by: Laurie Johnson, January 28, 2008 12:01:00 am
The I-69 Trans-Texas Corridor will be the biggest, most expensive transportation project undertaken in the state. TxDOT officials are planning a 4,000 mile system of existing highways and new toll roads at a cost of between $145 and $183 billion. TxDOT Deputy Executive Director Steve Simmons says the corridor will connect south Texas with the rest of the state.
"In its ultimate, full package, it would be separated car lanes from truck lanes. It would be six different rail lines, high speed rail, commuter rail and freight rail and then an area for utilities. But as we say all the time, it's going to be up to the community that decides what is the most beneficial transportation system for their area and figure out a way to deliver it."
There's been a lot of criticism and concern over the TTC. Gov. Rick Perry supports the project, but the state's Republican and Democratic parties have both opposed the plan. Which is partly why TxDOT is holding town hall meetings across the state, seeking input from citizens and attempting to broadcast the facts about the project. Simmons says the final alignment hasn't been selected, but the corridor will come close to and impact the Houston region.
"Houston is the driving force. You've got the ports that are going to be delivering freight, but you also have the citizens of Houston that need a transportation system that's going to provide them reduced congestion, improved air quality and safety. There's just a lot of traffic that doesn't need to go into downtown, so if we can get some of that traffic out of Houston, we think it's going to improve traffic conditions and the quality of life for Houstonians."
One of the biggest concerns for local government officials is local property rights. There's a lot of fear this project will result in massive land grabs by the state. Houston-Galveston Area Council Transportation Program Manager Pat Waskowiak says representatives from local counties met recently to establish priorities for this region.
"There was general consensus that local governments prefer any future alignments to be on existing or planned facilities. For example, in Wharton County they would very much prefer for the alignment to be on US 59 south rather than a new location parallel to 59 south, and the tier one report identifies both as possibilities."
Using existing highways means the state wouldn't need to buy as much land. The H-GAC will formally present these concerns to TxDOT. And citizens can also testify as to their preferences when TxDOT holds their public hearing in Houston on February 12th. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.