TxDoT chief: New trade corridors would help Texas
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

Nov. 20, 2004 -- The director of the state's transportation department said Friday the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor would benefit Texas, but couldn't address the question of potential impact on towns along existing trade routes, including Sulphur Springs.

The corridor would extend northward along a route that would parallel I-35, completely bypassing the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex with routes that would pass near Weatherford on the west and Royse City on the east.

The Trans-Texas Corridor, as it is now envisioned, would also bypass Interstate 30, which carries more than 20,000 vehicles a day through Hopkins County.

But Texas Department of Transportation Executive Director Mike Behrens said Friday morning the routes for the approximately 4,000 miles of new corridors, as published on the Internet and on TxDoT news releases, were still in the early planning stages.

"Those were really conceptual-type things that we feel that, someday, will probably be needed," he said. "Right now, we are doing some environmental work on the corridor between Austin and Hillsboro. Of course, some of that will be looked at, like on the southeast side of Dallas and leaning over toward the east."

Behrens pointed to the large numbers of trucks that use I-35 and I-30 as having caused TxDoT to evaluate future traffic on the routes and begin planning for ways to handle it safely and economically.

Cities in the River of Trade Corridor Coalition are looking at the impact of bypassing communities closely associated with the interstate highways. They say they are trying to prevent a recurrence of situations created along U.S. 80 when Interstate 20 was built, resulting in extreme economic decline in a number of cities.

Behrens said he did not think those towns suffered as much as the River of Trade Coalition has suggested.

The Trans-Texas Corridor is being touted as an economic shot in the arm for the state, but also has the potential to unfavorably impact local economies in those cities and towns along the interstate highways.

"I know people are saying 'Just fix the interstate -- take care of them,'" Behrens said. "We just don't really have any room to do that."

To expand the number of lanes on an interstate the highway department would have to acquire more right of way which would have a negative impact on business, homes and cities built adjacent to the roadways.

"There will be an impact anytime you get property for transportation corridors," the transportation director said. "But, again, looking at what we feel that the needs are going to be for the state, with the prediction of population growth with 30,000 people moving to Texas each month, we are sitting here trying to provide the transportation for the state. We are thinking in big terms, and we have got to think about were we can put footprints for the future, where we can put transportation."

Under the state's plan, a series of transportation corridors as wide as 1,200 feet would include a four-lane highway for passenger vehicles and similar lanes for truck traffic, two railroad tracks for high-speed passenger and freight trains, tracks for regional commuter and freight rail traffic and additional right of way for underground transportation of water, petroleum, gas and telecommunications.

"It's awfully wide, but hopefully that is something that could be there and can be expandable for a long, long time," Behrens said.

Behrens also said the corridors could present new opportunities for cities near the trade routes.

"I would hope that what we could say to them is that as population continues to grow, as businesses and things like that choose to come to Texas, that they would be able to build on those opportunities so they could bring something into their communities," he said.

The TxDoT executive director did not, however, address the impact on cities that would find themselves some distance from the new routes, just those nearby.

And that is the point the River of Trade Corridor Coalition is trying to get across to the state, according to Sulphur Springs City Manager Marc Maxwell, who serves as co-chairman of the coalition. Maxwell said the primary focus of the River of Trade Corridor Coalition is to get the state to reconsider how its plan would affect all the cities and towns along the current routes as well as those along their proposed corridor.

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