February 19, 2005
Bill to restrict Tran-Texas Corridor filed

A new bill has been filed that just might put a crimp in Governor Perry's grand plans for the Trans Texas Corridor.

Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, a Brenham Republican whose district borders on the hotbed of anti-Trans Texas Corridor sentiment in Fayette County, has filed legislation to slim down the potential corridor width and provide ample crossings for farmers.

Her bill, HB 1273, would limit the width of the proposed 4,000 miles of corridors to 800 feet. That’s still huge compared with the 300 to 400 feet typical for interstates. But it’s positively anorexic compared with the 1,200 feet contemplated by planners of Gov. Rick Perry’s transportation centerpiece.

Perry envisions having six highway lanes for cars, four for trucks, six rail lines and additional space for utility lines. State officials have said that the corridor wouldn’t necessarily be one single swath, but rather several strips roughly paralleling one another. Although the bill’s language refers specifically to limiting “highway or turnpike” right-of-way to 800 feet, Kolkhorst said her intent is that the total width for all uses be no more than 800 feet.

In addition, the legislation would require that at each point where a state highway or farm-to-market road intersects a corridor (it is silent on ranch-to-market roads), the minor road would have full access to the turnpike and “uninterrupted service across the corridor.” And the bill would outlaw so-called non-compete clauses in any private agreements to build or operate corridor segments. Such clauses typically prohibit or limit improvements or new construction of parallel roads to a tollway.

The main organization in opposition to the corridor idea, Corridor Watch, was founded in Fayette County. However, the two corridor routes likely to be built any time in the foreseeable future — one paralleling Interstate 35 and the new Interstate 69 from Brownsville to Texarkana — would not go through either Fayette County or the four counties in Kolkhorst’s district.

“This bill is meant to open the conversation,” Kolkhurst said, adding that a coalition of lawmakers from both parties have been talking about placing limits on the Trans-Texas Corridor. “We would like some narrowing, no pun intended, of the parameters.”

Outlawing the noncompete clause is probably the biggest deal in here, since TTC opponents have been very worried that I-35 will be neglected after the PerryPike is finished. If this bill gains momentum - the story implies there is bipartisan support for it - that could set up a pretty nasty showdown, since I can't believe Perry will let this happen without a fight. Stay tuned.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 19, 2005 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack

This bill is still lacking the most critical element: prohibiting any state guarantee for the financing. If (when) gasoline goes to $4 a gallon, and the Perry Pike can't cover its debt, who will eat the bonds?

Of course, if the state if off the hook, no private developer would touch the project. So Rick The Dick is going to hang most of $175 billion on the State of Texas.

Thanks, Rick.

Posted by: Demo Memo on February 19, 2005 11:12 AM

I think the concerns about I-35 being neglected are quite real.

All one has to do is drive around any town and look at the highways that were supplanted by the interstates in the first place. Here in Waco I-35 basically replaced US 77. I can't think of a more dreary stretch of urban/suburban decline than US-77 in North Waco. Broken down motels, pawn shops, and a lot of nothing.

Same thing where I grew up in Oregon. I-5 replaced US-99 and the stretch of US-99 running through my old home town of Eugene is absolutely dreary.

This TTC is such a bad idea that one tends to think it will just collapse on its own accord. The scary thing about it is that I have tended to think that about most of the policy initiatives of the Bush Administration and look where we are there.

Posted by: Kent on February 20, 2005 11:58 PM