Saturday, March 01, 2008

"Only here in Texas has a simple highway improvement project turned into a monstrosity of such magnitude."

Community hopes to derail TTC


By TRACY DANG, Managing Editor
The Sealy News
Copyright 2008

The Sealy High Schools auditorium was filled almost to capacity Monday night as residents from Austin County and the surrounding area attended the Texas Department of Transportation public hearing to express their opinions about the proposed I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor.

Although some chose to submit their comments in writing, approximately 50 people stood up to speak, and every one of them had the same message: "I am opposed to the I-69/Trans Texas Corridor."

"It's not hard to understand - we don't want it here," Sealy mayor Russell Koym said. "We think it'll be bad for our community, our farmland and our rural setting. One time we were all in a rural setting. We know progress has been made. But this may not be the best way to do it. The main thing is, common sense right now is not through our county."

"We didn't want it yesterday, we don't want it tonight, and we don't it tomorrow," Sealy councilman Nick Tirey said.

Even though the community's reasons for opposing the TTC have not changed since it first heard about the project, people felt it was important to keep fighting something they were so strongly against.

"We (have to) stand up for ourselves," Hank Gilbert said. "We (have to) stand up for our property and say, 'Stop cramming this down our throats.' Hopefully this is our Alamo that we're going to win."

"This is not an interstate; this is not a highway; this is something different," Jennifer Duhon said. "Agricultural land is a natural resource, and it is not replaceable. This is the second corridor of eight proposed projects. Everything is worth fighting for."

The introduction video explained the federal government developed a proposed Interstate 69 and labeled it as a high priority in 1991, but some say the proposed I-69/TTC is not the same concept.

"I-69 would not require an environmental impact study," Ed Campbell said. "The right of ways are already there. But we are not here because of a simple highway improvement project, a simple widening of a highway that could please most of the people here, including the TxDOT employees.

"Only here in Texas has a simple highway improvement project turned into a monstrosity of such magnitude of environmental impact, land acquisition, security concerns and monetary waste that it brings hundreds of normally quiet citizens out to meeting after meeting to protest something that would normally be seen as an improvement to their transportation needs."

Among the issues was the concern that the project would require resident to give up their land - land that has been in their families for generations.

"This is going to wipe me out - all my land, my house, my animals," Dee Bond said. "This is the most massive land-for-profit I have ever seen. Do you think Cinta or Zachary is going to care? Who is going to feed our cattle? Mexico? I don't think so. Who is going to grow the food for the U.S. citizens? China? No." We are left with the option that the no build-alterative is the only alternative."

"My father is buried in one of the family farms that the corridor will take," Frances Leveridge Gorman said. "I relive the history my father told of Santa Anna camping along the river. As Texans we stand as one family, unwilling to stand at anything. These people want to build a road nobody wants and expects us to pay for it. I am against the corridor, my father's resting place, my homeland and my children's heritage is sacred ground. This heritage is not for sale."

Many were upset because the land has a rich history.

"Our church will be 100 years old in May," Gene Eschenburg said. "Many of the parishioners and their sons came back safely from the war, and a memorial was built to honor them. I know what kind of honor they had when they built the Grotto. Let's say no to the corridor and go home and forget about all this stuff."

"Putting a barrier road corridor through Austin County would be a disappointment to Stephen F. Austin if he were here today," Fred Strauss said.

Others said the environmental impact study is flawed, using outdated data.

"Specifically the DEIS have obsolete data from 1990 to analyze the land use along the corridor," Michelle Sorenson said. "Specifically, the DEIS used 2004 and 2005 maps of the flood plain areas. Specifically, the DEIS failed to identify and address the negative impact the TTC would have on our watershed areas."

One after another, many expressed the same thing: "I prefer the no action alternative."

Despite fears the TTC cannot be stopped, there are things individuals can do.

"If you have a cemetery, make sure it's registered," Mark Stolarsky said. "They can't go through registered historic places. (A ranch) was nominated for the National Registry of Historic Places. The corridor has to stay off the ranch. If you have any historic property, get it registered, and keep the (TTC) out of Austin County."

Others said now is the time for people to write to their state lawmakers.

"Your comments here will not stop the Trans Texas Corridor," said Linda Stall, co-founder of the anti-TTC group CorridorWatch. "Your legislators are the only ones who can do that. So go home tonight and feel empowered. You need to write letters to the Sunset Review Committee because those commissions and committees will make recommendations to the 2009 legislature. That is what's going to put it to an end.

"Many of you are going to talk about your family heritage. What are your grandchildren going to say about you? Are they going to say, 'My grandparents stood up?' I hope so."

Those who wish to submit a letter to TxDOT may do so by mail to I-69/TTC, PO Box 14428, Austin, Texas 78761 or online at

All comments must be received by March 19.

© 2008 The Sealy News:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

Friday, February 29, 2008

Texas Primary voters can put a pothole in Gov. Rick Perry's Trans-Texas Corridor plan

In Texas, we can vote twice for a Presidential nominee.
Once at the polls, and once at your
precinct caucus Tuesday evening.
This creates a major opportunity for us to help stop the Texas freeway to
toll way conversions and the TTC land grab - IF we work together and act.
Let's effect real change from the grassroots up!

1) Vote early or on Election Day. My two voting tips: When in doubt, vote the incumbent out. If you haven’t done your homework for some races, don’t just guess - just leave it blank.)

2) Go to your precinct polling location Tuesday eve to caucus to vote for your presidential candidate AND bring several copies of each of the 3 important resolutions below - which could become part of the parties platform - the more of us that take the resolutions to our precincts, the better chance we have to get them into both party state platforms!

If you don’t know your Election day precinct polling location you can call your county election division to ask for location and time of caucus/precinct convention.

Or you can find your polling location using one of the web sites BELOW. The caucuses occur after the polls close.

Texas Secretary of State polling & caucus locator: [HERE]

Barack Obama polling & caucus locator: [HERE]

Hillary Clinton
polling & caucus locator: [HERE]

John McCain polling & caucus locator: [HERE]

Mike Huckabee polling & caucus locator: [HERE]

Ron Paul's polling & caucus locator: [HERE]
  1. When you arrive at the caucus they will ask which presidential candidate you support.
  2. The chair will then tally up the votes.
  3. Then the chair will ask for resolutions during other business.
Each resolution will then start it’s journey up the food chain. Go home with a smile on your face knowing that in less than 30 minutes, you helped push some great platform items for your party, and perhaps helped to choose a new president.

Download the resolutions - PDFs by clicking on the links:

Right now you can: Copy and paste the above into an email letter, send it to people you know so they can pass it on. Suggested subject heading: Texas 2-Step Against Tolls & TTC!

If you are a blogger, please feel free to copy and paste this whole article as your own.

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The 'Ric Williamson [Hard of] Hearing Room' commemorates Rogue Texas Transportation Commissioner

Hearing room named for late chairman

February 28, 2008

Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2008

With Ric Williamson’s wife, Mary Ann, and two of his three daughters looking on, the Texas Transportation Commission this morning renamed its meeting room in the late chairman’s honor.

The large room on the first floor of the Greer Building, TxDOT’s state headquarters, will now be the Ric Williamson Hearing Room.

“We all miss his leadership and his wisdom,” said interim commission chairwoman Hope Andrade. “This room will never be the same without him.”

Williamson, a former state House member from Weatherford, served on the commission from April 2001 until his death Dec. 30 of a heart attack. He was chairman from 2004 until his death at age 55, a period of radical change in how Texas funds transportation.

Williamson’s full-on support of privatizing toll roads was intensely controversial.

Mary Ann Williamson said her husband was “incredibly proud” of TxDOT. In a joking reference to Williamson’s well-known volubility, she said, “My family knows exactly what you felt. But his ultimate motive was to get you to think, to talk, to see.”

As for Williamson’s policies, Mary Ann Williamson said they should continue.

“Even if you don’t care for some of these things,” she said, “I don’t think you have a choice.”

© 2008 Austin American-Statesman:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

"These are the things that started the American Revolution — the seizing of houses and land, and taxation without representation."

Speakers blast Trans-Texas Corridor at hearing

Poem, call for 'revolution' mark emotional event

Feb. 27, 2008

Houston Chronicle
Copyright 2008

A poem depicting a dialogue between a spider and a fly, a rewritten 19th century letter by a hero of the Texas Revolution, and many emotion-choked speeches marked the second consecutive night of public display of opposition to the Trans-Texas Corridor plan in Fort Bend County.

The public hearing held Tuesday night by the Texas Department of Transportation at Katy High School Performing Arts Center drew about 220 residents from Katy, Fort Bend, Waller and Harris counties and surrounding cities. Like the protesters at a hearing in Rosenberg the night before, dozens of the speakers decried the state project as "un-American" and urged state officials to abandon the plan.

Opponents included many landowners who said their property would be lost to the proposed 1,200-foot wide corridor network. Others said the project would devastate the environment, spur illegal immigration and aid foreign economies by creating a North America Free Trade Agreement highway to connect Mexico to Canada through the U.S. heartland.

Dianne Hodge of Waller showed a project map and said the plan would destroy the 1880s-era house that she and her husband spent years restoring, homes of her siblings and their families and neighbors, a church and a natural habitat for barn swallows.

"You are destroying a way of life that families have spent generations building. You are destroying food-producing ranches and farms for Americans and taxing them through tolls in return and not allowing them to even vote on whether or not they want your corridor," she said.

"These are the things that started the American Revolution — the seizing of houses and land, and taxation without representation. If we need a new American Revolution to restore a government of the people, by the people and for the people, then let it begin in Texas."

Similar sentiment was echoed by Edward Dickey, whose parents live in Katy and plan to retire to Weimar where they own property.

"The town of Weimar would be wiped out by the corridor," said Dickey, who lives in Houston. "And if the corridor is built, I would have to pay a toll to visit my family. This corridor divides families and splits Texas."

He modified a letter that Col. William Barret Travis, the Texas commander in the Battle of the Alamo, wrote to Sam Houston, the first president of the Republic of Texas, to depict the state transportation agency as the enemy of the people and his resolve "to die like a soldier" to fight the project.

Attendees loudly applauded Waller County resident Alice McGuffie, who in her poem portrayed the state agency as a spider weaving a "Trans-Texas Cobweb" to lure people into the web like a fly.

"Come hither, hither, pretty fly, with pearl and silver wing; Cobwebs bring development, new jobs, growth and much, much more. There's money to be made here; just think — riches galore!" the poem reads.

The gathering was one of 46 public hearings held by TxDOT on a draft study on the environmental impact of the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor, particularly its Interstate 69 portion, along the project's path from the Texas-Mexico border to Texarkana.

The Trans-Texas Corridor network is conceived as a cross-state road system of new and existing highways, railroads and utility rights-of-way. It would have separate lanes for passenger and truck traffic, freight and high-speed commuter rails, as well as infrastructure for utilities including water, oil and gas pipelines, electricity and telecommunications services. One revenue option to support the network would be toll fees.

Several elected officials — including Waller County Commissioner Glenn Beckendorff; state Rep. John Zerwas, R-Katy; Rep. Dwayne Bohac, R-Houston; and Rep. Bill Calligari, R-Katy — also joined the residents to denounce the plan. Beckendorff presented a Waller County commissioners court resolution in opposition to the plan, saying it doesn't take into account the county's mobility plan.

Some speakers called on the U.S. Congress to initiate an investigation of Gov. Rick Perry and the state transportation agency in crafting the plan that they said serves foreign interests at the expense of Texans.

Karen Othon, a TxDOT spokeswoman, said the public comments will be submitted to the Federal Highway Administration with the draft environmental impact study for review this spring.

The administration is expected to issue a response in winter. If the federal agency approves the initial study, the study will be refined to map out a more detailed, narrowed-down project route.

Othan said that there is a possibility that strong public opposition to the project could result in the state halting the plan.

TxDOT is accepting public comments through March 19. Written comments can be submitted by mail to I-69/TTC, P.O.Box 14428, Austin, TX 78761 or via the Web at

© 2008 Houston Chronicle:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

“There’s one endangered species we need to take care of, and that’s the private landowner.”


Most at Texas Department of Transportation meeting have no love for the Trans-Texas Corridor

February 27, 2008

Victoria Advocate
Copyright 2008

Few Victoria residents at Wednesday night’s meeting were in favor of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

Josie Marbach walked up to the Victoria College Fine Arts Auditorium and saw a table offering a petition.

“Is this a petition?” she asked intently. “Where’s the place to sign?”

The retired Victoria resident doesn’t want the proposed highway system and came to the Texas Department of Transportation’s public meeting to see how much more of a plan developed.

Hundreds of people filled the auditorium to listen and give public comments on Interstate Highway 69 and Trans-Texas Corridor.

We’re informing people of the need and purpose of the project, public information officer Bryan Ellis said. Comments will be considered for the environmental impact statement, which will address socioeconomic effects of the road system.

The evening meeting began with a video presentation from the department explaining that the state could pay willing landowners now for an option to buy their land in the future.

Victoria County commissioner Gary Burns, of precinct 3, then joked about the words “willing landowners” to the laughs and cheers of the audience.

“There’s so many questions here,” he said. “There’s one endangered species we need to take care of, and that’s the private landowner.”

Sixth-generation Texas landowner Kathleen Reimann, of Victoria, agreed as she’s against the project in any “way, shape or form.” She would prefer expanding the existing roadways instead of the state grabbing up land for a new one.

She questions who would truly use the corridor and believes foreign investors are the only ones to gain. She risks losing the land that’s been in her family for 143 years, including a historic cemetery on site.

“The bottom line is all of our immigrant ancestors who came over here struggled for their land and now we’re going to take it away from them?” she asked, shaking her head. “It’s unTexan, it’s unAmerican.”

Chris and Dyris Lassman came to the meeting when they found out the corridor may run straight through their house. The Victoria landowners would like a timeframe on the project so they know when the destruction of their home is coming.

Mrs. Lassman asked Department of Transportation staff if the corridor was really happening. They replied that it wasn’t set in stone.

“This isn’t a little baby thing like 59. It’s huge,” she said, worried. “We’re going to get plowed over.”

Mayor Will Armstrong in his comment to the audience expressed a need for improving the road system in the area, adding there would never be as good a time for the rail. Armstrong looked at growth in Texas doubling and understands infrastructure doesn’t happen by accident.

“There are questions and we need to look at this process,” he said. “But we need to plan for the future.”

The audience booed heavily as he finished the comment.

The transportation system needs improving, Lee Swearingen, chairman of the Victoria County Navigation District, said. He understands that traffic won’t diminish.

He supports the southern route of the corridor, but would be against the project if the state chose the northern route.

“They can improve the existing highways,” Swearingen said. “I think that’s what everybody wants.”

Victoria Mayor Pro-Tem Lewis Neitsch is for the interstate using existing roadways. He stands against the corridor and developing roads that would run parallel to existing ones.

“From an economic standpoint, we need an interstate highway,” Dale Fowler, president of the Victoria Economic Development Corp., said. Fowler said the area could continue losing industrial opportunities as companies choose to build near interstates.

But Linda Jaynes, retired Victoria resident, doesn’t understand why the road needs to be so large and questions the devastating economic effects.

“Maybe we need extra roads,” she said, expressing worries about outsourcing to Mexico. “But jobs are going to be gone. People will go hungry. It’s scary.”

Tara Bozick is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact her at 361-580-6504 or

What’s next

After 46 public hearings and when the state finishes taking public comments until March 19, the department will send written responses to substantive comments, public information officer Bryan Ellis said.
  • Map of possible I-69 routes [PDF]

    © 2008 Victoria Advocate:

    To search TTC News Archives click HERE

    To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

    Wednesday, February 27, 2008

    "Charging a toll will only hurt local businesses and residents... Powerful special interests will profit from these tolls."

    Lawsuit challenges impact of toll road


    Patrick Driscoll
    San Antonio Express-News
    Copyright 2008

    A long-running standoff over plans to morph part of U.S. 281 into a tollway — a spat that could lead to costly delays for motorists — headed to a federal court Tuesday.

    Toll road critics and environmental activists joined forces, once again, to file a lawsuit on the last day of a deadline to legally challenge the tollway's latest environmental study.

    The desperate effort could also be the last chance to scope down and strip out tolls from the planned 10- to 20-lane expressway, which would stretch 71/2 miles north of Loop 1604, and revert back to a freeway with half as many miles.

    The 48-page lawsuit challenges the environmental study's conclusion — that widening U.S. 281 and tolling the express lanes would not significantly harm people, wildlife or drinking water. Activists called the claim ridiculous.

    The project would lay down asphalt and concrete on another 70 acres across Edwards Aquifer recharge and contributory zones north of Loop 1604, according to the study, which federal officials cleared last summer.

    Even more acreage would get covered if toll lanes get added, as planned, to Loop 1604.

    "This lawsuit is really about common sense," said Enrique Valdivia, president of Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas. "We think paving over 300 acres of recharge is pretty significant to everyone who depends on the aquifer."

    Drivers would pay 17 cents a mile to use the express lanes in 2012, with rates rising annually with consumer inflation. Access roads would be left as the nontoll option.

    "Charging a toll will only hurt local businesses and residents who have invested in the 281 corridor," said Terri Hall, founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom. "Powerful special interests will profit from these tolls."

    The two groups, represented by Save Our Springs Alliance, filed the lawsuit in San Antonio to demand a more detailed impact study, which could take several more years to do.

    They filed a similar lawsuit just more than two years ago, which stopped U.S. 281 tollway construction, but state officials simply redid the less-intensive assessment. The regurgitated study took more than a year to finish and cost $2 million.

    Since then, construction costs soared by a third and traffic got worse, and toll advocates fear such trends only will continue. If inflation rises 5 percent to 8 percent a year, as the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority projects, delays will burn an extra $53,000 to $85,000 a day.

    "We are hopeful for a quick resolution to this lawsuit, which is serving as nothing more than a delay tactic for groups who have been opposed to any real relief on the 281 corridor," mobility authority Chairman Bill Thornton said.

    Authority officials, who say the environmental study was thorough enough, are almost ready to select a private development team and then sell bonds for the $476 million tollway. Bulldozers are set to roll by summer, with toll lanes opening within four years.

    If work on the first three miles of the tollway hadn't been blocked two years ago, the job would be 90 percent complete, said Clay Smith of the Texas Department of Transportation, which recently gave the project to the mobility authority.

    Motorists today would be driving on access roads that had better turnarounds, more turn lanes and a bridge over Redland Road that's not there now, he said. Express toll lanes would be a year away from opening.

    "It's a shame that folks continue to want to keep the public in gridlock out there," said Smith, who's a planning engineer. "We've got a plan to solve the congestion."

    Hall and other critics say TxDOT caused the problem by converting a freeway- and overpass-plan for U.S. 281 into a tollway plan, and the agency along with the mobility authority have since refused to budge despite loud opposition.

    Some of the $325 million in public subsidies set aside for toll roads in San Antonio should instead be spent on nontoll lanes, Hall said.

    Toll promoters, including many in the road industry, say going back to a plan that does less is not good enough in the face of crushing growth.

    © 2008 San Antonio Express-News:

    To search TTC News Archives click HERE

    To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

    "We must focus attention... to really make North America move, not just forward, but united and strong."

    Time to travel; Russell: Texans need a corridor for the future


    Laredo Morning Times
    Copyright 2008

    Defending the idea of the Trans-Texas Corridor by saying its critics are trying to portray it as something it is not, the assistant executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation said instead the infrastructure project is necessary to respond to the growth of Texas and the travel habits of its residents.

    Phil Russell spoke at the Fourth Annual Inland Ports Across North America Conference at La Posada Hotel on Tuesday. Russell was part of a panel whose five members, from the United States, Mexico and Canada, explained the status of current infrastructure and logistics project they said would help facilitate trade in the 21st century.

    According to TxDOT figures, during the last 25 years the state's population increased 57 percent and road use grew 95 percent. Texas' road capacity, however, was slightly better than stagnant, with 8 percent growth.

    Russell said the growth trends would likely continue.

    "When we begin to look at the future, however, in the next 25 years or even further … the population is only supposed to increase," he said. "We now have surpassed California as the fastest-growing state in the country, and of course road use here in Texas, we love our vehicles, road use is estimated to increase as well.

    "One of the tools they gave us several years ago was something called the Trans-Texas Corridor," he said. "Contrary to what you may have read on the Internet … there are really only two elements that we're working on, what we call TTC-35 and TTC-69."

    Russell conceded that additional projects might be looked at in the future, but said TTC-35, which has a study area that parallels Interstate 35, and TTC-69, which has a 650-mile study area in Texas that begins in the east and would run south to the Mexican border, are the only two projects that need immediate consideration.

    "People are putting their arms around the Trans-Texas Corridor and promoting it as really something it's not," he said. "In many ways it's just a financial tool."

    Some critics, however, suggest that the Trans-Texas Corridor is an inefficient solution to traffic problems in Texas.

    "It bypasses all the major cities," said David Stall, co-founder of, an organization aimed at increasing awareness about the project and its effect on Texas. "It's inefficient transportation between Austin and San Antonio or San Antonio to Dallas. The connections to and from (I-35 to the TTC-35) are the same existing highways that are currently congested."

    Stall also said the project's size and the manner in which it was proposed are also debatable.

    "It's a revenue project that came out of the governor's office," he said. "The Trans-Texas Corridor is much larger than it needs to be, and it has not been embraced by any transportation official across the state."

    Russell said critics of international trade seem to be under the impression that if the Trans-Texas Corridor project were abandoned, the trade among the countries of North America would somehow cease to exist.

    "I think the reality is whether we go Trans-Texas Corridor or not, the trade that we share with Mexico, with Canada, is vibrant (and) is viable to our economy … and so that trade is going to occur whether we build Trans-Texas Corridor or not," he said. Russell added that increase in trade going through the Mexican seaports could only increase the amount of trade that will eventually run through Texas.

    Representatives from Mexico briefed attendees about current logistics operations under way that they hope will be an integral part of the future of Mexico's trade with the rest of the world.

    Salvador Elguero Molina, director of the Plataforma Logística Hidalgo, spoke about the advantages present in the Mexican state of Hidalgo, which he noted was one of the safest in the nation. A presentation was made about PLATAH, a major logistics-operation project Molina said would capitalize on Mexico City's growth and Hidalgo's central location. Other advantages present in Hidalgo, he said, are rail lines that facilitate trade with Asia and Europe and highway construction that will link the Gulf with the Pacific and the west with the east.

    Molina concluded by saying that with the logistics community growing the way it has been, coordination and communication between businesses was essential to secure development and continued global economic growth and trade.

    Jorge Arturo Acevedo, director of the Guanajuato Puerto Interior, presented a video about the GTO Puerto Interior, described as the country's first inland port and the largest in Latin America.

    Guanajuato owns part of the Golden Triangle in Mexico, it was explained, and in a radius of 155 miles, 60 percent of the country's population and 70 percent of the all the international commercial activity can be found.

    In addition, Guanajuato is just 379 miles from the Port of Lazaro Cardenas, which some local business leaders have said will contribute to an increase in trade Laredo expects to see in the next decade.

    In closing, Acevedo said he planned to discuss infrastructure projects in cities like San Luis Potosi, Queretaro and Aguas Calientes and others during his speech. He said that flying into Laredo on Sunday, however, he changed his mind.

    "We must focus attention to have a better understanding of the opportunity that we have to really make North America move, not just forward, but united and strong," he said.

    (Julian Aguilar may be reached at 728-2557 or by e-mail at

    © 2008 Laredo Morning Times:

    To search TTC News Archives click HERE

    To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

    "The threat has sent the historians and archaeologists scurrying."

    Superhighway poses threat to area history

    Destruction of graves, prehistoric camps for corridor concern historians

    February 26, 2008

    The Victoria Advocate
    Copyright 2008

    It’s the kind of thing that has inspired science fiction horror movies.

    Unmarked graves with the remains of Victoria County’s pioneers and prehistoric camps and burials dating back 9,500 years dot the countryside.

    Throw in plans to build a Trans-Texas Corridor super highway through some of that same territory and you have the ingredients for a “Poltergeist”-type movie setting.

    But in this case it’s not the terrified homeowners whose houses were built on top of the graves that are concerned. It’s the county’s historians and archaeologists who fear losing part of Victoria County’s history.

    “It’s going to take years to excavate these sites,” said Bill Birmingham, an archaeology steward for the Texas Historical Commission. “The best thing would be to preserve them for future research.” The threat has sent the historians and archaeologists scurrying to locate and map as many of these sites as possible. That information will then be presented at the Texas Department of Transportation.

    Linda Wolff with the Victoria County Historical Commission is mapping the cemeteries and Birmingham is mapping the archaeological sites that could be in the path of the Trans-Texas Corridor highway.

    “All of the cemeteries I know of will be included in my written comments to the highway department and Trans-Texas Corridor officials,” Wolff said. “My concern is I can only protect the cemeteries I know about.”

    Under Texas law a single burial in the middle of a pasture is considered a cemetery, Wolff said. It doesn’t matter if it’s noted on a deed or if there’s a marker. But because they may not be marked, Wolff may not be aware of them. She’s asking anyone with information on cemeteries in the county to contact her at 361-575-3689 or by e-mail at

    “In the Mission Valley area in particular, I think there may be unmarked cemeteries along Diebel Road,” Wolff said. “But I’d like to hear from anyone that has one in the Mission Valley area.”

    Birmingham said anyone with information on archaeological sites possibly in the path of the highway may contact him at 361-575-2170.

    A prehistoric site on the McNeill Ranch near Nursery and the Mission Espiritu Santo Ranch between Victoria and Mission Valley are two major sites that could be in the highway’s path, Birmingham said.

    “They just can’t do anything in that area without hitting sites,” he said. “I’m fairly concerned.”

    John and Judy Clegg own Mission Espiritu Santo Ranch, which was named for the Spanish mission built there in 1726. It was once the largest cattle ranch in Texas when the Spanish ran it.

    Clegg said he’s seen the plans for the highway.

    “It takes pretty much the whole ranch,” he said. “But once they find out it’s a historic land, then they’re going to be looking to do something different.”

    Besides the remnants of the mission, there are close to a dozen historic and prehistoric sites on the property, Clegg said. He’s concerned that the highway will be moved just enough to avoid those sites.

    “I don’t want that,” Clegg said. “It’s a special site out there and people have been living out there for 8,000 years.”

    Birmingham said erosion and looters have already taken their toll on the county’s sites. A new highway could be devastating, he said.

    “It’s part of our history,” he said. “It’s part of our heritage.”

  • To report cemeteries that might be in the path of Trans-Texas Corridor/Interstate 69, contact Linda Wolff at 361-575-3689 or by e-mail at
  • Archaeological sites may be reported to Bill Birmingham at 361-575-2170.
  • To see a graphic/document:
  • Where the cemeteries are [PDF]

  • David Tewes is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6515 or

    © 2008 The Victoria Advocate:

    To search TTC News Archives click HERE

    To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

    Tuesday, February 26, 2008

    Adding dedicated lanes for big rigs would be cost prohibitive.

    Truck lanes might not be worth the cost


    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
    Copyright 2008

    Truck lane projects like those proposed on I-75 in Cobb County and the western wall of I-285 might not reduce traffic congestion enough to be worth building, according to a new study by the state Department of Transportation.

    Adding lanes solely for big rigs would speed up regular traffic on adjacent interstate lanes by only about 10 miles per hour in the next three decades, the study found. Given that and the $13 billion price tag of a full truck-lane network, the study recommended the state not pursue truck-only lanes.

    A 2005 study led by the State Road and Tollway Authority found that building truck-only lanes might significantly ease congestion on nearby regular lanes, including surface streets, but called its report a "limited" effort and recommended further study.

    The earlier study set fire to the idea among Georgia transportation planners, who proposed a network of truck-only toll lanes.

    Under a state law that allows private investment in public toll roads, companies have now spent millions of dollars developing truck lane proposals for I-75 and western I-285. The I-75 project, which includes HOV toll lanes on I-75 and I-575, is under a $38.5 million development contract.

    It may be possible to build the projects without truck lanes. Representatives of private companies involved in those projects declined to comment or did not return calls.

    DOT Commissioner Gena Abraham is re-evaluating the toll projects, she has said. If she sees need for change, she would make a recommendation to the DOT board.

    While Abraham remains committed to private investment and tolls, when it comes to the specific projects, "right now everything still is on the table," said Ericka Davis, a spokeswoman for the DOT.

    She said there could be no changes to the current roster of toll projects. Or, the projects could be modified.

    "Or, we could determine by the facts and the data and studies that it's not feasible for the department or in the best interests of the state" to do the current list of projects, she said.

    Another spokesman, David Spear, said the study "will be a significant component of her due diligence" as Abraham evaluates the program.

    Other projects proposed include HOV toll lanes along Ga. 400 and an expansion of eastern I-20. They probably won't include truck lanes.

    A joint study for the I-75/I-575 project found that if fully built with truck lanes it would cost $4 billion, and probably would not be affordable unless truckers on that interstate were banned from the regular lanes and forced to pay a toll. Trucking groups have threatened to sue if that happens.

    Spear said the DOT study didn't evaluate mandatory toll lanes. "I suppose that's a caveat [to study results], but the staff's recommendation is not to pursue truck lanes, period," he said.

    A number of board members seemed unsatisfied with the depth of the data, and they couldn't say where it would lead their decisions.

    Spear said the SRTA study and the DOT study measured congestion relief differently, so it probably isn't possible to compare their results.

    Board Chairman Mike Evans said the board needs more clarity on the study and on previous data that the new study seemed to refute. If the new numbers bear out, he said, it would be "a severe blow to the concept" of truck-only lanes from a fiscal standpoint, though the safety benefits still might hold. He said it is too early to say whether it would affect the projects already on the table.

    © 2008 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

    To search TTC News Archives click HERE

    To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

    "This project is being rammed down our throats whether we like it or not...This is wrong."

    Aliceans express doubts on I-69/TTC


    Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr.
    Alice Echo-News Journal
    Copyright 2008

    Alice area residents voiced their disapproval Thursday night for the I-69/Trans Texas Corridor, as it was presented in a public hearing at the Alice High School Cafeteria.

    More than 100 people attended the event. An open house was held before the public hearing, to give residents a chance to speak with Texas Department of Transportation officials about the Tier One Draft Environmental Impact Study and the proposed route of the I-69/TTC.

    The route for the I-69/TTC as described during the public hearing, would follow existing Highway 44 heading from east to west. It would start in the Texarkana region and work its way around Houston, heading southwest, to Corpus Christi and on toward Laredo.

    U.S. Highway 77 and Highway 281 will be looked at in the Tier Two study, should the Tier One study be approved.

    During the public hearing, several residents brought up issues concerning the effect of the roadway on local wildlife, property rights, tollway business dealings and overall funding for the project. Many residents living on the west side of Highway 281 also expressed their frustrations with the possibility of their property being used as part of the I-69/TTC project, while King Ranch property on the east side of Highway 281 would remain untouched because of its national historical designation.

    Many of the ranching families on the west side have had their properties in their family since the 19th century, and are just as attached to the historical significance of their property as the owners of the King Ranch, speakers said.

    Edwin Goldapp, with the Jim Wells County Farm Bureau, said there was plenty of land that could be used in the rights-of-way of existing roadways, instead of carving into precious farm and ranch land near the roadways. As part of the I-69/TTC project, TxDOT has claimed that it may need as much as 1,200 feet for the proposed roadway, which at times, according to the maps provided, may move through existing properties, dividing up farm and ranch land for several property owners.

    Goldapp asked if there would be enough crossings for traffic of vehicles and animals, since the cost of moving goods across the I-69/TTC at a small number of crossings would make legitimate farming and ranching businesses in the area almost cost prohibitive.

    Also a concern is the crossing of game animals, which is a vital necessity in this wildlife rich South Texas area.

    He also brought up the question of providing services on the tollway, asking if the cities along I-69/TTC would be able to participate in those businesses, or would they be gobbled up by foreign businesses, which would reap the profit and pass out a few minimum wage jobs to the local population.

    He also expressed concern over the issue of the use of eminent domain.

    "No more (land) should be taken than is adequately needed at this time," Goldapp said.

    Goldapp said he felt that if the fuel tax had been raised incrementally since its inception, then TxDOT would not be in the financial position it is now. He also that the use of tollways is a form of double taxation.

    Since this was a public hearing, TxDOT was recording all of the audience comments, but could not answer the questions the members of the public brought up.

    Lindsey Koenig, with the South Texas Property Rights Association, said TxDOT should stick to the existing easements as much as possible. Also, he said the historical significance of the property north of Agua Dulce was not being considered. The areas hold historical battle artifacts, he said.

    "You don't need to take virgin farm and ranch land," Koenig said, "when there is an alternate, cheaper route. You have massive existing watersheds in this area. The people who drafted Highway 44 knew what they were doing...You don't need something that's a quarter mile wide."

    Alice City Manager Albert Uresti said the I-69/TTC would divert a lot of traffic away from the city of Alice. The roadway would move traffic anywhere from one to six miles away from town, which could be devastating to the local economy. Uresti also said the money spent on such a project could be spent better in other ways, such as education, for senior citizens or cancer research.

    "It's a lot of money that could be used for better things than what we're looking at," Uresti said.

    "If it's two choices, speaking for myself, my recommendation would be to go for no action. If we have three choices, then I think we ought to make use of existing roadways."

    "We have no idea how this will impact us," Orange Grove Mayor Seale Brand said. "We support our government, and then we turn around and everything has changed up. I don't think anyone here is against the corridor, as it was understood in the beginning, but it's changed. We have major concerns."

    Brand asked if the issue of taxation had been looked at. Also, he understands the need to plan for the future, but he said, it comes down to openness and trust. He said there was no openness in this decision.

    "I think when it's all said and done, the politicians need to come back and let us decide on what needs to be done, by voting. I think that would be power to the people, we the people, instead of the government," Brand said, which was followed by applause.

    Local landowner John Tesmelis was adamantly against the I-69/TTC project. He said the TxDOT board is appointed and not elected by the people.

    "This project is being rammed down out throats whether we like it or not. This money is going to Spain," Tesmelis said. "This is wrong. Governor Rick Perry should not try to ram this down our throat like he's doing, thank you." The crowd again applauded the comments.

    Dean Nesloney also garnered applause when he went to the microphone and said that with a lack of customs checks for traffic coming up from Mexico through the I-69/TTC, the route would be a drug dealer's dream.

    John Huerta, a landowner on the west side of Highway 281 near Encino said that unlike the long stretch of empty ranch land on the east side of Highway 281 owned by the King Ranch in his area, the west side of the highway at that point has 16 different families that would be affected by the taking of land by TxDOT.

    "They would take land from 16 different landowners with homes, and cemeteries and habitats filled with native wildlife, while on the east side, it remains untouched by the King Ranch. It's just fenced in brush," Huerta said.

    "They already cut into our land as part of a project in 1982 for construction on Highway 281, now TxDOT says they need more of our land for I-69."

    One speaker towards the end of the hearing stood up to the microphone and made her voice heard clearly on this issue saying that if LBJ were alive, he wouldn't let this happen. She said she thought Gov. Perry must have been born somewhere else.

    Written comments on the I-69/TTC study must be received by March 19 to be included in the final impact statement. They can be mailed to I-69/TTC, P.O. Box 14428, Austin Texas 78761 or by going through the TTC Web site at

    © 2008 Alice Echo News-Journal:

    To search TTC News Archives click HERE

    To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

    "I challenge anyone to show how the possible benefits of the TTC can offset the losses that we will certainly see."

    County backs community efforts against Trans-Texas Corridor

    February 26, 2008

    The Daily Sentinel
    Nacodoches Daily Sentinel
    Copyright 2008

    The Nacogdoches County commissioners court voted Tuesday to support numerous community members who have recently turned out in droves opposing the proposed I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor by adopting a resolution against the project.

    The resolution is expected to be sent to the Texas Department of Transportation and to the governor's office. (See the resolution against TTC-69 here)

    Precinct 4 Commissioner Tom Strickland said that it's apparent most people in Nacogdoches County approved of the original project — a standard Interstate roadway. But now most are opposed to the large TTC structure.

    145th District Court Judge Campbell Cox II submitted a map that showed several oil and gas wells that would have to be capped off, should the corridor be built.

    "Should the TTC be built along the 'recommended preferred corridor,' then some or all of the 13 oil and gas wells in Nacogdoches County that lie in its path will need to be plugged and paved over," Cox said. "In 2007, (according to Sonara Resources, a local oil and gas company) the 13 wells produced a substantial amount of oil and gas. The royalty owners who own the mineral interest in those wells ... received $1.5 million in 2007 alone."

    Cox said not only do the owners receive the benefits, but so do the local businesses who sell products and services to the oil and gas companies.

    "This money is deposited in our banks and spent at our stores and businesses," Cox said. "This generates sales tax revenues four our city. If these wells are paved over by this super highway, the money they produce evaporates."

    He also addressed the ad valorem taxes the wells generate, adding that the money provides revenue for the Woden, Martinsville and Nacogdoches school districts and the county as a whole. Cox pointed out that the wells produced almost $200,000 in ad valorem taxes in 2007, which does not include the taxes paid on the land the wells are on.

    "If this part of the tax base is confiscated for the TTC, the only way to make up for it will be to raise tax rates for everyone," Cox said.

    "This will hurt, not help, the economy of Nacogdoches County," he added. "I challenge anyone to show how the possible benefits of the TTC can offset the losses that we will certainly see."

    Two other members of the community addressed the commissioners court on the TTC project.

    Nolan Alders said he recently traveled the roads to see how he could get his timber products to a mill should the TTC be built.

    "I will have to take my timber 7 miles out of the way to get there and 7 miles out of the way back," Alders said. "So my added expense to take my timber to market is $56 a load."

    He said he has taken it upon himself to research information on the proposed corridor, and he's talked to several people about the project.

    "I've asked several people to give me one economic benefit for the corridor. So far, I have not gotten one suggestion (that shows) in any way it will help us," Alders said. "I was born and raised in Nacogdoches, so it's my intent to be helpful to my city and county."

    Alders said that Texas is the only state who has this "monstrosity" planned, and the rail lines planned to run along the Interstate may not even be needed, because upgrades to current railroad lines are being planned so more truck traffic and tankers can be taken off the roads and transported by the railroads.

    "I do feel like we are going to have to upgrade some of the roads we have," Alders said. "But we don't need the Trans-Texas Corridor."

    Property-owner Larry Shelton said he has a strong interest in the TTC project and has attended some of the town hall meetings held recently regarding the super highway.

    "My property is located in the preferred corridor route, so I am a stakeholder in this project and certainly stand to lose all that I have as my personal property and home," Shelton said. "There are two issues to discuss here. One is the TTC, and the other is the upgrade of (U.S.) 59 to an interstate. Either way, it's pretty certain something is going to happen."

    Shelton suggested the court appoint a person in a local leadership role to be a sort of "local expert" to gather information. He also suggested that someone be involved at the state level to research the state mandates, which authorize the TTC, and to develop a comprehensive strategy to protect Nacogdoches County's interests.

    "We need to be proactive and say what our interests are and what is a good outcome for us," Shelton said

    The commissioners court approved the resolution unanimously, and Strickland commended "those in the community who have dedicated the time and effort to take a stand on this."

    For more information, blog updates, stories and maps about the TTC, visit

    © 2008 Nachodoches Daily Sentinel:

    To search TTC News Archives click HERE

    To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

    "I personally think it's a slap in the face for Texas..."

    Corridor: All in favor? None

    February 26, 2008

    By Stephen Palkot
    Fort Bend Herald
    Copyright 2008

    A handful of Kendleton residents were among several dozen to speak out against the Trans-Texas Corridor at a public hearing Monday night in Rosenberg.

    “I personally think it's a slap in the face for Texas to take the land for pennies on the dollar, to put a road on it and to make you pay a toll for it,” said Jeremy West, one of the speakers from Kendleton.

    The Trans-Texas Corridor is a proposal for a network of highways, rail lines and utilities throughout Texas that would be financed by private interests who would seek to profit through tolls and other fees. In 2005, the Texas Department of Transportation unveiled plans to build and finance the already-proposed I-69 by making it a component of the Trans-Texas Corridor, to be known as TTC-69.

    TTC-69 today consists of a 650-mile route from the Mexican border to Texarkana that in most sections would replace U.S. 59. However, TTC-69 would make an arc around Fort Bend County and the Houston area, due to high-density development and right-of-way limitations.

    TxDOT has proposed an east-west swath that would connect the main artery of the corridor with the southern half of the Houston area, and that route would run through Fort Bend County.

    The Kendleton residents expressed concerns that this connecting corridor, known as Section S, would cut through their small town, which includes historical structures such as churches and Powell Point Elementary School.

    TxDOT officials could not respond to those remarks during the comment phase of Monday's hearing, but they said in open house portions that the agency continues to accept input on TTC and the final route will be a portion of what is now a two-mile-wide study area.

    More than one person expressed fears about the loss of U.S. sovereignty as a result of TTC. Mike Currie, a Harris County political activist, drew cheers for saying TTC is a product of agreements between the U.S., Mexico and Canada for what critics contend is a future “North American Union,” complete with its own currency to replace U.S. dollars.

    Politicians at the event included Precinct 1 Commissioner Tom Stavinoha, who urged the examination by TxDOT of ongoing rail projects as an alternative to TTC-69, and District 27 State Rep. Dora Olivo, D-Rosenberg, who said she opposes the concept due to the proposed privatization of public resources.

    Also speaking against the idea were representatives of the Texas Farm Bureau, the Sierra Club and the Houston-based Citizen's Transportation Council.

    Public comments will be accepted by TxDOT in written form through March 19. The agency has completed a Draft Environmental Impact Study, which is required for it to receive federal approval for planning to continue. Some of the speakers Monday criticized the DEIS.

    The actual route for TTC-69 would not be determined until the next major round of studies, which is not expected to get under way until at least 2009, say TxDOT officials.

    No person spoke in favor of TTC-69, though several expressed interest in developing I-69 as planned before it was lumped with the Trans-Texas Corridor.

    Comments can be submitted through the TxDOT Web site or mailed to: I-69/TTC, P.O. Box 14428, Austin, TX 78761.

    © 2008 Fort Bend Herald:

    To search TTC News Archives click HERE

    To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

    Monday, February 25, 2008

    "Its time to scrap the current DEIS process and start over with the right people and the right resources."

    TTC-69: The impact on property values in Texas

    February 25th, 2008

    Don Garrett
    Citizens for a Better Waller County
    Copyright 2008

    One of the many flaws behind the Trans Texas Corridor system (TTC) and the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is that the DEIS does not address the economic impact on business, income producing real estate, land and/or agricultural value, or the existing infrastructure of rural Texas counties.

    By avoiding this critical component, TxDOT is attempting to segment the process for easier approval. Allowing the isolation or elimination of a critical component skews the end result and guts the context of any study. An economic impact analysis or feasibility study is one of the first steps in the due diligence process of any prudent business plan. If it doesn’t work on paper then the possibility of it working in the field is negligible. As such, TxDOT is deliberately trying to pass this critical portion off until the Phase II of the DEIS.

    Since the inception of the TTC, TxDOT has chosen not to objectively review its own archives of transportation studies that are readily available. What they have chosen to do is interpret studies to their liking thus drawing a conclusion that has more holes than a sieve.

    Several studies initiated by TxDOT reported how new highways and interstate construction affect the development of communities along their paths. TxDOT attempts to use one recent study to draw a positive correlation between the TTC and typical highway development. Through generalities associated with the existing transportation systems the TTC is purported to have an overall positive affect on property values. However, this study relates to transportation infrastructures that are totally different from anything ever envisioned in both size and concept of the TTC. (see TxDOT Report on Property Values).

    TxDOT even noted in this study that “…the effects of transportation improvements have been well studied, but not well understood”. Texans will find little comfort in such statements especially when TxDOT is about to depart from traditional forms of transportation and undertake a radical transformation into an area of unknown consequences.

    The aforementioned study focused on property values adjacent to the transportation facilities before and after completion. It touched briefly on rural towns bypassed by the new facilities and says little if anything about the synergistic affects to outlying areas.

    Another study done by the University of Texas, Center for Transportation, summary shows what can happen to rural towns when highways are re-routed around these communities. The study followed trends from 1954 to 1992. The study fails to draw a final conclusion, but makes statements such as “The results suggest that most of the changes in these communities have been the results of factors other than the relief route but that the relief route tends to amplify trends in the community, either positive or negative. Larger communities located close to metropolitan areas or that serve as natural stopping points are in a better position to take advantage of the opportunities created by the relief route”.

    Texans living along Hwy 290, Interstate 45, and Hwy 59 (the proposed TTC-I69) know first hand the devastating affects a new highway system can have when it is re-routed around small towns and rural communities. Small towns such as Ganado, Louise, Edna, and Wharton felt the affects when Hwy 59 South was rerouted; Hockley, Waller, Hempstead on Hwy 290; Splendora, Cleveland, and Shepherd again on Hwy 59 North; Madisonville, Leona, Centerville, and Buffalo on Hwy 75, reroute by Interstate 45. There are countless other small towns in Texas that can attest to this affect. Both of the aforementioned studies suggest that midsize towns can handle these shifts which are mainly due to their strong existing infrastructure. It is most obvious that towns such as Conroe, Huntsville, and Victoria, handled the transition with minimal affects.

    The affects on small towns are quite obvious and need only a simple observation to see what has transpired. Many of these small towns have been forced to grow to the new system and in many cases it took years due to the loss of their existing infrastructure and business. Businesses dependent on high traffic counts that could relocate to the new routes did so, and abandoned their facilities along the older route. Many of those that could not relocate eventually went out of business or survived by converting to a secondary use in the form of thrift stores and antique shops; thus creating a downward movement in property value.

    Towns that were fortunate enough to have the ability to create new infrastructure such as water, storm and sewer trunk lines to the new area in many cases simply replaced what was lost along the older route. Additionally, access in the form of feeder or access streets that paralleled the new highway was a major component for the survival of these towns. The second study done by the Center for Transportation Research disputes this relationship to access roads which runs contrary to reason. Both studies noted the importance of bypasses and crossovers noting development in these areas. The first study mentioned noted that “land near the bypass, especially at roadway crossings that provided access to the towns, generally increased in value”. Keep in mind that as proposed by TxDOT the TTC will have limited access.

    Other studies indicate additional impacts by toll roads on local infrastructure that were never anticipated. It was noted in a recent study by Peter Swan of Penn State – Harrisburg and Michael Belzer of Wayne State University. “The study concludes that if governments allow private toll road operators to maximize profits, higher tolls will divert trucks to local roads, depending on the suitability of substitute roads. The number of diverted trucks is important to both the State of Ohio and the Nation for economic and social reasons. First, many of the substitute roads are two-lane highways with crash rates many times that of the Turnpike. Second, the increased traffic has reduced the quality of life for communities located along diversion routes and dramatically increased the maintenance costs of these roads”.

    TxDOT has estimated that it will take approximately 9,600 automobiles to equal the road damage that can be done with one truck. This was stated in one of the recent TxDOT townhall meetings in January, 2008.

    Reducing the quality of life does have a relationship to property value and the DEIS does not take into account these additional impacts. Also, cutting through rural counties with limited or no access, disrupting EMS and law enforcement, requiring rural school districts to double their transportation requirements to accommodate the needs on both sides of a concrete barrier will have just the opposite affect on property value. Farmers and ranchers will have to go miles around this barrier to access their property that was once a simple gate crossing. The increase in fuel consumption and the separation of a contiguous operation will only increase the cost of their operations.

    Rural towns across Texas and the USA will be bypassed or have limited access. Having little or no feeder/access roads running parallel to this concrete monstrosity will stifle any and all commercial development. What access there is to fuel and food along the long stretches of this superhighway will be located in the interior of the corridor thus eliminating the need for trucks and autos to exit the system for points of convenience or “natural stopping points”.

    Points of destination will be the main recipient of auto and commercial vehicles heading to major metropolitan areas such as Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio. The commercial activity will then proceed onward to the inland ports in Kansas. Vehicular traffic on the TTC will interact with communities if they are fortunate enough to be located along a major interstate exchange such as I-10, I-45, and I-20. This will also depend on having sufficient distances for exits/ entrance ramps and access roads. So how does one extrapolate a positive impact on rural and small town property values? It just doesn’t compute.

    One of the most incredulous claims coming from the proponents of the TTC is that it will increase the property value along the vast superhighway as it stretches across Texas and the United States. TxDOT would like for you to believe that property value will react positively to the TTC. Their appraisers like to use the term “highest & best use” which is defined by the American Institute of Real Estate Appraisers as, “the reasonably probable and legal use of vacant land or an improved property, which is physically possible, appropriately supported, financially feasible, and results in the highest value”.

    TxDOT is assuming that the economic benefits of the TTC will create a demand for commercial property thus converting farm land into income generating assets that will benefit the land owner. However, there must be growth to support the infrastructure and trade is only one component. What growth there is will again be concentrated in the larger SMSA’s as noted by economist, Dr. James Gaines of Texas A&M, (January 2008, Looming Boom, Tierra Grande, Vol. 15, Number 1, pp 2-7: Real Estate Center, Texas A&M University). Texas will have over 10 million new residents within the next 30 years and most of them will be concentrated in the larger metropolitan areas of Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin. He refers to this as the “Central Texas Triangle”. People are moving to Texas because of the availability of jobs and “population and employment growth go hand and hand”. The success of this continuous growth inside the triangle is contingent upon such factors as successful transportation infrastructures within these major metropolitan areas. There was no relationship mentioned between growth and highway infrastructure outside the standard metropolitan statistical areas. TxDOT would have you believe that it’s the TTC that will bring the jobs (see Perryman Group, Moving into Prosperity, The Potential Impact of the Trans-Texas Corridor on Business Activity in Texas, June 2006).

    These larger metropolitan areas will create a greater demand for real estate and the appreciation of value. Growth and demand start in these areas and grow outward along the transportation infrastructure. TxDOT is of the opinion that land speculation will begin along the entire length of the TTC. However, prudent speculation will follow the growth, existing infrastructures, crossovers, and interchanges. This growth and relationship to value was also noted in one of the aforementioned TxDOT studies. In fairness to TxDOT, there will be a need for expansion and improvements to the interconnecting highways. However, it should be noted that it is not the TTC that is the significant cause of the growth; it’s the migration of people looking for jobs or jobs drawing the people into these major metropolitan areas.

    Other reports and studies from Texas A&M note that Texas will have continuous growth trends in demand for rural property primarily from recreational and secondary home use. Baby boomers are looking for a little piece of earth and the price of rural property near the larger metropolitan areas have experienced a tremendous increase in value over the past five years.

    However real estate brokers and agents along the paths of the TTC are beginning to show concern regarding the TTC as they are required by law to disclose any adverse conditions that may affect property value. Disclosure will no doubt have a negative impact on the volume of transactions which could be the first indication of things to come.

    TxDOT will be getting into the real estate business by the taking of over 500,000 acres of Texas land. The process will start with the DEIS which may take two to four years before the final path is selected. If environmental concerns are discovered the process could be further delayed. TxDOT apparently has not taken into consideration how these delays can adversely affect property value.

    Anything of this magnitude will very likely have an affect. Residences, businesses, ranches, and farms within this area could become a no-man’s land suffering a loss in value attributed to what is known as economic and/or external obsolescence. Economic or external obsolescence is defined by the American Institute of Real Estate Appraisers as “an element of accrued depreciation; a defect, usually incurable, cause by negative influences outside a site”. It is measured by either 1) capitalizing the income or rent loss attributed to the negative influence, or 2) compares the sales of similar properties that are subject to the negative influences to others that are not.

    The difference in value is the loss attributed to this type of obsolescence. Excluding a national recession, or a loss in the capital markets as related to the current sub-prime correction, TxDOT will be the sole contributor to this affect. Property located in and around these proposed or recommended paths will likely be impacted the greatest. Any decline in property value will contribute to a loss in the taxable revenue even before the actual taking of property through condemnation begins. School districts and county governments will have to adjust their tax rolls plus incur the additional cost from increased activity of property value protests. Lenders who recently financed property in these areas may have to reclassify their loans as possibly suspect due to a decrease in the loan to value ratios. Going forward, lenders may technically redline these areas by increasing their loan to value ratios, increase the down payments, and/or increase the spread on their interest rates to cover the risk. All of this taking place before the final 1,200 ft. right-of-way is selected.

    Property owners that are fortunate enough to escape the condemnation for the right-of-way will still have to deal with the consequences of a decline in property value. Some will eventually recover if there is adequate access to the TTC and a demand for commercial end use. However, this will not be known until after completion of the project. The question remains as to how long it will take for property values to stabilize and how property owners should be compensated for their time/value loss that was cause by government interaction. Then there will be those that will truly fall under economic obsolescence due to the noise and air quality adjacent to the TTC. They may never recover as potential buyers will take this into consideration during their due diligence.

    How then does one go about placing a value on such property? How are property owners to be compensated for this negative influence adjacent or near their property? Additionally, how are property owners in the final path to be compensated? Is their property to be valued at a stabilized value before the release of the DEIS, will it be base on property not affected by the DEIS, or will be based on the value at the time of condemnation? Finally, how will income properties that have their access to county roads and state highways impaired, re-routed, or severed be compensated for their loss in income streams due to reduced retail sales and/or the loss of property tenants? Many of these effects were noted on rural towns and communities from previous highway studies.

    The DEIS and construction of the TTC may have a far greater debilitating effect on property values than just agricultural land value. Taking the aggregate loss in value from the start of the DEIS process before the actual taking of property to the finished product could have a compounding affect on taxable revenues to rural counties throughout Texas.

    Another economic impact that has not been addressed is the capital gains issue. Those unfortunate enough to lie in the final path of the TTC did not invite the State to come take their property, yet they still are required to pay capital gains taxes on their net sales proceeds. Farmers and ranchers whose land has shown considerable appreciation over the years will have a lower basis than other newly acquired property. Also impacted will be agricultural entities that chose to incorporated years ago. They will have a substantial gain to recognize. In addition to a possible decline in the current market value they may be required to pay an additional 10 to 30% in capital gains tax depending on the political climate at the time of the sale or condemnation.

    If people are not informed how to structure a tax free 1031 exchange to delay the gain then they may not have sufficient proceeds to purchase a comparable property. There needs to be federal legislation to address the issue of eliminating capital gains on property subject to condemnation for this project.

    Since the inception of the TTC, TxDOT has argued that the taking of agricultural property would have far less of an impact on the tax rolls due to their agricultural tax exemption. That may be true, but it’s the loss of the going concern or agriculture business that goes far beyond the taxable value of the real estate. It will have a ripple affect through local and state coffers when 500,000+ acres are taken out of production. Provisions should be made for the mitigation of agriculture lands taken for the TTC as much of this land cannot be replaced and will be lost from production forever. This will have a compounding affect on the present loss and the overall time value of money in existing commodities and futures that no one to date has addressed. Texas agriculture is the second largest industry in the State and employs one out of seven people.

    What about the argument of converting the “highest and best use” of farm land to commercial and residential property? Again, if the demographics and access points are not there to support the transition then its “highest and best use” is still agriculture. Additionally, if the negative affects of noise and air quality are present and/or other negative factors caused by the TTC, then the question of economic obsolescence may again come into play. Most importantly, how do you address the loss of a family institution that will be gone forever? It is a family business that has been passed down through generations. You simple can’t take a person with such specific skills and convert them into another vocation without causing hardships. They will need additional training as will their employees.

    For the last four years our governor and the Texas Transportation Commission have been pressing hard for Texans to accept the Trans Texas Corridor system; primarily the TTC I-35 and TTC I-69. There have been many promises and claims as to the benefits this multimodal form of transportation will bring to Texas. However, there is no supporting evidence to justify such an undertaking. Claims of enhanced property value, resolving traffic congestion, and the financial benefits of foreign control versus local control are just a few examples that defy common sense.

    What is known is that property values follow population and economic trends. Studies have shown that infrastructure is a key component to successful development and without its support the consequences are most damaging, especially to rural Texas. The DEIS process is flawed in that it should have first taken into account the socioeconomic affects on rural Texas before the release of any proposed recommended routes of the TTC.

    Additionally, Texas is blessed with some of the finest institutional learning facilities in the nation that could have assisted in the process of determining those affects, but TxDOT choose to cherry pick various studies and reports that dimly support the basis of the TTC. Our governor and TxDOT have chosen to be led by Wall Street, foreign investors, and financial consultants favoring public private partnerships.

    Texans should call upon the governor and TxDOT to properly utilize those resources such as the Transportation Institute at Texas A&M, and learned experts at TAMU such as Dr. Charles Gilliland and Dr. James Gaines; the University of Houston, Dr. Barton Smith; and other fine institutions such as the University of Texas and its Center for Transportation Research, just to name a few. Its time to scrap the current DEIS process and start over with the right people and the right resources.

    Don M. Garrett
    Citizens for a Better Waller County

    Don Garrett is a resident of Waller County, Texas and has been active in real estate for over 30 yrs. During the mid ’80’s thru early ‘90’s, he was employed by several major lending institutions in Texas to help liquidate their nonperforming real estate assets. He was responsible for bringing the appraisal department of one of these institutions into regulatory compliance and orderly liquidating R.E.O assets in access of $1 billion. He has experienced first hand the impact government intervention can have on local real estate markets and rural property values.

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