Sunday, January 11, 2009

Trans-Texas Corridor Born Again As “Innovative Connectivity Plan”



Ann Shibler
The John Birch Society
January 09, 2009

Declared dead by TxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz and Governor Rick Perry on Tuesday, January 6, the Trans-Texas Corridor was then immediately born again — under an assumed name.

They must have had their fingers crossed behind their backs when they declared the NAFTA Superhighway defunct, because in typical governmentium nauseum verba they acknowledged that the original plans will be built as stand-alone smaller projects with their very next breaths.

The Interstate 35 tollway twin from San Antonio to Oklahoma and Interstate 69 from Brownsville to Texarkana, and the 130 toll road’s construction will move forward. Governor Perry said, “We really don’t care what name they attach to building infrastructure in the state of Texas. The key is we have to go forward and build it.” Saenz seconded that saying only a name change is occurring: “We’ve decided to put the name to rest.”

But the San Antonio Express-News reports that the corridor remains intact. “Toll roads, truck-only lanes and rail lines are still in the works,” and the environmental impact studies, meetings, and consulting agreements with private contractors go on as well.

Senate Transportation Committee chairman John Carona, R-Dallas said after the name-change announcement, “We can now focus on the real issue, which is additional road capacity and the means to finance the same.” Saenz said his agency will try to keep the corridor widths to 600 feet, as opposed to the original 1,200 feet — a concession to farmers, ranchers, and small-town mayors who stood to lose entire livelihoods.

Of course the TTC was never really dead. It still existed in the Texas Transportation Code and in the well-laid plans of Texas State officials. But a bill eliminating that entire section of law has been filed. If the bill is passed, TxDOT would no longer have the authority to build the road/rail/utility corridor. So, Governor Perry and his toll road backers have to move quickly.

The Spanish and American consortium that developed the plan, Cintra-Zachry, signed a contract for $3.5 million with the TxDOT, and later this year will indeed start construction on two segments. TxDOT still plans to partner with private companies to build and lease the toll roads.

The connotation that the Trans-Texas Corridor/NAFTA Superhighway suffered after the realities of the land-gobbling, sovereignty-sapping, private property-trampling plan was exposed through grassroots activists’ efforts is seen as all that needs to be repaired by the powers that be. Perhaps they think that the good people of Texas who saw right through the plans the first time will be put to sleep by the benign title chosen for the very same project — Innovative Connectivity Plan.

Perry’s $183 billion 4,000-mile-long project that he continues to push for might just be his political undoing. He’s got to pay for the project somehow, and raising taxes is not going to be a good idea in a tight economy, for a project in a state where people have already demonstrated that they do not want said project — under any name. He already knows that he’s facing possible opposition in his bid for reelection from U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who would, most likely, use his continued arrogance in this matter to her advantage.

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