State pulling final plug on corridor

October 6, 2009 12:08:41 PM PDT
The Texas Department of Transportation is pulling the last plug on the Trans-Texas Corridor, Gov. Rick Perry's embattled plan to build a toll-road network across the state. The agency said earlier this year it was scaling down the project and dropping the name "Trans-Texas Corridor." Now, transportation officials say it's fully dead. Transportation Commissioner Bill Meadows told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram of the decision in a report posted online Tuesday.

The news comes a day after Perry's Republican primary opponent, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, secured the coveted endorsement of the powerful Texas Farm Bureau -- a vocal opponent of the corridor and a group that has been at odds with Perry over eminent domain and private property rights. Farmers and ranchers did not like the corridor plan because of the private land it threatened to take.

On Wednesday, transportation officials are expected to announce they have decided against building the TTC-35, a key part of the corridor that was to parallel Interstate 35 between Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio. The development contract with a private company is being terminated.

"The reason that's being given for the no-build option is that people don't want it," Meadows said. "They said 'Hell no.' "

The Trans-Texas Corridor was originally pitched as an innovative way to pay for congestion improvements and reduce truck and train gridlock in metro areas. But opponents seized on several components of the plan, including the amount of private property necessary to build the roads, the impact of tolls on Texans' pocketbooks and the infusion of foreign influence in toll investment.

In January, state officials announced the Trans-Texas Corridor was essentially dead, in large part because of public outrage and a backlash from state legislators who felt the transportation department had overstepped its bounds.

Planning for the corridor has nevertheless quietly continued. A consortium led by Cintra of Madrid, Spain, and Zachry Construction of San Antonio had prepared a master plan, and a detailed environmental study of the TTC-35 corridor was under way.

Meadows said that was all ending.

"Formally, absolutely, TTC-35 is dead. We are canceling the contract with Zachry," he said.

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