Special interests like TTC 69; taxpayers don't

Link to article here.

You gotta ask what kind of reporter is this? Do your homework! Texans for Safe Reliable Transportation is Joe Krier and Red McCombs’ group pushing this stuff on behalf of road profiteers. How is the passage of Prop 12 an endorsement of tolling existing highways or the Trans Texas Corridor neither of which is mentioned in the amendment? This reads like a press release from TxDOT…Cornyn’s head is officially on the chopping block. The second article shows the opposition is already gathering steam. This road was promised as a FREE interstate, now it’s going to be built as a massive tolled trade corridor, likely in the hands of a foreign company. Another bait and switch…

Transportation group applauds TxDOT’s I-69/TTC announcement
By GARY WILLMON
The Lufkin Daily News
November 14, 2007
Transportation advocacy groups are applauding Tuesday’s announcement of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement released by the Texas Department of Transportation on the I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor highway project and agree with TxDOT officials that using existing road rights of way whenever possible in planning the corridor is the best idea.

“Using existing rights of way means highways can potentially be built faster, more cost effectively and with less impact on property owners,” said Bill Noble, spokesman for Texans for Safe Reliable Transportation, a statewide transportation group. “By first considering building along existing roadways, TxDOT will provide better mobility and emergency evacuation for south and east Texas.”

TxDOT also announced public hearings on the I-69/TTC project are to begin in January 2008.

“Public involvement is essential to the planning and design process,” Noble said. “We believe there is strong public support for the TTC-69 in the counties where the highway could be located.”

In last week’s statewide constitutional amendment elections, a majority of voters in counties along the proposed I-69/TTC route voted in favor of Proposition 12, authorizing up to $5 billion in state general obligation bonds for transportation improvements. Specifically, 39 of the 44 proposed counties where the highway project could be located passed Proposition 12 by greater than 50 percent, according to election data from the Texas Secretary of State’s Web site. Only five counties fell below 50 percent.

Angelina County voters passed the proposition with a 66 percent yes vote.

“The population is expected to grow 65 percent within the next 25 years while road usage is projected to increase 214 percent,” said Ted Houghton, a member of the Texas Transportation Commission, at Tuesday’s TxDOT press conference.

Noble said the radical shift in thinking toward meeting future transportation needs is a much-needed one. “Unless Texans change their approach to transportation, road capacity will grow by only 6 percent,” Noble said. “Experts would say that an expanded transportation system for Texas is not optional; it is a necessity.”

Texans for Safe Reliable Transportation is a 501(c)6 public education organization made up of Texas citizens, employers and transportation professionals dedicated to easing traffic gridlock and improving infrastructure to move people and products more efficiently. The group’s Web site is www.BetterTexasRoads.org.

Also on Tuesday, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) gave his endorsement of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement announcement. Cornyn, a member of the I-69 Caucus, said the transportation project will relieve congestion as well as boost the Texas economy.

“Progress on the impact statement brings us another step closer to Texas drivers being able to travel on this corridor,” Cornyn said in Tuesday’s statement. “It is encouraging to see the effort move forward, and I’ll continue working to improve transportation in Texas.”

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Valley Leaders, Toll Opponents, Blast New Corridor Plan
TexDOT plans 650 mile toll road from Valley to Texarkana
By Jim Forsyth, WOAI Radio
November 14, 2007

With controversy not abating over its existing toll road plans, the Texas Department of Transportation has announced plans for another massive toll project, the 650 mile ‘TTC/I-69’ road from Laredo, Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande Valley to Texarkana, 1200 WOAI news reports today.

It is the second leg of the ambitious Trans Texas Corridor to be unveiled. Mark Cross of TexDOT says existing roads would be expanded wherever possible, instead of new roads being built.

“US 59 runs all the way from Texarkana to Laredo, so that’s the main portion of roadway we’ll be looking at,” Cross said.

TexDOT had previously unveiled plans to built TTC-35, which will run mainly east of the existing Interstate 35 from south of San Antonio to the Oklahoma border, and may include State Highway 130, which is currently under construction from Marion to Georgetown.

It is State Highway 130 that 1200 WOAI news reported exclusively more than a month ago that TexDOT has agreed to ‘consider’ cutting the speed limit on Interstate 35 to support. Speed limits on Trans Texas Corridor are allowed by state law to be as high as 85 miles an hour, which would be the highest posted speed limits in the world.

Already there is criticism for the TexDOT plan.

State Senator Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville), a long time supporter of the “interstate 69” idea, says it’s ‘not fair’ that Rio Grande Valley residents would have to pay a toll to access an Interstate highway. The Valley is the largest area in the country in terms of population without access to a through Interstate highway.

“All the Interstates that were established in Texas, in Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, El Paso, Laredo, all those people can drive on the Interstate for free,” Lucio said. “Why should only people in the Valley have to pay a toll?”

Lucio says residents of the Rio Grande Valley pay just as much in gas tax as people everywhere else in Texas, and should not have to pay to use Interstate highways.

Cross says many environmental hearings are necessary and it will be ‘many years’ before final plans for TTC/I-69 are released.

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