Trans-Texas Corridor plan met with more
County meeting packs in more than 1,000, few
of them supporters
Jan. 29, 2008
By RAD SALLEE,
BELLVILLE — In what is becoming a
regular occurrence in Southeast Texas,
more than 1,000 Austin County residents
and interested outsiders jammed a county
fairgrounds exhibit hall Monday night to
let a panel of state transportation
officials know that the Trans-Texas
Corridor was not welcome here.
Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, opened
the public remarks to thunderous
applause when she told the panel, "You
all thought I was crazy in Austin when I
said my people don't want it and I don't
The panel, which included Texas
Department of Transportation Executive
Director Amadeo Saenz and Deputy
Executive Director Steve Simmons, have
been hearing that a lot lately. The
officials are in the midst of a town
hall tour of Southeast Texas where the
planned I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor is
slated to run from Texarkana to Corpus
Christi and on to Brownsville and
Officials have said they have been
hearing from residents in all of the
town hall meetings that the I-69/TTC
corridor should stay close to U.S. 59.
Maps at Monday's meeting, which was
intended to explain the project and
gather public comment, show the
controversial corridor cutting through
the far southeast corner of Austin
County, southeast of Bellville.
TxDOT has said it wants to keep the
corridor as close as possible to towns
and businesses, but says it is difficult
and costly to acquire right of way to
expand highways in built-up areas.
Similar meetings last week in
Hempstead, Rosenberg and Huntsville were
packed with residents and local
officials who questioned the need for
the project and the motives of its
Supporters envision the Trans-Texas
Corridor as a network of broad corridors
linking major cities, with toll roads
for cars and trucks, rail tracks for
freight and passenger trains, and space
for pipelines and power lines.
Such supporters were in short supply
"Have you found anyone in this part
of the county who is in favor of the
corridor?" Sealy Mayor Koym Russell
asked the panel.
Simmons got a laugh when he replied
that he did not know of anyone who would
stand up there and say so.
Opponents include farmers and
ranchers who do not want their land
divided, merchants who fear loss of
business to new routes, and others who
oppose trucks from Mexico doing business
in the United States, or the long-term
leases of U.S. highways to foreign
Each of those perspectives was voiced
County Judge Carolyn Bilski got a
laugh when she said one resident asked
her, "If it comes through my land, will
I have to pay a toll to feed my cows?"
Many of the residents' questions
centered on the potential loss of farm
and ranch lands, some of which have been
in families for more than 100 years.
"Does the fair market value or what
they call 'just compensation' cover
that?" resident Joan Gentry asked.
"I'll be honest with you," Simmons
replied. "There is no way we can
compensate for that."
When another local asked why it was
necessary to cut through farms and
ranches to build the road, Saenz said it
was not the first choice. When planning
a route, engineers would first look at
building it along existing roadways. If
necessary, he said, they would try to
place it between property lines. Going
through ranches and farms would be a
"We're still trying to identify, does
this corridor need to be built, and, if
so, where," Saenz said.
The town hall meetings will continue
this month and be followed by two months
of formal public hearings.