A few days ago, Texas Transportation Department director Amadeo Saenz announced, “the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) as it is known, will no longer exist”. The TTC was an extremely controversial toll road plan that has drawn negative attention to both TxDOT and Governor Rick Perry. It appears that while the TTC name may have been retired, parts of the project will live on in a new proposal called “Innovative Connectivity in Texas”.
The opposition to the Trans-Texas Corridor is like nothing I’ve ever seen. I attended one of the town hall meetings that the Transportation Department held to publicize the project. Citizens were given an opportunity to voice their opinions, and many, many did. One of the top concerns was that the plan was impossible to enact without massive use of eminent domain. Environmentalists and ranchers both worried about the effect that this would have on the animal population. There were also many people who believed that the TTC posed a threat to the sovereignty of the United States. When it was all said and done, not one single person in the room stood up in support of the Trans-Texas Corridor. The TxDOT people took a lot of heat. I spoke with one of them afterwards and said that it must’ve been a rough night for her. Her reply was that Humble had been one of the nicer crowds!
Unfortunately the recent announcement from TxDOT may not be all that it is cracked up to be. While it is true that the Trans-Texas Corridor as a singular project may not exist anymore, two major components of the plan are still moving forward. I-35 is still planned to have a companion toll road called TX-130 and I-69, part of what was one of the most controversial sections of the proposed “NAFTA Superhighway” running through East Texas, is still part of the Transportation Department’s new vision. We need to keep a close eye on the new proposal, especially since the TTC name still exists in legal form in the state Transportation Code.
Here is some legislation to watch that is relevant to the Trans-Texas Corridor:
SB 220, introduced by State Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville), restricts the Transportation Department’s ability to convert areas of extant highways into toll roads.
SB 384, introduced by State Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas), would prevent the Transportation Department from using funds to promote toll road projects.
It is worth pointing out that since 2003, Nichols and Carona are two of the top recipients of contributions from TTC contractors in the Texas Senate. Carona is the chairman of the Senate’s Transportation Committee, which Nichols also sits on.
HB 11, introduced by State Rep. David Leibowitz (D-San Antonio), would repeal TxDOT’s authority to build the TTC. It is unclear how this legislation would affect the remaining projects after the discontinuation of the TTC name, but this is the closest thing to a silver bullet that we’ve got.