Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - June 2008
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
TTC to follow U.S. 59 route in East Texas
Polk County Enterprise - June 2008
AUSTIN – The Texas Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that it will recommend that the I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) Project use existing highway facilities wherever possible. If additional travel lanes are added to existing highways, only the new lanes would have tolls. Livingston Mayor Clarke Evans said the announcement is good news for the City of Livingston. “The City hasn’t taken an offi cial position, but I believe all of the council members were concerned about impact this project would have on historic family farms and environmentally sensitive areas,” Evans said.
TxDOT offi cials said the decision was made to comply with citizen comments received during its series of public hearings. “After a dozen town hall meetings, nearly 50 public hearings, and countless one-onone conversations, it is clear to us that Texans want us to use existing roadways to start building the Texas portion of Interstate 69,” said Texas Transportation Commissioner Ted Houghton. “TxDOT’s recommendation would effectively shrink our environmental study down to roads such as U.S. Highways 77 and 281 in South Texas, State Highway 44 and U.S. Highway 59 along the Coastal Bend and U.S. Highways 84 and 59 in East Texas.
We are dropping consideration of new corridors that would run west of Houston in addition to other proposals for new highway footprint in other parts of the state.” TxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz, in a letter to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), wrote “The preliminary basis for this decision centers on the review of nearly 28,000 public comments made on the Tier One DEIS (Draft Environmental Impact statement). Saenz added during a live press conference Wednesday FHWA would review TxDOT’s documents for two to three years before the project moves into Phase 2 of the environmental study.
The overwhelming sentiment of these comments focused on the need to improve the existing transportation network” rather than building a new corridor for the project. TxDOT’s stated intention has been to focus on making needed improvements to existing and planned transportation facilities within the I-69/TTC study area. In May, the Texas Transportation Commission adopted guiding principles and policies that will govern the development, construction and operation of toll road projects on the state highway system and the Trans- Texas Corridor. In addition they reaffi rmed that only new lanes added to an existing highway will be tolled and that there will be no reduction in the number of nontolled lanes.
Wherever possible, existing rightof- way would be considered for the development of new projects. “We are closer than ever to realizing the promise and the potential of I-69, and we will move forward with this important Transportation Commission policy in the front of our minds,” Saenz said. Saenz noted that the recentlynamed I-69 Corridor Advisory Committee will help guide TxDOT’s work on the project. Saenz said he looked forward to the appointment of Segment Advisory Committees comprised of local leaders who will help further develop I-69/TTC. “We also want to keep working with our Congressional delegation and the Texas Legislature,” added Transportation Commissioner Houghton. “Legislative leadership, public involvement and local commitment will all be essential if we are going to build this longawaited highway.”
TxDOT is preparing its report for FHWA following completion of the public involvement process for the environmental review of I- 69/TTC. If this recommendation is approved by FHWA, plans for a separate new corridor would be dropped from future environmental reviews, and the existing infrastructure would serve as the study area for future environmental review. In the future, the northern and southern portions of I-69/TTC could be linked in the Houston area. Houston’s connection to I-69/ TTC, including access to the Port of Houston, will be determined in coordination with elected leaders and transportation