Thursday, October 14, 2010

“Texas was working with us until five or six years ago when they said ‘no we want to building this new Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC)' "

Texas approval brings I-69 closer to reality


Written by Jim Potts
Bossier Press-Tribune
Thursday, 14 October 2010

Construction of the I-69 corridor looms closer as Texas transportation awareness groups, once opposed to construction of a similar highway, approve of the proposed national thoroughfare.

Once constructed, the I-69 Corridor will create a transportation artery from Canada to Mexico crossing through southern Texas and eastern Michigan. The preferred route for Bossier Parish takes the highway around Haughton, near the eastern edge of Barksdale Air Force Base and through the Port of Shreveport-Bossier continuing south through Mansfield. The corridor divides into 32 Segments of Independent Utilities (SIU) — 16 SIU’s are in Texas and require support from state officials before construction can begin.

“Texas was working with us until five or six years ago when they said ‘no we want to building this new Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC),’ something completely different and they were not interested in working with us anymore,” said Bossier City Mayor Lorenz “Lo” Walker. “When it went through a decision process, the people of Texas soundly rejected it. Now we must get them back into the fold because we cannot get an I-69 Corridor from Canada to Mexico without going through Texas.”

One of the progenitors of the TTC rejection was David Stall, co-founder of the Texas transportation advocacy group Corridor Watch. Stall said Texas legislators first approved the TTC, but rejected it after TTC plans revealed the superhighway was a massive, glorified toll road.

“[TTC] planners had put in place all new highway construction was for toll first. A lot of those things were rejected by the Texas legislature. There was not a public vote, but there was public outcry,” said Stall.

Stall said Corridor Watch opposed the TTC because the highway focused on revenue generating and not economic development. Stall also mentioned in pursuit to generate revenue TTC planners proposed seizing private property similar to railroad barons from the 1800’s. Stall also stated TTC developers did not go through a public process to let citizens decide if they wanted the highway.

“We never opposed I-69. That whole corridor from Brownsville to Laredo have been horribly underserved they do not have the quality of highway there that the rest of the state had let alone the rest of the nation,” said Stall. “We are a proponent for I-69, we are a proponent for it being built where there is a traffic demand for it and where communities want and need it.”

With Texans backing the new corridor only one other issue hampers plans for construction.

The preferred I-69 route cuts through the Louisiana State University Agriculture Center’s Pecan Research Station. LSU AgCenter officials believe the highway would destroy the research station.

“About two years ago, we began to get push back from this Pecan Research Center because we were destroying their research station. Our feelings were this had a minimal impact and it had already been coordinated,” said Walker.

Walker said LSU Ag Center officials asked to have the route of I-69 shifted three and a half miles from the preferred location.

“That is a very unwise thing to do because it will cost millions of millions more dollars and add several years to the process to get it approved,” said Walker.

Walker said the current route would cut through the old growth portions of the research center. As a form of a compromise Walker said the corridor coalition could vote to slightly shift the route to go through the new growth portions.

“We could build a wall there to help protect it and we would get land to replace the new trees that would be grown long before we ever start construction,” said Walker. “A few pecan trees are all that is holding this up.”

Walker will meet with LSU Ag Center officials Nov. 10 at the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development headquarters in Baton Rouge and see to see if they can come up with a compromise.

“Hopefully when we come out of that meeting in November we will have a satisfactory resolution to that,” said Walker.

© 2010 Bossier Press-Tribune:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE