Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pineywoods Sub-Regional Planning Commission will request a supplemental DEIS on the effects of building 'TTC-69' along U.S. Highway 59

TTC plans for U.S. Hwy. 59 may not come to fruition

Related Link: Texas 391 Commission Alliance

August 28, 2008

Nacodoches Daily Sentinel
Copyright 2008

The Pineywoods Sub-Regional Planning Commission met Thursday to hear a presentation by the commission's president, Hank Gilbert, who said the plans to move the Trans-Texas Corridor to the current U.S. Hwy. 59 location may not come to fruition.

The Texas Department of Transportation initially planned to build a new highway system, which would have been as large as 1,200-feet wide, that would run through rural areas of East Texas, including Nacogdoches County. However, TxDOT scrapped those plans in June and announced a new proposal to build the TTC along the existing route of U.S. Hwy 59.

But Gilbert, of the anti-corridor activist group TexasTURF, said TxDOT has not provided new documentation detailing the potential effects of building the TTC on the new site, and he also said the current proposal could still allow TxDOT to build the TTC in the original proposed location.

"If TxDOT gets the approval on the (draft environmental impact statement) as is, they can come back and build the highway wherever they want to," he said. "They can come back and say, 'The Federal Highway Administration said we're good to go, but we don't want to use U.S. Hwy. 59 anymore.' And there's nothing we can do about it."

For this reason, Gilbert and the PWSRPC is requesting a supplemental draft environmental impact statement that takes into account the effects of building the TTC along U.S. Hwy. 59. The commission has already requested meetings with Amadeo Saenz, executive director of TxDOT, and Richard Greene, regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. Gilbert said there has been no response from either organization.

Gilbert argued that, by law, TxDOT must prepare a new DEIS from scratch, now that plans have changed. Doug Booher, the TxDOT environmental manager, refuted his claim, saying the final environmental impact statement, which will be released for public review at the end of 2008 or early next year, will include the necessary revisions to avoid starting over.

Because the PWSRPC did not have enough voting members in attendance to form a quorum, Gilbert did not receive approval to send new letters to the EPA and TxDOT requesting a meeting. The PWSRPC will meet again at 4p.m. Thursday, Sept. 11, at the county courthouse.

Before the next meeting, Gilbert asked group members to research facts about how the TTC's new location on U.S. Hwy 59 would affect the county.

"What's the loss going to be to the school districts affected, the water districts affected?" he said. "How many acres will be lost in Nacogdoches County? What's the economic impact of the loss of those acres, in hard dollars? What will be the impact on endangered plants and endangered animals in the area?"

Gilbert said he will incorporate this new data into an updated draft of the letter to the EPA and TxDOT.

"This isn't your mom and dad's interstate," Gilbert said. "This is nobody's interstate."

© 2008 Nachdoches Daily

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