Trans-Texas Corridor further defined; need identified

| Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Officials in Texas said this week that they think the best approach to the Trans-Texas Corridor proposal is to scale down the original plan.

The Federal Highway Administration released a 4,000-page draft of an environmental impact statement this week that redefines the study corridor and reiterates the need for wider lanes, more lanes, railway lines and truck-only lanes as an alternative to the bustling Intestate 35.

The narrowed focus area is a 10-mile wide strip spanning from Gainesville, TX, to the border town of Laredo, within close proximity to I-35, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

A key north-south route, I-35 runs from the Mexican border at Laredo to just north of Duluth, MN. It is seen as one of the main corridors for trade, particularly through the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

Texas officials have planned more than 50 public meetings this summer along the proposed corridor, which they refer to as TTC-35. Public meeting dates will be announced in local and regional areas.

“Texas has a transportation problem and we have a plan to solve the problem,” Ric Williamson, chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, stated in a press release from the state Department of Transportation.

“Our strategic plan contains long-term, mid-term and short-term tactics. Building TTC-35 is one of our long-term tactical decisions to reduce congestion, enhance safety, expand economic opportunity, improve air quality and preserve the value of (I-35).”

Nearly half of the 21 million Texans live within 50 miles of I-35, and up to 38 percent of the traffic on I-35 is commercial trucks.

Officials said that even with scheduled upgrades to I-35 itself, traffic will have outgrown it by 2025, and it would need to be up to 16 lanes wide to meet demands.

Texas hopes to partner with private entities to get the work done on the proposed corridor, including another leg of it, the expansion of the Interstate 69 corridor, known as TTC-69.

Texas DOT has chosen Cintra-Zachry, a partnership between Texas-based Zachry Construction Corporation and the Spanish development company, Cintra Concessiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A., to develop the first phase of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

Cintra specializes in North America as a toll-road operator. Cintra has a controlling interest in the leases for the Chicago Skyway and the Indiana Toll Road.

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