Skip to comments.Citizens turn out to protest 'La Entrada' (Trucks from Mexico)
Posted on 03/15/2007 5:46:32 PM PDT by devane617
Citizens turn out to protest 'La Entrada'Of the estimated 350 people who attended the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) La Entrada al Pacifico Trade Corridor Feasibility Study public meeting in Alpine on Tuesday, not one was in favor of passage through the Big Bend region.
Although TxDOT engineer Peggy Thurin, who is overseeing the study, said "This [project] is not a done deal," and that alternatives, including rail, other routes or doing nothing were being considered, the crowd made it clear they did not want a truck route under any circumstances.
Local resident Bob Schwab stood up before any public comment started, asking for a show of hands by those favoring the project. No hands were raised. About 300 raised when he asked how many people opposed it.
Speaker after speaker gave different reasons for opposing La Entrada, which would allow ships to unload at a proposed new port facility in Topolobampo, Mexico, then run by rail or truck on a proposed route across Sonora and Chihuahua to Ojinaga, through the U.S. to a proposed transit terminal in Odessa/Midland.
Sierra Club members Don Dowdy, Fran Sage and Roger Siglin all questioned both the increased air pollution from diesel-engined trucks and the environmental damage new highway construction would cause. Like most speakers at the three-hour meeting, they suggested using rail lines to move freight through the area. Mayor Mickey Clouse read an official city resolution in which the Alpine City Council requests that TxDOT give priority to upgrading the South Orient railroad.
Several local officials, including mayors, county commissioners and judges, were in attendance, but the majority were those who have moved to the Big Bend to take advantage of the "unspoiled" environment, or residents with economic interests in tourism and traditional local businesses like ranching. Teri Smith, who, with her husband, John, owns the Antelope Lodge, said a truck route would put her out of business.
"Tourists come for the peace and quiet, not to fight traffic," she said.
Rudy Kittlitz, who retired to Alpine, said, "We like pleasant surroundings."
Bill Addington of Sierra Blanca, who was representing the El Paso area Sierra Club, said a major truck route would "spell the end of ranching and farming. It will sacrifice the land for a few people in Midland and Odessa," he said. Addington also spoke on the need for community involvement in resisting projects proposed by outside interests, noting that Sierra Blanca was able to prevent a nuclear waste site from being located there, despite support for the plan throughout the rest of the state.
Several speakers mentioned that the low level of pollutants was a factor in locating in the region, and some, like Robert Flanders, detailed the chemical dangers associated with heavy truck travel. Bill White said he and his wife moved to the region because "Marfa and Fort Davis have the lowest pollution levels in the country." White said his wife has a "chemical sensitivity" and would have nowhere else to go. A few others also said that their own chronic health problems would be damaged by a truck route.
One or two speakers also noted that with trucks come headlights and the need for more lighting on the roads. The resulting light pollution would negatively impact McDonald Observatory.
The fact that trucks would be coming from Mexico was a special concern to some speakers. Retired trucker James Lee contended that Mexican trucks are unsafe and there are no weigh-stations or inspectors in the area now. The nearest weigh-station, Lee noted, was just outside Odessa. "And how often is it open?" he asked rhetorically.
Chaya McKenny, who said she was representing several concerned neighbors, suggested a truck route from Mexico will bring in gangs and drugs. She explained after her remarks that a truck route would make the Big Bend a "corridor" for drug trafficking and illegal immigrants.
"We're not up to support them, and all those problems come in with them," she said.
While nearly all speakers supported a rail-shipment alternative for "La Entrada" a few questioned the viability of the entire project. Charles Beckett wondered why U.S. and Texas taxpayers would be subsidizing Chinese goods being transported by Mexicans. Only one speaker made mention of the fact that the proposal depends on rail or road traffic through Copper Canyon in Chihuahua and Sonora, which would be a major engineering and environmental challenge.
Several speakers and audience members wondered whether the Odessa/Midland group, MOTRAN, wasn't looking to sacrifice the Big Bend for their own financial gain.
"It's politics. MOTRAN and 'La Entrada,'" said Judge Val Beard, are "designed to help Midland/Odessa. It's [Texas House Speaker] Tom Craddick and George Bush."
The public meeting in Alpine was one of four scheduled for this month. The first was held in Presidio on Monday. A public hearing in Midland will be held Monday, March 19, at the UTPB Center for Energy and Economic Diversification, and Tuesday, March 20, at Fort Stockton High School. Both meetings are scheduled to run from 6 to 8 pm.
The results of the public meetings or of written or e-mailed comments (TPP_LEAP@dot.state.tx.us) will be included in the "Conceptual Alternatives Screening" scheduled for June. That process involves looking at engineering, environmental and mobility data, and developing general alternative plans. A second round of public meetings follow in July, with further screening due in October. After a third round of public meetings in January 2008, the Corridor Development Plan, should there be one, will be released in March 2008.
I suspect his friends in Midland/Odessa, which is the destination of the truck traffic mentioned in this article, would be able to tell you how he feels. They thought they would route these trucks through an area away from the I-35 corridor and receive little to no protest. They were wrong. This is an area without much attention from newshounds, so it would be easier to slip a deal through. I hope an eager news person will dig into this.
I was on 35 last weekend going to Austin from Dallas. There are so many trucks it's dangerous already. It's obvious that Bush has not gotten in his car to get somewhere in many, many years. If he had any inkling at all about the traffic already on our highways he would not allow these Mexicans to add to it. He's totally out of touch with the real world.
I thought that would be the case. But, as has been said before: Follow the money. Why not El Paso? It cuts the travel distance, and travel time in half for the trip from the ports on the coast of Mexico, to an entry point in the US. El Paso is on the border, therefore no travel through rural areas. El Paso is on I-10, which is the destination anyway. As I mentioned, at the bottom of this story you will find big money for someone in Midland/Odessa. The people involved thought there would be no opposition from rural Texas. Now they know.
"And what does our president have to say about this?"
We all know the answer to that one. I'd like to know what the teamsters have to say about it.
Going through El Paso, would stop the taxpayers from having to build roads, or upgrade them, to handle the trucks via Alpine. Arizona would also be an option.
No need for the Panama Canal if that route becomes a reality.
Notice that it would also be to improve tourist access to Copper Canyon.
Everything considered, this corridor has the least potential of all of them. It is sad that the late, great city of Midland, once known as the Tall City where the wind blows and the oil flows, now has to grovel to get call centers and truck facilities to maintain its existence.
As for Arizona, the Mexican ports of Guaymas and Punta Colonet will be connected to Tucson. Of course, the nimbys in AZ are growling about that.
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