

Hegar said if the declaration is the beginning of anything short of “a fundamental shift,” it will prove to be based on “political convenience,” rather than “a good-faith effort” to regain the trust of the public and the Legislature.

Conversely, Zerwas said he received the news of TxDOT's announcement “with much joy,” and is looking forward to the organization new focus of “upgrading the existing footprint of the existing U.S. Highway 59 to create the long-awaited Interstate 69 in order to meet the current and future demands of our transportation infrastructure.”

“I am excited to hear of this great news for Waller, Wharton and Fort Bend counties,” Zerwas said, adding he has been “working diligently” on a grass-roots effort to stop the TTC since being elected. “This is a huge victory for private property rights.”

Zerwas thanked all those who “made their voices heard and aggressively took a stand for their rights as Texans.”

He described TxDOT's announcement as part of a series of “positive changes” in response to pubic concern.

“I look forward to the challenging task ahead and stand encouraged by the cooperation between TxDOT and the Legislature,” said Zerwas. “While this announcement brings great relief, be assured I will remain vigilant in the important challenge of creating a transportation policy that meet the needs of the people of Texas and respects private property right.”

© 2008, Fort Bend Herald-Coaster

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