February 10, 2005
TTC rumblings in the Lege?

Hmm. There was some pushback on the Trans Texas Corridor in the Senate yesterday.

“There’s a lot of dissatisfaction out there among the troops,” Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, told Texas Transportation Commissioner Robert Nichols. “A lot of people who should be your allies, aren’t.”

People such as the Texas Republican Party, which voted last summer to include a plank in its platform opposing the corridor plan put forward by its party leader, Gov. Rick Perry, or the Texas Farm Bureau, which gave it a thumbs down in December, and a number of cities and counties along I-35 calling themselves the River of Trade Coalition.

That coalition wants the I-35 corridor to be close to the existing interstate, as near as three to five miles, so that longtime stream of commerce doesn’t dry up, Dallas City Council Member Sandy Greyson told the committee. The Farm Bureau wants it to be much thinner than 1,200 feet, to have ways for farmers and ranchers to cross it to work agricultural land split by the road, and to make sure that the state doesn’t sink water wells in the state right of way and draw water from under nearby farms.

Nichols, a Farm Bureau member from Jacksonville and a transportation commissioner for the past eight years, good-naturedly took on all comers, and had good answers for most of the concerns. But it will be hard to split the difference as the commission decides in the next few months where to put the first corridor road between San Antonio and the Oklahoma border somewhere north of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

Put it out 20 or 30 miles from Dallas and you anger both the farmers and the trade coalition. But put it near I-35 and right of way costs will go out the roof, probably driving up toll rates and eventually choking with urban traffic what is supposed to be an uncongested overland route.

Disclosure time: Robert Nichols is my father-in-law's best friend from college. (They had themselves a fine time back in the day, if the stories I've heard are to be believed.) We had dinner with him at my in-laws' house a few days back. I didn't get much of a chance to talk to him about the TTC and other mobility-related stuff - he was there to see Olivia, after all - but I will say this: He's a very effective salesman for TxDOT. I can't say I agree with him any more now than I did before then, but he'd be a tough opponent in a debate.

Anyway. The last paragraph in this story notes that despite "all the flak" from their constituents, the Senate and House Transportation committees are still firmly in line for the TTC. That says to me that there needs to be more noise about this. Rodney Ellis, who was mentioned in this article but whose position is unknown to me, would be a good starting point. The TTC is a boondoggle, and I believe the voters can be convinced of that. But it's going to take time and effort to do that, and that should be done now, before too much of it gets started. If you agree with me that the TTC is a bad idea, consider contacting your Senator and saying so. They need to hear it.

On a side note, the WaPo has an article on the TTC which doesn't shed any new light, but is (in my opinion) pretty friendly to it.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 10, 2005 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack

"Boondoggle" is the kindest word I can think of for this latest scam to line Rick Perry's pockets. Chop up rural Texas, give contracts to your campaign contributors, name highways after yourself -- it's every politician's dream.

Posted by: Oh, Sarah! on February 10, 2005 7:45 AM

Admittedly I'm something of a newcomer to Texas, but this TTC proposal just boggles my mind. I've lived here in the Waco area for 2 years and have spent a good part of it driving on the I-35 and I-45 corridors between DFW, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston. Outside of the predictable congestion in the urban areas, I frankly don't see the problem. One you're outside of the Houston metro area, I-45 is a flat out drag strip all the way to Dallas. Every time I've been on that stretch I've done 80+ with little traffic. I-35 is, of course, more congested, but mostly right around the urban areas. Getting through Austin during rush hour is always the worst, but that would seem to call for beefing up a loop route around Austin rather than running new highways in the country. The one stretch of highway I haven't been on is I-10 between San Antonio and Houston. But that's not exactly what the TTC is supposed to replace anyway.

But the most mystifying element of all this? Why the hell are we trying to build a corridor to Oklahoma? OKLAHOMA?

If I had my druthers, I'd like to see a high-speed rail link between DFW, & San Antonio along the I-35 corridor with a branch between Austin and Houston going through Bryan. That would really open things up if it were a true high-speed rail.

Posted by: Kent on February 10, 2005 9:25 AM

Several years of bad congestion on I-45 near Corsicana convinced us to start going to Dallas via Waco. It added about 45 minutes to map-time and cut off an hour of pain-time. It may be better now.

Posted by: Michael on February 10, 2005 1:43 PM

How do we know it's a terrible idea? Let me count the ways:

1. It's the ultimate boondoggle--$175 BILLION dollars.

2. If the tolls can't pay off the bonds, what do you bet the state will somehow wind up liable?

3. 4,000 SQUARE MILES of land area?

4. Promotes both dependence on foreign oil and global warming.

5. In the first deal, Texas will be legally required to "limit" (can you say, strangle?) "competing" corridors. That means I-35 at least and maybe no regional rail transit. And this arrangement could be duplicated all over the state.

6. Texas is giving a *foreign* private corporation the power of eminent domain to build this project. The project will take land from Texans against their will to make profits that the operator will take out of the country.

Special to Kent:

In the early 1990s, for a brief shining moment, there was a High Speed Rail system under development: Houston--Dallas--San Antonio.

Posted by: Demo Memo on February 10, 2005 1:57 PM

Call it "privatization" or "piratization." Whatever it is, few Texas voters knew about the Trans-Texas Corridor until recently. Few even believed such an audacious land grab was possible. Unfortunately, it is--thanks to some stealthy legislation enacted several years ago, which allowed the officials of the Texas Transportation Commission to push the project through in record time--before any one could figure out what hit them.

I have started a blog devoted exclusively to the Trans Texas Corridor, if anyone is interested: www.transtexascorridor.blogspot.com

Posted by: Porkus Maximus Tex on February 12, 2005 2:19 PM

Hello--Any chance the newsmwdia will hold this issue up to the light? This doesn't have to be an anti-Bush thing--The emminent domain abuse across the country is featured on Hannity and Colmes.This is a Texas issue, but a socio-political one that can spread rapidly.

Posted by: Karen on March 29, 2006 7:38 AM