August 23, 2006
Chron on the TTC hearings

The Chron follows up the Statesman with a story about the statewide series of hearings about the Trans Texas Corridor and how much Perry-bashing went on at them. It's not terribly different from the Statesman story, though it has more quotes from people who testified at the hearings, which are worth checking out, and it spares us any smarmy think-tank denigration of the opposition to the TTC, for which I'm grateful. A couple of points to make:

Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Ric Williamson said the corridor concept is the only feasible means of easing congestion on state highways while guaranteeing future expansion when needed.

"For every 14,000 people who congregate and protest, there are 1.4 million in downtown Dallas and Fort Worth that recognize congestion on 35 is a problem and somebody's got to do something about it," Williamson said.

Dallas-Fort Worth area officials have been generally neutral on the corridor concept, but questioned the specific plan because its route bypassed the cities and would have done little to relieve local congestion. Perry last Friday ordered the corridor study to include an alternative route proposed by local officials.

Dallas County Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield, a Republican, said he thinks people in the Metroplex would largely oppose the plan because it relies heavily on tolls and has included little public input.

"I dare say, if you took a vote in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, it would be voted down," he said.

For a project that's supposed to relieve urban congestion, the TTC makes a pretty strong effort to avoid any actual urban areas. It's telling to me that Governor Perry finally forced TxDOT to consider a route for the I-35 alternative that touches the Metroplex. That's some pretty strong Republican turf, and I think his intervention here is a sign that he recognizes how precarious the support is for this project among his base. It's no accident that the state GOP platform calls for the repeal of the TTC.

"Fourteen thousand people is a nice turnout, but the fact of the matter is we're looking for input, any better ideas," Perry said of the hearings.

"Those that came out are just against - you know, the agin'ers. It's easy to turn out a bunch of people who are just agin a particular project," the governor said.

When all else fails, insult the intelligence of the voters. How lucky we all are to have a governor who knows our needs and preferences better than we do.

Greg Gerig, a corn farmer and a director of the Blackland Coalition opposed to the corridor, said there is a feeling state officials have been arrogant.

"Perry has in effect said, 'We don't care what people at the hearings said; we're going to build it anyway,' " Gerig said.

I can't imagine where he might have gotten that idea.

One final point:

One of Perry's fellow Republicans on the statewide ballot - U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison - also has criticized the project, saying it imposes too heavily on rural landowners.

That's an overstatement of Hutchison's criticism. Here's a fuller version of what Hutchison said.

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, apparently trying to distance herself from Gov. Rick Perry on the controversial toll road issue, said Wednesday she was "very concerned" about how Perry's proposed Trans Texas Corridor would route new highways across the state.

She said bypasses to major, congested freeways, including Interstate 35, are needed, but she said it was unnecessary to build a toll road connecting South Texas to San Antonio.

"I just don't see the need for that, and I think the taking of property for that is a very serious matter that needs to be studied carefully," she told reporters after addressing the Texas Association of Counties.


"I'm very concerned about the Trans-Texas Corridor," Hutchison said.

She said parts of it are "very necessary" but questioned whether there has been enough public input, despite the series of hearings.

She called for a "whole lot more study of the routes" and said the state needed to make sure it was adequately using existing right of way.

"I'm not saying I'm against another route for bypassing the major, clogged freeways that we have. Interstate 35 is a parking lot," she said. "But I think that going too far outside of the major metropolitan areas is an issue that should be resolved."

That sounds more like hand-wringing than criticism to me. You can interpret it however you like, but according to Barbara Radnofsky, who genuinely opposes the TTC, some people haven't gotten the message about KBH's "concerns".

Louis Bronaugh, who is on the I-69 committee, said, "I think Strayhorn is making it political, because she needed to attack the present governor anyway she can, and we understand it. It's a political football, we just don't know how it's going to bounce, I talked to Senator Hutchison and she is very much in favor of this."

That's a different piece of the TTC (KBH's remarks were about the I-35 component), but it's still going to be going through mostly rural land. Basically, KBH has criticized one aspect of one component of the TTC. She thinks it can be tweaked, while a lot of people are saying it should be scrapped. Those are two very different things.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 23, 2006 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack