Trans-Texas Corridor

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is planning on building a new super highway system called the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC). The Trans-Texas Corridor will not be just another interstate and will it will be used by more than just automobiles. It will include 10 lanes for traffic, two high speed rail tracks, four standard rail tracks, utility lines, oil pipelines, and gas pipelines.

The Trans-Texas Corridor will consist of many corridors segments that are 1,200 feet wide, with each mile consuming 146 acres of land. This land is currently ranch and farm land that is being taken by eminent domain. Eminent domain is a law where the government can take land for the public good. The owner of that property is compensated at current market rates. It is estimated that 580,000 acres (906 square miles) will be taken from private owners and given to the state for the Trans-Texas Corridor. Property owners that own land near the corridor could also see their property values decrease. As the land decreases in value or changes hands to the state, local communities will lose property tax revenue. Also, if the project is funded privately, then lands will be taken away from individuals and leased to private investors or corporations. The government should not be involved in wealth distribution.

The Trans-Texas Corridor will cost an estimated 184 billion dollars. Currently, Texas is seeking private investment to fund the Trans-Texas Corridor. Cintra, a Spanish firm, is the largest financer so far. They will build, design and operate the highway. If private funding is insufficient, Texas could use public funding. Texas is actively seeking federal funding for part of the project, but Representatives like Ron Paul have submitted bills trying to block this federal funding. Most of the Trans-Texas Corridor road access will be toll roads. Toll road earnings will be used to pay investors and to maintain the roads. If public money is used to pay for part of the TTC it would become double taxation. Motorists would have to pay for tolls and pay for the road with gasoline tax revenues.

Most of the Trans-Texas Corridor roads will have limited access. This means that the Corridor will bypass many of the communities it runs through with no on-ramps or off-ramps; thus, many local communities will not benefit. Communities that depend on travel dollars will see some of that traffic siphoned off by the TTC. The proposed plan is for restaurants, gas stations and hotels that accompany the TTC to be state contracted concessions located within the corridor.

Proponents think that the Trans-Texas Corridor will be a national model that will increase highway efficiency. This will be achieved by reducing current congestion and allowing for faster and safer transportation of freight and people. Current congestion in cities will be decreased because traffic on the TTC will be routed around major cities. High speed rail and better traffic flow will lead to less pollution. Faster transportation could reduce the costs of goods for consumers. Proponents also assume that by using a fee based model most of the upkeep costs of the system will be paid for by usage.

Opponents believe that this is the start of the North American Union highway system. They believe this is a system which will provide cheaper transportation of goods from Mexico; thus, enabling more jobs to move to Mexico. Recently Mexico has made investments to improve their ports. They are spending $200 million to expand Mexico's deepest port, Lazaro, Cardenas. Lazaro, Cardenas is 900 miles south of Laredo, Texas. Considering Mexico dock workers make $12 a day and the port fees are lower, it would make sense to bring shipments to a port that is only a short distance from the US border, such as Punta Colonet. Punta Colonet, 150 miles south of the California border, is expected to become a super port. Part of the proposed 5 billion dollar investment into Punta Colonet includes a railway into the US. If Mexico introduces a highway system at the border that transports goods faster, the idea of shipping into and out of Mexico becomes very feasible for many businesses.

Los Angeles' Port is running out of capacity, shipping nearly 14.2 million TEUs (units used to measure container traffic) a year. The Punta Colonet port is expected to be able to handle 5 million TEUs. The Lazaro port is expected to handle 500,000 TEUs a year. A few million TEUs going to Mexico might not seem like a lot when Los Angeles, the busiest port in America, handles over 14 million. It would be better if other US cities handled those containers. The Baja peninsula in Mexico has a lot of potential for deep water ports with over 3,000 acres of backland off the beach. If development in Mexico expands and has the right transportation system on land, the container business could rapidly move south. Dock workers in California and Texas could suffer as competition from Mexico grows. Businesses that support the importing of goods will also be affected.

The biggest slap in the face is that the state has developed the Texas Trans-Corridor bill, HB 3588, out of public eye. A closed door meeting hashed out the 100 page bill. Then the bill creating the TTC was signed by Governor Perry with no media attention. Closed door meetings have taken place to discuss where the branches of the corridors will run. For the TTC 69 corridor (project to run along I-69), the local Chamber of Commerce businesses were invited but not the taxpaying public. The Trans-Texas Corridor needs to involve the public. It is private land that will be ripped from the owner's and given to the state to be run by corporations. If the Tran-Texas Corridor is built, the public could lose jobs and property value because of the; therefore, it only makes sense to involve them.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author/contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Nolan Chart or its ownership

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