Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Trans Texas Corridor is Our Issue Too

Many people will remember the I-27 or Ports to Plains TXDOT hearing in the mid-90s. The hearing here in San Angelo was packed, a a good many of us rode a chartered bus from here to Lubbock for another hearing before the same panel. City leaders, business owners and just plain concerned citizens such as myself attended because we understood how critical it was to our future that San Angelo not be left out of any such project.

In my remarks to the hearing here I pointed out the lovely, but abandoned courthouse in Sherwood. Everyone knew Sherwood, located on a year round flowing stream, was going to be the county seat of Irion County. Then some enterprising souls discovered the line manager of the railroad then pushing westward was a man named Mertz. The town of Mertzon was platted out northwest of Sherwood, the railroad went through Mertzon and Sherwood is now a scenic, but largely forgotten backwater.

Too little attention has been paid to two huge projects which can do for most of West Texas what the railroad did to Sherwood. The Trans-Texas Corridor is the 800 pound gorilla, and the one with the big political support. As proposed, it will be a quarter-mile wide collection of superhighway with truck-only lanes, non-commercial lanes and eventually aggregate oil pipelines and railways in the same wide corridor, the current model starting in McAllen, going north through San Antonio, Austin, Dallas/Metroplex connecting north to Kansas City. The other is an I-69 project from Laredo and going along the Texas coast and up our eastern border.

Did I mention Kansas City? That is to be the new Customs Port of Entry. A truck entering at Laredo could be sealed, and then processed by Customs in KC. Plans and funding for that facility are already moving through Congress as TTC comes closer to a done deal. The eventual intent of this project, accompanied by Mexican match-ups, is to provide a cheaper alternative for Asian goods to enter the US than San Diego. Much of this freight will simply transship through Texas. I-70 could become the most important east-west Interstate in America.

Are you getting a picture of what this mega-corridor could do to all of West Texas? Sherwood could bloom without a railroad, but with one bypassing it, the town withered on the vine. This could happen, long-term, to everything west and north of San Antonio.

The TTC is to be built by a Spanish company, Cintas, which plans to invest at least $7 Billion in the project. They also plan to make big bucks on the 50 year deal. Based on their Canadian tolls, estimates of a Dallas to Austin fare are about $60. The deal includes a sort of “non-compete clause”, under which the state agrees to make no substantial improvements to existing I-35. Maybe the state will at least adequately maintain what we have, but maybe they will claim budget shortfalls (when do they not?) and encourage users to get with the TTC program.

So far, this has been a much bigger issue in East Texas, where people are concerned with the land grab aspects and mostly the local costs and inconvenience of constructing this monster. Genuine concerns, but focused on the short term. The term “I-35 divide” already has political and demographic meaning due to the way prosperity tends to follow transportation routes. This I-35 squared will make Ross Perot's “great sucking sound” in reference to Mexican maquiladoras sound like a whisper to West Texas as commerce rearranges itself along the path of least resistance. The TTC may not be in our back yard, but it will have a huge long term effect on our economic prospects.


  1. We will be paying a lot of attention to this issue, and will be adding links and analysis. Two to start with are this Burnt Orange Report and CorridorWatch. One point to add is that I-35 and I-69 are not the only "corridors". It looks like they may have grabbed the Port to Plains project and
    added it as a non-priority project under the TTC umbrella. It also looks like I-10 and I-20 could be affected and potentially converted
    to Toll Roads.

  2. Most Highways Nationwide to be Tolled to Pay for NAFTA Super-Corridors

    The massive land grab feature of the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC) is also present in other NAFTA Super-Corridors. But, what makes the events in Texas so unique, are how they are related to other issues, and how they will affect all Americans.

    The NASCO (North America Supercorridor Coalition) board, which is heavily influenced by Gov. Perry, successfully lobbied to have money for the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) moved “off budget.” It seems as though one of the affects of this Enron-style accounting trick is to force the federal HTF to go broke by 2008.

    In August 2005, President Bush and Congress signed into a law a major transportation bill called SAFETEA-LU. One of the provisions of it is to immediately use all money that is expected to be placed into the federal HTF through September 2009. In December the U.S. Chamber of Commerce concluded nearly all funds had been used. The federal HTF will go broke by 2008.

    Consider TxDOT Commissioner Ric Williamson's statements, which are not limited to Texas:

    "It's either toll roads, slow roads, or no roads." (May 2004)

    “...in your lifetime most existing roads will have tolls." (October 2004)

    It’s clear provisions in SAFETEA-LU, plus lobbying by Gov. Perry via NASCO has been engineered to force the federal HTF into a deficit -- one that will exist for as long as the politicians can get away with it. Therefore, states will no longer receive funding from the federal HTF. (Half of Texas’ DOT budget comes from it.) To make up for that, roads will be tolled.

    And there’s more. Texas Gov. Perry and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, who sit on the Texas Bond Review Board, have been trying to use money from Texas Mobility Fund ONLY to fund TOLL roads. The one who has prevented Perry’s travesty is the third member of the board -- Comptroller Strayhorn, who is an independent candidate for governor.

    In and around Austin, toll roads have been built, are under construction, or planning to be built. Yet, there are adequate funds to build those roads without levying tolls. (In the San Antonio Business Journal for Oct 27 - Nov 2, there is an article titled "Larson wants lawmakers to keep highway funds on highways." It states that in 2005, $774 million in the Texas State Highway Fund was diverted for non-highway programs, and $9.3 billion has been diverted over the last 20 years.)

    The TTC contract had been secret for 17 months. It was made available weeks before the election. One of the secret items in the contract is for Texas to pay for relocating railroad lines -- to the tune of $16 billion. How would that be financed? Toll roads.

    So, clearly steps are being taken to force most highways nationwide to be tolled in order to pay for the NAFTA Super-Corridors.

  3. thank you anonymous...

    The issue of tolls and stripping property owners of potentially over 1 million acres through imminent domain are among my largest concerns with this issue.

    The $774 million in diverted HTF funds seems pale in comparison to the tyrannical TxDot's $15.2 billion budget. It seems that Texas has plenty of funds to build the roads it needs without the Federal bribes or Spanish tolls...

    And- would anyone share their thoughts as to why we would engage in such a massive project with a corporation that is not American in anyway -North, South or in between- but owned by the King of Spain?

    It seems with this, and other global manuvers, we are handing America back over to the imperial powers that so much blood was shed to free her from.

    Indeed, World Net Daily reports that the Security and Prosperity Partnership, or SPP, signed by President Bush, Mexican President Vicente Fox and then-Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin in Waco, Texas, March 23, 2005 appears to be "working toward achieving specific objectives as defined by a May 2005 Council on Foreign Relations task force report, which presented a blueprint for expanding the SPP agreement into a North American union that would merge the U.S., Canada and Mexico into a NEW GOVERNMENTAL FORM..."

    Strange that the such an ambitious project is being directed from outside the Americas...

    We cannot continue to allow corporate interests to milk us for every penny they can with their prescriptive solutions for the problems they manufacture.

    The Empires are no longer geographical territories - they are global corporate entities.