Those who would welcome the Trans Texas Corridor as a local
or regional economic development generator should first become familiar
with the corridor concept.
The Trans Texas Corridor (TTC) is not a traditional
it’s not even a traditional turnpike. It is a very large, 1,200-foot
wide, at-grade, controlled access, toll road laid down in four sets of
vehicle lanes, two sets of rail, plus both underground and above-ground
utilities. Any access to vehicle lanes will require expensive flyover
separations. Emergency access alone will be difficult.
The TTC will not deliver traffic to your community in the
manner that other highways have in the past. It will not provide highway
frontage ripe for commercial development. It will not increase property
values along its path as the result of improved transportation
It will, by design, draw traffic away from existing highway
systems. It will encourage motorists to remain on the corridor while
passing thousands of
Crossroads of the
Americas: Trans Texas Corridor Plan.
The Texas Department of Transportation released, and the
Texas Transportation Commission approved, the official Trans Texas
Corridor Plan in June of 2002. The Plan that has remained unchanged
since then is titled, Crossroads of the Americas: Trans Texas
Frontage Roads; No On-Ramps; No Off-Ramps; No Access.
There are no frontage roads, on-ramps or off-ramps anywhere
in the TTC Plan. Access to the TTC will be accomplished exclusively
through interchanges with existing Interstate Highways, US Highways and
only 60% of the existing State Highways. The estimated cost per interchange ranges from $10.1 million
for the smallest connection to $301.9 million for a fully directional
Most intersecting roadways will pass over the TTC without any
access to the corridor. This includes all Farm-to-Market roads, Ranch-to-Market
roads, paved county roads and local highways as well as most 2-lane
State Highways. Lesser roadways will not cross the TTC at all.
The estimated cost of constructing a single grade separated
crossing (over the TTC) for a 2-lane Farm-to-Market road is $3.5
million. These overpasses, including the approaches, will exceed
¼-mile in length. Economics dictate that crossings will be limited and
local vehicle access to the TTC will not be feasible.
Adverse Impacts to
Local and Regional Economies.
Commissioner Robert Nichols has suggested that communities
that 40 years ago feared that they would be harmed by the Interstate
Highways have instead flourished.
Commissioner Nichols is wrong in his suggestion. A study of county
population transition (a good indicator of employment and economy) for
the period of 1950 to 2000 shows just the opposite.
Almost without exception, counties on the Interstates between
urban centers have populations that have declined between 1950
(pre-Interstate) and 2000 while urban center counties have grown.
Specific examples are not difficult to find. Where US Highways that ran
through communities were replaced with parallel Interstate Highways the
local economy indeed suffered. It is interesting to note that where the
Interstate Highway took
a different route between points than the
counties along both highway corridors declined. When the Interstate
system was being designed there was considerable debate as to whether
the new highway should run through the middle of large cities or be
placed outside their urban district. City leaders believed that it was
important that the highway provide a direct route to their existing
commerce and industry. History has proven them right.
Every real estate developer knows the three key indicators to
land value are location, location, and location. Commercial retail real
estate is often evaluated on highway visibility and daily vehicle
counts. By design the TTC will divert the traveling public away from
existing highways. Because the TTC will require substantial toll
revenue, the operator has an incentive to immediately attract all
possible traffic. TxDOT’s own Finance Director James Bass has given
presentations to TxDOT personnel to explain that toll viability involves
increasing demand and limiting supply. In his presentation he describes limiting the alternatives;
explains that free alternatives mean lower revenues; and, that there is
a need to limit competing facilities.
Not only can communities along IH-35 and other Interstate
Highways look forward to the losses associated with the relocation of
traffic and business induced by the new TTC, but the decline of their
existing highways. A recently released House Transportation Committee
report reads, “Motorists will always have a free alternative to toll
roads, although the alternative will typically be congested with an
uncertain travel time.” Unfortunately this statement is used to justify the
expansion of toll roads and is apparently not one of the issues that the
Committee seeks to address. Free roads will become the step-children of
Only the State & Its
Private Partners Will Enjoy Economic Development.
Local jurisdictions and private businesses will not be
afforded the opportunity to access the TTC where it could foster
economic development. Such access is reserved exclusively for the state
and its private partners. The TTC plan includes all typical traveler
services such as service stations, stores and restaurants. The law also
specifically includes hotels. The loss of tourism revenue generated in our communities
will destroy one of the states most profitable industries.
The Transportation Code, as amended in 2003 by
3588, provides that TTC property may be leased, franchised or licensed
for any purpose, including use for unrelated commercial, industrial, or
agricultural purposes. Another new authority permits TxDOT to acquire land for
ancillary facilities that generate revenue for use in the construction,
maintenance, or operation of a turnpike project.
Taken together, these provisions grant permission for an unlimited
taking of land by the State for development by it or its private
concessionaire partners on and along the TTC. To facilitate unimpeded
takings the power of condemnation was also expanded by
include facilities of the TTC.
Adverse Impacts to
Local and Regional Government.
Loss of Tax Revenue.
As TxDOT acquires 146 acres for each mile of the TTC, local
jurisdictions will lose hundreds and likely thousands of acres of
taxable land. TTC-35 alone puts dozens of counties at risk of losing 5,000
or more acres of taxable land value. School districts, utility districts
and other special districts will suffer the same loss.
Despite the commercial development on the TTC, at minimum the
land itself will remain state property exempt from ad valorem taxes.
The newly amended Transportation Code bars Regional Mobility
Authorities (RMAs) from paying compensation for public real property it
takes, including that taken for the TTC. Land replacement costs will be paid by the local taxpayer.
Loss of Land Use
Control & Fees.
A RMA is also exempt
from payment of development fees, utility connection fees, assessments,
and service fees imposed or assessed by any governmental entity or any
property owners' or homeowners' association. Those costs will be
passed back to affected taxpayers and association members.
Loss of Groundwater
A Senate Subcommittee
has recently concluded that the law is not clear that lessees of state
land (such as the TTC) are bound by the rules of a groundwater
conservation district. The report says such exemption “could
easily undermine a district’s ability to manage the aquifer or portion
of an aquifer for which it is responsible.” The Subcommittee is also
recommending to the Legislature that “Groundwater produced from
state-owned lands should be reserved for in-state use.” In making this
recommendation, we conclude that the Subcommittee could not find a
current prohibition of exporting
water to another state, or even
Population Transition in Texas Counties, 1950-2000, Emily
Melick and John K. Thomas (2003), Department of Rural Sociology,
Texas A&M University
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