“When the Trans-Texas Corridor project was put in with the I-69 proposal, public support disappeared.”
June 06, 2008
By Kristin Edwards
The Huntsville Item
Along with a group of nine Texas lawmakers from both political parties, U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady sent a letter Friday urging the Texas Department of Transportation to remove the Interstate 69 project from the controversial Trans-Texas Corridor.
According to Brady, the original I-69 project enjoyed long-term public support because it only upgraded existing highways, and the congressional group wants it returned to its original route.
“I had no problem getting signatures for this letter from members of Congress,” Brady said. “I’m convinced that if we’re able to pull I-69 out of the Trans-Texas Corridor proposal and put it back on its original route from 15 years ago, we can rebuild the public support that used to be so strong for it that has dropped to nothing today.”
The original I-69 project began over 15 years ago, Brady said, under the premise of making improvements to existing highways including U.S. Highway 59, U.S. Highway 281 and U.S. Highway 77.
“The original I-69 project was partially proposed because there was so much more freight traffic projected over the next 12 years,” he said. “The plan was designed to make roads safer, and long before the Trans-Texas Corridor was proposed, the I-69 project had always enjoyed strong support.
“When the Trans-Texas Corridor project was put in with the I-69 proposal, that was a mistake, because public support just disappeared.”
In addition to Brady, Republican members of Congress who signed the letter included U.S. Rep. John Culberson and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, while Democratic members included U.S. Rep. Gene Green, U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, U.S. Rep. Al Green and U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee.
The letter was sent to Deirdre Delisi, chairwoman of the Texas Transportation Commission.
“When you’ve got representatives from both parties from all along this route saying that the Trans-Texas Corridor doesn’t work, hurts landowners and will destroy rural communities, that ought to send a pretty strong message,” Brady said. “I met with one of the new commissioners of TxDOT this week and told him there would be a letter coming his way concerning this change. There is new TxDOT leadership, and we believe they will listen with an open mind to our strong concerns.
“The way the I-69 proposal is written in with the corridor, I don’t believe it will get support from Washington, and certainly not from me.”
According to Bob Colwell, TxDOT public information officer for the Bryan district, Brady’s letter was received and will be reviewed by the department during the continuing planning process of I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor.
“We appreciate Congressman Brady’s comments and we welcome all public input during the environmental process for the project,” he said. “We always want to work with our delegation and we will continue the environmental process that will help us determine where the road goes.”
State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst said she was very pleased to find out that Brady and the group of congressional representatives had sent the letter to the Texas Transportation Commission.
Kolkhorst said she hopes that TxDOT will truly make changes to their plans involving the current I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor project.
“I have long advocated that we should go back to the original push for Interstate 69, which would widen existing roadways and allow for more capacity,” she said. “If TxDOT is simply rewording or rephrasing their proposal as a way to calm public fears but still move ahead with a 1,200 foot wide corridor, they’ll get no support from me.
“But, if this is truly an effort to go back to widening existing highways and not create the biggest Texas land grab in history, then I’m willing to listen.”
© 2008, The Huntsville Item www.itemonline.com
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