|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Copyright 2011 - Polk County Publishing Company
City opts out of resolution supporting U.S. 190 study
LIVINGSTON — City council members voted down a proposed resolution of support for the U.S. 190/I-10 Feasibility Study on Tuesday following a presentation by Gary Bushell, an attorney and government consultant for the Gulf Coast Strategic Highway Coalition. County Judge John Thompson, who also serves as the coalition chairman, said the decision would mean the City of Livingston would be the only city along the east to west thoroughfare who did not pass the resolution. The coalition supports efforts to upgrade U.S. 190 between Fort Hood in Temple and Livingston to interstate highway standards. Bushell cited economic development and safety as primary reasons the council should support the upgrade. Bushell’s presentation included maps of two potential relief routes that drew opposition from council members, particularly Ray Luna and Elgin Davis. Luna questioned the Option 1 proposal of building a new roadway “virtually all the way around the lake parallel to what is pretty decent roadway, except near Onalaska.” Bushell responded that most local traffi c would continue to use that pretty decent road. Bushell explained that much of the traffic would not be travelers likely to stop in small towns along the route from El Paso to Louisiana to shop in antique stores or eat lunch. “The current highway system allows a truck that gets on the interstate in Laredo to travel to San Antonio where they either take I-10 through Houston or I-35 through the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Either way it goes through an area that’s been included in the nonattainment airshed,” Bushell said. The proposed route along U.S. 190 has a positive environmental impact for the state, according to Bushell. Bushell pointed out that in addition to connecting ports and military installations, the upgraded highway would help the Texas A&M University System. “If you complete I-69 and build a short piece of interstate highway you tie 12 Texas A&M campuses together,” Bushell said. “What’s so important about that?” Councilwoman Judy Cochran asked. “I don’t see any reason to make it easier for Aggies to get from one campus to another. We’ve got a lot of other universities in Texas.” Davis voiced opposition based on the financial burden to motorists and taxpayers. “People are paying two or three different ways. They’re not going to be able to afford to drive if things keep going like they are,” Davis said. Luna said he was not in favor of either of the alternatives presented. Bushell said the presentation was not intended to identify a route. That would be determined with extensive input from a segment committee made up of local community leaders. He added that this proposal is nothing like the Trans Texas Corridor proposal that drew widespread public opposition. “The TTC was 1,200 feet wide. The widest thing (engineers) are looking at is 400 feet,” Bushell said. “It’s probably just as well we had the exercise on TTC. TxDOT learned some valuable lessons,” Bushell said. “The public has been trying to send a message to TxDOT to stay on the existing highway footprint as much as possible,” Mayor Clarke Evans said. “Funding is going to be another huge issue.” Bushell answered that in addition to possibly requiring tolls to use additional lanes, he expected the legislature to come up with alternative funding methods for highway construction. “We’re going to see Texas double in size over the next 25 years. We can’t build a fence around Texas and keep people from moving here. We have to do something or all of Texas will look like I-35 in Austin at 5 o’clock on a Friday afternoon,” Bushell said. Luna countered that planners need to take a broader view of transportation issues. “We have to figure out how to move stuff from ports to major metropolitan areas other than on an interstate,” Luna said. “I’m not expecting you guys to look at it, but we might be in a situation where we have great roads but no money to pay for gas to ride on them.” Luna added that the safety issues posed by local traffic attempting to enter the highway as traffic passes by at 70 miles per hour are extremely relevant. “There are parts of U.S. 190 that are flat out dangerous. That needs to be addressed. As far as accepting this whole feasibility study from El Paso to Louisiana to promote growth — I don’t think what I’m seeing here is going to benefit us in this area,” Luna said. Evans called for a motion on the proposed resolution which was greeted with silence from the council for several moments. “If the resolution is to support continuing with the feasibility study and still have input from the segment committee — this is something that is going to have to come whether communities are ready for it or not,” Cochran said. “With that said, I will make the motion for the resolution.” Her motion was seconded by Bill Wiggins. Ray Hill announced he would abstain from voting because he had a number of remaining questions. The motion failed after Luna and Davis voted no.