Saturday, May 17, 2008

"He does not understand how Texans feel about their land or how we feel about being pushed around by big government."

Governor Perry doesn't understand us

May 17, 2008

Letters to the Editor
Abelene Reporter-News
Copyright 2008

If our pretty Gov. Rick Perry's childhood home in Haskell County were to be split apart by eminent domain for the big highway, would he still be singing this song?

With no regard for his fellow Texans and no input by us, he is determined to get his Trans-Texas Corridor. A half a million acres of what some refer to as the finest farmland in America will be taken in the biggest land-grab in U.S. history. It will divide towns, ranches and farms. Your tax dollars are being used right now for radio ads that tell us how good this is going to be for us.

The Web site is still there. Go now and sign the petition.

We are trying to get rid of him and he is trying to run for an unprecedented third term. I don't think he gets it! He does not understand how Texans feel about their land or how we feel about being pushed around by big government.

Maybe we should storm the State House and take away his styling gel!

Sandra Kenley


© 2008 Abelene Reporter-News:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


"TxDOT has been prostituted by high-level state politicians with agendas directed toward providing for wealthy corporate benefactors."

Taking the low road

May 16, 2008

Larry Jones
The Weatherford Democrat
Copyright 2008

Just over 40 years ago my life took a quite dramatic turn. At this time I left the comfort of home and family and embarked on an all-expense paid tour of the world — courtesy of the United States Navy. Having lived my entire life in Parker County, I had a quite limited knowledge of any place other than Texas, and typical of most young men with whom I grew up, I was quite proud to be a Texan. Additionally, I wasn’t a bit bashful about letting the rest of the world know what they had missed.

During this time, one of the things we Texans treasured most was our wonderful highway system throughout the state. We had seemingly endless miles of wide and open roads that were as smooth as a baby’s behind. Our state highways, along with an excellent network of rural farm-to-market and ranch roads, were the envy of the nation. These roads were maintained like the Pebble Beach Golf Course, and plans were on the drawing boards to expand this system to even greater dimensions.

When you crossed the state line into Louisiana, Arkansas or Oklahoma, you felt like you’d blown a tire, lost control of your car and were driving in the bar ditch. This was the Texas Highway Department I recollect that day in 1967, when I crossed over into Louisiana at Shreveport en route to Pensacola, Fla., to begin Navy flight training.

What happened during the time I was gone from our great state? When the Highway Department became the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), did they staff the head office in Austin with Okies, Hillbillies and Cajuns?

By the time I returned to my Texas roots, the roads were in a chaotic state, both in physical condition and congestion. Taxes had skyrocketed during my absence, and yet our roadways had been allowed to rot. I could not have imagined how road conditions would continue to deteriorate in subsequent years.

With the continuing influx of newly-minted Texans, many of our major thoroughfares are becoming parking lots.

The solution for fixing our failing highway system that keeps echoing out of Austin is to build toll roads. Wow, how could it get any better than that? Oh wait, I just thought of a way! Let’s allow private companies, even foreign owned ones, to take over our existing roads, build a few new ones, and charge us “little people” to drive on them. That sounds just like a passage out of the book of Revelations.

I read recently TxDOT announced due to funding shortfalls, it was diverting $5 billion from maintenance funds to use for badly needed new construction. Why does this reek of deception?

From my back porch it looks like the bureaucratic weasels are softening us up to the idea of more toll roads.

Potholes can do terrible things to a person’s mind. I understand one rationale for toll roads is to make the ones who drive on them pay for them. This is true, but state gas taxes, which incidentally haven’t been raised in 15 years, accomplish the same thing. However, they do not necessitate massive profits for foreign investors, Zachry Construction Co., or buying on credit. If additional funding is needed for highway infrastructure, state officials should budget for it and it is incumbent that lawmakers provide it. TxDOT has been prostituted by high-level state politicians with agendas directed toward providing for wealthy corporate benefactors.

Until more transparency is achieved within state government we can expect even greater cronyism in Austin, and the “chug-holes” still won’t get filled.

Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy Commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to

© 2008 The Weatherford Democrat:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Friday, May 16, 2008

Texas Legislaure allows 'corporate raider ' to become a 'natural resources raider.'

Billionaire begins to obtain easements

May 16, 2008

The Associated Press
Copyright 2008

LUBBOCK, Texas — Cecil Martin is none too pleased at the prospect of losing part of his home in the Texas Panhandle to make way for billionaire T. Boone Pickens' water and wind energy projects.

Depending on the precise location of the outer most marker of the easement being sought by Pickens' projects, the 68-year-old Martin said, he'd have one less room in his Gray County home.

"They'll either get the kitchen or the front porch," he said. "Take your pick."

Representatives of the oil and investment tycoon last month sent letters to about 1,100 landowners along a proposed 250-mile path through 11 Panhandle and Central Texas counties to tell them their "property may be affected" in obtaining rights of way for construction of an underground pipeline and aboveground electrical transmission lines, the letter stated.

The two delivery systems will allow Pickens to transport water from the Ogallala Aquifer — though he has no buyer yet — and deliver wind energy to "customers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and potentially elsewhere," the letter states.

Hardeman County landowner Kenneth Horton called Pickens — once was known as a corporate raider for takeovers of oil companies in the 1980s — a "natural resources raider."

The last thing Horton wants to see when he gazes out over his thousands of acres — which include pioneer dugouts and American Indian sites — are power lines, he said.

"He's going to hold everybody hostage," said Horton, a banker in Quanah. "He's going to do to the aquifer what he did to" oil companies in the 1980s.

But Pickens is forging ahead even before obtaining rights of way.

On Thursday, officials with Mesa Power, LP announced the company will buy 667 wind turbines from General Electric Co. It will build the first of four phases of the $12 billion project.

When completed the 2,700 turbine wind farm, will be capable of producing enough electricity to power 1.3 million homes and be the world's largest.

Construction of the pipeline and transmission lines was expected to begin in 2009 under the auspices of the Roberts County Fresh Water Supply District No. 1 and Mesa Power. The only two residents living within the 8-acre water district — both Pickens' employees — voted to approve its creation in November.

Pickens spokesman Jay Rosser said the goal is to minimize the impact the rights of way have on landowners.

Dealings with them will be open, honest and fair; engineers spent six months using aerial photographs to avoid homes, neighborhoods and businesses, said Rosser and Monty Humble, an attorney working for Pickens.

Also, engineers worked to match the proposed rights of way route to existing high-voltage transmission lines, and to abutt property lines and roadways, Rosser said.

"It has increased the cost of the project significantly, but it's something we feel strongly about," he said.

The letter also sought permission to survey from landowners whose "property lies along this preliminary route." There was also information about informal open houses in various towns nearby the proposed route and two of five scheduled gatherings remain — in Jacksboro and Holliday — next week.

"This is just the first step in the process," said Steve Zerangue, a spokesman for Pickens. "We are optimistic that we'll get these folks signed up for the easement."

If Pickens and the landowners can't reach agreement on payments for rights of way, the water district, a governmental entity, can use eminent domain to sue landowners for condemnation of their property.

"The state of Texas has for over 100 years authorized the use of eminent domain to permit the common necessities of life, water, electricity, telephone service, oil and gas for use in the big cities," said Humble, Pickens' attorney.

Until last year, though, the wind project couldn't not have been included in the process of obtaining rights of way.

Lawmakers in the last legislative session voted to allow renewable and clean-coal energy projects to piggyback obtaining rights of way with a district like the one Pickens formed last year to "construct, maintain, and operate transmission lines."

State Sens. Bob Duncan (R-Lubbock) and Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), whose districts the route runs through, will hold a town hall meeting in Childress on Friday to discuss the issue with landowners affected by the project.

Seliger said his office has been getting "lots of calls" from affected landowners.

"Eminent domain is hardly anything new but this was different in some respects," Seliger said of the piggyback issue.

The legislation that enables the wind project to piggyback with Pickens water plan was a House amendment that was "brought in very, very late in the session," and added to a statewide water bill, SB 3, Seliger said.

Often, he said, there are unintended consequences to legislation; he wants to revisit the amendment next session.

"That's why we want to go talk to them," Seliger said, referring to the landowners.

© 2008 The Associaed Press: www.ap.prg

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


"Virtually unregulated foreign ownership of American assets."

Carlyle Group buyout would add billions in sensitive U.S. contracts to portfolio partially owned by Abu Dhabi government

$2.54 billion deal warrants close scrutiny, heightened standards for review, given "critical services" involved

May 16, 2008

Service Employees International Union
Copyright 2008

WASHINGTON--Today's announcement that global buyout firm Carlyle Group will pay $2.54 billion for Booz Allen's government consulting arm demands immediate congressional attention to examine any national security implications and to clarify present and future control issues before the deal receives regulatory approval.

Last September, Carlyle announced that the Mubadala Development fund of the government of Abu Dhabi paid $1.35 billion for a 7.5% ownership stake in Carlyle. Driven by rising oil prices and the falling dollar, foreign countries are increasingly investing in the U.S. economy through the purchase of stakes in leading American companies by sovereign wealth funds.

Carlyle's acquisition of Booz-Allen's government business, which held $1.2 billion in Department of Defense contracts last year, raises the question if foreign governments could potentially gain access to sensitive national security information through their stakes in private equity firms.

The stakes are becoming alarmingly high, as the Carlyle Group announced its intention to invest billions in developing U.S. infrastructure such as toll roads, water and sewer systems, bridges, tunnels, highways and airports.

In a report released last month, "Sovereign Wealth Funds and Private Equity: Increased Access, Decreased Transparency," the Service Employees International Union outlined issues that arise when opaque foreign funds team up with secretive buyout firms. SEIU is sharing its concerns about the proposed Booz Allen buyout with Senate and House committees on armed services.

"Current U.S. rules exempting private equity from many disclosure requirements coupled with gaps in laws concerning foreign ownership have inadvertently left a door open for virtually unregulated foreign ownership of American assets," according to the report, which included the following recommendations:

1) The beneficial ownership structure of the general partnership/management company and/or limited partnerships controlling funds must be disclosed -- particularly if their portfolio companies contract for the U.S. government;

2) Mandatory CFIUS investigation of proposed deals involving private equity firms and SWFs;

3) New SEC rules concerning Regulation D should be rescinded;

4) Representatives of a sovereign wealth fund, including private equity advisers, fund managers, or others acting on its behalf, must register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Related links:

  • © 2008 PR Newswire:

    To search TTC News Archives click HERE

    To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


    TxDOT on the TTC and CDA's: "The Legislature will find a way to get comfortable with this idea and find a way to do business in this manner.”

    The Road Ahead

    Chamber forum addresses area transportation

    May 16, 2008

    The Waxahachie Daily Light
    Copyright 2008

    MIDLOTHIAN — When you talk about Texas highways you end up talking about local road needs and Austin funding problems.

    Bill Pierce, Ellis County area engineer with the Texas Department of Engineering, said the state has traditionally paid for road projects on a “pay-as-you-go” funding process that requires the state to have the money before projects begin. But Pierce said this formula is beginning to cause problems as the state grows and the need for new roads and maintenance outstrips money coming out of Austin.

    Pierce and Ellis County Pct. 4 Commissioner Ron Brown were the guest speakers at Midlothian Chamber of Commerce Business Luncheon at noon Wednesday.

    Pierce gave a quick rundown of local road projects before tackling the problem of state funding for highway projects.

    Loop 9

    This project would build 280 miles of roads around the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex and has been proposed for more than 30 years.

    “Loop 9 is sort of affiliated with TTC and would be a big doughnut around the Metroplex,” said Pierce. “It’s a massive project with a 600-foot wide right-of-way. The southern portion would dip into Ellis County and plans are to build the southern section first.”

    The massive highway project crosses U.S. Highway 67 North near Skyline Acres and U.S. Highway 287 West near Padera Lake.

    Loop 9 has been “fast-tracked” by the Texas Legislature and Pierce said the project is before federal highway engineers and could get federal funding as soon as 2009.


    Pierce said the U.S. Highway 287 bypass around Ennis is probably the top priority in Ellis County right now.

    “In the mid-1990s we built a portion of it, but not all of it,” said Pierce. “We always planned for it to be four-lane.”

    Pierce said the project has basically been cut in half with the northern section of this $26 million project slated to be finished first.

    “Congressman Joe Barton and others recently got us $10 million and we are hoping it all comes together,” he said, adding that the southern section carries a $40 million price tag at this time and is completely unfunded.


    Pierce said the city of Midlothian and the state are working on a joint project to build frontage road on U.S. Highway 67 from Ninth Street to U.S. Highway 287.

    “This project crosses the railroad tracks and is currently being reviewed by the railroad company,” he said. “The city passed a bond to pay for their portion and have gone to TxDOT to speed up the project. The longer it takes to build it the more expensive it will get. We have committed to this project and we’re going to do it.”

    Pierce did say he has been talking to Midlothian officials about putting more money into the project and getting the work done even faster.

    “The timeframe is now longer than we anticipated,” he said.

    Expanding U.S. Highway 67 at Railport is another project being eyed by TxDOT.

    “Your Midlothian Development Authority was initially going to do this project, but rising expenses have made this project cost $6 million more than expected. The environmental (permits) have been OK’d and we are ready to begin right-of-way acquisition,” he said, noting the project is slated to be finished in 2010.

    Red Oak

    Widening Interstate 35 at Red Oak to six lanes also includes shoulder work that will ultimately widen it to eight lanes.

    “The widening of I-35 to six lanes near Red Oak is a about a year behind schedule,” Pierce said. “We’ve finally gotten things worked out with our contractor and that should speed up.”

    Pierce said this work will also make frontage roads one-way. He said this change will be implemented in the next few weeks.


    The expansion of the Interstate 35 corridor south of Waxahachie is a $120 million project and Pierce said the plan is completely unfunded at this time.

    Pierce pointed to a map that indicates work on I-35 around Waxahachie and maintenance on U.S. 77 south of town are major design projects for TxDOT. There is no funding for either of those projects at this time.

    Financing hurdles

    Building roads in Texas is easy, it’s paying for them that causes the problem.

    Pierce said the state and federal government have already reversed plans to fund highways across Texas to the tune of $1.5 billion.

    “They call those ‘rescissions’ and basically the money that was initially eyed for highway construction or maintenance is being spent on other things,” Pierce said. “A lot has been made about the crossed roads between TxDOT and the folks in Austin. Funding anything is a difficult job right now and when the Legislature meets in 2009 they will pickup the debate.”

    Since 1917, the state has shied away from issuing bonds to pay for highway construction and stuck to the idea of allocating the money from the budget and then building the road. As Texas grows and more highways are needed, this pay-as-you-go process has slowed both the construction of new roads and the maintenance of existing roads.

    A highway project proposed today is put on a list for funding. There is now a 30-year wait for project funding.

    “This has forced the state to look for creative ways to fund highways,” Pierce said.

    The state basically has new ways to fund new projects:

    • TMF – The Texas Mobile Fund takes fees collected for license plates and driver licenses and uses that fixed revenue to finance bonds. Pierce said this guaranteed revenue stream allows the state to turn around and issue bonds that are underwritten by fees collected from motorists.

    • SHF – The Safe Highway Fund is a financing tool that allows the state to issue up to $3 billion in bonds but limits that debt to $1 billion per year. Existing fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees are used to service this debt. Pierce said this fund is being rapidly depleted and the money must be earmarked for making highways safer.

    Pierce said these funds have been used in Ellis County to straighten curves on farm-to-market roads and to widen shoulders.

    • CDA – A comprehensive development agreement is the tool TxDOT uses to enable private investments in the Texas transportation system. It provides a competitive selection process for developing regional projects or much larger undertakings like the Trans-Texas Corridor.

    Pierce said using a public-private partnership, like a CDA, opens the door to accelerated financing, design, construction, operation and maintenance of a project.

    “The Trans-Texas Corridor left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths,” Pierce said. “People said we were selling our roads to foreigners by letting them finance and build toll roads and then collect the revenues.”

    Pierce pointed out most of the foreign companies would hire American contractors, who are required by state law to hire legal workers.

    “But voters let their elected officials know their views and things got warm and the Legislature put a moratorium on the project,” Pierce said. “I feel comfortable the Legislature will find a way to get comfortable with this idea and find a way to do business in this manner.”

    E-mail Floyd at

    © 2008 The Waxahachie Daily Light:

    To search TTC News Archives click HERE

    To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


    Thursday, May 15, 2008

    "It just offends me that a farce would allow eminent domain to apply."

    Pickens-led water, power project stirs concerns

    May 15, 2008

    By Elliott Blackburn
    The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
    Copyright 2008

    Miles of rolling grassland and mesquite surround Kenneth Horton's hilltop home, carpeting a view that reaches beyond the Red River on a clear day and into stars tossed like sand across the inky, rural night.

    He can tour pioneer dugouts and American Indian sites tucked throughout the few thousand acres of ranch land near Quanah his family has held for more than a century. For the past 25 years, he's opened the land to hunters from the Dallas area who bring their families to explore the property.

    Horton treasures the remote setting that drew him back from the Metroplex. The last thing the landscape needs, the small-town bank president said, is a power line.

    Plans for a $3.5 billion water and power transmission project stretching from Roberts County to just west of Fort Worth worry him.

    The project, proposed by a wind energy company and an unusual water district dominated by the company's owner, T. Boone Pickens, plans to bring billions of gallons of Ogallala water to thirsty North Texas residents and enough clean, renewable wind energy to power up to 1.2 million homes.

    But state legislators and rural landowners like Horton are balking at a project that exports water from a waning aquifer and an arrangement that seems to give a private project the public's power to take land.

    "It just offends me that a farce would allow eminent domain to apply," Horton said.

    Property owners along a 250-mile stretch between Roberts and Jack counties received letters in April alerting them of the proposed pipeline route. The letters, from the Roberts County Freshwater Supply District and Mesa Power, took the latest step in what even its detractors call an ingenious business plan.

    Pickens' ranch manager, Alton Boone, and his wife, Lu, cast the lone votes in November to create the 8-acre freshwater supply district. The couple and three other Pickens employees sit on the district's board.

    The freshwater district gives Pickens a governmental body that can move aquifer water held by the billionaire oilman and other Panhandle landowners to customers outside the region. Pickens could provide 200,000 acre feet of water - or roughly five times the water Lubbock uses each year - from beneath Roberts County to any buyer willing to pay for it.

    State law grants the district the powers of any other government, including the ability to force the sale of private property for fair market value. Project spokesman Steve Zerangue estimated more than 30 of the 650 tracts involved may end up in such proceedings, based on past experience with similar projects.

    An amendment that seemed to attract little notice in the last legislative session allows wind energy projects to use right of way held by a freshwater district to host transmission lines from wind energy projects. That works nicely for an enormous Pickens wind farm planned to supply up to 4,000 megawatts of power.

    The right-of-way route stops just west of Lake Bridgeport, roughly 60 miles northwest of Fort Worth. That allows the pipeline to deliver water to a region of the state forecasting that it can supply less than half of the water it needs in 2050.

    Mesa would string power lines along the route to a substation in Oklaunion, near Vernon, and then on to Jacksboro. Both facilities tie into the electrical grid that carries power to Dallas, Houston and almost all of Texas except for the Panhandle, a setup that has stranded the region's wind power from the rest of the state.

    Mesa has the resources and, with the right of way, may have the means to move them, but so far the project does not have customers. Major North Texas water providers included the proposal in the most recent state water plan while publicly expressing little interest in drawing from a region with its own long-term supply problems. The Roberts County water competes with well fields that supply roughly 60 percent of Lubbock's drinking water, and feeds Amarillo, Plainview and eight other Panhandle cities.

    The more than $1.6 billion price tag associated with the project wasn't enticing for the region, either.

    Mesa and the freshwater district were willing to take the chance that a water customer would not be found, Zerangue said.

    "That's a risk they're taking," he said. "Obviously they're not going to build a pipeline if there are no buyers, but we're still a year to 18 months from that."

    A water buyer may seem elusive now, but officials felt closer on an energy deal, he said.

    "I was told that or at least understand that that part of the project may begin before the construction of the water line," Zerangue said.

    Residents across the Panhandle risk losing a critical agricultural and municipal water supply to a region with better options, Lubbock Sen. Robert Duncan said. He and Amarillo Sen. Kel Seliger will host a town hall meeting for affected landowners Friday morning in Childress.

    Duncan felt the freshwater district seemed little more than an alter-ego for Mesa Power. Dallas had closer and more cost-effective ways to solve its water problems without using a plan pushed by a private company, he said.

    "It's just not feasible based on better alternatives that can be developed," Duncan said.

    Seliger said most of the worried residents who called his office had questions about eminent domain. The public doesn't benefit from a pipeline that burrows through rural homes to draw from a depleted aquifer, as the early path of the Mesa tract in some cases does, he said.

    "It's for private gain, is what's at the base of this," Seliger said.

    Horton planned to attend the meeting. The idea of exporting water from the aquifer, especially through his family ranch against his wishes, upset him, even if Dallas needs the water, he said.

    But he didn't give himself much of a chance.

    "I'm a little guy, but the Constitution of Texas and the United States guarantees that the little guy supposedly should have a say," Horton said. "That may be all I have, but I wanted to say it."

    © 2008 The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal:

    To search TTC News Archives click HERE

    To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


    “We’ve become a real burr in their side and we’re going to keep at it.”

    Byfields fight Trans-Texas Corridor


    By Philip Janksowski
    Taylor Daily Press
    Copyright 2008

    Taylor-area residents Dan and Margaret Byfield hope to become the Trans-Texas Corridor’s worst nightmare.

    The married couple head up two land rights organizations, the American Land Foundation and Stewards of the Range, that aim to keep rural communities from having land encroached upon by state and federal agencies through eminent domain.

    Both organizations operate across the U.S., in Wyoming, California, Colorado, South Dakota and Nebraska, but their current main goal is to challenge TxDOT in hopes of completely eliminating proposals for the quarter-mile wide superhighway.

    Currently they offer advice to residents of small towns and rural communities on how to corral TxDOT into coordinating with them, rather than just listening to and ignoring grievances some cities have with the Trans-Texas Corridor.

    The Byfields work in Texas is based on a local government code from 2001, which requires state and federal agencies to coordinate “to the greatest extent feasible” with future planning commissions created by two or more governmental entities — usually a city or county.

    “As individual cities, their opinions aren’t going to be listened to,” Dan Byfield said.

    They provide extensive literature with step-by-step instruction on how to create planning commissions and how opponents to the Trans-Texas Corridor should approach cities and counties that are sitting on proposed future areas for the highway.

    According to what they think are the most accurate plans — aerial photos indicating where roads and railroad tracks would be constructed — the corridor would come right through Rices Crossing, just west of Taylor Airport up to about a mile from the Byfields’ home and office on State Highway 29. None of the photos are official plans.

    Margaret and Dan Byfield both founded their own land rights advocacy groups prior to marrying. The 5,000-member strong Stewards of the Range emerged in order to support a lawsuit filed in 1991 by Margaret Byfield’s family in Nevada to keep the U.S Forest Service from seizing their land for water rights. That lawsuit is still ongoing.

    The American Land Foundation, created by Dan Byfield, was created by his own interest in land rights and is funded by the Farm Credit Bank of Texas.

    “It’s probably why we’re married, because we found each other out in this big country fighting the same fight,” Margaret Byfield said.

    Already they have forced TxDOT and the Environmental Protection Agency to the table with officials in Bell County, where four cities along with four school districts created a planning committee at their guidance. In that county, the Byfields said the corridor would take away between 4,000 and 5,500 acres of farmland while cutting many communities off from their only area hospital.

    “The TTC plan currently says an overpass would be every five or eight miles, or at a major road. They would force fire trucks to go up and down the highway in order to just get to the other side. If their neighboring fire department can’t get to the other side that’s huge,” Dan Byfield said.

    They also have created coalitions between government entities in Trinity, Waller and Nacogdoches counties. The two organizations will hold a seminar Thursday in El Campo to instruct government officials on how to create commissions.

    The Byfields have not contacted Taylor city officials or Williamson County commissioners about the Trans-Texas Corridor because of their perception that the two are both strongly in favor of the corridor—Taylor because of the rail possibilities and the county because of economic outgrowth that may arise from the superhighway.

    Their ultimate goal is to completely halt any future planning or construction of the Trans-Texas Corridor. They believe IH-35 should be expanded instead. The most probable course of action will likely involve multiple lawsuits, they said, which their organization will help fund. The Byfields also said they have connections to lawyers who will try those cases for bargain rates. Dan Byfield has a law degree himself.

    “We’ve become a real burr in their side and we’re going to keep at it,” Dan Byfield said.

    © 2008 Taylor Daily Press:

    To search TTC News Archives click HERE

    To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


    Wednesday, May 14, 2008

    Conversion disorder: US 281 to be bulldozed and rebuilt as a toll road.

    Design/build team selected for U.S. Highway 281 toll project

    May 14, 2008

    San Antonio Business Journal
    Copyright 2008

    The Alamo Regional Mobility Authority Board of Directors on Wednesday selected Cibolo Creek Infrastructure JV to serve as the design/builder for the 281 North Toll Project.

    The value of the contract is $330 million and it will be paid for by a combination of public funds from the Texas Mobility Fund, money generated from the sale of toll revenue-backed bonds and financing from the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA), a U.S. Department of Transportation loan program, says the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority's (Alamo RMA) spokesman Leroy Alloway.

    However, this amount does not include the cost of acquiring all of the right-of-way needed to proceed with the project, Alloway says.

    Once the toll lanes are complete, the money generated from drivers on the lanes will pay off the debt on the project. Drivers will pay 17 cents per mile and will be charged through the use of a toll tag on their vehicles. Drivers will be able to use this same tag on toll roads in Austin, Houston and Dallas because the systems will be interoperable, Alloway says.

    People who do not have a toll tag will be charged through a video billing system. Video cameras aligned along the toll route will track a vehicle's license plate number and send the person's toll charge through the mail. Drivers will not have to carry cash or coins to pay their tolls.

    Alamo RMA wants to begin construction on two to three new "non-toll" lanes along U.S. Highway 281 from Loop 1604 to Stone Oak Parkway possibly as early as this fall.

    The next phase of the project will involve building out new "non-toll" lanes from Stone Oak Parkway to the Comal County line along Highway 281, Alloway says. In all, Cibolo Creek Infrastructure will be building new highway lanes along a 7.9 mile route.

    Once the non-toll lanes are complete, the Alamo RMA's contractors will build three new toll lanes in each direction. Cibolo Creek has committed to complete the project in 44 months after construction begins.

    Cibolo Creek Infrastructure is owned by joint venture partners Fluor Enterprises Inc. and Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc. Atlanta-based Balfour Beatty is an engineering, construction, services and investment business. Fluor Enterprises is an engineering and construction services firm based in Dallas.

    The other team members are HDR Engineering Inc., Raba-Kistner Consultants, Guerra DeBerry Coody, Donze Lopez Public Affairs, Vickery & Associates Inc., Bain Medina Bain, AIA Engineers Ltd. and Pinnacle Consulting Management Group Inc.

    Alamo RMA officials say this approach is not a concession or a private sector model and the Alamo RMA will retain ownership and operations of the toll project.

    "This has been an open and transparent process," Alamo RMA Chairman William Thornton says. "The Alamo RMA has ensured the highest possible value for our community and we will see this needed roadway constructed in the shortest possible time through the use of the design build approach."

    The widening and expansion of U.S. Highway 281 using toll lanes will be the first official toll project in Bexar County.

    © 2008 San Antonio Business Journal:

    To search TTC News Archives click HERE

    To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


    Dallas Logistics Hub, a foreign trade zone, is located near four major highway connecters, including I-20, I-45, I-35 and Loop 9/Trans-Texas Corridor

    BNSF Railway Takes 198 Acres at Dallas Logistic Hub, May Buy 164 More

    May 14, 2008

    By: Amanda Marsh, Associate Editor
    Commercial Property News
    Copyright 2008

    The Allen Group has announced the sale of 198 acres of land in the Dallas Logistics Hub to BNSF Railway Co., with the additional option agreement giving BNSF the right to purchase an additional 164 acres.

    The property is located in the cities of Lancaster and Dallas, and provides more than 9,000 feet of rail frontage, representing a portion of the 2.5 miles of BNSF track frontage within the project. No further details of the transaction were available.

    “There is definitely a lot of momentum with this deal, and it will be one of many we hope to announce over the next two months,” an Allen Group spokesperson told CPN. One of these forthcoming deals will be The Hub’s first build-to-suit, which is expected to be announced in the beginning of June.

    Although details about what BNSF plans to do with the land have not been discussed, analysts have ventured that it might be a possible intermodal terminal. If that is indeed true, it will be the first logistics park in the world to have two intermodal terminals, the other being a 360-acre Union Pacific terminal, the spokesperson said, noting, “It will be the first of its kind and unique in the supply chain and shipping world.”

    The Hub is already positioned to receive 95 percent of its trade from the Port of Los Angeles, but well-positioned to receive trade from the Ports of Houston and Mexico as well. This is important as manufacturers and retailers are looking to limit their transportation costs as fuel prices continue to rise, the spokesperson said.

    The Hub, which spans across the communities of Dallas, Lancaster, Wilmer and Hutchins, is one of the newest logistic parks in North America, with 6,000 acres master-planned for approximately 60 million square feet of distribution, manufacturing, office and retail development. The project, a foreign trade zone, is located near four major highway connecters, including I-20, I-45, I-35 and Loop 9/Trans-Texas Corridor and a future air cargo facility at Lancaster airport. Overall, the project is expect to create 32,000 direct jobs and 33,000 indirect jobs in the southern sector of Dallas.

    In October, the Allen Group started construction on the first two industrial buildings in The Hub, which total 827,000 square feet of space. The first, DLH Building 1, is a 635,000-square-foot cross-dock distribution facility, and the second, DLH Building 2, is a 192,800-square-goot warehouse facility. Both are scheduled to be completed by the end of this month. The development team includes GSO Architects, Kimley-Horn & Associates, MYCON and 3i Construction.

    The Dallas-Fort Worth industrial market experienced activity slowdown in the first quarter, with 2.1 million square feet of positive net absorption, down from last quarter’s 3.8 million square feet, according to CB Richard Ellis Inc. Despite a decrease in tenants moving into new space, total and direct vacancy rates are still down at their respective 9.2 and 8.4 percent. The firm expects stable rental rates and healthy leasing activity for the remainder of the year.

    © 2008 Nielsen Business Media, Inc:

    To search TTC News Archives click HERE

    To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


    "Local citizens and governments can protect private property from 'high-handed' governmental takeovers..."

    County to explore possible creation of 391 Commission

    Related Link: Texas 391 Commission Alliance


    The Navasota Examner
    Copyright 2008

    After listening to presentations by three lawyers familiar with the creation of a Sub-Regional Planning Commission (SRPC), then having questions answered during a 391 workshop last Thursday, Grimes County Commissioners decided to place the item on their May 26 agenda as a discussion item.

    The workshop at the Navasota center drew a large crowd of area property owners, along with officials from Madison, Waller and Walker counties. Anderson, Bedias and Navasota city officials were also in attendance.

    Those attending the meeting heard Fred Grant, President of Stewards of the Range and an attorney with over 30 years experience as a planning and zoning officer in Idaho, explain how local government and citizens banded together through a SRPC to protect private land and grazing rights.

    Dan Bayfield an attorney and President of the American Land Foundation in Taylor followed Grant. Bayfield presented a comprehensive step-by-step outline on forming a SRPC.

    Trey Duhon, a Waller attorney instrumental in the formation of the Waller County SRPC shared his views regarding a commission in Grimes County.

    Focal point of the meeting was how local citizens and governments can protect private property from “high-handed” governmental take overs such as the action proposed by TXDOT’s I69/TTC plans.

    Those involved with the possible formation of a 391 commission said they could do nothing without governmental action. “It will take the county plus one or more city to get the commission formed.”

    Once formed, the commission would have governmental and non-governmental members.

    County Judge Betty Shiflett said Monday that commissioners want to study the information and have an open discussion before committing to any action regarding the formation of a 391 SRPC.

    © 2008 The Navasota

    To search TTC News Archives click HERE

    To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


    Monday, May 12, 2008

    Perry Plays Trans-Texas Toreador


    Perry, US Ambassador to Spain, tout trade in Dallas

    May 12, 2008

    Aman Batheja
    Fort Worth Star-Telegram
    Copyright 2008

    Gov. Rick Perry tied Texas history with trade talk at a Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce reception today along with Eduardo Aguirre, ambassador of the United States to Spain.

    "Both our friends from France and Spain and Mexico all can claim they owned us at one time so we do have a very common heritage from that standpoint," Perry said. "Although we do have a blended culture, we have a singular future."

    The governor touted Spanish investment in Texas and vice versa as key to the growth of both countries, singling out banking and biotech as two key Spanish industries.

    "The best government program is the one that gets out of the way and lets the private sector work," Perry said. "I'm encouraged by the increasing amount of Spanish investment in the state of Texas."

    Perry name-dropped a few Spanish companies setting up offices in Texas including biotech firm Grifols.

    The company that notably didn't get a mention: Cintra, the controversial highway firm that he signed a $1.3 billion deal with for the Trans-Texas Corridor.

    © 2008 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

    To search TTC News Archives click HERE

    To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


    "Every time the government opens the door, however slightly, it's going to keep pushing until it gets that door open all the way."

    Caught on camera?

    May 12, 2008

    by Jim Swift
    KXAN -TV (Austin)
    Copyright 2008

    Perhaps nowhere in the world are surveillance cameras more ubiquitous than in England. Police there can track people from one camera to another as they move around town.

    Yet a senior police official in London this month said the city's huge network of video surveillance cameras is "an utter fiasco." Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville was quoted in the Guardian newspaper, saying the use of CCTV images for court evidence has so far been very poor. According to the article, Neville said only 3 percent of London street crimes have been solved by the cameras.

    So what does that have to do with Austin? Well, despite the news from England, Austin officials are pressing ahead with a plan to install video surveillance cameras in four of the city's high-crime areas, including downtown's Sixth Street entertainment district. It's a notion that has its critics.

    "The idea that when you're going about your daily business, when you're going to the doctor, when you're, you know, making appointments, that your license plate, your face is being recorded on cameras and could be used to track your movements, I think is very disturbing to Americans," said American Civil Liberties Union Texas policy director Rebecca Burnhart. The ACLU is behind a report called, "Bigger Monster, Weaker Chains: The Growth of an American Surveillance Society."

    "The real issue for us is that once you put cameras in one area, what happens is crime doesn't stop; it just moves a little bit, and that creates an incentive to put cameras on the next street and the next street and the next street," Burnhart added.

    The ACLU has an ally in this debate in the Texas Civil Rights Project, headed by Jim Harrington.

    "It really does become the eye of Big Brother," Harrington said. "If you could just even keep it focused even on the narrow area that the government says it's going to, it would be a different story, but we know that every time the government opens the door, however slightly, it's going to keep pushing until it gets that door open all the way."

    And we're not just talking police cameras here. Video surveillance is also used to administer area toll roads and to control traffic flow on all manner of streets. The Texas Department of Transportation, for example, at any one time is monitoring dozens of cameras around town, and at exactly 44 minutes and 42 seconds past 4 on the afternoon of April 21, a KXAN Austin News live truck passed by U.S. 183 at Braker Lane.

    TxDOT said it does not record the camera feeds, but we did, and it was perfectly legal.

    "There have been incidents where recordings on surveillance cameras have been fed to the media or distributed on YouTube, frequently in a situation that's not criminal conduct but that's embarrassing conduct," the ACLU's Burnhart said.

    But hold on a second. In case after case around the country, video surveillance has proved immensely effective in providing evidence of criminal acts committed in front of the camera lens, and in Downtown Austin, the proprietor of one shop longs for the day that surveillance cameras finally get installed on Sixth Street.

    Lauri Turner, owner of the Hatbox Haberdashery, has been the victim of crime on the street more than half a dozen times. On one occasion, she was working at her desk when she suddenly found a man standing beside her.

    "He just walked right into the store, put a knife at my throat and demanded the money, which he got," Turner said.

    It was Christmas Eve, and the man got away with $800 she had saved to buy musical instruments for her children.

    "I don't care about the perpetrator's rights anymore, at all," she said.

    This is just the sort of incident Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo had in mind when he proposed installing video surveillance cameras in four high-crime areas around town.

    "We have lost our innocence in terms of the number of people that are getting killed and injured out here," Acevedo said.

    "Does that mean in his mind, we get to violate constitutional rights, because he thinks that crime is more severe?" Harrington asked.

    "We will have some safety valves in place, where if someone abuses the system, they'll be looking for a new career," Acevedo said.

    Harrington is not persuaded. "Justice Brandeis," he said, "on the U.S. Supreme Court years ago, said, ‘We have to fear the government the most when it's at its most benevolent.'"

    The idea, however, marches on. The plan is to install video surveillance cameras, monitored by the police department along the Sixth Street entertainment district. Other locations that would get the cameras include Rundberg Lane and Interstate 35 in North Austin, Montopolis Boulevard in the Southeast part of town, and Twelfth and Chicon streets on the East Side.

    The cameras have the blessing of the Austin Public Safety Task Force, and officials are looking for grant money to fund the program, which is expected to cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Depending on your point of view, that money will fund government to our rescue or domestic spying, wrapped in Old Glory.

    © 2008 KXAN:

    To search TTC News Archives click HERE

    To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


    Sunday, May 11, 2008

    "Maybe Gov. Perry has lived in the big city a tad too long."

    State faces many rural roadblocks

    May 11, 2008

    John Kanelis:
    Amarillo Globe-News
    Copyright 2008

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry wants to build a big highway through the Lone Star State. No, make that a really big highway, as in a monstrously big highway.

    The exact route hasn't been determined. The mega-highway would run roughly from Laredo on the Rio Grande River through the Hill Country and the Piney Woods and then through Texarkana in that tiny portion of the state that borders Arkansas.

    Imagine for a moment if that thoroughfare would be pointed in the other direction - from the Valley, through the South Plains and then through the heart of the Panhandle, right past Palo Duro Canyon before exiting the state at, say, Texline.

    Would rural West Texans be angry? Would they resist this monstrous highway project?

    You bet, just as folks in some Central and East Texas counties are squawking.

    It's difficult to imagine such a thing happening to this part of the state. In fact, I am having a hard time justifying such a grandiose project tearing its way through any part of the state without a major part of our population getting upset to the point of mounting a serious protest in Austin.

    State Rep. David Swinford, R-Dumas, once told me that the major fault lines in the state's ongoing struggle for political power separates rural and urban interests. He said the fight isn't so much partisan - Democrats vs. Republicans. Instead, it pits farmers and ranchers against those big-city movers and shakers.

    The Interstate 69/Trans-Texas Corridor is designed to accommodate an enormous projected increase in traffic from Texas to points elsewhere throughout the nation.

    It looks like a good idea - on paper. Then you start hearing about the town-hall meetings all along the corridor's proposed route and the complaints from Texans who would have to endure a major disruption in their lives.

    That's just from the folks who would be displaced, literally, from land that may have been in their families' hands since Gen. Houston surprised Santa Anna at San Jacinto back in 1836.

    To cut a miles-wide swath through Texas will require huge condemnation proceedings by the state against property owners.

    Remember when River Road school officials sought to build a new high school campus on the west side of the Dumas Highway in 2006? Do you recall the battle they fought with a property owner who didn't want to give up his land so the school district could complete the job approved by voters in a districtwide bond issue election?

    Imagine battles such as that - and worse - occurring along a 575-mile route from Laredo to Texarkana.

    Intellectually, it's easy to understand why some folks - Gov. Perry included - believe the Trans-Texas Corridor is vital. "With 1,200 people per day coming to live in Texas," says the group, Texans for Safe Reliable Transportation, "we need more transportation infrastructure and more highway funding from all sources, including tolls, private investment and other sources."

    Did they say "tolls"?

    That leads us into another hotly contested issue, which will feature Mark Tomlinson, the soon-to-be-former Amarillo District engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation, who is about to be the Main Man in the state's toll road implementation plan.

    Toll roads aren't a popular notion in this part of mostly rural West Texas. I don't figure they'll be any more palatable for the rural folks who live east of us.

    This Trans-Texas Corridor is a long way from being built, to be sure.

    And although one can imagine how those who live along its proposed route might feel about it, one should picture such a huge piece of "transportation infrastructure" carving its way through our back yards.

    It isn't pretty.

    It's also fair, I believe, to suggest that just maybe Gov. Perry - who grew up in rural Haskell County - has lived in the big city a tad too long.

    © 2008 Amarillo Globe-News:

    To search TTC News Archives click HERE

    To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE