Thursday, December 04, 2008

"I think we will see a lot of forward motion to remove the Trans Texas Corridor from our landscape."

Bill Would Abolish Trans Texas Corridor

Little support for ambitious toll roads seen in Legislature


By Jim Forsyth
Q101.9 FM (San Antonio)
Copyright 2008

A measure introduced by San Antonio State Representative David Liebowitz would abolish the ambitious Trans Texas Corridor toll road network first proposed by Gov. Perry six years ago, 1200 WOAI news reports.

Liebowitz' measure would prohibit the state from acquiring land, selling bonds, or letting contracts to build any portion of the Corridor.

"We think that it is a scar on the landscape that needs to be removed," said David Stall of the group Corridor Watch, which has fought the corridor for years.

The Trans Texas Corridor, which 1t $180 billion would cost far more than the entire Interstate Highway System, was envisioned to be a quarter mile wide network of pipelines, rail lines, telephone and fiber optic cables, and ten lane tolled superhighways which would criss cross the state, bypassing urban areas and taking the pressure of through traffic off of badly choked roads like Interstate 35 between Laredo and Dallas.

But the corridor was controversial from the day it was proposed, especially among farmers and ranchers who didn't want to see their ranch land bypassed by a limited access, quarter mile wide highway system. They complained that they would have to drive a mile or more to find a way to go over, or under the road.

The Trans Texas Corridor also got right into the middle of the controversy over toll roads, and over allowing concession contracts to build highway projects. The Late Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Ric Williamson proposed allowing a Spanish firm, Cintra, to have the major contract to build the corridor, along with ownership rights for fifty years, and the right to set the tolls and keep the majority of the toll revenue.

"One of the biggest issues we have with the Trans Texas Corridor is that it was done in a vacuum, without public input," Stall said.

In fact, in dozens of hearings across the state, comments from the public were almost universally against the Corridor.

House Speaker Tom Craddick said several months ago that he thought the Trans Texas Corridor project was 'dead.' Stall hopes he's right.

"I think the sentiment is wide in the House and the Senate, and I think we will see a lot of forward motion to remove the Trans Texas Corridor from our landscape.

Liebowitz' bill does not call for the elimination of any other toll road projects, but many state lawmakers, moved by mismanagement of the toll issue by TxDOT, have indicated they feel lawmakers will move to abolish all but certain toll road projects in the upcoming session.

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