Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Spared from the wrath of TxDOT?

Rural areas safe from Trans-Texas Corridor


Fort Bend Sun
Copyright 2008

Existing highway corridors will be used to build the Trans-Texas Corridor instead of construction in rural parts of north and west Houston, the Texas Department of Transportation announced Wednesday.

“It is clear to us that Texans want us to use existing roadways to start building the Texas portion of Interstate 69," Ted Houghton, Texas Transportation Commissioner said in a statement. “We are dropping consideration of new corridors that would run west of Houston in addition to other proposals for new highway footprint in other parts of the state.”

The announcement came to the relief of those living in Austin, Waller and Washington counties.

These areas encompass the lower portion of the 10th Congressional District, where U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul saw the announcement as a victory for his constituents.

“We are fortunate that most of the people in my district appear to be spared the wrath of TxDOT confiscating their land to build a toll road,” the Austin Republican said in a statement. “We still have work to do to make sure that people’s homes and land in the farthest reaches of my district, that have been in their families for generations, are not paved over.”

The department will study improving roads like U.S. Highway 59; though how the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor makes its way through the greater Houston area remains unclear.

A new map leaves Houston-area residents from Cypress into Montgomery County, southern portions of Liberty County, Galveston and all of Galveston County, south to Freeport through Brazoria County, and east Fort Bend County through the Richmond-Rosenberg area wondering how I-69 will effect them.

Fort Bend County Judge Bob Hebert said the plans in the area are yet to be determined.

Plans for the Houston area are still in progress due to “the fact that we are limited in expanding capacity on I-59 in the Houston area,” Hebert said in an interview.

He said looping around the metro area and Fort Bend will be the likely solution, but whether it will be done to the north or the south hasn’t been determined, a sentiment echoed by TxDOT.

“There is a lot more planning yet to be done before getting the project under way,” Hebert said.

While the Texas Department of Transportation has been running low on money to support the project, the Texas Transportation Commission announced earlier this month that any new lanes added to the existing highways, like I-59, would be tolled.

The existing lanes would not become toll roads.

But Hebert said that the possibility of tolling new roads may not come to fruition and will depend on the findings of the department’s review under the state’s sunset provision.

“Paving roads is expensive,” Hebert said. “But the way in which the department is managed and its financial resources are under close scrutiny, so [the tolling of new lanes] may or may not change.”

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