Skip to comments.Gorden named to I-69/TTC advisory committee
Posted on 04/01/2008 5:50:42 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
Lufkin Mayor Jack Gorden has been selected by the Texas Transportation Committee to serve on a citizens' advisory committee for putting together information regarding the proposed Interstate 69/Trans-Texas Corridor.
According to Texas Department of Transportation officials, advisory committee members represent a cross-section of community and business leaders, landowners, local transportation experts and others.
"Our goal is to enhance the public dialogue and meaningfully involve more Texans in transportation decisions," said Texas Transportation Commission Chair Hope Andrade. "These committees will have an important seat at the table as we work together to shape the future of transportation for our state."
Gorden said that he hopes his nomination to the committee "gives this area a voice in that project. Hopefully I can be a conduit for how a majority of people in East Texas feel about the project."
Much of the reaction from citizens during public meetings and hearings as well as state legislators from East Texas has been negative toward TxDOT building a separate TTC superhighway. Most of the favorable comments were toward TxDOT aiming at upgrading existing highway facilities — in the case of I-69, upgrading of the existing U.S. 59 corridor.
"I would hope we can bring the TTC back into play from an improvement standpoint of the existing U.S. 59," Gorden said. "I personally think we need to get back to that kind of mindset — not to mention the reality of it happening a whole lot sooner. Ultimately, we want what is best for Lufkin and Angelina County," Gorden said.
The committees will study and prepare reports on the impacts of corridor development, including economic, political, societal, population trends; the use of existing, new and upgraded facilities; road and rail solutions; and financing options.
Based on report findings, the committee will make recommendations to TxDOT's executive director and the transportation committee on the development of priority corridors such as I-69 as well as I-35. Committee meetings are expected to begin this spring, with each committee scheduled to serve through December 2009.
Aside from Gorden, other appointments to the I-69/TTC citizens' advisory committee from East Texas include Nolan Alders of Nacogdoches, Cynthia Leleko of Marshall and John Thompson of Livingston.
BELTON - Texas Department of Transportation officials say the funding situation in the agency is so dire that previously planned Interstate 35 expansion projects may be delayed or even scrapped.
The funding shortages would not affect projects already under way like the Temple Loop 363 project or the project south of Salado, said Ken Roberts, TxDOT spokesman.
But five other Bell County projects to increase the northbound and southbound lanes of I-35 from two to three lanes are in danger because of a lack of funding.
Those projects represent different sections of the interstate spanning from Troy to Salado.
“The funding situation is so serious that all work to expand I-35 through the Waco district may come to an end or at the very least be significantly delayed for years unless both the state and federal transportation funding forecast can be changed by state and federal legislative action to find significant new revenue sources for transportation in Texas,” said Richard Skopik, Waco District engineer, in an e-mail sent to city and county leaders in the region.
When County Judge Jon Burrows received Skopik’s e-mail, he sent an e-mail to state and federal representatives for this region pleading for help.
“Bell County needs immediate help at your level,” the e-mail stated. “I ask for your help. If there is anything more we need to be doing at the city or county level to keep the expansion of I-35 continuing, please let me know.”
In 1999 the Waco District of TxDOT began studying 94 miles of I-35 from Hillsboro to the Bell/ Williamson county line to find the best way to add a lane in each direction.
The study divided the corridor into 17 segments, six of which are under construction. Those six segments will be finished, Roberts said.
“The remaining right of way alone will likely near $150 million and the 11 remaining segments needing construction will exceed $1 billion,” wrote Skopik. “If funds became available, it is estimated that 8 to 10 years of construction remains.”
Roberts said funding allocations from the federal government that in years past have been reliable have been cut. Last year the Department of Transportation made $288 million in cuts in Texas alone.
Roberts said such cuts coupled with material, transportation and fuel costs have made the budget tight.
Facing uncertain funding for future projects had led the agency to spend money shoring up the infrastructure that is already in place, Roberts said.
The Waco District spends an average of $10 to $15 million a year maintaining its nearly 120-mile section of I-35, Skopik said.
The funding challenges TxDOT faces in expanding the I-35 corridor may not meet the challenges of the projected growth for Bell County.
“A total of 10 to 14 lanes through Central Texas are predicted to be needed in 2025 to properly address growing congestion,” Skopik wrote. “This is the very reason TxDOT feels strongly that a parallel corridor of some type is needed, long term, to truly address this matter.
“In so doing, TxDOT has an obligation to plan for the long-term needs of I-35 and is doing this through the development of Trans-Texas Corridor – 35. The question really becomes how Texas will pay for this long-term need.”
The Texas Department of Transportation is extending a public comment period on an environmental impact statement for the highly controversial Trans-Texas Corridor.
The deadline for comments was extended to April 18, with the approval of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Numerous state and federal officials, had called for the extension, including state Sen. Glenn Hegar.
FHWA must ultimately approve the route for any new interstate highway.
“I was glad to hear that TxDOT and the FHWA agreed to extend the public comment period for the environmental study,” said Hegar. “The potential impact on the local environment is significant and few know that as well as those who live on the land under study.
“The acrimonious relations between TxDOT and the public has led to great skepticism for many and that is understandable. That said, it is extremely important that all concerned parties detail their position in writing, particularly as relates to any negative environmental effects that the project would have on their area, so that their thoughts are clearly known to the FHWA, which will act as the ultimate authority on the path of this potential roadway.”
One of the Trans-Texas Corridor routes sends the mammoth highway through Hegar’s 18th District, which includes Washington County.
FWHA ensures compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and oversees the environmental impact statement process.
More than 14,000 submissions Texans have already sent to TxDOT concerning the corridor.
The FHWA will compare the routes under study and can order TxDOT to use the existing highways or halt the project altogether.
“I talk to concerned residents of Senate District 18 every day, many of whom detail the problems they have with this project and the negative impact they foresee should it be constructed, so I know that there is a wealth of information that the FHWA can benefit from and I want to ensure that they have it, so I again strongly urge all concerned parties who have not offered their thoughts do so immediately,” said Hegar. “Like most of my constituents, I do not believe a believe a completely new path is needed or warranted.”
The draft environmental impact statement can be accessed online at http://ttc.keeptexasmoving.com/pdfs/projects/i69/deis/summary.pdf.
Written comments can be submitted at http://ttc.keeptexasmoving.com/comments_questions/comments_i69.aspx or by mail to I-69/TTC, P.O. Box 14228, Austin, Texas 78761.
Meanwhile, opponents of the Trans-Texas Corridor have announced they will stage a rally Saturday in Austin to oppose the project.
Texans United for Reform and Freedom officials said they hope to attract thousands of participants marching down Congress Avenue to the state capitol. The rally will begin at 1 p.m.
Trans-Texas Corridor PING!