Senator sounds off on Trans-Texas Corridor
As both a legislator and a landowner, the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) project concerns me greatly. I strongly oppose the condemnation of private lands in Senate District 18 for the construction of a quarter-mile multi-modal corridor that would incorporate utilities, truck-only lanes, freight rail, and high-speed passenger rail. This has been my position from day one. It will
Everyone agrees that the state must prepare for the rapid growth Texas” future holds. Our current state population of around 23 million is expected to swell to somewhere in the neighborhood of 32 million by 2030. Smart road building is needed if we are to stop traffic from grinding to a halt. The bulk of the TTC project does not fit my definition of smart road building.
As designed, construction of the TTC will require the taking of thousands of acres of land that, in many cases, has been the land of Texas families for generations. As a sixth-generation farmer with family land in Waller and Harris Counties, I am very well aware of the fear, uncertainty, and anger that the proposition of having one”s land taken for this project brings. The most frustrating aspect of the TTC plan is its lack of adherence to fairness and common sense. Does a quarter-mile corridor incorporating utilities, dedicated commercial lanes, and high-speed rail make sense for Senate District 18? I say no.
Throughout much of Senate District 18, a planned phase of the TTC would run parallel to Highway 59. The current traffic numbers in many places along Highway 59 do not demonstrate a need for anything beyond the upgrading of Highway 59 to interstate quality. It is my firm view that a 1,200-foot wide corridor incorporating high-speed passenger rail would not benefit the area. Transportation improvements should be driven by the needs of the local areas. An enormous corridor that few, if any, would use does not fit my definition of common sense. One of the greatest errors in the TTC project is this “one size fits all” approach.
During the last legislative session I devoted much of my energy to learning the local, state, and federal laws that govern transportation projects. The goal of this work was to learn how a TTC project might be stopped or, at the very least, be made to adhere to common sense. After learning of the different ways I could work against TTC projects, I sought the help of my fellow legislators and successfully passed a number of safeguards that addressed some, not all, of my great concerns with the TTC.
As proposed, the TTC would have allowed private developers to construct restaurants, hotels, and gas stations on land acquired for TTC projects. I strongly disagreed with this, as I still do, and sought to prohibit ancillary projects from the TTC altogether. I was able to eliminate hotels and restaurants, and ensure that gas stations are not part of any TTC project if the local county”s Commissioners” Court disapproves.
Private lands should only be condemned for a public use and when there is absolutely no alternative. I believe this strongly and have worked against the wanton use of eminent domain. The TTC project sought to condemn projects for ancillary facilities. I found this proposition outrageous and was able to successfully pass a law that TxDOT cannot condemn property adjacent to a corridor for an ancillary facility without the approval of the local Commissioners” Court.
Maintaining routes of local travel (farm to market and county roads) is vital to rural communities. I know this well and was able to, with the help of my colleagues, legislate a requirement that TxDOT shall consult with local residents regarding TTC related changes to farm to market and county roads. The preservation of local control is vital. Local residents know their communities best and need to be heard.
My work is not over. During the current session I will work daily to continue the fight against some of the nonsensical and unfair practices that are of the highest concern to many of us. My ultimate goal is to prevent an unnecessary 1,200 foot wide corridor in Senate District 18.
Senator Carona, the Chairman of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee, is a powerful ally in this fight. I was extremely encouraged and pleased by the hearing on the TTC that he held on March 1 to allow public testimony to be heard and permanently recorded. Hundreds of concerned Texans made the trip to Austin and hundreds more submitted written testimony. For this I am very grateful. Texans clearly stating their case is exactly what is needed.
Another one of my colleagues, Senator Robert Nichols, has introduced a measure that I am proud to announce I have signed on to as a co-author. The bill, Senate Bill 1267, seeks to put a two year moratorium on comprehensive development agreements. This bill would effectively place a two year moratorium on TTC projects. I have advocated for a moratorium and am proud that most members of the senate already support this bill. The great outpouring of concern over the TTC merits, at the very least, a long pause to consider the ramifications of this project on our state and the future of Texas.
All of the improvements to the Trans-Texas Corridor plan that I have worked to accomplish are founded in my belief that new roads should only be constructed if a clear need for them is demonstrated and local input is given the importance it deserves. I am steadfastly committed to the principles of common sense and fairness and will lend my full and unwavering support to all legislation that effectively works to bring those principles to the TTC. I hope that you will support my efforts and recognize that I am doing everything in my power to protect you, your families, and our neighbors.