Skip to comments.I-69 concerns? TxDot brings forum to town
Posted on 02/03/2008 2:38:04 PM PST by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
Local residents who want to add their two cents about the proposed Interstate 69 construction won't have to fill their tanks to do it. TxDOT is coming to Longview.
The Texas Department of Transportation is holding 46 public hearings this month in East and South Texas along the planned corridor, including Tuesday's meeting in Longview. The hearings will give Texans a chance to comment and ask questions about the proposed Interstate 69/Trans-Texas Corridor, a collection of passenger and freight roadways, utility and rail lines from Texarkana to the Rio Grande Valley.
A draft environmental impact statement released in November suggests the route following U.S. 59 through Harrison County and around Marshall, either by using part of the existing highway or building a new corridor to parallel U.S. 59. Longview leaders have not hidden their desire for a route between Marshall and Hallsville that would make I-69 a 20-minute drive from Gregg County.
For years, Marshall leaders have pushed for the extension of the interstate, which runs from Indianapolis to the Canadian border. Officials from Indiana to Texas want the highway extended to the Mexican border.
Gov. Rick Perry has proposed building the highway from Texarkana through East Texas and southwest to the Rio Grande Valley through a public-private partnership called the Trans-Texas Corridor. It's an idea that has won supporters and detractors.
"This is the only opportunity that we're going to have to personally put your opinion on record either in favor of or against an I-69 facility in northeast Texas," Mary Owen, TxDOT Tyler District engineer said of the Longview meeting. "It's in our own back yard to tell the Department of Transportation whether this community at large would like to see this facility constructed and their concerns about its impact to the community."
An open house begins at 5 p.m. for local residents to speak with Texas Department of Transportation officials to learn more about the plan. TxDOT officials will be prohibited from addressing comments made during the public hearing.
"This is the opportunity for the public to become involved and give input as to their feelings and their thoughts about I-69," said Bob Ratcliff, TxDOT Atlanta District engineer. "It's very important for residents to show their concerns, their support or their reservations about this project."
Longview is served by TxDOT's Tyler District. However, plans call for I-69 to traverse Harrison County, which is in Ratcliff's district. Similar public hearings will be held Thursday in Marshall, Feb. 14 in Nacogdoches, Feb. 5 in Carthage and Feb. 21 in Jefferson.
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for I-69/TTC recommends continued focus on using existing highways first with new corridors as a secondary option, according to keeptexasmoving.com, an online TxDOT site devoted to the Trans-Texas Corridor.
Projected models show the corridor following U.S. 59 from about 50 miles north of Houston through Angelina, Nacogdoches, Panola, Harrison, Marion and Cass counties to Texarkana. It has not been decided whether the corridor will be built east or west of Marshall, but Longview transportation officials are not hiding that they want the highway closer to Gregg County.
"We would like to see it on the western segment," Longview Metropolitan Planning Organization Director Karen Owen said Monday. She urges local residents to attend the public hearing and show their support.
"There is still a lot of discussion about the exact location," Ratcliff added. "Some locations don't want the corridor coming near them. We continually get calls, mainly from citizens that would like to know the location. And of course, we don't know that yet."
A more western route for I-69 could cut the number of new roadway miles and the cost of the separate East Texas Hourglass project. The Hourglass would connect with Tyler's Loop 49 to cross into Gregg and Upshur counties to form an outer loop around Longview and then east to I-69 north of Marshall. It gets its name because of its hourglass shape, particularly with an eastern leg that would extend from northeast Longview to I-20. The $237 million project has a 2015 targeted completion date, according to the Longview MPO.
Owen said having I-69 in East Texas would be good for Longview and Tyler even if it's built east of the two urban areas, and connecting the Hourglass to it will give those cities improved north-south mobility.
"I think it's essential for our future growth."
The Texas portion of I-69 would be about 650 miles long and up to 1/4 of a mile wide in some areas, according to TxDOT.
The state agency held a town hall meeting Jan. 16 in Carthage, and several local residents expressed dismay about the loss of land and property if the corridor is built. Other residents were concerned about plans to make the interstate a toll road and about the possible private-public partnership with international companies.
In December, TxDOT issued formal requests for proposals to two private developer teams for detailed plans on how to finance, design, construct, operate and maintain I-69/TTC. San Antonio-based Zachry American Infrastructure is heading one team, and Spain-based Cintra leads the other. Cintra and Zachry already have teamed up for an $8 billion project to build Trans-Texas Corridor 35 between Dallas and San Antonio.
"This corridor is a top priority not only for TxDOT but for Governor Perry as well. We've met with leaders along the corridor in recent weeks explaining the work we have underway to accelerate this long overdue project," said Ned Holmes of the Texas Transportation Commission to Reuters News Agency in December. "The I-69 corridor has been a work in progress for the past 16 years, and it is high time we pour some concrete. In fact, we are ready to proceed to the next step."
A TxDOT official told the Huntsville Item on Thursday that the route could be determined by mid-2009.
Local TxDOT forums
Feb. 14: Nacogdoches
Feb. 21: Jefferson
Full details and schedule at www.keeptexasmoving.com
LONGVIEW - The Texas Department of Transportation plans to host the next public hearing about the Interstate 69/Trans Texas Corridor on Wednesday.
I-69/TTC is a proposed project that would span Texarkana and Houston along the current U.S. Highway 59 route, then turn southwest and link with the border between the United States and Mexico.
The meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. at the Maude Cobb Activity Center in Longview, 100 Grand Blvd. According to TxDOT, the meeting is designed to gather public comments on a draft environmental impact statement. TxDOT officials will be available to discuss the DEIS at 5 p.m., followed by a public comment period at 6:30 p.m. By law, TxDOT officials cannot answer questions or respond to public comments during the comment period.
"That aspect of the hearings has confused some people in the past, but it's required by federal law that we do it that way," said Larry Krantz, TxDOT spokesman.
Comments recorded during the public comment period will be added to the DEIS record and used to help determine the future of the project, officials said.
TxDOT said it's using a wide study area to take into account ways of reducing the impact of the proposed interstate on communities, historical sites and natural resources. The DEIS process is a means of narrowing the study area.
The DEIS will be modified once the public hearings are complete, and a final environmental impact statement will be produced. The EIS will undergo another round of public hearings before it's submitted to the Federal Highway Administration for approval. Only the FHWA can approve or cancel the project.
Officials said that, because of a lack of funding for the 600-mile-long project, it will be built in stages if it's approved. It's also likely to be turned into a toll road, they said, to help pay for further construction and maintenance.
People can also submit comments online at www.keeptexasmoving.com, or mail them to I-69/TTC, P.O. Box 14428, Austin, 78761. Comments must be received by March 19.
TxDOT officials said public comments will shape the final decisions regarding the proposed interstate. A complete listing of public hearing dates and locations is available at www.keeptexasmoving.com.
Trans-Texas Corridor PING!
/view from Pottsboro