Tuesday, September 10, 2002

EDITORIAL: Trans Texas Corridor: "Most Texans know almost nothing about it. "

Transportation plan zooms quietly ahead

While its aims are worthy, the Trans Texas Corridor could create a whole new set of problems.

San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2002

Texas is embarking on what the Texas Department of Transportation describes as "the largest engineering project ever proposed for Texas ," the Trans Texas Corridor .

Yet, as the wheels churn within the department preparing for this project, most Texans know almost nothing about it.

They are not learning about it from the governor's race. Voters are hearing no more about transportation than they are about the state's budget deficit.

The more we learn about the Trans Texas Corridor , the more problematic it sounds.

The corridor will include separate highway lanes for trucks and passenger vehicles; high-speed passenger rail; freight rail; commuter rail; and a dedicated utility zone.

The estimated total cost of the project is from $145.2 billion to $183.5 billion - that's right, billion.

Because the state does not have the means to pay for such a project, it is requesting proposals from private contractors or regional authorities for toll projects.

Contractors must make rail part of any proposed project.

Here are a few major concerns:

-Those making proposals will have broad latitude to select routes, with the Department of Transportation condemning property and leasing it to them.

-The private developers will be able to buy land near exits, creating sprawl throughout the state.

-Although an obvious goal should be to connect major cities, the routes, in fact, bypass major population centers, meaning they will be forced to create additional transportation systems and highways to connect with Trans Texas Corridor routes.

The goals are admirable: (1) providing faster ways to move people and goods, (2) relieving congestion, (3) taking hazardous materials away from major population centers, (4) improving air quality and (5) helping the economy.

But a new transportation system must not create major new problems for the next generation to solve.

© 2002 San Antonio Express-News: www.mysanantonio.com