Friday, August 06, 2010

"The Trans-Texas Corridor may be dead or it may only smell bad, depending upon who one asks."

Gubernatorial hopeful makes Seguin stop


By Ron Maloney
The Gazette-Enterprise
Copyright 2010

SEGUIN — Former Houston Mayor Bill White is looking for a job, and he came to Seguin to apply Thursday.

White wants to send Gov. Rick Perry home next November, and he stopped in Seguin for an hour-long visit on his way to Schertz and San Antonio to meet local voters, talk about issues and answer questions.

“This is wonderful,” White said after an introduction by Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Edmundo “Cass” Castellanos. “I’m here for a job interview. We’ve had a lot of good interaction with citizens, and people have learned a lot about me.”

Then White talked a little bit about some of the things he believes sets him apart from the incumbent who he chided for calling himself a conservative and an outsider while spending a quarter century in or running for public office, and living very well while doing so.

“We all believe that Texas should be a great state of opportunity,” White said to a partisan crowd that frequently broke into cheers and applause. “I’ve also learned the overwhelming majority of Texans are ready for a new governor. I will shoot straight with you and do what’s right with Texas.”

Perry’s leadership, White said, has divided the state along red and blue lines.

Texas needs a leader who can build consensus among all quarters and bring the state into the future, White said.

“And I will be that person,” the candidate promised.

During his administration in Houston, White said, that city built more jobs than had been created in 37 states — combined.

The Perry administration, White said, has concentrated on creating low-paying, minimum wage jobs.

“I want to build good jobs — jobs with a future,” White said. “Isn’t that what we need right now?”

White has a five-point education plan that can be seen on his website,, he said he wouldn’t bore his audience with Thursday.

He wants to increase the graduation rate, he said — and he wants to ensure that an education in Texas means graduates have skills they need to succeed in work and in life — and not just pass standardized tests.

“We have a governor who thinks education is all about taking multiple-choice tests,” White said. “We need a governor who is going to support teaching our children critical thinking skills. We need to train people for self-sufficiency, not just for taking multiple choice tests.”

On July 13, White said, Perry axed a state program designed to reduce the number of drop-outs.

“It was old-fashioned stuff that works — funding after-school tutoring and summer school,” White said.

There was no press release or news conference, but Perry did release one that same day, the candidate said, touting a “new” plan for reducing drop-outs — one that has been the law in Texas since 1989.

“He either didn’t know that or didn’t care,” White said of the governor.

The Trans-Texas Corridor may be dead or it may only smell bad, depending upon who one asks. But don’t look for Governor Bill White to bring the idea back any time soon. “What kind of idea was this?” White asked of Perry’s plan to address transportation issues around the state. “You take 600,000 acres of private land — some of it having been in families for generations — through eminent domain, give it to a foreign company, let them put a toll road in and develop all the real estate along the route. What would it do? It would get trucks from Mexico to Chicago better. I don’t know about you, but what I think Texans are more concerned about is getting to and from work.” The Texas Department of Transportation, White said, had a $1.1 billion miscalculation of its biennial budget two years ago, and needs tighter controls — like the ones he brought to Houston, where he lowered crime, increased jobs and at the same time lowered taxes.

“We have a record,” White said. “The city of Houston is bigger than 16 states. We cut the crime rate, reset the traffic lights, tripled the number of community health clinics and added more jobs than 37 states combined, all the while cutting property taxes and freezing property taxes for seniors. We did this because we ran the government as a machine for the people and not a political machine like Rick Perry has. Texas is ready for that, isn’t it? I have a feeling in this state that people are ready to move forward. Help me!”

Texans, White said, deserve a governor with a servant’s heart who knows he works for them.

“You deserve someone who will be responsive to you,” White said. “I will have a servant’s heart, and I will never forget where I came from. With your help, we will have a new governor in November.”

© 2010 The Seguin Gazette-Enterprise:

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

FHWA issues 'No Action Alternative' for TTC-35

Final Federal Agency Actions on Trans-Texas Corridor 35 (TTC-35) in Texas


A Notice by the Federal Highway Administration
Federal Register
Copyright 2010

Read the full Federal Highway Administration Record of Decision HERE.


This notice announces actions taken by the FHWA that are final within the meaning of 23 U.S.C. 139(l)(1). The actions relate to a proposed transportation project, TTC-35, extending from the Texas-Oklahoma line to the City of Laredo, generally paralleling existing I-35 in the State of Texas.


By this notice, the FHWA is advising the public of final agency actions subject to 23 U.S.C. 139(l)(1). A claim seeking judicial review of the Federal agency actions on the highway project will be barred unless the claim is filed on or before January 31, 2011. If the Federal law that authorizes judicial review of a claim provides a time period of less than 180 days for filing such claim, then that shorter time period still applies.

For further information contact:

Mr. Gregory Punske, P.E., District Engineer, District B (South), Federal Highway Administration, 300 East 8th Street, Room 826 Austin, Texas 78701; telephone: (512) 536-5960; The FHWA Texas Division Office's normal business hours are 7:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. (central time) Monday through Friday. You may also contact Dianna Noble, P.E., Texas Department of Transportation, Environmental Affairs Division, 118 E. Riverside Drive, Austin, Texas 78704; telephone: (512) 416-2734; The Texas Department of Transportation's normal business hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (central time) Monday through Friday.

Supplementary information:

Notice is hereby given that the FHWA has taken final agency actions by issuing approval for the No Action Alternative for the following transportation project in the State of Texas: The TTC-35 project as proposed generally parallels I-35 from the Texas-Oklahoma state line to the City of Laredo. TTC-35 was envisioned as a multi-modal corridor to meet the transportation challenges of the I-35 corridor. EIS No. 20100133. The actions by the Federal agencies, and the laws under which such actions were taken, are described in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the project, approved on February 24, 2010, in the FHWA Record of Decision (ROD) issued on July 20, 2010 and in other documents in the FHWA administrative record. The FEIS, ROD, and other documents in the FHWA administrative record file are available by contacting the FHWA or the Texas Department of Transportation at the addresses provided above.

This notice applies to all Federal agency decisions as of the issuance date of this notice and all laws under which such actions were taken, including but not limited to:

1. General: National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) [42 U.S.C. 4321- 4335]; Federal-Aid Highway Act [23 U.S.C. 109].

2. Air: Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. 7401-7671(q).

3. Land: Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966 [49 U.S.C. 303].

4. Wildlife: Endangered Species Act [16 U.S.C. 1531-1544] Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act [16 U.S.C. 661-667(d)], Migratory Bird Treaty Act [16 U.S.C. 703-712].

5. Historic and Cultural Resources: Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended [16 U.S.C. 470(f)et seq.]; Archeological Resources Protection Act of 1977 [16 U.S.C. 470(aa)-(11)]ogical and Historic Preservation Act [16 U.S.C. 469-469(c)].

6. Social and Economic: Civil Rights Act of 1964 [42 U.S.C. 2000(d)-2000(d)(1)]; Farmland Protection Policy Act (FPPA) [7 U.S.C. 4201-4209].

7. Wetlands and Water Resources: Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1251-1342; Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), 16 U.S.C. 4601-4604.

8. Executive Orders: E.O. 11990 Protection of Wetlands; E.O. 11988 Floodplain Management; E.O. 12898, Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low Income Populations; E.O. 11514 Protection and Enhancement of Environmental Quality.

(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Program Number 20.205, Highway Planning and Construction. The regulations implementing Executive Order 12372 regarding intergovernmental consultation on Federal programs and activities apply to this program.)


23 U.S.C. 139(l)(1).

Issued on: July 27, 2010. Gregory S. Punske,

District Engineer, Austin, Texas.

© 2010 Federal Register:

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Monday, August 02, 2010

Spanish Corporation Cintra directly benefits from TxDOT's power to take private land.

TxDOT use of eminent domain benefits private firms



Copyright 2010

BEDFORD — The Texas Department of Transportation is using its power to condemn private land so it can embark on a massive rebuild of Highway 183, also known as Airport Freeway.

The $2.1 billion project is called the North Tarrant Express (NTE). It will offer a mix of free lanes and toll lanes. For 50 years, toll profits will go to a private company.

The power of eminent domain lets TxDOT compensate landowners for taking the property it needs, and it is already staking its claim to more than 300 pieces of private property standing in the way.

But some people are raising questions about using the government's power to condemn land for the benefit of a private company.

In Bedford, the NTE will push all the way to the front door of Rex Lee's Vietnamese restaurant, slicing right through the Chili's next door. Lee’s landlord wants to move his restaurant within the mall, but Lee estimates that will cost him $200,000.

What makes the NTE unique is the use of private companies to finance 75 percent of the cost. In exchange, a Spanish company called Cintra can charge tolls for 52 years. That means private companies directly benefit from the state's power to take private land.

"First and foremost, this is still a TxDOT project. We're involved every day in the management of this project, and we will be for 52 years,” said TxDOT spokesman Tony Hartzell.

Attorney Kevin Maguire is an expert in eminent domain at the law firm of Strasburger & Price. "I think all Texans need to be vigilant to make sure that we are not delegating the power of eminent domain to third parties of any nationality,” he said.

Maguire says there is no evidence of that -- yet. But he says property owners need to know their rights when going up against TxDOT.

And even renters like Rex Lee may be entitled to compensation when the NTE forces them to move.

But for a small business owner affected by the uncertainty of a giant transportation project there are some concerns you can't put a dollar figure on.

"You think about it at night, before you go to bed," Lee said, "so it's a little bit of stress involved.”


© 2010 WFAA:

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NTTA toll bridge: Inflated projections, increased congestion

Toll Bridge Doesn't See Much Traffic

Fewer drivers than expected are using Lewisville Lake Toll Bridge


Copyright 2010

There's a fast way to get across Lake Lewisville, but it's not by boat, and it's not free.

The Lewisville Lake Toll Bridge opened up one year ago this month. The bridge, operated by the North Texas Tollway Authority, spans over Lewisville Lake and runs east and west. The lanes connect Lake Dallas with Lakewood Village.

Online statistics show that drivers aren't using the bridge as often as the NTTA had projected. From January to May of 2010, the NTTA projected that about 2.17 million drivers would use the bridge. In reality, 1 million fewer vehicles -- about 1.15 million drivers -- actually used the bridge in that time period.

NTTA spokeswoman Sherita Coffelt said it could be because many drivers don't know how about the bridge.

So far, drivers have mixed feelings on the 1.7 mile stretch of toll road, which was billed as a major traffic reliever for Denton County.

"I like it," said Merideth Burnett, of Hickory Creek. "It cost too much, but I like it."

The toll for the bridge is $1 for drivers with toll tags or $1.50 if for drivers using Zip Cash.

Several drivers said they don't use the bridge but have noticed an increase in traffic congestion where the bridge and Interstate 35 merge.

"It's not been good ever since they opened this up," said Lisa Fair, of Corinth. "It's backed up in every direction and (has) a lot more cars than it used to have."

© 2010

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