Is the Trans Texas Corridor dead?
Don’t break out the champagne too early. There is a lot of talk about the "death" of the Trans Texas Corridor. Talk is cheap.
Austin insiders say it’s dead because the unpopular project is too much of a liability for the Governor as he anticipates another campaign. Other’s say its dead because the Transportation Commission issued a rather limp promise not to do a lot of things they never planned to do in the first place, or that revenue projections no longer justify. The June 2nd "Burka Blog" cites the legitimate complaints of urban mayors about the controversial "market valuation" concept as the final straw. Congressman Ron Paul sent a constituent letter about the end of the NAFTA highway, crediting citizen outcry. (What about the citizen outcry in 2006, objecting to TTC-35, also referred to as the NAFTA highway? Better revenue projections?)
Critics are skeptical. And as I read the TxDOT press release in which Chairman Delisi refers to "a parallel corridor to I-35 and the long-awaited I-69", I am skeptical, too. That skepticism seems justified when TxDOT turned around and chose a proposer for the Corridor project south of Refugio County at their very next Commission meeting.
The tide is turning. But it will take more than public relations driven "principles" issued by TxDOT. The 2009 Legislature will have to put some law behind TxDOT’s empty promises. It is the Legislature who will put the final nails in the Corridor coffin. It is the Legislature who can mandate that TxDOT return to road building and stop lobbying, stop policy-making and stop developing their own independent revenue streams.
"Vote early, vote often". This election-season joke should be the theme for the next Legislative session. Our Senators and Representatives will have to pass bills limiting TxDOT and their love for public private partnerships early in the session, and unite against the predictable vetoes. Pass the private property rights protection bill early enough in the session to make it veto-proof.
In the meantime, the grassroots activists, the citizens of Texas, and the consumers who ultimately pay for every infrastructure decision made in Austin, must continue to speak out about the Corridor project.
TxDOT may have conceded the TTC/I-69 foot print, but they have not conceded the Corridor concept. As long as the broad authorities granted in the original HB3588 remain on the books, a Corridor is lurking in the shadows. As long as the law allows for a 1200 foot wide, multi-modal, private property devouring, auto/truck/train/utility/hotel-motel/food chain/gas station, Public Private Partnership nightmare, TxDOT will continue to plan for its development, and court private partners.