Is the Trans-Texas Corridor Playing Dead?
During this election season, Gov. Rick Perry is trying to win votes in part by hinting that, per the loudly stated wishes of the people, he’s letting go of at least a portion of his grand dream of a Trans-Texas Corridor toll road complex that was planned to run from Mexico up to the Oklahoma border, laying waste to farms and towns along its 1,200-foot-wide path.
On April 23, the Texas Department of Transportation released an environmental impact study on a key portion of the corridor, the TTC-35 project, and then told the Federal Highway Administration that Texas is asking for no action to be taken on the proposal. According to a TxDOT press release, if the FHA concurs, “… the TTC-35 project would end.”
That’s clear, right? Ding-dong, the TTC is dead, or at least the TTC-35 portion?
Well, mebbe, mebbe not. TTC opponents say that what Perry and the state transportation agency have really done is not to kill the project at all but to put it into a sort of limbo from which it could be resurrected in the future — say, if Perry wins re-election this fall.
If the state agency really wanted to kill the project, said Terri Hall, founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF), “all TxDOT would have to do is submit a letter to the Federal Highway Administration notifying them that they were withdrawing the project. But they didn’t do that. They requested that ‘no action’ be taken by the FHA on the final environmental impact study.” It’s an unprecedented legal maneuver, she said.
“If Perry gets [re-]elected, he darn sure could reopen the project by asking the FHA to change ‘no action’ … to ‘action,’ ” said Mae Smith, mayor of the central Texas town of Holland and president of the Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission — a body formed specifically to give several communities a way to fight the TTC. “What we’re demanding is that the [federal highway agency] withdraw this very poorly done environmental study altogether so that if Perry and TxDOT ever come back to try to build this thing again they will have to start all over.”
Smith’s group has told the federal agency that they will sue to have the environmental impact report withdrawn if the highway agency goes along with TxDOT and accepts the “no action” alternative.
Even as poorly done as she believes the study is, Smith said it still notes that dozens of endangered plants and animals throughout the state could be severely affected by the proposed corridor — not to mention that a lot of the best farmland in the state would be permanently paved over and a million Texans displaced.