Tuesday, January 06, 2009

"A program of potential solutions for major corridor development that we can act on today."

Trans-Texas Corridor Scrapped


William B. Cassidy, Executive Editor
Copyright 2009

The Trans-Texas Corridor, a massive highway, rail and pipeline project, is road kill.

The controversial plan to create a 1,200-foot-wide multimodal highway that would funnel freight from Mexico deep into the U.S. heartland has been scrapped by the Texas Department of Transportation. In its place the Texas DOT favors a much more modest series of transportation improvements with more input from local communities.

The Texas DOT unveiled sweeping changes to the state's infrastructure plans, which include dropping the Trans-Texas Corridor name, at the fourth annual Texas Transportation Forum in Austin Jan. 6.

"Texans have spoken, and we've been listening," said Amadeo Saenz, executive director of the Texas DOT. "Citizens across the state have had good ideas about how Texas roads can better serve Texas communities," Saenz said at the forum.

Those ideas didn't include the $184 billion multimodal transport artery proposed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry in 2002. The Trans-Texas Corridor would have created two massive highways along I-35, to be renamed TTC-35 running north through Dallas and Fort Worth, and a proposed I-69/TCC running north and east through Houston.

Landowners, environmental activists and local businesses in many towns challenged the project, as well as groups opposed to tolling concessions and those who saw the TTC as a "NAFTA superhighway" that ultimately threatened U.S. sovereignty.

Instead of the 1,200-foot-wide corridor, the project will now be comprised of several small segments closer to 600 feet wide. The Texas DOT will seek guidance from corridor segment advisory committees comprised of citizens from communities along the routes.

That is a major blow to those who saw such large-scale projects as the best way for new financing methods to make major inroads into the nation's transportation system.

"The bold, broad strokes of the original concept are no longer with us," the state transportation department said in "Strategic Corridors: Innovative Connectivity in Texas," its new blueprint for state highway development.

"The initial vision of the TTC has grown into a program of potential solutions for
major corridor development that we can act on today," Texas DOT said.

Those solutions could still include public-private partnerships, tolling and other sometimes controversial efforts to move away from reliance on public tax money for highway funding and construction, the department said in its report.

"More than anything else, it is the ability to partner with both the public and the private sectors that helps us to define and develop solutions that meet statewide and regional needs, and to implement and accelerate those solutions to the benefit of all Texans and our economy," the department said.

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