Saturday, February 16, 2008

"This will only aid human traffickers, drug dealers and politicians. We don’t need any more of those three.”

Residents rally against Trans-Texas Corridor

February 16, 2008

By Sara McDonald
Galveston County Daily News
Copyright 2008

TEXAS CITY — A massive superhighway that Texans have protested at public hearings statewide drew heated opposition among Galveston County residents, who said they feared the toll road would cripple the local shipping industry and do nothing to improve insufficient hurricane evacuation routes.

The Trans-Texas Corridor would wind from Laredo to Corpus Christi, wrap around the western edge of Greater Houston, parallel Interstate 59 through East Texas and leave the state in Texarkana.

But residents at a public hearing Thursday night in Texas City questioned the real purpose for the road, which would also be part of a national Interstate 69 corridor that would stretch from Texas to Minnesota.

Gary Newman said he didn’t think the highway would help Texans at all.

“You only need to look at the direction of these roads to see who it will help,” he said. “It will transport goods through Texas, not to Texas. This will only aid human traffickers, drug dealers and politicians. We don’t need any more of those three.”

The 1200-feet wide, 650-mile long highway would be a quick way to get goods from Mexico through the state with separate lanes for high-speed rail, utilities, 18-wheeler truck traffic and passenger vehicles.

No construction contracts have been signed for the roads, and its exact route isn’t set. The state doesn’t have a way of fronting the estimated $200 billion it would cost to build the road, so a private company would pay for the road and then collect the tolls, said Norm Wigington, regional spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation.

A Road To Mexico?

Residents worry the road is aimed to help Mexico import Chinese goods into a port on Mexico’s west coast — a proposition they fear could damage Galveston, Texas City and Houston ports.

“The maps that have always been published stop at the border, but we all know the extension of this probes all the way to the west coast of Mexico,” Frances Bertling said Thursday during a public hearing in Texas City.

“Who will ship their products to Houston, Bayport, Galveston or Texas City with this? I don’t want more jobs going overseas like they have the past 10 years.”

Whether the port development on Mexico’s west coast and a highway system to connect to the Trans-Texas Corridor will ever materialize isn’t certain.

Wigington said while he’s seen “schemes like” those include a Mexican highway, he’s unsure if one will ever be built.

“I don’t know about anything beyond the borders of Mexico,” he said.

Port of Galveston Director Steven Cernak, who wasn’t at the hearing Thursday, said he supported the Trans-Texas Corridor.

He said he thought the superhighway would help Galveston imports get around the country faster, especially because he expects the demand for Galveston’s port to increase after the Panama Canal is widened.

“It’s not a threat at all,” he said. “I view it as a balance of road, water and rail infrastructure. The economics of it are going to reach a balance point.”

Port of Houston spokeswoman Lisa Whitworth said directors there support a direct route to Mexico, also.

But the thought of Mexican imports passing through Texas concerned Ruth Pifer, who said she didn’t think Mexican imports would be inspected thoroughly.

Howard Segal said he thought that the highway would have such a concentration of goods that it would become a terrorism target.

“Whose idea was it to put all our assets in one little space?” he said. “If you were going to attack us, where would you do it? It’s stupid is what it is.”

Crumbling Roads

Other speakers, such as Herbert Turner, urged the state to use money spent researching the project on improving existing roads.

“Our roads are crumbling,” he said. “People from Galveston County are still evacuating on the same road that was built 40 years ago. That’s where our resources would be better spent.”

Wigington said although the state plans to widen Interstate 45 to improve hurricane evacuation routes, it doesn’t have money for that or an idea when that would start.

Newman said he’d rather see the state focused on fixing that problem.

“Do y’all remember Rita?” he said. “Are we not going to do anything about that?”

The transportation department will take public comment on the project until March 19, when it will summerize content from the 48 hearings across the state and present its findings to the National Highway Federation.

If the plan gets approval from it, the state will then start the second tier of its study, which would identify the exact route.

Wigington said no one at any of the public hearings he knew about supported the road.

Several speakers at the hearing asked for the corridor to be placed on the ballot so Texans could decide whether it should be built.

“This is the largest land acquisition in history,” resident David Boswell said. “We dad gum should be able to vote on it.”

On the Web

© 2008 Gslveston County Daily News:

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To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

Friday, February 15, 2008

“It will ruin the face of Texas as we know it.”

Trans-Texas Corridor draws heated debate

February 15, 2008

By John Lowman
The Facts (Brazosport, TX)
Copyright 2008

LAKE JACKSON — Depending on who’s talking, the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor could be either a “fascist” project that will erode American sovereignty or a tool to enhance delivery of goods from Texas ports.

At an open forum Wednesday at the Lake Jackson Civic Center, Texas Department of Transportation officials heard more negative comments than positives about the project. About 20 of the 125 people attending spoke against the project. No one spoke in favor.

“It will ruin the face of Texas as we know it,” said Phillip Oswald of Angleton. “This will only bring misery and despair to rural Texas. This will all be toll roads and you will no longer be able to travel free across Texas.”

Oswald’s family has owned property in Brazoria County for a century, and he doesn’t want to see the government take anyone’s land in the name of progress, he said. Oswald and other detractors are unhappy residents haven’t been allowed to vote on whether to build the highway.

Wearing a “No TTC” T-shirt, Oswald said the roadway will negatively affect 500,000 acres and 8,000 miles of the state’s landscape.

“It was shoved down our throats by TxDOT and Gov. Rick Perry,” he said. “It will increase drug trafficking, human trafficking and only put money in the pockets of foreign corporations.”

Brazoria County is grouped with Houston as a Modal Transition Zone in which local governments will have most control over how the road connects with existing routes, transportation department Environmental Manager Doug Booher said. Such zones have too dense a population for the state to make accurate assessments, he said.

Neither the impact of the road nor a completion date are determined, Booher said.

“It takes a long time, and right now it’s hard to say what the impact will be,” he said. “The process is ongoing. It can change and probably will as we go through the process.”

Brazoria County Commissioners have had no formal hearings on the corridor, County Judge Joe King said Thursday.

The road is not planned to traverse any of Brazoria County. The 650-mile long project would stretch from Texarkana to Laredo and is part of the proposed national I-69 Corridor running from Canada to Mexico, said Gary Trietsch, moderator and Department of Transportation Houston District Engineer.

The project is in Phase I, an impact study open to the public until March 19. Information gathered will be added to a plan study. If approved, the plan would proceed to a Phase II study, which “could take years,” Trietsch said.

The corridor could follow the current route of Highway 59, involve new routes or could be eliminated.

“It could be a combination of all three, and it may not happen at all,” Trietsch said. “Anything is possible at this time. If it’s built, it would be in phases for years. Right now, we just need to find a route.”

Texas seaports are keeping an eye on the proposed highway, which could help move goods as ocean-going traffic increases, Port Freeport Executive Director Pete Reixach said between comment periods Wednesday night.

“One of the challenges we face is transport of goods inland,” he said. “New infrastructure, such an interstate, would help facilitate transport of goods whether we like the project or not.”

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, doesn’t like the plan, spokesman Jesse Benton said at the meeting.

“Dr. Paul is very concerned about this and will try to block any federal funding of the Trans-Texas Corridor,” Benton said. Paul wants Texans to have final say whether the road will be built, not the federal government.

Mark Holmes lives in southern Grimes County, near Navasota. He called the acquisition of land for the corridor “a shameful terrorist nightmare.”

Holmes said the interstate is an effort on the part of the Department of Transportation “to terrorize Texans.” The road would cause increased emissions and use of U.S. roads by Mexican and Canadian vehicles.

Joe Jennings introduced himself as a member of the Texas Democratic Party and called the project “fascism.”

Linda Curtis said Perry “manipulated 254 hearings hoping no one would show up.”

Brazoria County resident Corrie Bowen said clean water and readily available food are more important than the roadway. The project would hurt grasslands north of the county which feed aquifer recharge zones here, he said.

A final Phase I environmental document will be made public early next year and include recommendations whether to proceed, Trietsch said.

John Lowman is a reporter for The Facts. Contact him at (979) 849-8581.


Public comment:

Deadline for public comment on the current Tier I Environmental Impact Study is March 19.

To make a comment:

On the Web:

By mail:


P.O. Box 14428

Austin, TX 78761

By phone: (866) 554-6968

© 2008 The Facts:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

"We've got a bunch of political prostitutes in Austin and Washington playing this game at y'alls expense."

Landowners pack Trans-Texas Corridor meeting

Feb 15, 2008

KETK-TV (Jacksonville / Tyler / Longview)
Copyright 2008

NACOGDOCHES - Thursday night at the Fredonia Hotel in downtown Nacogdoches, concerned East Texans showed up at a hearing about the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor.

If built, this would mean 4,000 miles of change on the East Texas landscape including six toll lanes for passenger vehicles and four lanes for trucks.

East Texans packed the historic Fredonia Hotel downtown to hear State Representative Wayne Christian fire the first volley at the Texas Department of Transportation.

"I can tell you unequivocally-- I and my constituents am opposed to the Trans-Texas Corridor," Christian said.

The speakers we saw were all opposed to the plan TxDOT tells us would carve a strip from South Texas to Northeast Texas allowing vehicle and rail travel.

Some had a hard time holding back emotions about possibly losing family land.

" This land has been in my husbands family since 1925," one woman said in tears.

Others were not so timid and certainly were more defiant.

"I suppose it seemed it would be cheaper and easier to run over a bunch of rural small land owners and farmers...but you can see that's not what's going to happen," one farmer said.

One man thinks the plan goes beyond Governor Perry and TxDOT.

"It's driven by multi-national corporations such as Wal-mart. It's driven by the Chinese. It's a bureaucratic play ball. We've got a bunch of political prostitutes in Austin and Washington playing this game at y'alls expense," says Hank Gilbert, leader of the Texas Turf group against the corridor.

On a lighter note, one man wrote a Valentine's Day poem for lawmakers who vote for the corridor.

" For our elected officials I have this final note -- if you fool around with the TTC... we'll delete you with our vote."

© 2008 KETK-TV:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

" 'Selfish Austin politicians' and 'greedy foreign investors' are pushing the TTC on unwilling taxpayers."

Hundreds speak out against TTC-69

February 15, 2008

The Nachodoches Daily Sentinel
Copyright 2008

The rows of extra chairs brought into the The Fredonia's biggest meeting room Thursday night were not enough to accommodate more than 750 people who attended an open house and public hearing on the proposed TTC-69 highway.

Texas Department of Transportation officials heard hours of public testimony that continued late into the night overwhelmingly opposed to the construction of new roadways through East Texas. Applause throughout the hours-long meeting never swelled as loudly as it did when the first speaker of the night, state Rep. Wayne Christian, told TxDOT representatives emphatically that "our answer is 'no' on the Trans Texas Corridor."

By 5 p.m., hundreds had already piled into the convention space at the hotel to pore over copies of the inches-thick Tier One Draft Environment Impact Statement, the official document that defines proposed routes of the superhighway and identifies the preferred corridor alternative route, which swings several miles east of Nacogdoches before splitting off to meet the national Interstate 69 highway near Shreveport, La. Enlargements of maps and charts explaining the intricate planning process sat on easels throughout the room for the crowd to scrutinize.

Dozens of staffers were also on hand to answer questions about the project and de-mystify some of the confusing concepts, like the difference between the TTC and a federal interstate, or the selection of businesses to be placed along the route. Many asked the representatives hard questions about project oversight and how their private land would be affected by the highway.

"They answer to the best of their knowledge," said Annie Hoya, of Nacogdoches, who supports enlarging the footprint of U.S. Hwy 59 as an alternative to building the TTC. "That doesn't mean they're answering to our satisfaction," she said.

Jack Heiss, a project manager for the TTC-69 was one of the many experts on hand to address some of the public's concerns.

Expanding Hwy. 59, for instance, is a priority for TxDOT, he said, though he explained that it would be much harder to do than building an entirely new road.

"Enlarging an existing footprint is not a painless exercise by any means," he said.

Though many shared their formal testimony with state officials through written forms, court reporters and brief speeches at the hearing, most attendees were not shy about expressing their thoughts on the corridor beforehand. Many sported anti-TTC buttons and stickers on their clothes; others lined up to collect literature from anti-corridor groups who had set up small rallies at their tables along one side of the room.

Objections to the TTC project were plentiful Thursday night. Perhaps the most adamant were those whose private land would be bisected or erased completely by thick corridors TxDOT officials say need to be developed to modernize the state's transportation system. Landowners say no amount of money offered through the acquisition process is enough compensation for their homes, which they note, are not for sale.

The cost of the project was another major concern. Heiss said each mile of corridor, if developed with all the planned facilities, would cost $33 million. At that price, the entire 650 mile project would cost over $21 billion, an amount many said the state cannot afford.

Others at the meeting questioned the necessity of a quarter-mile wide path for utilities, six rail lines and 10 automobile lanes in rural East Texas. Concerns about tolling, terrorism and foreign investment in the development of the project accompanied other less intelligible arguments as well. One man decried the "selfish Austin politicians" and "greedy foreign investors" he said were pushing the highway on unwilling taxpayers.

There was at least one attendee, however, who testified in support of the project. Tommy Ellison, CEO of Commercial Bank of Texas, said he was sympathetic to landowners, but said the area would benefit from improved transportation provided by the corridor.

"I'm supportive of a project that would bring better transportation out of Houston up through rural East Texas," he said. Ellison said improved rail infrastructure in particular would benefit the area.

TxDOT officials promised that all "substantive" comments submitted at the meetings, by mail and online will be considered and addressed in future impact statements. Substantive comments, an informational video said, are those that provide new and useful information about the project.

And the public has provided new and useful information. Heiss said his agency had not previously considered concerns about the risk of terrorist attacks on the corridor.

"With the number of comments we got, we're definitely looking into that," he said. "We'll have to make a risk assessment about how realistic a concern it is."

Beyond the specific and controversial issues of the day, Thursday's meeting illustrated a powerful communal connection spanning a wide swath of East Texas. Brought together to share information, and unified by fear and anger, many who arrived at the meeting ready to fight the project seemed familiar with each other and the complicated ideas involved. Some had already shared their ideas at community meetings about TTC-69 held earlier this month in Martinsville and Libby.

For more information about the TTC project and related local news, visit

The official Web site of the TTC is

© 2008 Nachodoches Daily Sentinel:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

"All along it’s been pretty obvious they have an agenda and it’s toll roads... they’re pretty much a rogue agency."

TxDOT finances in dispute

February 15, 2008

James Osborne
The Monitor
Copyright 2008

McALLEN — Two local state senators are questioning whether the Texas Department of Transportation is exaggerating its funding crisis to garner public support for private toll roads.

“All along it’s been pretty obvious they have an agenda and it’s toll roads,” said state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, who along with Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, has joined a coalition of other legislators to challenge TxDOT.

“It’s amazing to us; they’re pretty much a rogue agency.”

At a hearing in Austin last week members of the senate’s finance and transportation committees cross-examined TxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz about the agency’s projected $3.6 billion revenue shortfall over the next seven years. Lucio and Hinojosa both sit on the Senate finance committee.

The hearing followed a letter from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst stating TxDOT had failed to account for $9 billion in bond money set aside for them.

“TxDOT felt the shortfall and increased maintenance needs would require cuts in new construction letting for the foreseeable future. I am concerned the forecasting sheet used to produce that number does not include the complete financial picture,” Dewhurst wrote.

TxDOT spokesman Chris Lippincott said the agency did not feel it could either count on or responsibly spend the majority of the $9 billion that Dewhurst cited.

“It’s written into the DNA around here that we shouldn’t build (new roads) we can’t maintain,” he said.

The state Legislature placed a moratorium on new toll road projects last year.

While a number of counties were granted exemptions, partnerships with private road construction companies, which TxDOT has supported, are expected to be a contentious topic when the Legislature returns to Austin in January.

TxDOT itself is facing a potentially serious overhaul.

The agency is set for review under the sunset provision, which mandates evaluations of state agencies every 12 years. Last week, TxDOT admitted to a $1.1 billion accounting error and failing to foresee revenue decreases in gas tax and federal funding.

“In 2006 our construction program had $5.3 billion in contracts, almost double 2000,” Lippincott said.

“The system overheated, and our cash flow model failed to alert us in time. We delivered as many projects as we could, but our aggressiveness combined with the financial climate caused the spike in lettings to be more abrupt than anticipated.”

Local projects now put on the back burner include the expansion of 23rd Street between the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge and the McAllen Foreign Trade Zone; construction of overpasses along U.S. 281 through Falfurrias; and expansion of Expressway 83 between Rio Grande City and Laredo, said local TxDOT district engineer Mario Jorge.

TxDOT continues to examine the viability of I-69, which if built would be the Valley’s first Interstate. Public hearings ended Monday, but Jorge said the project “will be tied to finding financing.”

In the meantime, legislators have called for the State Auditor’s Office to review TxDOT’s financial records, a step Saenz said he will support.

“We are tired of the smoke and mirrors. We will work to update an outdated transportation agency,” Lucio said.

James Osborne covers McAllen and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach him at (956) 683-4428.

© 2008 The Monitor:

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To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

"Legislators from both parties, every region and all backgrounds, are equally fed up with TxDOT."

TxDOT scrutinized by legislators


By Ed Sterling, Texas Press Association
The Cameron herald
Copyright 2008

Higher-ups at the Texas Department of Transportation sat in front of two state Senate committees for about three hours and tried to answer questions about how the agency got to where it is, in a financial sinkhole.

At a Feb. 4 meeting, lawmakers in a joint meeting of the Senate Finance and Transportation Committees questioned TxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz Jr., interim chair of the Texas Transportation Commission Esperanza “Hope” Andrade and others.

The officials said TxDOT committed a $1.1 billion bookkeeping error and scheduled more road projects than the agency could afford to fund. This resulted in road project freezes and cutbacks.

Lawmakers expressed disdain over how that could happen. They asked if this was a political stunt to push the state closer to public-private roadbuilding projects or just a case of incompetent management.

Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, called for an independent audit of TxDOT's financial records.

Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, serves as vice chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security.

“Fortunately, legislators from both parties, every region and all backgrounds, are equally fed up with TxDOT,” Watson said.

“Not only will there be some major reforms on tap for the next legislative session, but the Sunset Commission is reviewing the agency from top to bottom.”

© 2008 The Cameron Herald:

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"When the choice comes down to safety versus the money, safety doesn’t stand a chance."

Robot Revenuing: Shots Were Fired

When the cameras go up, the money comes in: shorten the yellow to boost the take.

March 2008

Car and Driver Magazine
Copyright 2008

This just in: A red-light camera on Broadway Street in Knoxville, Tennessee, has suffered fatal gunshot wounds. Three bullets struck the device, destroying the lens and rendering it inop. Clifford E. Clark III, 47, holed up in a nearby minivan, was arrested and charged with felony vandalism.

Not to put words in Clark’s mouth, but what I think he was trying to say with his .30-06 Ruger was that he had withdrawn his consent to be governed by robots. You may remember that our founding fathers had a very clear idea of the source of government legitimacy. The Declaration of Independence says that “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The political theory here is that there is no moral authority to use state power unless the people say there is.

One guy expressing disapproval of a red-light camera won’t curb government zeal for robot surveillance, but it’s a start.

No single speeder killed the double-nickel, either, but when Mr. and Mrs. America pushed back good and hard with their throttle feet, voting for speeds above 55, Congress finally came around. Yes, we lived through 21 years of radar-gun tyranny until the 1995 repeal, but it wasn’t letters from their constituents that wised up the pols (although I personally ran up a handsome postage bill). It was full-frontal disobedience on the interstates.

Civil disobedience won’t be the tool that brings down red-light cameras, however. Robot ticketing lets the government use mass production to divide and conquer a rebellion. No messy police confrontations; every insurgent simply finds a ticket with his name on it in his mailbox.

Let’s be clear about the tyranny here. This is not about running red lights. Camera enforcement is a revenuing scheme that depends on an end run around the fundamental American principle of innocent until proven guilty. The glassy-eyed accuser is a robot, and it’s not subject to cross examination. Moreover, it’s a robot employed by a for-profit business that makes its profits from guilty verdicts. It makes nothing on innocent verdicts. Such an obvious conflict of interest should bring out all the rifles.

The government dresses up this tyranny and sells it as a safety measure. It’s presented as a high-tech way to stop red-light running, never mind that no statistics are offered to support the notion that red-light running has become a menace. In fact, the federal fatality database doesn’t have a category for signal-controlled intersections. There’s no smoke here.

But there is growing frustration. Consider the case of Tim Alstrom of Aberdeen, Washington, as reported in He opened an envelope last summer to find a demand for payment of $101. Nearby Seattle had convicted him of running a red light at 3:21 a.m. on June 29, citing camera evidence as proof. He was at home asleep at the time, and the car in the photo wasn’t his, but never mind. It gets worse. Seattle, like most camera jurisdictions, will dismiss a camera ticket under one condition only: The car owner has to rat out the actual driver, who must pay the $101.

Students: Test your knowledge. Red-light cameras are about (a) the money, (b) the money, (c) THE MONEY.

Alstrom had no way of knowing who was piloting somebody else’s car. His only defense was to drive four hours to municipal court in Seattle. The photo, taken by a camera of American Traffic Solutions, was blurred. Probably the robot reader picked the wrong pixels. If there’s a humanoid involved, he rubber-stamped the bad guess. Either way, there’s no penalty for false accusations, but the cash register rings every time an innocent owner cuts his losses by writing a check rather than taking a day off work to fight for justice.

This tyranny will fall as research builds a slam-dunk case that it’s a safety sham. A report last year, funded by the Federal Highway Administration and the Virginia Department of Transportation, said that “cameras were associated with an increase in total crashes.” Six Virginia cities with red-light cameras were studied. Injury crashes were down five percent in one and up from six to 89 percent in the others. Rear-enders were up in all the cities, by 136 percent in Falls Church and 139 percent in Arlington.

Crashes were up in Stockton, California, too, from an average of 14 per year before to more than 20 per year in the 2004–6 period, after red-light cameras were installed. Same story in Seattle, where crashes rose from 4.94 per intersection before to 5.25 after cameras were installed at four intersections. Untroubled by the facts, Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske declared complete victory and proposed camera coverage on 14 more intersections.

If red-light cameras don’t reduce violations, what does? The length of the yellow light is the most important factor, says the Texas Transportation Institute, which studied 181 intersection approaches over three years. Adding one second to the Institute of Transportation Engineers formula cut violations by 53 percent. Conversely, shortening the ITE time by one second hiked violations by 110 percent.

This dovetails neatly with a report by the California state auditor that studied camera results in eight of that state’s cities. Overall, 77 percent of the violations occur in the first second of the red.

As good as it might be for safety, lengthening the yellow is bad for (a), (b), and (c) above. San Diego saw a $2 million increase in revenues in the first year after trimming its “grace period” to 0.1 second versus 0.3 to 0.5 before. In Dallas, 7 of the 10 highest revenue-raising cameras have yellows shorter than the minimum recommendation of the Texas Department of Transportation.

When the choice comes down to safety versus the money, safety doesn’t stand a chance.

© 2008 Car and Driver Magazine:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

Deceit and sleight of hand: Texas politicians pull off 'no new taxes' claims by pirating funds from the gasoline tax.

Use of gas tax for nonconstruction purposes is highway robbery

February 15, 2008

The Waco Tribune-herald
Copyright 2008

That was some tussle the other day when indignant Texas lawmakers took on the Texas Department of Transportation.

The agency admitted to a $1.1 billion accounting error by counting some proceeds from bond sales twice. Knuckles rapped? Oh, yeah.

This came after a heated exchange between Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and the agency. He wrote wondering why the department could claim it is hurting for money when voters have approved roughly $9 billion in bonds for highway construction.

Lawmakers accused the transportation department of acting like a fourth branch of the state government. State Rep. Jim Dunnam, who adamantly opposes a proposal for toll lanes to finance Interstate 35 expansion, said deceit and sleight of hand are used to convince Texans they have no choice but toll roads.

All are legitimate criticisms of the state’s transportation agency. Under Gov. Rick Perry, it has acted as if it responds to only him and its own whims.

But lawmakers, with Perry applying the ink to the budget bills they pass, are very much a part of the problem when it comes to backlogged vital highway construction.

Last November, the transportation department announced a funding shortage and said it would cut portions of its budget and freeze some new road projects. So doing, it pointed out that a very large portion of gasoline tax revenues that could go to highway construction is being siphoned away for non-construction matters, such as the Department of Public Safety. A loophole in the law allows this. Also under the law, 25 percent of the proceeds goes to schools.

We’re talking about a lot of money.

According to an analysis completed by the Texas Legislative Council last February, up to 12 percent of the $14 billion state highway fund goes to pay for nonhighway items. By far the biggest expenditure is the DPS.

In the 2006-07 appropriations, DPS received almost a billion — $787.7 million. Money also goes from the gas tax fund to insurance, retirement and other costs for employees and retirees of the department.

All of this is legal, and it allows the Legislature to fund these operations without tapping its general fund. That means it can pull off “no new taxes” claims by pirating funds from the gasoline tax.

This needs to stop. Lawmakers next session need to specify that only highways should benefit from the non-school portion of motor fuels taxes. This would mean finding money elsewhere in the budget to fund the DPS and pay for employee costs in the transportation department.

Lawmakers have made a habit of raiding designated funds to help balance the budget. This must halt across the board. Let’s put these dollars where they’re needed and make some tough decisions about where dollars aren’t needed or if, in fact, new taxes are the answer.

© 2008 The Waco Tribune-Herald:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

"The project is one of hundreds of projects around the state that have been affected by the budget cuts enacted last November at TxDOT."

TxDOT suspends Seventh Avenue project

Drainage work delayed as state road budget shrinks

February 15, 2008

By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun
Copyright 2008

The project to fix the drainage problems on Seventh Avenue has been suspended, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

The plan was to install a storm sewer system along Texas Highway 31 as it goes through Corsicana, a stretch of road that floods badly when it rains.

Now, the project is on hold, although it hasn’t been completely abandoned.

“Instead of canceling it, we just suspended it,” said Ray Nance, assistant area engineer in Navarro County.

The project is one of hundreds of projects around the state that have been affected by the budget cuts enacted last November at TxDOT. The expectation is that the department will save about $500 million from all areas — right-of-way acquisition, new contracts, and daily operations, explained Chris Lippincott, spokesman for TxDOT in Austin.

The 25 TxDOT area districts originally had $412 million to spend, but that was reduced to $275 million in November of 2007. Unfortunately, the cuts were announced two months into the fiscal year, when the districts had already spent a big chunk of the expected budget.

In the Dallas district, which includes Navarro County, the 2008 budget went from $54 million to $35.9 million, but the district had already spent $12 million when the budget cuts were announced, explained Kelli Petras, spokeswoman for the Dallas district of TxDOT. By December, the district had to go from spending about $6 million a month to about $2 million a month.

“Obviously, we’re still trying to get things done, but we’ve got to prioritize,” Petras explained.

The cuts are the result of less income statewide, both from federal money, and gas taxes, as people cut back on buying gas, according to Lippincott.

“We’ve experienced slower than usual reimbursements from the federal government for our expenditures, and the state motor fuel tax revenues are lower than projected,” he said.

Whether Texans are paying $1.50 for a gallon of gas, or $3 for a gallon of gas, the state gets a flat 20 cents per gallon, not a percentage. As the overall price for each gallon goes up, Texans are trying to conserve more, which means less collected tax.

“People do two things: They drive the same car less, or they buy a more fuel-efficient vehicle,” Lippincott said. “That’s a good thing for air quality, and we support that, but it cuts into our revenue available for the roads. You’re paying less in gas taxes in a month because you’re buying less gas.”

At the local level, the suspension of the Seventh Avenue drainage project is a blow, said Connie Standridge, Corsicana city manager.

“This was one of our most anticipated TxDOT projects,” she said. “We’re very sorry to see it on hold, and we hope we can get it back on track soon.”

The Navarro office of TxDOT will continue to work on the designs, but won’t be able to use the consultants on the job until the budget loosens, Nance said.

“We’ve got added review time to look at the (designs),” he said. “(The consultants) just can’t address them at this point because they can’t charge for it.”

Statewide, the money is being put into maintenance, rather than new projects, Lippincott said.

“Our priority will be maintenance, the preservation of our transportation system rather than beginning new construction projects,” he said, explaining that keeping up with repairs helps forestall expensive reconstruction work in the future.

“We do not build what we cannot maintain,” Lippincott said.


Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at

© 2008 Corsicana Daily Sun:

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

"A a plan that could fill Midland's pockets but potentially devastate Marfa's culture, lifestyle and economy."

Postcard: Marfa

'No Country for Tolled Roads'

Feb. 14, 2008

Time Magazine
Copyright 2008

This far West Texas town is so isolated that while you can cross the Mexican border in less than an hour for lunch, the nearest shopping mall is 200 miles (about 320 km) away. Those who live around here take immense pride in the desolate landscape that served as the backdrop for the films with the most Academy Award nominations this year, Joel and Ethan Coen's murderous No Country for Old Men and Paul Thomas Anderson's epic There Will Be Blood.

But instead of buzzing about their potential golden night at the Oscars, locals are more concerned these days with a very real unfolding drama that has the potential to devastate the views, the unpolluted air and the tranquil lifestyle they hold dear.

The potential villain in this story is La Entrada al Pacifico, a NAFTA trade route signed into law 11 years ago by then governor George W. Bush. It hasn't been built yet, but it may still become a reality, thanks to lobbying from the nearby city of Midland--which would become a distribution and warehousing hub and the support of Midland's state representative, who happens to be speaker of the Texas House.

If approved and constructed, the route would significantly increase the number of long-haul trucks bringing goods from Mexico through Marfa. In 2006, the average number of trucks crossing the U.S. border at Presidio and being driven the 60 miles (about 100 km) north to Marfa each day was 17.

With La Entrada, that number would be anywhere from 300 to 800 trucks a day. To make room, a pair of two-lane roads will be widened to four-lane divided highways. Allison Scott, a 29-year Marfa resident, knows exactly what that will sound like. "Marfa is so peaceful," she says. "When I go out at 5 a.m. and look up at the stars, the silence is just so amazing ... La Entrada would definitely bring the silence to an end."

The idea behind La Entrada al Pacifico (Corridor to the Pacific) is to ease over concentration of Asian trade in Southern California by diverting goods to a port in western Mexico and transporting them to Midland.

Marfans see a plan that could fill Midland's pockets but potentially devastate Marfa's culture, lifestyle and economy, based in large part on tourism thanks to Marfa's proximity to Big Bend National Park and its reputation as an artists' haven (artists and galleries have been a fixture in town since celebrated sculptor Donald Judd relocated here from New York in the '70s).

Days after a March 2007 public meeting on the project, attended by nearly 400 West Texas residents--none of whom supported it--the fight against La Entrada began. Local businesses sold STOP LA ENTRADA T shirts; residents joined letter-writing campaigns and launched anti-Entrada blogs. Some Marfans have devised creative ways to fight the corridor. Gary Oliver, 60, a political cartoonist for the local newspaper, has composed a protest song on his accordion. "Move to Marfa for the peaceful life,/ So far away from the stress and strife," he sings. "Then you put your ear down on the highway floor,/ Hear the many trucks in the distance roar ... La Entrada, here come a lot of highway blues."

And Vicente Celis, 42, who moved here from Mexico in 2003, shows off the digital slide show he's developing, An Inconvenient Truth--style, to explain La Entrada to other residents. He makes reference to the documentary's swimming-frog example of global warming--the frog that doesn't realize it's boiling because the water temperature increases so slowly. "The same thing is going to happen to us," says Celis. "But [we] don't have to let people boil us."

Residents do have hope. The arrival of massive numbers of 18-wheelers depends on Mexico's infrastructure. So far, work on the trans-Mexican highway hasn't broken ground, and the port in western Mexico needs repair. The results of a government-funded study about how well the plan would work for West Texas will be released soon. But for the locals who see this land as a refuge--and, on occasion, a Hollywood backdrop--the decision to build or not to build isn't even a question.

GLOBAL DISPATCH For a new postcard from around the world every day, visit

© 2008, Time Magazine:

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"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for for people of good conscience to remain silent."

No Road, No Action, No TTC-69

Bryan Thome, Videography & Production
Mark Holmes, Narration

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"Corte voted to toll our freeways every chance he got despite massive opposition by his constituents."

Rep. Corte on wrong side of toll road


Terri Hall
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2008

The most politically radioactive issue in San Antonio is toll roads, and Rep. Frank Corte chose the wrong side. He endorsed Rick Perry's new policy of turning freeways into a network of toll roads where they'd like to charge us for every mile we drive in addition to gas taxes.

The Republican candidate opposing Corte is Tony Kosub, who has the full endorsement of the San Antonio Toll Party. Kosub adamantly opposes toll roads that charge us twice for the same stretch of road, and will work to rein in the Texas Department of Transportation that's prone to $1 billion accounting errors and bloating its budget by $30 billion.

Toll roads will cost the average family $2,000-$4,000 a year in new taxes to drive on what was once a freeway pricing commuters off our public freeways. This leaves those who cannot afford toll taxes with few alternatives to sitting in traffic. In many places, the only non-toll lanes will be access roads with stop lights and slower speed limits making those who can't pay tolls second-class citizens on congested streets, while those who can afford the tolls get their own personal lanes to bypass traffic.

Studies show toll roads make neighborhood streets more congested and less safe. This will cost the city and county more money and could result in further tax increases.

Even worse, those toll lanes are being subsidized with taxpayer money, but you won't be able to drive on those lanes without paying another tax, a toll tax, for every mile you drive.

Corte voted to toll our freeways every chance he got despite massive opposition by his constituents. It's time for District 122 to elect a legislator who will represent their best interests instead of special interests.

The choice is clear, Corte is a vote for higher taxes to benefit special interests, and Kosub is a vote to keep our freeways free.

Terri Hall is Founder/Director of the San Antonio Toll Party.

© 2008 San Antonio Express-News:

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GAO Report: U.S. Department of Transportation promotes 'Public Private Partnerships,' but gives little consideration to public-interest concerns

Public-private deals could benefit highways: GAO

February 14, 2008

R.G. Edmonson
Journal of Commerce
Copyright 2008

WASINGTON D.C. --While public-private partnerships can lead to improvements in highway infrastructure, the Government Accountability Office warns that there is no "free money" in the deals.

In a report issued Friday, the GAO recommended that the federal government and the private sector develop objective criteria to identify what the public interest would be in a public-private venture.

The report said that while there are cost benefits to public-private partnerships (3Ps), they could be overshadowed, for example, if a private toll road operator uses its market power to charge excessive tolls. Where 3Ps have been successful, the government has established performance and other standards at the outset.

Washington has had little experience so far with 3Ps, but the Department of Transportation has been actively promoting them.

So far little consideration has been given to public-interest concerns, the report said. The DOT disagreed with several findings in the report.

© 2008 Commonwealth Business Media:

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The Government Accountability Office: "continues to believe more rigorous up-front analysis could better protect public interests. "

Highway Public-Private partneships

More Rigorous Up-front Analysis Could Better Secure Potential Benefits and Protect the Public Interest

February, 2008

Government Accountability Office (GAO)
Copyright 2008

Why the GAO did this study

The United States is at a critical juncture in addressing the demands on its transportation system, including highway infrastructure. State and local governments are looking for alternatives, including increased private sector

GAO was asked to review (1) the benefits, costs, and trade-offs of public-private
partnerships; (2) how public officials have identified and acted to protect the public interest in these arrangements; and (3) the federal role in public-private partnerships and potential changes in this role.

GAO reviewed federal legislation, interviewed federal, state, and other officials, and
reviewed the experience of Australia, Canada, and Spain. GAO’s work focused on highway- related public-private partnerships and did not review all forms of
public-private partnerships.

What GAO Recommends

Congress should consider directing the Secretary of Transportation, in consultation with Congress and other stakeholders, to develop objective criteria for identifying potential national public interests in highway public-private partnerships. The Department of Transportation raised concerns and disagreed with several of the findings and conclusions, as well as one of the recommendations. GAO clarified the report and continues to believe more rigorous up-front analysis could better protect public interests.

Highway public-private partnerships have resulted in advantages for state and local governments, such as obtaining new facilities and value from existing facilities without using public funding. The public can potentially obtain other benefits, such as sharing risks with the private sector, more efficient operations and management of facilities, and, through the use of tolling, increased mobility and more cost effective investment decisions.

There are also potential costs and trade-offs:
  • There is no “free” money in public- private partnerships and it is likely that tolls on a privately operated highway will increase to a greater extent than they would on a publicly operated toll road.
  • There is also the risk of tolls being set that exceed the costs of the facility, including a reasonable rate of return, should a private concessionaire gain market power because of the lack of viable travel alternatives.
  • Highway public-private partnerships are also potentially more costly to the public than traditional procurement methods and the public sector gives up a measure ofcontrol, such as the ability to influence toll rates.
  • Finally, as with any highway project, there are multiple stakeholders and trade-offs in protecting the public interest.
Highway public-private partnerships we reviewed protected the public interest largely through concession agreement terms prescribing performance and other standards. Governments in other countries, such as Australia, have developed systematic approaches to identifying and evaluating public interest and require their use when considering private investments in public infrastructure.

While similar tools have been used to some extent in the United States, their use has been more limited. Using up-front public interest evaluation tools can assist in determining expected benefits and costs of projects; not using such tools may lead to aspects of protecting the public interest being overlooked. For example, while projects in Australia require consideration of local and regional interests, concerns by local governments in Texas that they were being excluded resulted in state legislation requiring their involvement.

While direct federal involvement has been limited to where federal investment exists, and while the Department of Transportation has actively promoted them, highway public-private partnerships may pose national public interest implications such as interstate commerce that transcend whether there is direct federal investment in a project.

However, given the minimal federal funding in highway public-private partnerships to date, little consideration has been given to potential national public interests in them. GAO has called for a fundamental reexamination of federal programs to address emerging needs and test the relevance of existing policies. This reexamination provides an opportunity to identify and protect potential national public interests in highway public-private partnerships.

To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on GAO-08-44.

For more information, contact JayEtta Z. Hecker at (202) 512-2834 or

Copyright 2008

© 2008 United States Government Accountability Office:

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

"George Washington, Sam Houston would vomit on you people."

Tempers Flare At Trans-Texas Corridor Hearing

February 13, 2008

By Ryan Korsgard
KPRC-TV (Houston)
Copyright 2008

HOUSTON -- It did not take long Tuesday for the Texas Department of Transportation to find out what the Houstonians at a public hearing thought about the proposed 600-mile Trans-Texas Corridor, KPRC Local 2 reported.

"George Washington, Sam Houston would vomit on you people," one attendee said.

Chris Zora, who opposes the plan, attended the hearing at the Arabia Shrine Center in Southwest Houston.

"I'd like to see a show of hands here of anybody that approves of this corridor," Zora said. "Is there anyone in this room who approves of this corridor? Raise your hands if you approve of it."

KPRC Local 2 did not see anyone raise his or her hand in response.

The hearing was an opportunity for citizens to tell the state what they think of the proposal that would include car, truck and train traffic. TxDOT took notes but officials did not answer questions.

"It's more than people giving up their land," said Kathryn Wilson, who owns a farm in Waller County. "We're talking about Texas' second-largest industry, agriculture, being destroyed."

The study area is wide and undefined. The road, also known as Interstate 69, would run through Texas from the border with Mexico all the way up to the Arkansas/Louisiana border. It would weave into current roads in the Houston area.

TxDOT spokeswoman Karen Othon said, "Nothing's going to happen right now. Construction is not going to start. No right of way is going to be bought. Nothing is going to happen at this point. We're right now just hearing the public's comments on this project."

The next public hearing is scheduled to take place in Lake Jackson on Wednesday. It will be held at the Lake Jackson Civic Center beginning at 5 p.m. with a formal presentation set for 6:30 p.m. Comments from the public will be heard at the end.

For a look at the project, go to

© 2008 KPRC-TV:

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It'll hurt the watershed, have a negative economic impact, create more congestion in Harris County & trap Gulf Coast residents by a wall of a highway.

'Go somewhere else with Corridor' say local residents


Wharton Journal-Spectator
Copyright 2008

While the attending public's consensus during Monday night's public hearing was the I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor should not get a go ahead, alternatives did receive universal backing.

Some of those attending the hearing held in the Wharton High School Auditorium said the preferred option should be to take no action at all while others acknowledged the need to improve the state's transportation system. That group included county resident Edward Campbell, who recommended upgrading existing roadways like U.S. Highways 59, 281 and 77.

"We don't need new roads," he said. "It will hurt the watershed, have a negative economic impact, create more congestion in Harris County and the residents of the Gulf Coast will be trapped by a wall of highway. But I don't believe this project will be stopped by just the will of the people."

He concluded his presentation by saying the most effective way to fund highway improvements and expansion was to place tolls on cargo and goods being transported than to create toll roads.

Egypt area resident Cameron Duncan also favored a more conservative approach in his three minutes to speak. One of the owners of the Duncan Ranch, he said the property contained a lot of history and was in the path of the preferred draft environmental impact statement corridor being discussed during the meeting.

But Duncan added it wasn't just his families property he was concerned with.

"I think it represents an imminent threat to land owners," he said. "The TTC will fracture Wharton County into two halves, cannibalize our existing roads, expose us to pollution and hazardous materials. The state should only build what is reasonable. And until the public has more input in the decision making process, nothing can be considered reasonable."

A high percentage of those at the public hearing were members of the Glen Flora-Spanish Camp Historical Society and emphasized the history of the area. They were also critical of the Texas Department of Transportation for not doing more research as part of the draft study.

During a video presentation prior to the start of the public commentary, it was pointed out such research would be part of the Tier 2 environmental study, a point TxDOT Environmental Consultant Lori Cole pointed out during the open house that proceeded the hearing.

"We've been taking an overhead look at things using existing resources," she said. "What's on the ground will be detailed in the next tier study. A lot of people have been giving us information in pieces and we're looking at getting down to the truth. The public hearing process is a fact-finding mission for us."

TxDOT Yoakum District Engineer Lonnie J. Gregorcyk was also at the meeting. The Yoakum District includes Wharton County.

"A lot of what we're hearing is that people want us to maximize the use of existing right of way, have eminent domain concerns and want to minimize the impact the project has on historical sites," he said during the open house.

"Right now we are just looking at a planning area and before we come up with any exact route, there is still a lot of work to do. Right now the hard thing is trying to convey to people that we are interested in what they have to say and that no specific route has been selected or will be selected until the funds exist to actually consider construction."

Gregorcyk added he tries to encourage the public to educate itself on the topics while also pointing out the current Tier 1 study will not be completed until late this year or early next year.

The opposition to the TTC at the meeting was well organized and vocal about their concerns, passing out anti- TTC stickers as well as having their own table in the foyer area.

Among those taking a turn at the table was Waller County resident Martha Estes, who also spoke during the public hearing.

"I'm representing Corridor Watch and other groups opposed to the TTC," she said. "We're trying to unite the people against the danger this project represents. People in this state should not stand still when their property rights are being put in jeopardy as they are by this project."

A member of the Citizens United for Texas, a group opposed to property tax abuse as well as the TTC, El Campo resident Debrah Tolson emphasized the negative impact potential.

"I'm against their chopping up Texas like this project would do," she said. "Actually, I think these hearings are a smoke screen and they're just letting us ask questions to placate us. But if this project happens, we'll lose a lot of property tax revenue that is taken off the tax rolls and a lot of sales tax from stores operating in these communities. I don't think the residents of the area are taking the threat seriously enough."

In addition to offering area residents the opportunity to speak at the hearing, with a court reporter on the record or submit a written comment during the evening, Gregorcyk said people can submit comments or questions online at www.keeptexasmoving. com or mailed to I-69/TTC at P.O. Box 14428, Austin, Texas, 78761.

All comments must be received by March 19.

Area residents will also have the opportunity to attend two more public hearings locally.

Those meetings are scheduled in El Campo at the El Campo Civic Center on Feb. 21, East Bernard at Riverside Hall on Feb. 25.

An additional area meeting will be held in Sealy at Sealy High School on Feb. 26.

The schedule for the various meetings is the same as the one used in Wharton with an open house scheduled from 5-6:30 p.m. followed by a public hearing starting at 6:30 p.m.

More information on the meetings or meeting locations can be found on the Internet at

© 2008 Wharton Journal-Spectator:

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"If this is such a good idea, it should be put to a vote."

State corridor hearing echoes small-town concerns

Feb. 13, 2008

Houston Chronicle
Copyright 2008

Farmers and ranchers in the rural counties around Houston have voiced a resounding "no" to having the Interstate 69/Trans-Texas Corridor built in their backyards. What wasn't known was how people in the big city felt about it.

Tuesday's audience at a public hearing on the project numbered only 233, compared with more than 1,000 in tiny Bellville, but they were just as opposed to the idea.

When the hearing adjourned shortly after 9 p.m., not one of the 49 speakers was in favor of the plan.

Steven Driskell said the corridor project would increase crime in rural areas by creating access for drug smugglers and other illegal activity.

"These rural communities, they are the heart of Texas. We can't just let this happen," he said.

Chris Zora called the project nothing but "a get-rich scheme" for people who own land nearby.

"I can tell you right now that this is never going to happen," he said. "Texans will never let it happen."

Gary Suydam said the construction would cause soil errosion and pollution from construction, as well as the noise and light that traffic would bring.

"If this is such a good idea, it should be put to a vote."

Suydam's remarks, like most of the others', drew loud applause.

Kathryn Wilson, said she moved to a small farm in Waller County from Bellaire. Wilson said the project will also harm wildlife, as well as air quality and drainage. "The eyes of Texas are upon you, and the eyes of the entire United States are on Texas," she said to more applause.

Several speakers raised the issues of illegal immigration and the prospect of U.S. sovereignty being deluded into a North American union with Canada and Mexico.

"There's a bigger agenda behind all of this. It's the North American Union and that's a fact," said Edward Dickey.

Dani Trees said, "There will not be another American truck driver left after this road is built."

The hearing in the Arabia Shrine Center, 2900 N. Braeswood, will be followed by three weeks of others in Houston-area counties, as required by federal law, to gather comment on a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project.

Named for the hoped-for Interstate 69, which it would replace in TxDOT plans, the tolled I-69 / TTC would eventually run from Texarkana to Mexico, most of it west of U.S. 59, with spurs to the Port of Houston from the north and west, as well as to Corpus Christi and to the Louisiana state line near Shreveport. Parts of it, however, would be east of U.S. 59.

I-69/TTC and TTC-35, planned to run parallel to Interstate 35, are parts of a massive corridor network proposed by Gov. Rick Perry in 2002.

Eventually, Perry said, these could include toll lanes for trucks and cars, tracks for freight and passenger trains, and space for pipelines and power lines. However, TxDOT officials agree that segments are likely to be built piecemeal, starting in high-traffic areas such as bypasses near major cities.

Although no contract for I-69/TTC has been signed, TxDOT wants to negotiate a long-term lease with a private company to build, maintain and operate the corridor.

TxDOT would oversee the operation and control the toll rates charged, the agency says.

© 2008 The Houston Chronicle:

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"If you come after my land I will show you the working end of my gun."

Public says highway isn't my way:

All in attendance at Lufkin's TxDOT town hall meeting voice opposition to proposed I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor

February 12, 2008

The Lufkin Daily News
Copyright 2008

Everyone who spoke at the Texas Department of Transportation's I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor public hearing on Tuesday night was against the superhighway.

The hearing was one of 46 that TxDOT has been and will continue holding throughout Texas to take public comments on the issue. TxDOT offers numerous ways to submit comments, including both verbal and written submissions, but all of the public comments made Tuesday were against the corridor.

The I-69/TTC is part of a proposed 4,000-mile multi-modal transportation system that would include car and truck lanes, freight and passenger rail lines, and a space for a future utility use. The corridor was proposed as a possible solution to the growing traffic congestion problem in the country.

The main arguments against the proposed corridor included the loss of land and homes that have been in families for generations; the loss of history, including historical markers and cemeteries currently in the path; lower property values since nobody wants to live next to a superhighway; and additional property taxes. Many fought the corridor as though fighting a monster ready to devour the rural way of life.

Hank Gilbert, with the Texas Turf organization, spoke against the corridor for two reasons. First, he believed the environmental assessment was wrong since it didn't include the oil and gas industry or the agricultural industry, two industries Gilbert said are vital to the state. Gilbert also questioned why TxDOT decided to combine the I-69 project with the TTC project. He pointed out that one was about moving people and the other about moving freight — and that East Texans wouldn't allow the second to happen.

"That's not the way we do things," Gilbert said. "We're Texans first and this is not a Texas idea."

Some compared Gov. Rick Perry to Bin Laden, arguing the government was terrorizing the Texas people, while many more voiced fears that such a massive corridor would serve as one big target for terrorists.

"This is a terrorist's dream," said T.J. McFarlen of Trinity County. "One hit could cripple our state.."

McFarlen added that his father had always told him there were two things he should never sell — his land and his gun.

"If you come after my land I will show you the working end of my gun," McFarlen said. Others voiced the same threat.

Ronald Hodge suggested that TxDOT not move forward on I-69/TTC, but instead work to improve the roads already in existence. He said he didn't want a toll road running through his part of the state.

"We pay enough for everything else," Hodge said.

One teacher from Martinsville read what some of her third-grade students had said concerning the corridor when it was discussed in class. The corridor would cut through the middle of the Martinsville school district, according to Jan Tracey.

Some of the children's arguments included not wanting to hear the traffic outside their homes, fears that their homes or their friends' homes would be torn down and they would have to move, loss of wildlife, and a loss of the community. A couple of the kids even suggested TxDOT put the corridor in another city such as Fort Worth or Longview.

"I know you want to make the world better, but for us it's too much," one child said.

Another asked that TxDOT look to a great leader for guidance.

"You are bad if you build this road," the child said. "What would George Washington do?"

One man, John Torres, implored residents to tell all of their loved ones currently in the armed forces about the corridor and let their voices be heard.

"Let them write to Rick Perry," Torres said. "Let them tell Perry what they think while they're defending this great nation."

The public hearings are part of the first tier in an environmental impact study. Comments can be submitted one of five ways: by public testimony at any of the hearings; privately to a court reporter at the hearings; by submitting written comments at the hearings; by submitting written comments by U.S. mail to I-69/TTC, P.O. Box 14428, Austin, TX 78761; or by visiting the Web at The last day to send comments will be March 19.

The next public hearing will be held at 6:30 tonight in the Logansport High School Gymnasium in Logansport, Texas. For more information on the I-69/TTC, visit the Web site

© 2008 The Lufkin Daily News:

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