Even without the existence of a state-of-the-art network of
toll roads and railway lines paralleling Interstate 35, hundreds of Texans
still made it just fine to a public hearing at the State Capitol in Austin.
They arrived Thursday, March 1, by any means necessary to
speak out against Gov. Rick Perry's Trans-Texas Corridor, a proposed 4,000-mile
network of toll roads, railway lines and utilities. According to the Austin Statesman-Journal, the committee already
collected more than 500 written comments. About 100 were scheduled to make
verbal comments before the committee, but not all got the opportunity to say
Many of the speakers at the Texas State Senate Committee on
Transportation and Homeland Security hearing said they felt the proposed
corridor was little more than a land grab - and a dangerous one at that.
"If this project continues it will be a threat to our
security and sovereignty," said one retired school teacher.
Speakers included rural Texas ranchers worried about the
corridor dividing or devouring their land, state transportation and elected
officials with a wide variety of claims and comments, environmentalists, and a
man who played a guitar and sang a song opposing the proposed road
State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, chairman of the senate
transportation committee, challenged many aspects of the corridor plan, from
funding and revenue estimates by a private investor in the proposal to the
accountability of the Texas Department of Transportation.
"When there is secrecy and a lack of open records, people
are led to believe there is some other agenda," Carona said.
Commission Chairman Ric Williamson spoke to defend Gov.
Perry and the Trans-Texas Corridor proposal. He said he believes it is the best
solution to date for present and future congestion problems from Dallas all the
way to Corpus Christi.
Those speaking at the hearing discussed property values, the
potential use of eminent domain for the developer to acquire land for the
proposed corridor, and the environmental and economic impact such a project
State Auditor John Keel and his staff highlighted findings
of a recent state audit of the Trans-Texas Corridor proposal. Some of the audit
findings raised concerns about the accountability of TXDOT and how public
dollars are being spent.
A private-sector company, Cintra-Zachry, consisting of
Cintra of Spain partnering with Austin-based construction corporation Zachry,
holds the development contract for the first 560-mile leg of the proposed
Trans-Texas Corridor, known as TTC-35.
Speakers also attacked that deal, saying the state's present
and future assets should not be transferred to a foreign-led consortium.
"The state has the authority to build toll roads," said Mark
Scott, representing the Texas Farm Bureau. "Why do we need foreign companies to
- By David Tanner,