Local officials meet with Rep. Hall on trade routes
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

Dec. 1, 2004 -- Efforts to keep Sulphur Springs on the map reached into the nation's capitol Tuesday as members of the River of Trade Corridor Coalition met with U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall to seek his support of maintaining Interstate 30 as a major North American Free Trade Agreement route.

Sulphur Springs Mayor Chris Brown, City Manager Marc Maxwell, Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap, Precinct 1 Commissioner Beth Wisenbaker and Chamber of Commerce President Bill Elliott, along with members of city government from Royse City, Greenville, Mount Vernon and Texarkana, met with the congressman to discuss future transportation issues associated with the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor and the River of Trade Corridor Coalition.

"We have just basically banded together and said, 'Hey, we have got to keep Interstate 30 as part of this NAFTA trade route,'"Mayor Chris Brown said. "We cannot do anything that is going to divert traffic away from us."

The mayor said Hall was receptive to hearing comments from those cities attending and indicated he felt now was not the time for the Trans-Texas Corridor concept.

Hall called Gov. Perry's Trans-Texas Corridor plan laudable but very expensive as well. He said the governor appoints members to the state's transportation commission and can push for whatever they want.

"I will help push that if they are looking at it as something for the future, because we cannot have enough planning for that," Hall said. "The governor's proposal is a good proposal. [But] I don't support it as a proposal in lieu of the I-30 Corridor."

Hall said he would support maintaining the I-30 Corridor through his contacts in Washington, including Don Young, who is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure

Committee.

"You know, everybody thinks they are close to the chairman, but the chairman is one of my best friends, and I have always been able to deal with him and talk to him," the congressman said. "I have told him of my interest in I-30 and the fact that somehow we have to work it so we can support the theory and thrust the governor has, but be more realistic and update the area we have already designated."

One of the problems is there have been no specific designations for NAFTA corridors, something the River of Trade Corridor Coalition says needs to be done.

"That is the problem," Maxwell said. "There are high priority routes, NAFTA routes, all throughout the United States, but one is missing and that is Interstate 30, which is ironic.

International trade traffic entering the United States from Mexico through the port at Laredo travels I-35 north to Dallas then northeast on I-30 through Texarkana. It eventually connects with I-69 on the way to the northeastern states.

"We are not the map, and that is the problem," Maxwell said.

Maxwell, who also serves as vice-chairman of the River of Trade Coalition, said the congressman made it clear he did not oppose Gov. Rick Perry's plan for a Trans-Texas Corridor.

"Hall has some reservations about it," City Manager Marc Maxwell said. "He was very clear he was not against the governor's plan, and we are very clear that we are not against the governor's plan, either, but there are some major areas of concern that we need to have addressed."

Maxwell said the River of Trade Coalition gives the governor high marks for trying to plan ahead.

"I think most of the members of the coalition will tell you the governor gets five stars for vision, especially in the transportation sector," he said. "In this instance, we look at the map and see some holes in it for I-30 and Sulphur Springs, and it gives us pause, and we would like for it to give TxDoT pause, as well."

Along with seeking support in Congress, the next step for the River of Trade Coalition is to put together a legislative caucus of various state senators and representatives to address the issue in the state's capitol.

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