Saturday, March 08, 2008

"We do not understand the necessity of such an immense project that would so negatively impact the most precious resource that this State has."

County goes 'old school' on anti-TTC resolution


Wharton Journal-Spectator
Copyright 2008

After an extended debate, Wharton County Commissioners decided to go "old school" in passing an updated resolution opposing the construction of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

The resolution passed during Friday's special called meeting of the court ended up being a clarified and more concise version of the resolution passed by the commissioners at their Sept. 13, 2004 meeting.

The commissioners eliminated one of the "whereas" paragraphs dealing with "outmoded technology" that even the resolution's original author, Precinct 2 Commissioner Chris King, could not explain. The resolution also added wording saying the corridor would "destroy local historical sites " and "increase pollution" and stated the cost would now be "in excess of 184 billion dollars."

The revamped resolution was passed instead of a new resolution prepared by King for the meeting. While covering some of the same topics, other members of the court opposed some of the new wording, including a specific reference to "Chinese imported goods" and a statement that the concerns and opinions of many Texans have been ignored by "the governor, his hand picked Transportation Commissioners and TxDOT officials," thus creating an atmosphere of public distrust.

Commissioner Mickey Reynolds offered the strongest objection to the proposed resolution, saying the county still needs to work with the state and other transportation groups.

"I've been at the table with these guys for the past 11 years fighting this," he said. "And we still need to have a solution. If we don't stay at the table, we won't have any say in this and they'll put it where they want it."

He added that local resistance along with negative commentary has resulted in "the Wharton County Commissioners becoming a laughing-stock around the state."

Precinct 3 Commissioner Philip Miller also objected to some of the more inflammatory wording. He favored something less aggressive that could be passed to other counties, in hopes of "every county in the state passing a resolution" opposing the corridor.

Several members of the audience along with King cited problems with a resolution passed by the city of El Campo and a proposed resolution that will be before the Wharton City Council this coming Monday night, which make reference to the I-69 initiative. Cedric Popp of the El Campo area and Glen Flora/Spanish Camp area resident Garland Berry both said wording that supports the I-69 project could be used by lawyers to indicate local support for the TTC because it has become so closely identified I-69.

"They don't know our dissatisfaction," Berry said. "Anything other than 'We oppose it' can be construed as support … I don't want to give them that."

The revised resolution, as approved, now states:

Whereas, House Bill 3588 was passed which gave the Transportation Commission the authority to create the Trans-Texas Corridor, and

Whereas the Trans-Texas Corridor is the Governor's vision of interstate transportation corridors which would traverse Texas, and

Whereas, each corridor could be as much as a quarter mile wide with multiple vehicle lanes and train transportation and right-of-way property within the corridor, and

Whereas, if the Trans-Texas Corridor was built it would negatively affect rural Texas, splitting farms and ranches, uproot wildlife, destroy local historical sites, have a negative impact on the local economy and would increase pollution, and

Whereas the placement of concentrated resource conveyances in the corridor will better enable terrorists to attack these resources and disable them, especially in remote areas, and

Whereas the entire cost of the project is estimated to be in excess of 184 billion dollars, and

Whereas, we do not understand the necessity of such an immense project that would so negatively impact the most precious resource that this State has, Therefore, be it resolved that the Wharton County Commissioners Court goes on record in opposition to the building of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

"The commission is becoming a powerful tool to show TxDOT, the EPA, and the FHA where they are not abiding by federal statutes."

TxDOT continues coordination with Regional Planning Commission

Related Link: Texas 391 Commission Alliance

March 8, 2008

Texas Department of Transportation
North Texas E-News
Copyright 2008

For the second time in three months, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has come to Holland, Texas to meet with the Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission (ECTSRPC) over the Trans-Texas Corridor.

"They (TxDOT) are required by law to meet with us, and it's good to know they will comply," said Mae Smith, president of the ECTSRPC and mayor of Holland.

TxDOT sent eight staff, including Ed Pensock, director of Corridor Systems of Texas Turnpike Authority, Doug Booher, Environmental Manager, Dieter Billek in charge of the Master Development Plan for the Trans-Texas Corridor, John Bourne, an economist and contractor with TxDOT, John Obr, Area Engineer for the Waco District, and Richard Skopik, P.E., district engineer for the Waco District. Each made presentations and answered specific questions raised by the ECTSRPC.

"We are pointing out all the deficiencies in their environmental impact study, their economic studies, as well as all of the federal laws they must abide by, but have failed to do," said Ralph Snyder, ECTSRPC director and Holland businessman.

TxDOT informed the commission that they expect a Record of Decision by the Federal Highway Administration on the TTC-35 by the summer of 2008. TxDOT admitted that the ECTSRPC was doing exactly what was needed and lauded the commission's work in representing rural concerns.

"If you don't tell us these things, nobody will," said Skopik.

The Commission's stated purpose is to prevent the Trans-Texas Corridor from running through their jurisdiction, which is comprised of the cities and their respective school districts.

"The commission is becoming a powerful tool to show TxDOT, the EPA, and the Federal Highway Administration where they are not abiding by federal statutes," said Kerry Owens, member of commission representing Academy School District.

The meeting continues the coordination process started by the ECTSRPC with TxDOT to inform the state as to their objections and specific concerns with how the TTC will take up to 3,500 acres in their jurisdiction which the commission believes will destroy the communities and school districts of Bartlett, Holland, Little River-Academy, and Rogers.

© 2008, North Texas e-News:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

"How can it be a legitimate election with all this going on?"

Toll Party cries foul in GOP's Dist. 73


Roger Croteau
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2008

NEW BRAUNFELS — The San Antonio Toll Party is calling for an investigation into what it calls voting irregularities in the Texas House District 73 Republican primary in Gillespie County, where the final box swung the victory from incumbent Rep. Nathan Macias to challenger Doug Miller.

But party and election officials said they are confident the votes were counted accurately.

Macias was ahead by 58 votes until the final box, Precinct 5 in Gillespie County, was counted in the early morning hours Wednesday. Miller won the box by 96 votes — 201 to 105 — and the entire contest by 38 votes.

Terri Hall, the Toll Party director, said Miller's relatives helped count emergency paper ballots used in that precinct when it ran out of regular ballots. She said the GOP county chairwoman, Pauline Cusack, repeatedly spoke on the phone with Carter Casteel, who held the District 73 seat until Macias beat her in a heated race in the 2006 GOP primary.

Finally, Hall said it suspiciously took hours for that final box of votes to arrive at the Gillespie County Courthouse and then it took four hours to count its ballots.

"We were getting direct word on the ground from Nathan Macias' poll watchers," Hall said. "I was like, 'You've got to be kidding.' It was so blatant. How can it be a legitimate election with all this going on?"

Hall said the Toll Party is especially concerned because Macias is "a stalwart hero on the issue of toll roads."

Cusack said she did not speak with Casteel on the telephone at all that night, and has not spoken with her since Casteel lost in 2006. It may have taken a while for the Precinct 5 box to get to the courthouse, but there was no evidence the box was tampered with, nor did it take an unusually long time to count, she said.

Cusack said one of Miller's family members was involved in the hand count of the emergency paper ballots, but the woman volunteered to help "innocently," and once it was called to Cusack's attention, the vote count was halted. She got new volunteers and they started the count over again from scratch.

"I was so upset being accused of doing something wrong, I was almost in tears," Cusack said.

The precinct is in the Harper area of Gillespie County, where Miller owns a small ranch. Miller won 13 of the 14 boxes in Gillespie County, with the Harper box having the largest margin.

"You would expect his neighbors to support him," said Miller campaign spokesman Craig Murphy. "This is basically just sour grapes. It's a little silly and a little sad."

Gillespie County Clerk Mary Rusche said the turnout in the Harper area was much larger than usual and the precinct ran out of ballots. She made copies of the ballots for voters to use, and those 163 "emergency" ballots were not on the same heavy paper stock and could not be counted by optical scanner with the others. They had to be counted by hand, a process overseen by Republican Party officials.

Cusack said she was "pleading" for volunteers in the courthouse to help with the count.

"This woman volunteered," she said. "I didn't even know her name and I did not ask anyone who they support. She was not screaming to get in front and exclude someone else. Let's not pummel her. She was innocently trying to help out."

Cusack said she does not know what the relationship is between the woman and Miller. When she got a call from the Macias campaign complaining about her, 90 minutes into the process, the count was restarted with new volunteers, Cusack said.

Hall said she plans to ask the Texas Secretary of State's office to investigate the Gillespie vote count, with her complaints to be lodged personally, as a voter, and on behalf of the Toll Party.

Scott Haywood, a spokesman for the office, said it would review the complaints and decide whether they warrant being forwarded to the Attorney General's office for further review.

© 2008, San antonio Express-News:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

Friday, March 07, 2008

"This (the I-69/TTC) is something we never dreamed of, thought about, or wanted."

McReynolds: Expect legislative fireworks over I-69/TTC

March 07, 2008

The Lufkin Daily News
Copyright 2008

State Representative Jim McReynolds previewed the 2009 legislative session at Friday's First Friday Chamber luncheon, with the hot topics going into the biennial madhouse listed as the I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor, the growing issue of water supply, and the battle over the top 10 percent rule that allows Texas high school students to be admitted to any state college if they graduate in the top 10 percent of their class.

According to McReynolds, the legislators are "not too happy" with the Texas Department of Transportation, which has been under fire for its proposed I-69/TTC plans.

"This (the I-69/TTC) is something we never dreamed of, thought about, or wanted," McReynolds said. "I have attended all the meetings in my district, and I have not heard a single person that spoke in favor of it."

McReynolds also noted that TxDOT has hired five lobbyists, an act that agencies are restricted from doing. Phillip Russell, assistant executive director of innovative project development for TxDOT, did comment late last month that the project "can be stopped," and that he believes the state transportation agency will build additional lanes on U.S. 59 instead of the huge superhighway. TxDOT will have a showdown with the state legislature next January, according to McReynolds.

"They will get their time in January of 2009," McReynolds said. "Be looking out, because there may be some explosions."

While McReynolds clearly respected the negative opinion of the project, he urged people not to take out their frustrations on local TxDOT employees.

"People are really upset about this; there were basically tractors with 'come and take it' signs on them," McReynolds said. "But don't get after the local employees because they work very hard for us, and this was not their idea."

Another issue that McReynolds discussed was the increase in importance of water rights. Last year McReynolds and other legislators fought off a bill that would have given Harris County and Houston's large population rights to water from the Neches River. The American Rivers conservation organization listed the Neches on its list of top endangered rivers in the country, due to the battle over its future.

"They tried to claim senior right, which is oldest right, to the river, but we fought them; and we know we are going to have to fight them again next year," McReynolds said. "This is the same urban versus rural battle that we have always had, but now water is an enormous issue. The things they want to do with our water benefits them, not us. We can't let that happen."

Also an issue for legislators is the 10 percent rule. Texas high school students, no matter how big or small their graduating class is, can enroll in any state college by graduating in the top 10 percent. McReynolds has shown strong favor for this but says that he expects others to challenge the rule during the next legislative session.

"These schools were built by Texas taxpayers' dollars, and I think Texas kids should have the first drink," McReynolds said. "You shouldn't have to have a dad that makes six figures to attend schools that were built on our dollars."

Other subjects McReynolds touched on included prison systems, health care, and the economy.

"Our state economy is still hot; it is doing very well," McReynolds said. "While the housing market has become a major concern the country, it isn't as bad here; and Texas is No. 1 in the nation in job growth."

© 2008, The Lufkin Daily News:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Perry considers Vice Chairman of NTTA for Texas Transportation Commissioner

NTTA official may serve on Texas Transportation Commission

March 6, 2008

The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2008

Fort Worth businessman and NTTA board member William Meadows confirmed Thursday that he has been approached by Gov. Rick Perry’s office as a possible successor to Ric Williamson on the Texas Transportation Commission.

Mr. Williamson, a close friend of the governor, died in December, leaving four members on the five-person commission, which sets policy for the Texas Department of Transportation.

“The answer is yes, I have had some conversations (with Gov. Perry and his staff) about the transportation commission appointment,” Mr. Meadows said Thursday. “Given the importance of the transportation issues that we face, I am very interested this issue. I don’t think I should talk specifically about those conversations, but what I do know is that if I am asked to serve in this capacity, I would welcome the challenge. But it’s entirely up to the governor.”

Mr. Meadows said the possibility that he could be named to the commission prompted him to recuse himself Wednesday from closed-door discussions at NTTA involving the agency’s current negotiations with TxDOT over the value of State Highway 161 toll road contract.

If Mr. Meadows is the governor’s choice for the vacant spot on the commission, the appointment would carry no small amount of irony. TxDOT has clashed frequently over the past year with the North Texas Tollway Authority, where Mr. Meadows currently serves as vice chairman.

Mr. Perry has named all of the members of the current commission, and through them has set the transportation department upon a stormy path toward expanded toll roads. The Texas Legislature reacted strongly, and passed legislation last year that greatly empowered regional toll authorities like NTTA.

As a result, NTTA wrested the multi-billion-dollar contract for State Highway 121 away from Cintra, a private firm whose bid for the road contract had been strongly supported by TxDOT and Gov. Perry.

Mr. Meadows was appointed to NTTA by the Tarrant County Commission in 2004.

It is not clear whether the new appointee — Mr. Meadows or someone else — would also be named chairman, though a spokesman for the governor said Thursday that the governor has the authority to handle that anyway he wishes.

© 2008, The Dallas Morning News:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

“Our children and young adults are the ones that will pay the price for our mistakes today."

TxDOT accused of breaking federal law


The Navasota Examiner
Copyright 2008

Texas spirit was alive and well at the Navasota DEIS public hearing on Feb. 28. Opposition groups, such as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, came from as far as Washington, D.C. to give recorded testimony, and get a first hand look at TxDOT process procedures.

Assistant Director of Communications, Leigh Strope, who attended the meeting on behalf of the 34,000 Texas Teamsters Union members, says, “Teamsters want to stop the dangerous trend of selling our roads and bridges to foreign investors so they can slap tolls on the driving public. We are also concerned because the Trans-Texas Corridor would form a key link in a NAFTA superhighway, siphoning work from U.S. ports and factories. It would mean lower wages, benefits and standards for those workers who still have jobs in the United States.”

During recorded testimony, Representative Lois Kolkhorst said, “I led the fight to pass the moratorium against comprehensive development agreements, which prohibits TxDOT from entering into a financial agreement with a third party to privately build or operate the I-69 TTC. Last year, the Texas Legislature asked TxDOT to stop, step back, and reconsider the proposal and alignment of I-69 TTC. There are still many unanswered questions about how much influence a private third party would have over the planning, building and operation of these planned corridors.”

Kolkhorst said she chose Grimes County as the place she wanted her testimony recorded since the county was not included in the recently completed line up of Town Hall meetings regarding the corridor.

TxDOT Environmental Manager, Doug Booher told The Examiner, “We're looking for funding tools, but if the legislature comes up with other funding tools, we're open to that.”

Navasota resident Floyd Nowak went to the public hearing to support his friends whose land is in the path of the proposed corridor, and help save the local economy. “I don't agree with them taking property, and if they do, they'll put our farmers out of business,” Nowak told The Examiner.

Whatever the reasoning behind their opposition, TxDOT heard them loud and clear, as 60 of the 582 attendees signed up to give recorded testimony; all in favor of the “No build - No action alternative”.

Some speakers were bolder than others, as Rosemary Gambino, a Waller County resident and a director in Citizens for a Better Waller County, wore a gas mask as she gave her timed 3-minute speech. Gambino said she is preparing herself for what she would have to wear when an elevated amount of pollution overtakes the area, if the I-69 corridor is built.

Some made the argument that the corridor plans break NEPA laws. According to a NEPA website, “It is the continuing responsibility of the federal government to use all practicable means, to improve and coordinate federal plans, functions, programs, and resources to the end that the Nation may fulfill the responsibilities of each generation as trustee of the environment for succeeding generations; assure for all Americans safe, healthful, productive, and aesthetically and culturally pleasing surroundings; attain the widest range of beneficial uses of the environment without degradation, risk to health or safety, or other undesirable and unintended consequences; preserve important historic, cultural, and natural aspects of our national heritage, and maintain, wherever possible, an environment which supports diversity, and variety of individual choice; achieve a balance between population and resource use which will permit high standards of living and a wide sharing of life's amenities; and enhance the quality of renewable resources and approach the maximum attainable recycling of depletable resources.

The Act is a federal law that requires all proposed federal actions to consider and formally conduct an inventory and assessment of potential impacts on the quality of the human and natural environments.

Opposition speakers gave recorded testimony concerning the adverse effects the construction of the corridor would have on many of these aspects. This includes everything from air and water quality, to social and economic conditions, historic architectural and archeological resources, effects to threatened and endangered species and their habitats, wetlands, impacts on agricultural lands and farmlands, energy use, and irreversible and irretrievable commitments of resources.

Even after an introductory TxDOT film explained that additional transportation systems are needed to support the increasing influx of people, speakers insisted that expansion of existing highways provides the best economical and safest ecological solution.

Camp Allen President George Dehan argued that many of the over 6,000 children, who visit the facility each year for outdoor education and ecological studies, have not previously been afforded the opportunity to witness animals in their natural, wildlife habitat, or watch the stars at night.

“This isn't a city versus country issue. No one goes to Houston to study anything!” declared Dehan, who added that after posting a petition in favor of the “No action alternative” online, the camp received 2,319 signatures from people who live in and out of the city, in a matter of days.

Grimes County Judge Betty Shiflett asked TxDOT representatives the nagging question that seemed to be on everyone's minds, “What part of no don't you understand?”

According to Booher, TxDOT is hearing the concerns of citizens, but the DEIS hearings are a part of legislative policy that must be followed through. Now that the public hearings are over, TxDOT is waiting for the March 19th deadline for receiving comments; after which they will study the comments and formulate a final draft of the environmental impact study, if the project moves forward. The final EIS should be completed by this summer. It will be open for public review for 30 days prior to federal approval.

According to Citizens for a Better Waller County Vice President, Trey Duhon, the group plans to start planning for the next legislative session and will begin a number of outreach programs to educate the public on the issues surrounding the TTC. “Our children and young adults are the ones that will pay the price for our mistakes today, so we feel it's important that they also be heard, especially since these decisions will impact future generations,” Duhon told The Examiner.

© 2008 The Navasota Examiner:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

"Bell County won't be ignored by TxDOT, EPA, or the Governor...They have asserted the most fundamental principle of our American system of government"

The Creation of the Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission

Anyone interested in learning how to form a 391 Commission to require TxDOT to Coordinate the TTC with their local community, is welcome to read the following article prepared by attorney Fred Kelly Grant. This is the most complete explanation of how easy it is to form a Commission, and how effective it can be.

For a PDF file of the article Click Here

Related Link: Texas 391 Commission Alliance

March 5, 2008

By Fred Kelly Grant
Stewards of the Range
Copyright 2008

In July 2007, the mayors of four small Texas towns -- Mae Smith of Holland, Arthur White of Bartlett, Ronnie White of Little River-Academy, and Billy Crow of Rogers -- decided to find a way to make their concerns about the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC) heard in a meaningful way.

They and their citizens, and the officials of their related Independent School Districts, worried about the lack of specific information regarding where the TTC 35 Corridor would be located, worried whether it would geographically divide their towns and school districts, whether it would endanger the continued existence of the agricultural economy upon which their towns, districts and citizens depended, whether it would endanger their very traditional rural way of life.

They found the way. The Texas legislature had paved the way with a very important 2001 amendment to the Local Government Code, an amendment that clearly recognized the authority of local government officials to enter into a meaningful government-to-government relationship with state agencies.

A. Early Local Rural Concerns
From the inception of the plans by the state of Texas to study and develop the TTC 35 corridor for the Trans Texas superhighway system, the towns of Holland, Bartlett, Little-River Academy and Rogers, Texas were concerned that the interests of rural citizens would not be seriously considered.

The local elected officials, and citizens of these towns attended public meetings, and voiced their opposition to super-corridor planning disruptive of their agricultural economic base and traditions, their water and other local infrastructures, and delivery of their local police, medical and fire services. They voiced their concern that their interests in preserving and maintaining their rural life-style were being ignored in favor of the interest of larger urban areas in avoiding transportation inconvenience.

They were also concerned that they could not get specific details as to the study areas being proposed by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the preferred study area, and the designation of a highway corridor. At the public meetings, TxDOT personnel presented general information which heightened local concerns about destruction of the Blacklands Prairie, an historic area of productive farm ground critical to the economy of their towns, and about the potential geographic division of their towns and school districts by alignment of a closed or severely limited access super-highway.

School district representatives were concerned that the interests of the parents, students, teachers and personnel of their districts were not even being discussed by state planners/designers.

B. Creation of the Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission

The mayors of the four towns decided to propose to their respective city councils that they form a 391 statutory sub-regional planning commission to facilitate closely focused and coordinated discussions with TXDOT and other agencies involved in the planning of the TTC 35 corridor. They proposed that a sub-regional planning commission be established for consideration and coordination of the special and unique planning needs of the area east of IH-35 within planning region 23 of the State.

The city councils agreed, and passed ordinances creating a 391 statutory planning commission for their area to be called the Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission (ECTSRPC). (A copy of the ordinance from Holland, Texas is available at, the other three cities ordinances were similar.)

The purpose was to “coordinate with governmental units sharing similar needs to plan for the rapidly expanding population of the State and the unique needs of governmental units east of IH-35.” The ordinances provided that the communities “have a culture carrying forward the rural values of the state of Texas which requires consideration in planning for development which impacts the unique character” within the sub-region.

Following enactment of the ordinances, the mayors met and organized the Planning Commission. The Governing Board of the Commission consists of the four mayors and a business owner within the sub-regional jurisdiction.

The Commission launched its efforts in August, 2007. One of the first orders of business was to notify TxDOT of the formation of the Commission and to request that TxDOT begin to coordinate with the Commission as required by Chapter 391 of the Texas Local Government Code.

Prior to the first coordination meeting, the Holland, Bartlett, Academy and Rogers School Districts joined the Commission as general, non-voting members, to join with the Governing Board in securing and protecting the educational interests of their local districts.

C. Coordination with TXDOT

On October 23, 2007, the first coordination meeting was held in Holland. Four representatives of TxDOT -- the Environmental Manager for the Turnpike Division, the Director of Corridor Development for the Turnpike Authority Division in Austin, the Area Engineer in the Waco District, and the Public Information Officer for the Waco Division -- attended.

Neither before, during, or after the meeting did any of TxDOT’s representatives challenge the Commission’s statutory authority to establish a coordination relationship with the Department under Chapter 391.

TxDOT’s representatives described the first meeting as “the beginning of what is going to be a long-term relationship between the Department of Transportation and this group.” They expressed their acknowledgement that they were starting a “dialogue” that would be “an on going dialogue…for many years to come.”

TxDOT’s representatives also recognized that the Commission has authority to speak at a level that must be listened to “a step above the general public” because TxDOT wants “to hear what the elected officials say because they’re speaking for a larger group of their constituents.”

Again, on March 3, 2008, TxDOT sent a group of eight representatives of planning, administration and engineering to meet with the Commission in Holland. Specific concerns of the local citizens were presented, and TxDOT’s representatives answered specific and general questions as to how the concerns would be considered. The meeting lasted nearly four hours, most of which were taken up in specific questions and answers regarding the projected adverse impacts on local economy and delivery of services. TxDOT’s representatives committed to providing specific information requested by the Commission members at future coordination meetings.

D. Coordination with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The individual mayors and school district officials, in behalf of their respective interests, also advised Region 6 of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that they expected coordination with EPA during its review of TxDOT’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) as to the TTC 35 corridor. On January 30, 2008, the manager for planning and coordination for the Dallas Regional EPA Office, the NEPA attorney, and two planning specialists for Clean Air reviews traveled to Holland to meet with the elected officials and the Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission.

During the meeting, the Commission specified concerns about the fact that the DEIS does not demonstrate recognition of adverse impacts on the economy of the sub-region, on air and water quality, on delivery of local emergency fire, police and medical services, on continuation of publicly recognized high level educational services, and on agricultural productivity in the Blacklands Prairie through which the proposed corridor runs.

The EPA staff acknowledged that Commission interests would be reviewed as the DEIS is reviewed by EPA.

E. The Statutory Basis for the Commission’s Success in Establishing the Coordination Relationship

In 1965, the Texas legislature enacted Chapter 391 as part of Subtitle C of the Texas Local Government Code. The Subtitle is named: “Planning and Development Provisions Applying to More Than One Type of Local Government.”
Section 391.001 states the legislative intent to “encourage and permit local governmental units” [such as towns and school districts which are “governmental units” under Texas law] to “join and cooperate to improve the health, safety, and general welfare of their citizens.” (Emphasis added)
The legislature went further to explain that it encouraged and permitted the cooperative joinder of local governments to “plan for the future development of communities, areas and regions” in order to assure that: “the planning of transportation system is improved; adequate street, utility, health, educational, recreational, and other essential facilities are provided as the communities, areas and regions grow; the needs of agriculture, business, and industry are recognized; healthful surroundings for family life in residential areas are provided; historical and cultural values are preserved; and the efficient and economical use of public funds is commensurate with the growth of the communities, areas and regions.” (Section 391.001) In Section 391.003, the legislature authorized the cooperating units of local government to establish a planning commission, which it defined as “a regional planning commission, council of governments [the “Cogs” such as the Rio Grande Council of Governments or Metropolitan Council of Governments], or similar regional planning agency.”

So, the legislature clearly authorized local governmental units to form planning commissions other than Councils of Government. The “similar…planning agency” language does not replace the Councils of Government. It simply authorizes the formation of other planning agencies similar in basic nature.
The authorizing language, together with the “purpose language” stressing “communities, areas and regions,” certainly authorizes the development of a sub-regional planning commission of local units of government with common problems such as those facing the towns in the sub-region east of IH-35.

F. The Statutory Process for Establishing the New Type of Planning Commission

The legislature specified that, “any combination of counties or municipalities … may agree by ordinance, resolution, rule, order, or other means to establish a commission.” (Section 391.003 (a) ).

The statute provides that once two or more towns have agreed by ordinance to establish a planning commission, other governmental units [which would include any other political subdivisions of the State including school districts] may “join and cooperate” with the commission.

Following the letter of the law, the towns of Holland, Bartlett, Little River-Academy and Rogers created the Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission. Specifically following the statutory language, the towns adopted by-laws, established the governing board and elected officers. They then accepted into membership of the Commission the four school districts of Holland, Bartlett, Academy and Rogers. G. The Requirement that State Agencies (Such As, but not limited to TxDOT) Coordinate with Planning Commissions was added by a 2001 Amendment to Chapter 391.

In 2001, seeing a need to require “coordination” by state agencies during implementation of state programs, the sponsor of Senate Bill 200 sought to amend Chapter 391 to mandate such “coordination.”

The “Bill Analysis” of Senate Bill 200 provided by the Senate Research Center stated the “Digest and Purpose” of the Bill to be:

“Currently, state agencies and regional councils are not required to coordinate with each other in the implementation of state programs. This bill adds language that requires coordination between state agencies and commissions in the implementation of state programs at the regional level.” (Emphasis added)

The reference to “councils” in the first sentence, and the more general “commissions” in the second, certainly shows that the “coordination” mandate was to apply to regional planning commissions formed outside the meaning of and parameters of Councils of Government.

The Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 200 by a vote of 30-0, with one member noted as not voting. The Bill amended Section 391.009 to require that:

“In carrying out their planning and program development responsibilities, state agencies shall, to the greatest extent feasible, coordinate planning with commissions to ensure effective and orderly implementation of state programs at the regional level.” H. What Does ‘Coordinate’ Mean?

While the mandate to “coordinate” does not specifically define the term, there is no doubt that the legislature intended it to mean more than simply to “meet with,” “discuss,” or “cooperate.” In authorizing local units of government to form planning commissions, the legislature used the term “cooperate” in Section 301.001 (which encourages local governmental units to “join and cooperate” by forming commissions)

Under any standard for determining legislative intent, it must be presumed that the legislature meant something specifically different than mere “cooperation” when it required that state agencies “coordinate” with the regional planning commissions. The legislature could have provided that “state agencies shall cooperate with commissions.” But it did not. It provided that the agencies shall “to the greatest extent feasible, coordinate planning with commissions.”
The word “coordinate” is a word of common usage, and when interpreting such words, courts look to dictionary definitions. The Texas Court of Civil Appeals did so when defining the word “coordinate” in Empire Ins. Co. of Texas v. Cooper, 138 S.W.2d 159 (1940): “’Co-ordinate’ means equal, of the same order, rank, or importance; not subordinate. Webster’s New International Dictionary.”

So, the concept to “coordinate,” where one party is not subordinate to the other, when applied to the relationship between state agencies and planning commissions such as Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission, means that TxDOT and other state agencies planning projects that will impact local concerns must discuss their plans and projects with the Commission members as equal rank parties.

Any standard Thesaurus shows that the word “cooperate” used by the legislature in encouraging local government to form planning commissions, is not even a synonym for “coordinate.” The terms are separate and distinct, and obviously the Texas legislature understood the distinction. It urged local governments to “cooperate” with each other in forming a commission with which the state agencies were required to “coordinate.”

Relying on the common understanding of “coordinate,” the towns of Holland, Bartlett, Little River-Academy and Rogers formed their sub regional planning commission because the unique concerns of their citizens were not being adequately addressed in the public meetings being conducted by TxDOT. Once the Commission was formed, TxDOT was asked to meet to begin the process of coordination.

In the course of the subsequent meetings, TxDOT’s representatives have demonstrated that they understand the meaning of “coordinate.” Instead of the usual public meeting generic presentations by planners, followed by the severely time limited public responses, the coordination meetings have featured in depth discussions of plans, impacts, timelines and methods of considering impacts adverse to local interests. There have been substantive discussions regarding how to avoid geographical splits of towns and school districts, how to focus economic analysis on the unique local area, and when and how TxDOT will perform specific economic and environmental analysis.

The meetings have not yet resulted in solutions satisfactory to the local governments, but they have resulted in on-going discussions with a commitment to continue the specific discussions.
During the latest coordination meeting, a TxDOT representative advised the Commission members that they are providing the communication needed to advise the state agency of local issues that must be considered. Until the Commission was formed, the issues relating to this sub-region were not being addressed.

I. The Creators of the Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission Carefully Considered Their Course of Action.

When the mayors first scoped the route to a meaningful planning relationship with the state, they carefully considered some potential problems. They were, after all, embarking on a new path laid out for them in 2001 by a carefully worded special amendment to the Local Government Code. So, they proceeded cautiously and thoughtfully.

They considered apparent questions as to how the Commission structure would work, and how they could achieve a legal standing with TxDOT, and with other agencies including the federal agencies, which have a stake in TxDOT’s plans.

1. They Considered Whether TxDOT Would Resist Coordination Efforts.

Since the mayors had seen little evidence that public meetings regarding the TTC 35 corridor were effective in getting specific information as to impacts on local governments and citizens in their area, they naturally had concerns as to whether TxDOT would willingly recognize the statutory mandate of coordination with a sub-regional planning commission.

After studying Chapter 391, and the “coordinate” amendment passed in 2001, after considering that the legislature clearly intended a different level of relationship than mere cooperation, after considering the definition of “coordinate” that satisfied the Texas Court of Civil Appeals, and after considering the definition of “coordinate” contained in many federal statutes that would be applicable to the federal agencies with a stake in the TTC 35 corridor, they determined that the statutory mandate was clear enough for them to urge TxDOT to comply.

The question has been more than adequately answered by TxDOT’s participation in the substantive coordination meetings, which have resulted. TxDOT is currently performing its statutory duty to “coordinate.”

2. They Considered Whether the General Public Input Meetings Were Sufficient to Satisfy TxDOT’s Statutory Duties.

The mayors considered the question of whether the statute required TxDOT to do more than conduct public input meetings regarding departmental plans. They also discussed and considered questions raised as to whether TxDOT had ever historically entered into a bargaining relationship with local government.

They satisfied themselves that the statute did require more than general public input meetings. While historically TxDOT may have limited its local government relationships to the public input process under the Transportation statutes, the mandate to “coordinate” is found in the Local Government Code. That mandate is not limited by TxDOT’s participation in and conduct of general public meetings. And, the mandate is not limited to TxDOT. It applies to all state agencies whose planning and projects will impact local governments who choose to form planning commissions.

The coordination requirement places commission members in a government-to- government relationship with TxDOT, a different relationship than that between TXDOT and members of the general public who are allowed to speak on a very limited basis, offering individual concerns.

In the TxDOT-Commission coordination meetings, TxDOT representatives have recognized that they will give the positions taken by, and the concerns expressed by the Commission, special attention, because, they are being expressed by elected officials who represent specific constituents.

The mayors did not contemplate any bargaining relationship with TxDOT or any other state or federal agency. Neither TxDOT nor the Commission should attempt to bargain with regard to TxDOT’s duties and the Commission’s responsibilities.

Rather, the coordination relationship of government-to-government discussions puts the Commission members in the position in which its concerns are listened to and evaluated on a coordinate basis. In that “coordinate” relationship, the Commission members seek to reach some consistency or compatibility between TxDOT’s plans and local concerns. That goal cannot be achieved in general public input meetings.

The transportation statutory requirements of public input meetings, and the local government code requirement of coordination serve two very distinct purposes.
The former allows individual members of the public to hear the Department’s plans and whatever information the Department provides in support of and in explanation of its plans. The input portions of the meetings provide individuals with a very limited amount of time to state their personal position. The input portions of the meetings traditionally provide individuals the opportunity to express, in a group setting, their objection to or support of a very general plan.

The coordination relationship between the Commission and TXDOT allows specific, in depth discussion of the officials’ concerns as to how their responsibility for serving the interests of their constituents will be impacted by specific application of plans/designs to their jurisdiction. It is in fact a government-to-government statutorily created relationship.

Both serve a valuable public service. Neither is restrictive of the other. The public interest benefits from both processes.

3. They Considered Whether Creating the Commission Would Result in Another Level of Bureaucracy.

None of the mayors were interested in forming a planning commission, which would simply result in creating another level of government bureaucracy. They sought a simple organizational avenue to real, substantive discussions, which would focus on their citizens concerns.

By reviewing the provisions of Chapter 391, they satisfied themselves and their councils that they would not get bogged down in bureaucracy if they didn’t allow it to happen. They believed the process would work if they kept their organization and structure simple, and pointed at “coordination” with agencies of the state and federal government.

So, they established the Commission simply and in strict accordance with the law. They provided that their meetings would be held in strict compliance with the Texas Open Meetings Act and their records would be subject to full compliance with the Texas Public Information Act.

They established the Commission to comply with all laws of the state dealing with political subdivisions of the state. They decided formally that they would not seek public funding, public grants, would not engage in investing funds, bidding, procurement or other activities related to seeking, obtaining, or facilitating the award of grants or funding. Thus, they could avoid all the convoluted requirements applicable to such public funds.

They also decided that no local funds from their towns would be allocated to the Commission for its use.

The mayors advised their councils of all these decisions, and keeping it simple has avoided meaningless and wasteful bureaucracy.

Section 391.005 does authorize a commission to contract and take other specified official actions. But, again, since the ECTSPC is not seeking, and does not intend to seek, either state planning grants or other state funding assistance, and does not seek to create an arm of government for any purpose other than coordinating for effective and efficient planning, the role of the Commission would not be diminished even if the Commission had none of the authority specified in Section 391.005.

The Commission will have to file an annual report, but the reporting requirement will call for minimal preparation because the Commission will not be seeking or using state funding. The report will be a statement of the operations and activities of the Commission for the year.

Chapter 391 provides in Section 391.001 that the “general purpose of a commission is to make studies and plans” to guide coordinated development. The Commission has simplified its operation to a study of plans, reports and studies already existing which provide reasonable alternatives to the preferred TTC 35 corridor study area which would split the communities and school districts in the sub-region. The existing studies, and the volunteer time of associates, have allowed the Commission to take its coordinated position into matters of economic analysis, environmental concerns and NEPA requirements without funding.

Since the goals of coordination are central to all members and to the local governments and governmental units represented in the membership, there has been no problem in reaching consensus or in getting approvals. All parties involved are opposed to the proposed corridor study area which cuts through the heart of the sub-region.

4. They Considered Whether the Sub-Regional Planning Commission Could Gain Standing in Court to Force Agencies to Coordinate?

The mayors conferred with Texas attorneys regarding the legal standing of the Commission if it had to seek judicial enforcement of the statutory requirement of coordination. They were told that there is at least one case reported in Texas where a regional planning commission was granted standing to sue its landlord. They were also advised by Texas lawyers that since the commission is designated a “political subdivision” of the state by the express provisions of Section 391.003(c) there would be at least implied authority to file a lawsuit to pursue the legitimate planning and coordination interests of the Commission.

But, as noted, there has been no necessity to sue to attain a current coordination process.

5. The Commission Members Did Not Want to Supplant Any Other Means for Expressing Public Input.

The members also satisfied themselves that creation of the Commission would in no way interfere with their or their citizens’ other processes for influencing agency decisions.

Creation of the Commission does not limit the members’ ability, or their citizens’ ability, to meet with legislators and express concerns about state planning projects. Coordination by the Commission in no way limits resort to contacts with legislators and/or with representatives of TxDOT or other agencies by members or individual citizens.

Creation of the Commission in no way interferes with the work of the Councils of Government, which may serve the Region in which the Commission is located. The Commission, its members and individuals can continue to seek support from the COGs, and since the Commission does not even seek the authority to receive planning grants there will be no interference in that aspect of the operations of Councils of Government.

Unlike the mission of the COGs, the focus of the Commission is directed toward coordination with the state agencies to solve local problems.

6. How Does the Sub-Regional Planning Commission operate in relation to Governor’s Oversight.

Section 391.009 provides that the governor (with the assistance of the auditor) may issue rules for oversight of 391 commissions, with particular emphasis on funds, use of funds and audits of use of funds.

In the Texas Administrative Code, Title I, “Administration,” Part 1 “office of the Governor,” Chapter 5 “Budget and Planning Office,” Subchapter A “Federal and intergovernmental coordination,” Division 3 “State Planning Assistance Grants,” Rule 5.82 provides that the State will recognize “one [section 391] regional planning commission…in each state planning region or subregion” as being eligible for state planning assistance grants.

That the rule recognizes the existence of a “subregion” and that planning commissions may serve subregions, demonstrates that the Commission can rightfully serve a subregion. Under the rule, only the planning commission designated by the state can receive state planning grants. The Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission, thus, cannot receive state planning grants, and does not intend to seek any such grants. The members understood that rule when they created the Commission, and conditioned creation of the Commission on the fact that no such planning grants would be sought.

The provision allowing oversight rules to be issued is found in the same section, which the legislature amended in 2001 to provide for “coordination.” So, clearly there was no legislative intent that oversight rules could prevent or limit the creation of a planning commission in order to achieve coordination with state agencies.


The Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission was formed after its members carefully considered how to properly structure a 391 Commission. Once satisfied they could form an effective organization that could require TxDOT to finally consider the concerns of the citizens in a meaningful way, they acted swiftly and decisively.

They have executed the Commission’s duties with respect for and in compliance with all applicable laws. They have kept the process of governing simple, clear, and in the public’s view, avoiding the creation of another layer of bureaucracy. Most importantly, they have ensured the concerns of the citizens of Bell County will not be ignored by TXDOT, EPA, the Governor or any other agencies involved in the TTC.

They have asserted the most fundamental principle of our American system of government – local control – for the benefit of the citizens they represent, and for us all.

Fred Kelly Grant
President, Stewards of the Range

Grant began his formal education at the College of Idaho where he attained a Bachelors of Arts degree in History, with emphasis on Constitutional History and Law. He then attended the University of Chicago School of Law, specializing in criminal law.

Fred has spent nearly fifty years practicing law, and during this time has worked in his professional capacity with all levels of government, and every branch of government.

He served as a Law Clerk to Chief Judge Brune, in the Maryland Court of Appeals, and later for Judge Lodge in the Idaho Supreme Court. He has worked many years in private practice, first for Lord, Bissell, and Brook; a Chicago law firm representing Lloyd’s of London, later as a criminal defense attorney in Baltimore, Maryland and currently for private clients in Nampa, Idaho.

Early in his career he served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Maryland. He later became Assistant State’s Attorney of Baltimore, and then at the age of 28, promoted to Chief of the Organized Crime Unit, State’s Attorney of Baltimore.

When he returned to Idaho, he accepted an appointment by Idaho’s Governor as the states liaison with the federal agencies, and also served in other capacities for the Governors office, which included issues regarding land use planning and zoning for the state. He has over 30 years experience as a planning and zoning hearing officers, which he continues to do today.
Later in his career, Grant began working closely with Owyhee County, ID where he began using the coordination mandate by Congress.

He currently serves as President of Stewards of the Range where he has been able to use his years of expertise to help local governments and landowners protect their private property, local economies and way of life from heavy handed federal and state policies.

Stewards of the Range
PO Box 490
Meridian, ID 83680
(208) 855-0707

American Land Foundation
PO Box 1033
Taylor, TX 76574
(512) 365-2699

© 2008, Stewards of te Range:

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

"There are better alternatives than taking this enormous amount of private property and giving it to the state."

Texans ponder where superhighway might take them

March 4, 2008

By Peter Canellos
The Boston Globe
Copyright 2008

REFUGIO, Texas - With an abandoned Wild West-vintage town of storefronts slumbering just a block from old US 77, tiny Refugio is a place where myth and reality coexist in a ghostly silence.

And now this South Texas outpost is swept up in one of the more intriguing tests of myth vs. reality in today's political life: the battle over the so-called NAFTA Superhighway.

Local residents came together last week for one in a series of public hearings on the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor, a massive public works project that in this area would take the form of a superhighway from the Mexican border to the Arkansas border, with special trucking lanes and rail lines, along with communication and utility cables.

Texas officials say the superhighway is necessary to relieve chronic road congestion. Local opponents say it will cut through their ranches and destroy the area's ecology. And politicians like US Representative Ron Paul, Republican of Texas, and national commentators like CNN's Lou Dobbs have condemned it as a betrayal of American interests - the very road by which American jobs will move out of the country.

"This is a major conduit for getting cheap imported goods into the heartland," insisted Hagan Parmley, a local property owner who is also part of Corridor Watch, an opposition group of residents who gathered in the Refugio community center late last month.

Parmley said Texas business interests support the highway because it would allow Asian-manufactured products to be shipped to deep-water ports in Mexico and then quickly brought into the United States. With reduced transportation costs, it would be even easier for businesses to move American manufacturing jobs to Asia or Mexico.

Parmley's newsletter, which he distributed to the 80 or so residents at the Refugio hearing, expressed excitement that Dobbs, whose television show is devoted to attacking global trade deals and illegal immigration, has taken up the cause of defeating the Trans-Texas Corridor.

But given all the portentious state-of-the-world rhetoric that has surrounded the project, the big surprise at the Refugio hearing was how comfortingly normal the objections seemed.

"I think it's overkill," said Wilson Toudouze, a San Antonio rancher whose mother lives in Refugio. "I think there's probably better alternatives than taking this enormous amount of private property and giving it to the state."

"This wasn't what we were sold in the original I-69 - all those pipelines and train lines," added Melvin Santiago, who came down from the Houston area to express his opposition. "People are a little worried."

Indeed, the state of Texas has had trouble settling on a precise route. In the northeastern part of the state, officials had to bypass Houston's sprawl. Down by the Rio Grande they had to avoid several giant ranches that have been preserved as heritage areas.

The people who gathered in Refugio were, by their own description, the inheritors of the Texas of John Steinbeck's "East of Eden" - large men and women of late middle age, almost all wearing boots, some with cowboy hats, and many with waistlines proudly bulging out of their tight jeans.

One stood up and proclaimed that his family has been on the land longer than there's been a Texas, and that he figures he can take better care of it than the government can.

Preserving property rights was a far bigger concern than the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994, which some concede has benefited Texas. Others mentioned the trade deal not as an evil in its own right but as evidence of the selfish motives of the business interests backing the highway.

One group was not heard from. Refugio County is almost half Hispanic, and recent immigrants make up the bulk of the workers in town. For them, the highway represents a different kind of threat - bypassing US 77, whose truckers give the town its only economic lift by stopping for food and fuel.

But the translator brought in to assist Spanish-speaking residents wasn't needed. Only the property owners had their say.

"Right now we get $70,000 per month in sales tax revenue that is generated by traffic through the town," explained Karen Watts, a selectwoman. "If we're bypassed, that number will drop tremendously. We're a community of people who are aging and we're a poor community. We have some large ranches but they don't help most people."

NAFTA may get the goat of national commentators, but to the people of Refugio, the superhighway battle is more about land and money - just like in the old days.

Peter S. Canellos is the Globe's Washington bureau chief. National Perspective is his weekly analysis of events in the capital and beyond.

© 2008 Globe Newspaper Company:

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Monday, March 03, 2008

"A growing list of local government and civic organizations have officially stated their opposition to the controversial project."

Katy Chamber, EDC Go On Record Opposing Trans-Texas Corridor


by John Pape
Fort Bend Now
Copyright 2008

Two prominent Katy-area organizations have formally gone on the record as opposing the Trans-Texas Corridor.

The Katy Area Economic Development Council and the Katy Area Chamber of Commerce passed a joint resolution last week objecting to the proposed transportation and utility right-of-way corridor. They joined a growing list of local government and civic organizations that have officially stated their opposition to the controversial project.

“The information about the (Trans-Texas Corridor) has been limited and the TTC has caused a great deal of concern for the residents of Waller County, Harris County and the Katy area,” the resolution noted.

The joint EDC / Chamber resolution was presented to state transportation officials at last week’s public meeting on the corridor at the Katy High School Performing Arts Center. The meeting, sponsored by the Texas Department of Transportation and attended by more than 200 area residents, was one of 46 such meetings being held at various locations in the state.

The Waller County Commissioners Court also presented a resolution in opposition to the proposal, saying that it did not take into account the county’s mobility plan. Additionally, state representatives Dwayne Bohac, Bill Calligari and John Zerwas were at the meeting to voice their opposition to the TTC.

The Trans-Texas Corridor has been the subject of debate, often heated, throughout the series of public meetings. No one spoke up in favor of the proposal at the Katy meeting, nor did anyone favor the corridor at a similar meeting the day before in Rosenberg.

As proposed, the Trans-Texas Corridor would be a conduit for highways, rail lines and utility rights-of-way. It would include separate lanes for passenger vehicles and commercial truck traffic, high speed commuter rail service and utility infrastructure for oil, gas, water, electricity and telecommunications services.

The series of meetings are being held to gather public input on the draft environmental impact study for the corridor. TxDOT spokesperson Karen Othon said that the comments offered at the meetings, as well as in writing and from a specially-designated website, will be submitted to the Federal Highway Administration for their review.

© 2008 Fort Bend Now:

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"TxDOT is getting a bad name from what the governor has proposed. This proposal has set us back 10 years."

I-69 public hearing draws large crowd

March 03, 2008

Bonnie McKeena
The Tribune (Humble, TX)
Copyright 2008

Heated comments flew around the room as more than 175 citizens gathered to voice their opinions at the TxDOT open house and public hearing on the I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor held at the Humble Civic Center on Feb. 28, 2008.

Congress designated I-69 as a high priority corridor in 1991 and again in 1998. In 2002, TxDOT unveiled the Trans-Texas Corridor project to accommodate Texas’ future transportation needs. The TTC is a part of a 4,000-mile system of rail lines, truck and car lanes and concentrated utility routes to improve international and intrastate movement of goods and people from Canada to the border of Mexico.

The TTC proposal has two phases

• Tier One, the current phase, is the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. It is a study designed to identify transportation corridors that will provide the best balance of meeting the project’s purpose while minimizing the effect on the environment. No property acquisition or construction can occur during this phase. The evaluation also includes, among many other aspects of the proposal, assessment of public and agency input. At the end of the public comment period, all comments will be compiled and reviewed by the Federal Highway Administration. Tier One must be approved by the FHWA for the project to go forward to Tier Two.

• Tier Two is a detailed study of the environmental impact, based on transportation needs (highway and rail), on the areas that were approved by the FHWA. It will then identify the preferred route of the TTC. Before any property acquisition or construction the study must have federal approval.

The TTC is the state’s initiative to improve the movement of goods through the state, provide economic enhancement to underserved areas and address the transportation needs of Texas for the next 20 to 50 years. The TTC will cover approximately 650 miles from Texarkana to Laredo with off shoots to McAllen, Corpus Christi and Shreveport.

“If the FHWA sees that there is no support from the citizens of Texas, the TTC will not be built, said Norm Wigington, TxDOT public information officer.

Promptly at 6:30 p.m., TxDOT opened the hearing to listen to comments from the public. Each citizen had three minutes to express an opinion. Thirty-one people from the surrounding area and from numerous counties in east Texas took turns expressing their opinions of the TTC.

Don Garrett, from Citizens for a Better Waller County, told the audience, “We are working to defeat the TTC; we are not against transportation, but we are against foreign investors who see our highway system as a cash cow.”

TxDOT has indicated that the entire TTC will be a toll road. “There has been talk that H.B. Zachry, a privately owned construction company in San Antonio, has partnered with Cinta in hopes of operating the highway,” Wigington said.

Humble Area Chamber of Commerce, chairman Mike Beyer commented, “First, we need to build U.S. Highway 59 to current standards. Several years ago, when I heard Governor Perry talk about the TTC, I thought he had lost his mind. TxDOT has done a lot of good for Texas, but it is getting a bad name from what the governor has proposed. This proposal has set us back 10 years. Shut down I-69 and the Trans-Texas Corridor.”

Numerous other citizens commented that the EIS did not attend to the environmentally sensitive areas, it disregarded historical sites, cemeteries and did not address environmental safety should a disaster strike. Others asked, among other concerns, what considerations were given to the influx of people who will now have direct access to enter the United States illegally, the plight of commuters on the congested highways in urban areas and what is being done to identify emergency evacuation routes.

TxDOT was not allowed to make comments or rebuttals to the opinions expressed during the public forum.

For additional information on the I-69/TTC, go to To submit a written comment, mail to: I-69/TTC, P.O. Box 14428, Austin, TX 78761 or go to The final date for written comments is March 19.

© 2008 The Humble Tribune:

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“At the federal level, our congressional representatives need a clear message that more work is needed to stop this nonsense.”

I-69 foes go before commissioners

March 03, 2008

The Victoria Advocate
Copyright 2008

The proposed Trans-Texas Corridor/Interstate 69 through Victoria County continued to draw fire Monday.

Two people speaking independently urged the commissioners court to adopt resolutions opposing the corridor and leaving the future of the super highway to someone other than just the state government.

“Our representation at the state level needs to understand that Trans-Texas Corridor should be voted on at the local levels,” said Ken Bruns, who was speaking as an individual. “At the federal level, our congressional representatives, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Rep. Ron Paul, need a clear message that more work is needed to stop this nonsense.”

Russell Pruitt, representing Citizens for Responsible Government, presented the court a copy of a resolution his group adopted unanimously. The Independent Cattlemen’s Association and the Water Research Group have also unanimously adopted it, he said.

Pruitt requested the commissioners court also approve it and he said he will present the same request to the Victoria City Council today.

It calls for Texans to contact their Austin lawmakers to adopt a constitutional amendment. That amendment would prohibit toll roads and private investments in Texas infrastructure unless approved by a two-thirds majority of voters casting ballots in November.

“We feel pretty strongly about this Trans-Texas Corridor,” Pruitt said. “We see so much bad for Texas out of this.”

County Judge Don Pozzi said even if the commissioners court wanted to, it couldn’t vote on the resolution because it hadn’t been posted on the agenda.

“We will certainly review it,” he said. “But I think it’s abundantly clear where the commissioners court stands on transportation issues in Victoria County and the state of Texas.”

The commissioners court has passed a resolution urging the Texas Department of Transportation to use as much existing right of way as possible in building the Trans-Texas Corridor highway.

David Tewes is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6515 or, or comment on this story at .

© 2008 The Victoria Advocate:

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"A serious misjudgment on the part of our state's governing bodies."

Trade corridor would destroy historically important sites


Darwin Baucum and Theresa Bluntzer
Corpus Christi Caller-Times
Copyright 2008

Imagine if the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) decided to bulldoze the Alamo and build a tollway over the site. Outrageous, right? That's what may happen to Old San Patricio and Bluntzer. San Patricio is the birthplace of South Texas, the home of the world championship rattlesnake races. It is an area steeped in Texas history since it's founding in 1828.

The Texas Trans Corridor/I-69 project has plans that may include the total destruction of Old San Patricio and the original site of Bluntzer.

TxDOT is already in phase two of environmental studies and has already contracted with HB Zachry and a Spanish firm called Cintra to build and operate the toll road that will bisect the state of Texas from Texarkana to Mexico. TxDOT must have overlooked the historical significance of this area or they would have never selected it as a site for a toll road to the border with Mexico.

There are nine registered historical markers in the area, including the Casa Blanca Land Grant, Fort Lipantitlan, Santa Margarita crossing at Bluntzer, Battle of San Patricio, San Patricio de Hibernia, San Patricio County Courthouse, St. Patrick's Catholic Church, the old Dougherty house and the James McGloin home. Other sites of historical note are the Bluntzer school, the Nicholas Bluntzer home and ranch, Bluntzer cemetery, W.D. Bluntzer home, Wright longhorn ranch, St Joseph's Convent site, St. Patrick's Catholic Cemetery; the old cemetery on the hill is where Civil War dead are buried, and there are numerous sites of Indian burials and archeological digs.

Farm-to-Market 666 was known as the Camino Real and later the Cotton Road during the Civil War. It served as a trade corridor for the Confederacy. The road crossed the Nueces River at Santa Margarita, which became Bluntzer in 1850 and was home to Nicholas Bluntzer, then W.D. Bluntzer. They had there, on the banks of the Nueces, a cotton gin, general store, post office, telephone station and ranch headquarters. Nicholas came to Texas from Alsace and served in the Confederate Army. He was an influential rancher, Corpus Christi real estate investor, Texas trail driver, cotton grower, gin owner, retail store owner and hotel owner. Bluntzer is in the South Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame and at the time of his death was the largest taxpayer in Nueces County. The Bluntzer home was bequeathed to the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament and they have remodeled it and now live there.

The Cotton Road continued one mile north to San Patricio. Old San Patricio was founded in 1829 by emprasarios James McGloin and John McMullen. It has a rich Irish history. The land grant founded San Patricio de Hibernia, named for the area's rich Irish heritage. The rattlesnake races, still held today, honor the Irish lore of the area.

The settlement was originally by 200 Irish Catholic families and was four leagues square. The battle of San Patricio was fought in the streets of town in 1836. In the 1880s the town boasted of churches, schools, cotton gins, grist mills, and a convent. Just above St. Patrick's Church is the cemetery on the hill. The cemetery was used by Indian tribes prior to 1829, and later for colony and Civil War dead. Among those interred there is Lt. Marcelino Garcia, who was killed at the battle of Lipantitlan in 1835.

With such a rich history, it would be a travesty to see it plowed under in the name of the I-69 corridor, especially when there are alternate routes that would spare and preserve the great historical importance and value of this area. History of this magnitude speaks volumes about the creation of the great state of Texas. To destroy it would be a serious misjudgment on the part of our state's governing bodies.

Darwin Baucum and his wife Theresa Bluntzer Baucum have lived at Bluntzer since 1979. To submit your opposition to the destruction of Old San Patricio and Bluntzer by The I-69 Trans Texas Corridor contact

© 2008 Corpus Christi Caller-Times:

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