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Response to TxDOT Comments
That Appeared in the Austin American-Statesman
March 7, 2004

Read carefully what TxDOT Turnpike Division Director Phillip Russell is quoted as saying in the article titled, "Transportation corridor plans stir Central Texans' rural revolt."  [Austin American-Statesman, Ben Wear, March 7, 2004, pp.B1,B7]

Mr. Russell liberally uses words like "probably" and "might."  Talking to TxDOT about the Trans Texas Corridor could leave you wondering if they know anything.

The article reads, "Some portions with particularly light traffic, in West Texas for instance, probably wouldn't be built for a very long time."

Certainly that doesn't provide any comfort to those individuals and communities along priority corridors between Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. Fact of the matter is that TxDOT has put into place a program where the 'private development team', not just the State, can propose which segments are next and when they will start. Already TxDOT has received an unsolicited development proposal.

Russell compared the corridor to the national interstate highway system. First he compares local reaction now, to what it must have been before 1956 when the National Highway Fund was created. Then he points out that, "... instead of hundreds of years, we built the interstate system in 20 or 30 years."

Mr. Russell should read the plan produced by the Texas Department of Transportation Public Information Office. Check page 6 of Crossroads of the Americans: Trans Texas Corridor Plan and you'll find, "Within 14 years, the Interstate system in Texas was essentially complete. A 3,234-mile network of multi-lane highways engineered for speed and safety connected the state’s major cities." [page 6] That's only 19% short of the entire 4,000-mile corridor project and in considerably less time that 20 or 30 years.

Yes, of course we know that the corridor is a much larger project in scope. However, to place just one lane, one track, one pipeline or one electrical transmission line in the corridor will require the entire 1,200-foot wide right-of-way to have been acquired for everything else in the future. It's little comfort to have lost your land for something that might not get built for years.

Talking about the interstate system plan, Russell called the highway trust fund creation (1956) mysterious.

CorridorWatch.org finds House Bill 3588 much more mysterious, and troublesome. If the funding tools of House Bill 3588 provide the same kind of jumpstart that the National Highway Fund did, we could see similar rapid development of the corridor. [HB3588]

Did TxDOT spend thousands of Texas tax dollars sending Mr. Russell and others to tour Europe last September promoting development interest in the Trans Texas Corridor believing that it is a pipedream or decades in the future? TxDOT's partners don't think so, they believe that the corridor can be completed in under 30 years.  [tour]

Okay, let's rest on the thought that construction might not start for 10 years. Again check the TxDOT plan and you'll find, page 12, "To preserve the corridor for future generations, acquiring property for all components should begin as soon as possible." [page 12] Page 41, "... allow for early acquisition of priority corridors and at-risk parcels." [page 41] Page 43, "Acquire priority corridors as early as possible ..." [page 43] And, repeated on Page 44, "To preserve the corridor for future generations, acquiring property for all components must begin as soon as possible." [page 44]

Clearly even if construction is delayed, TxDOT understands that corridor routes will need to be determined and the land purchased as soon as possible. Since HB3588 authorizes such land to be leased back to the owner, it appears that TxDOT will become a landlord generating revenue from the very property owners they took the land from. [citation]

Russell is quoted, "Bond investors, not the state, would bear the risk if tolls fail to generate enough money to make debt payments."

Is that true?  We think not! The state might not have to pay the difference, but chances are pretty good that someone will. Bond investors are smart people. They work very hard to minimize their risk. Bond instruments have all kinds of built-in protections, like automatic fee escalator clauses, to ensure that the debt service costs are covered. [hb3588 sec.370.115] Other toll projects have even included non-compete clauses that kept the state from building or improving other highways near the public-private tollroad that might take paying customers away. A failure to meet revenue requirements will cause repercussions and we believe that in the end it will cost Texas taxpayers whether it's through higher tolls or other pass-through expenses. [example]

 

The Trans Texas Corridor project is very real and every day
that passes without opposition is another day closer to construction.

Now is the time to act.

 

Thank you for your time and interest.

 

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This page was last updated: Sunday July 18, 2004

© 2004 Linda Stall