Thursday, June 12, 2008

“We need to stay strong against the forces out there who want to sell off our highway infrastructure to foreign financiers."

Opponents laud TTC decision

June 12, 2008

Brenham Banner-Press
Copyright 2008

Opponents of an East Texas segment of the widely unpopular Trans Texas Corridor say they consider a decision to use existing rights of way a victory.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) announced Wednesday that it will recommend that the I-69/TTC Project be developed using existing highway facilities wherever possible. If additional travel lanes are added to existing highways, only the new lanes would have tolls, according to TxDOT.

“I’m glad to see TXDOT continue to move away from a corridor plan in our area,” said state Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham. “Today the real heroes who deserve the credit are the constituents.

“I want thank the thousands of people who joined me in fighting the TTC I-69 for the past five years, writing letters, calling, e-mailing and attending the meetings to make their voices heard.

“This is good news about a retreat from the corridor, but the controversy over how we pay for our roads will continue.

“We need to stay strong against the forces out there who want to sell off our highway infrastructure to foreign financiers. As I have said before, Texas is strong enough to build its own highways and to make sure any toll money stays here in Texas working for Texans.”

Organized opposition sprung up in several counties, including Waller and Fayette.

TTC, proposed by Gov. Rick Perry, would be a multi-lane “super” highway that would carry vehicles and railroads through the middle of the state. Pipeline, utility and communications infrastructures would also be in the corridor’s right of way.

CBWC vice president Trey Duhon, vice president of Citizens for a Better Waller County, which opposed a proposed TTC route that would have taken it through that county, said, “Obviously, CBWC is ecstatic about the news that Waller County is no longer in the pathway of TTC-69, but many concerns remain for all Texans. Concerns such as eminent domain, public private partnerships, and the proliferation of toll roads in Texas.”

“Waller County citizens can breathe a sigh of relief, but as Texans, we should all continue to stay involved in these issues.”

CBWC officiials said scaling back TTC-69’s proposed routes is a step in the right direction, but concerns remain about the other TTC projects.

“Let’s not forget about TTC-35 (in the Austin area),” said David Stall, founder of the Fayette County-based CorridorWatch. “More than 14,000 Texans objected to that project, just as stridently as those along TTC-69. In 2006, the then Transportation Commission chairman Ric Williamson declared that Perry’s TTC-35 trumps such opposition.”

CBWC president Don Garrett said, “This is a check in the win column for some of the study areas, however, we’ve got some real concerns that the bigger war is raging on. I’d like to encourage everyone to continue to stay involved particularly as the Sunset Advisory Commission will hold a public hearing on the future of TxDOT on July 15 in Austin.

“We’re still not convinced that political appointees are the best way to run TxDOT. We believe elected officials are the only way to hold that department accountable.”

CBWC will host a legislative update Monday, June 23 at Royal High School where state Sen. Glenn Hegar and state Rep. John Zerwas will be answer questions on the Sunset Advisory Committee and the future of TxDOT.

Congressman Michael McCaul said the TxDOT decision was a “victory for property owners.”

The eastern portion of McCaul’s 10th District was included in the initial review for potential routes of I-69/TTC.

Now, McCaul said, landowners in Austin, Waller and Washington counties are now completely out of the path of the proposed toll road. Tomball and Cypress in western Harris County are now barely on the fringe of the proposed route.

“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. But we still have work to do to make sure that peoples homes and land in the farthest reaches of my district, that have been in their families for generations, are not paved over,” McCaul said.

“The people of Texas and in my district have spoken loud and clear and the state finally got the message.”

© 2008, Brenham Banner-Press

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE