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Officials nix land grab
tossed: 'Any area that is not along
an existing highway will not be considered'
Opponents of a plan to build a Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) road
and rail system from Mexico to Oklahoma received welcome news
this week, as Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)
officials announced their strategy would no longer include
building new highway routes southwest of Houston, a plan that
would have annexed huge tracts of private land.
The $184 billion TTC project originally called for a 4,000-mile
network of transportation corridors, 1,200 feet wide, to be
built across Texas. The plan would have taken about a half
million agricultural acres out of private hands, leading to a
maelstrom of objections from Texas landowners.
now TxDOT executive Director Amadeo Saenz says plans have
changed. In a conference call with reporters he said TxDOT "had
narrowed the study area for TTC I-69" and that the department
"is going to be considering only existing highway" routes, and
"any area that is not along an existing highway will not be
"This is great news for landowners," said John Means, president
of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. "TSCRA
appreciates the agency's decision to not build the toll roads
through rural lands that would threaten the private property
rights of many of our members."
The TxDOT website states that "the preliminary basis for this
decision centers on the review of nearly 28,000 public comments
made" on the issue. Saenz added that 47 town hall meetings with
Texas residents had further influenced the decision.
Brehham, Tex., State Rep. Lois W. Kolkhorst, who joined in the
battle to protect rural lands from the project, told The
Huntsville Item, "The real heroes who deserve the credit here
are the constituents. I want to thank the thousands of people
who joined me in fighting the I-69 TTC for the past 5 years,
writing letters, calling and attending meetings to make their
Though opponents of the TTC celebrate victory in this battle,
they have been quick to point out that the war is not over.
"This is good news about a retreat from the corridor," Kolkhorst
said, "but the controversy over how we pay for our roads will
continue. We need to stay strong against the forces out there
who want to sell off our highway infrastructure to foreign
"This is a great first step," said Kenneth Dierschke, president
of the Texas Farm Bureau. "But we must continue to hold TxDOT's
feet to the fire during the next legislative session to ensure
they keep these promises."
David Stall of the anti-TTC group CorridorWatch is also wary of
crying victory too soon. Speaking of TxDOT, Stall told a Houston
Community Newspaper, "They've never taken the public's input
into consideration before."
Part of the concern is that the announcement to limit the TTC's
scope only included project proposals south and west of Houston.
The announcement did not mention plans for the northern I-35
"We want (Saenz) to send the same letter to the Federal Highway
Administration for TTC I-35 that he sent about I-69," Stall
said. "There was as much public input about I-35 as there was
Stall also worries that TxDOT was motivated largely by
"financial ability and political expediency," warning, "As soon
as it becomes fiscally viable, it will come back."
For now, landowners in southwestern Texas are breathing a sigh
of relief and preparing for future battles if necessary.
Last year Amy Klein, a member of CorridorWatch, quoted Stall in
the Gainesville Daily Register with words that are just as
meaningful now to the group as they were then. "You eat an
elephant one bite at a time," she quoted. Then she added, "I
think we're slowly devouring this elephant."
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Monday June 16, 2008