August 11, 2010

It’s Official – Trans-Texas Corridor 35 is Dead!

American Stewards

100811_CW_TTCDead_MainThe first leg of the NAFTA Superhighway is DEAD, according to the Federal Highway Administration’s Record of Decision (ROD) on the environmental study for the Trans-Texas Corridor - 35.

In June, the Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission formed by five towns, their school districts and a local businessman in Central Texas, sent a petition to the Council of Environmental Quality (Council) concerned that a critical loophole was still open that would allow the Trans-Texas Corridor – 35 to be revived. They asked the Council to step in and require the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) to withdraw the study in its entirety.

Instead of withdrawing the study, the FHA stated eight different times in what otherwise should have been a typical ROD that the TTC 35 project had ended. They even went so far as to state that the environmental study could not be used as a basis for any further study.

Fred Kelly Grant, President of American Stewards who wrote the Petition stated:

“The Federal Highway Administration has pounded the final nail in the coffin of the Trans-Texas Corridor-35. The Agency’s final Record of Decision, issued on July 20, 2010 selected the No Action Alternative, but went further in ordering that “a study area for the TTC-35 Project will not be chosen and the TTC-35 Project is concluded.” Twice, the ROD states that the “project is concluded,” and six times it states that “the project ends.”

“If TXDOT attempted to revive the 35 Corridor project and use the same EIS, this ROD would provide the base for issuance by a United States District Judge of a Declaratory Judgment prohibiting the action,” Grant concluded.

This is an unprecedented action. The $80 billion international superhighway project is dead.

The corridor concept was unveiled by Governor Rick Perry in 2003 as the way to build infrastructure in America. His plan would have confiscated 586,000 private acres in Texas alone and displace over one million people and their families.

The superhighway was to contain four passenger lanes, two truck lanes, high speed rail and freight rail, all charging a hefty toll for the next 50 years that would go to the international contractor Cintra-Zachry. But that’s not all. The right of way was to be a quarter-of-a-mile wide so that land within the corridor could be leased to restaurants, hotels and gas stations. Perry’s plan would take land from Texans and generate revenue for foreign companies.

As grand as Perry’s plan was, it was only the first part of a much larger scheme – the NAFTA Superhighway – an international highway that was to efficiently connect the Chinese-owned ports in Mexico to the Canadian markets, by way of America’s heartland.

The first major security check for cargo coming into America was a “Smart Port” in Kansas City where trucks could drive through without stopping.

Texan’s were outraged, but no one listened until the five towns of Holland, Bartlett, Little River-Academy, Rogers and Buckholts (total population of about 6,500) decided to take matters into their own hands and invoke coordination. Dan Byfield (ASL CEO) and Margaret Byfield (ASL ED) lived less than an hour away and were able to attend every meeting and guide the commission through the process. President Fred Grant attended all the coordination meetings with the agencies and wrote the hard-hitting Petitions filed by the Commission.

The TTC battle is the first time the coordination process was invoked for an issue that didn’t involve federal lands. Texas is 97% privately owned. Still, the coordination requirement in the National Environmental Policy Act and a unique Texas state law brought both federal and state agencies to Holland, Texas to resolve the inconsistencies between the TTC and local policies.

October 2009, the Texas Department of Transportation announced they would be recommending the “no build” alternative. Eastern Central, while happy with the decision, also recognized that there was a serious loophole still open. If the study was approved with the “no build” alternative, the agency could change its mind later and select a new alternative without going through the level of analysis Eastern Central was requiring. (See TTC Petition Filed with CEQ).

In an unprecedented move, they petitioned the CEQ to right the wrong and require that the study be withdrawn so that it could never be used in the future. FHA didn’t withdraw the study, but did one better. They marked it for dead. Never to be revived, referred to, or relied upon again.

There are still three Perry-driven Trans-Texas Corridor plans in the works: I-69, La Entrada, and Ports-to-Plains. Lincoln, Colorado sits in the path of Ports-to-Plains and has taken the lead of the Eastern Central planning commission by beginning the coordination process with the Colorado Department of Transportation on related issues.

Planning Commissions exist on the other two routes in Texas as well. People along these routes throughout the U.S. should take a closer look at the impressive path blazed by Eastern Central. They made coordination work and achieved our greatest victory to date.

The Trans Texas Corridor Stopped Here!
Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission

Mae Smith,
Mayor of Holland
Billy Crow,
Vice President
Mayor of Rogers
Arthur White,
Mayor of Bartlett
Ronnie White,
Mayor of Little River-Academy
Hal Senkel
Mayor of Buckholtz
Ralph Snyder
Holland Businessman
Harold Kurtz
President, Holland ISD
Kerry Owen
Academy ISD
Gary Ktrola
Rogers ISD
Bartlett ISD
Buckhotz ISD
Joan Kurtz, Recording Secretary
Marcia Snyder
Cindy Ross

© 2010 American Stewards:

July 25, 2010

We’re not going to take it anymore

Brent Hinckley
Taylor Daily Press

I remember school yard bullies back in the third grade, and I thought the education system has pretty well eliminated them. Now that I am much older and working to serve my community as mayor, I have discovered that in Austin there are still bullies that hide behind big bureaucracy and work in governmental agencies.

I’m mad, the citizens of Mason, Texas are mad, the Hill Country landowners are mad and we are tired of being pushed around by bullies. Until very recently I honestly thought the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) would listen to our concerns and do what was right for Mason County and even the entire Hill Country. But, today, I am tired of listening to the bullies and I am convinced that the big bureaucracy has not and will not be influenced by the practical concerns of a small rural community.

I’m talking about the CREZ electric transmission lines that the Public Utility Commission (PUC) ordered constructed throughout the entire state to connect the West Texas wind turbines, one of the most inconsistent producers of electricity, with the people in the big cities.

What nobody wants to admit is how their great project is going to literally destroy our beautiful Hill Country with power lines, lattice towers and two hundred foot-wide right-of-ways that are going to decimate the heart of our beautiful land by condemning thousands of private acres and destroying our local environment and economies. The electric transmission planners have played the game their way for so long and now that Mason County and the City of Mason have stood up and formed a local Planning Commission to coordinate with them, they have shown their true colors.

Just ten months, ago we were assured that this transmission line would not affect our community in any way, and then some strings were pulled and suddenly Mason County and other parts of the Hill Country are involved in a problem we neither created nor will benefit from in any conceivable way.

For the past nine months, our elected officials and many concerned citizens have struggled to understand the issues and process involved and to very actively work informing the decision makers of our unwavering opposition to this route through Mason.

Citizens throughout the Hill Country have used their individual influence and the letters and resolutions from our communities continue to pour into the files of the decision makers; I can only hope that they will take the time to read and appreciate the vast concern our local population has for this project. I have participated in numerous meetings and spent many hours with a wide variety of experts and governmental officials as well as many representatives of LCRA, and after all of this I do not see any value to our community in having this blight in our county in order to satisfy a few bureaucrats in a distant city.

Right here in Mason, we had to quickly organize to defend ourselves when LCRA and the PUC decided to stall the process and include our county as an alternative to one of their CREZ lines.

In addition to forming the Texas Hill Country Heritage Association, our two local units of government – our city and county – formed a legal unit of government under Section 391 of the Texas Local Government Code that requires LCRA, the PUC and, by Federal statute, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, to “coordinate” their plans and policies with ours. In fact, federal law requires them to make their plans and policies “consistent” with ours, but do you think they even want to acknowledge that fact? Of course not. It isn’t the way they’ve always done business, and why start now?

On the back of every LCRA business card, from the CEO down, is their mission statement claiming “to provide reliable, low-cost utility and public services in partnership with our customers and communities and to use our leadership role and environmental authority to ensure the protection and constructive use of the area’s natural resources.”

The City of Mason is a customer of LCRA, but do I feel that they have been in “partnership” with our community in considering this CREZ transmission route? NO!

Is LCRA transparently using their leadership to protect the natural resources of the Hill Country? Not that I can see!

I am in doubt of any environmental authority they might exhibit having any positive impact on our scenic, rural part of Texas. All I have seen is the possible negative impacts on the cultural and environmental heritage we have, with absolutely no positive benefit to our community or the Hill Country.

LCRA has tried to convince my city and our county along with most of the Hill Country, to intervene in the administrative process in Austin. There is a place and a reason for individuals to do just that because, unfortunately, they have to protect their private interests, but we are not willing to “play” their game.

In a public meeting before our Mason Sub-Regional Planning Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said they were performing a “full and rigorous Environmental Impact Statement” (EIS). LCRA representative sat in front of us and denied there was any activity in this process that required an EIS, although now they tell us they are working with consultants to assist in preparing an EIS.

To date, we can’t get a copy of anything either one of them claim they are working on, even though we have repeatedly asked. We’ve told them several times in writing how they all are violating the Federal environmental laws, but they do not seem to care, or ever admit that to us.

It seems that everyone is pointing the finger at everyone else — a typical bureaucratic response — and we’ve decided that the only way we’re going to ever be able to protect ourselves and our citizens is take them to court.

We are not blindly going into the administrative morass and get caught in their web of agency rules and administrative brow-beating. In that process, our Hill Country citizens have to spend their own money to hire lawyers to intervene in the State’s administrative hearings that are so rigged it becomes each individual against everybody else and the administrative judge gets to decide who wins and who loses.

On the other hand, we’re planning to take them to Federal court over their failure to follow Federal environmental laws that include the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

And here’s the outrage. We have to spend OUR citizen’s personal dollars to defend OUR citizen’s private property and OUR community from OUR government.

This is the Legislature’s doing and it’s theirs to solve.

The CREZ project was started when Senator Troy Fraser introduced the bill that created this whole mess. By now, he has received thousands of dollars from wind energy lobbyists. But, he’s not the only one who benefitted from this boondoggle. Many of our state elected officials, from the highest office on down, have monetarily gained from this horrible idea and now we have to step up as individual citizens and use our hard earned money to defend our rights, our land, our community, our environment and our values.

There’s justice for you!

In Mason County, our landowners are raising money to hire a lawyer to represent them in Austin. This is a total outrage and someone somewhere needs to do something about this. There will be some who will win in that process, but most will lose, and local landowners will lose again when their land is taken through eminent domain to carve a path of destruction through our beautiful Hill Country. Unfortunately, they all have to spend their own money to hire lawyers to defend their rights because our Legislators created a monster that no one will own up to or help us to resolve in a reasonable way.

As citizens and public servants, we’ve had enough and we will not be bullied any more. In Mason our 391 Commission, the Texas Hill Country Heritage Association and American Stewards of Liberty have already begun discussing the development of a Hill Country wide federal lawsuit to stop the LCRA transmission line, period.

We’ve begun discussions with impacted landowners across the Hill Country that are willing to join us. This isn’t just about protecting Mason anymore; it is about righting an injustice that impacts the entire Hill Country.

A line has been drawn in the sand and I pledge that we in the Hill Country will continue to do all we can to protect our cultural and economic treasure of a clean and unlittered landscape so that we can hand to our children and grandchildren the beauty and peacefulness that our parents and grandparents protected for us.

The City of Mason is no doubt one of the very best hometowns in Texas and we will continue to fight to preserve all that we treasure and the community we hold dear. Join us as we take a stand, and together we can stop this and put it all back where it belongs – in the hands of our legislators and the PUC who started this in the first place. This is their fault and they must be held accountable. If they won’t do it, then let’s take them to court and have a federal judge tell them how they must run our state’s business and obey ALL the laws.

To contact Mayor Hinckley, email (For more information go to the Texas Hill Country Heritage Association website at or the American Stewards of Liberty at )

© 2010 Taylor Daily Press:

March 25, 2010

Group demands complete withdrawal of Corridor DEIS

Susan Rigdway Garry
Anti-Corridor/Rail Expansion (ACRE)

The Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission (ECTSRPC), which was instrumental in bringing the Trans-Texas Corridor in Central Texas (TTC-35) environmental process to a halt, has taken another step to completely kill the Corridor through Central Texas.

The five mayors whose cities and respective school districts form the ECTSRPC have filed a petition with the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) demanding that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that was filed by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) be withdrawn.

In the fall of 2009, TxDOT asked the FHA to issue a “no action” or “no build” decision on the DEIS. Holland Mayor Mae Smith, who is also president of the ECTSRPC, explains, “If the FHA issues a ‘no action’ record of decision on the environmental study as requested by TxDOT, the study remains available to use in the future should the governor change his mind and decide to build the TTC.”

According to information released by the ECTSRPC, “Technically, an environmental study can be reused unless it is completely withdrawn from consideration and discarded by the lead agency, which is the Federal Highway Administration.” The Texas Legislature has turned against the Corridor and did not reauthorize the method of financing it, but TxDOT’s power to create the Corridor is still in statute. Bills to remove the Corridor from statute did not make it through the last session of the Legislature.

To see the “Petition to Withdraw the DEIS,” go to

© 2010 ACRE:

March 22, 2010


Mayors Demand Trans Texas Corridor DEIS be Withdrawn

CONTACT: Mae Smith, President 254-657-2460

Holland, Texas ---Five mayors in Central Texas have filed a petition with Federal Highway Administration demanding that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement filed by the Texas Department of Transportation on the I-35 and I-69 Trans-Texas Corridors be withdrawn.

“We know that the governor and TxDOT are playing a political shell game by asking for a “No Action” option on the Trans-Texas Corridor,” explained Mayor Mae Smith, president of the Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission. “If the FHA issues a ‘no action’ record of decision on the environmental study as requested by TxDOT, the study remains available to use in the future should the governor change his mind and decide to build the TTC,” Smith added.

For two and a half years, five mayors and their respective school districts fought against the governor and his transportation department through their ECTSRPC to prevent them from building a 1,200 foot-wide toll road through their commission’s jurisdiction in Eastern Bell and Western Milam counties.

This is our third petition with the Federal Highway Administration showing all the flaws of TxDOT’s environmental study,” stated Ralph Snyder, a Holland businessman and member of the planning commission. “Since TxDOT announced they have formally withdrawn the TTC from consideration, there is no viable project legally before the FHA and they simply must withdraw it from consideration,” Snyder said.

Technically, an environmental study can be reused unless it is completely withdrawn from consideration and discarded by the lead agency, which is the Federal highway Administration. In 2009, the Texas legislature rejected the governor’s and TxDOT’s plans to fund the TTC and before the primary elections, TxDOT announced the TTC was “dead.”

However, on February 1, 2010, during a joint hearing of the Senate and house Transportation Committees, Amadeo Saenz, executive director of TxDOT, was asked by Senator John Carona “If TxDOT changed its mind tomorrow and decided to build the Trans-Texas Corridor, does it have the statutory authority to do so?” Saenz answered “Yes.”

“As much work we’ve put in on this issue, we do not want to leave any stone unturned,” said Mayor Ronnie White of Little River-Academy, who also serves as a board member of the ECTSRPC.

The ECTSRPC was formed under Section 391 of the Local Government Code that forced TxDOT to coordinate their plans with the five cities that all said “no Trans-Texas Corridor shall be built through our jurisdiction.” A copy of the “Petition to Withdraw the DEIS can be obtained at

© 2010 ECTSRPC:

January 6, 2010

Hill Country Cattlewomen January Meeting

Mason County News
Copyright 2009

Hill Country Cattlewomen will begin the new year with their January legislative meeting to be held on Tuesday, January 19th at the Inn of the Hills, 1001 Junction Highway, Kerrville. The public is invited to join members and guests to hear our guest speaker, Margaret Hage Byfield who serves as executive director of American Stewards of Liberty, the newly merged association of Stewards of the Range and the American Land Foundation.

She will be discussing the "coordination" strategy American Stewards has been teaching across the nation to help local leaders protect their economy and way of life. American Stewards helped form the first 391 Commission in Texas, which allowed five towns and their school districts in Eastern Bell County to require the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) to "coordinate" the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC) with their communities.

This resulted in the Commission convincing the Federal Highway Administration that the environmental study could not be approved, forcing TXDOT to recommend the "no-build" option for the TTC-I-35 Corridor. American Stewards has since helped form 14 similar commissions across Texas to fight several issues including the CREZ transmission lines proposed through the Hill Country.

Margaret is the wife of Dan Byfield and daughter of Wayne and Jean Hage who filed the landmark property rights case Hage vs United States in the US Court of Federal Claims in 1991. She will also be bringing us a report on the latest decision in this case. Coffee and social begins at 10:00 a.m., with the meeting starting at 10:30 a.m. Mrs Byfield will speak at 11:00 a.m. and lunch will follow.

Reservations for the luncheon will be necessary at the cost of $16.00. Members please call your area reservation chairman, non-menbers please contact Marsha Kothmann at 325-347-5511 or by email at no later than January 12th.

© 2009 Mason County News:

December 17, 2009

Snyder Praises Mayor's Leadership

By Sonya Campbell, Managing Editor
The Cameron Herald

[The City Council] heard from Ralph Snyder of the Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission, who commented on the demise of the planned Trans-Texas Corridor.

Saying he wanted to dispel myths, Snyder noted the Texas Department of Transportation killed the project, not due to the public’s concerns but because the proposed route traveled through Blackland prairie — federally protected farmland.

“This black gumbo we live in saved us,” Snyder said.

He cautioned, however, that the project could be resurrected in another form.

Before concluding his comments, Snyder praised the efforts of the planning commission and its members.

He presented the mayor with a “Spirit of Liberty Award” from the American Stewards of Liberty, a national group founded in the early 1990s that has about 6,000 members.

The award is presented to someone in the U.S. once a year, Snyder said.

This year, plaques were given to all of the sub-regional planning commission members for their efforts to halt the corridor project.

“Thank you for joining and supporting the planning commission,” Snyder said.

He also commended the mayor on his leadership abilities, saying, “He deserves a lot of credit.”

© 2009 The Cameron Herald:

December 9, 2009

LCRA to Upgrade and Expand Electric Line through Mason

Texas Hill Country Heritage Association

Mason County News

LCRA has notified landowners along the Mason to Pittsburg electric transmission line, a 69 kv line generally paralleling Highway 29 E towards Llano, of their intent to expand and upgrade the existing line.

Construction is to begin in the fall of 2010, but LCRA TSC crews are already surveying the right-of-way, originally built by West Texas Utilities and now operated by American Electric Power Texas North Company (AEP TNC).

The Texas Hill County Heritage Association strongly recommends any landowner affected by this line to seek immediate legal advice concerning these old right-of-way documents. LCRA TSC is going to upgrade the existing line by replacing all deteriorating poles, cross arms and x-braces, and upgrade the transmission line to 138 kilovolts.

LCRA is already driving their equipment over this easement and are having a difficult time staying on the existing right-of-way. Many landowners have reported to the THCHA of crews and equipment trespassing on their private property causing damage.

THCHA will be requesting the directors of the newly formed Mason Sub-Regional Planning Commission (MSRPC) to begin coordination meetings with the LCRA TSC regarding this project. Landowners in Mason County have concerns that must be addressed and LCRA TSC is required by law to coordinate any and all plans within the county with the planning commission.

If you have any questions or comments, please send them to our attention and we will make sure the MSRPC addresses your concerns.

© 2009 Mason County News:

November 5, 2009

City one step closer to forming sub-regional planning commission

By Bill Crist
The Cameron Herald

The Cameron City Council heard the first reading of an ordinance that will create the Little River Basin Sub-Regional Planning Commission at its meeting Monday night.

The benefits of forming a commission were presented to the council by Ralph Snyder, Dan Byfield and Gene Linn. They told the council that a sub-regional commission has the same "stature" as a council of governments, but can focus its attention at a much more local level.

According to Cameron City Manager Ricky Tow, the commission will be an agreement between two or more cities, and could include the county and local school boards - although none of those details have been addressed.

Tow said the East Central Texas Sub Regional Planning Commission played an instrumental role in raising concerns and slowing down the Trans Texas Corridor, as well as raising flags about the path of proposed power lines.

"It can be a huge tool," Tow said.

The second reading of the ordinance is expected to be on the council's agenda at its next meeting.

© 2009 Cameron Herald:

October 28, 2009

Planning Commission Formed to fight Transmission Line

Mason County News

Mason, Texas – In an unprecedented move, the City and County Commissioners have both formally adopted separate resolutions to create the Mason Sub-Regional Planning Commission in response to the proposed LCRA TSC 345 KV transmission line.

This new planning commission is allowed under state statute 391 of the Local Government Code as a way for cities and counties to band together and work to protect and improve the health, safety, and general welfare of their residents.

“Since Mason County has been thrust into this fight over the LCRA transmission line, we felt we needed more than comments, letters, and protests to the Public Utility Commission and the Lower Colorado River Authority,” stated Mason County Judge Jerry Bearden. Bearden will serve as the county’s representative on the newly created commission board, along with Mayor Brent Hinckley representing the city.

“When we learned we could form this commission to protect our citizens, there was no hesitation on our city commission’s part,” exclaimed Mayor Brent Hinckley. There are over a dozen such planning commissions statewide that are fighting the Trans-Texas Corridor and TXDOT.

Under the 391 statute, state agencies, like the PUC and LCRA, are required by law to coordinate their plans and policies with local planning commissions at the regional level. This means any plans LCRA and/or the PUC have to construct electric lines through the jurisdiction of this new planning commission must be discussed in government-to-government meetings before any lines can be constructed through the county. This is outside the regulatory process of the PUC.

“We’ll be sending a letter to both the PUC and LCRA requesting they come to Mason, Texas to begin the coordination process with our planning commission,” explained Bearden. “And, they will have to figure out how to comply with our electric transmission policy,” added Hinckley.
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“This is local control at its finest,” said Mike Dail, chairman of the public relations committee of the newly formed non-profit Texas Hill Country Heritage Association (THCHA). THCHA was also formed in response to the electric transmission line and will be working closely with the new planning commission. In fact, Mike Dail has been named as the third member of the commission board to serve with Judge Bearden and Mayor Hinckley.

Under the 391 statute, a planning commission can develop policies and plans for practically any purpose to benefit the citizens of the region. A commission may plan for development of a region and make recommendations concerning transportation, public utilities, health, education, recreation, agriculture, business, industry, historical and cultural sites, land use, water supply, sanitation facilities, drainage, public buildings, economic, and other items of general purpose.

© 2009 Mason County News:

October 8, 2009

Coordination Defeats I-35 Trans Texas Corridor Project (TTC-35)

American Stewards of Liberty
Copyright 2009

On October 7th, 2009 we had one of our most resounding victories for coordination that not only affects Texas, but the nation. It is a victory for private property rights proving that when a few good Americans decide something is wrong and are willing to take a stand, they can win against incredible odds.

In a press conference in Austin, Texas, Amadeo Saenz, executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT), announced on behalf of Texas Governor Rick Perry, that the Trans-Texas Corridor, I-35 Segment is dead. TXDOT will be recommending the “No Build” option to the Federal Highway Administration.

You read it right – the key leg of the NAFTA Superhighway is dead and every member of American Stewards of Liberty played a key role in making this happen.

It is hard to place into words the magnitude of this coordination victory.

In August of 2007, four unpaid mayors and their school districts in eastern Bell County, Texas stepped forward and asserted their coordination authority for the first time in Texas history.

They demanded an equal seat at the table with TXDOT and held their first meeting with the agency on the I-35 super corridor October 22, 2007. It was during this meeting that the environmental study director informed them the Final DEIS (Draft Environmental Impact Statement) would be submitted to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) by January, 2008.

The next step would be condemnation of the 146 acres per mile to build the super highway.

The newly formed Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission (ECTSRPC) went to work laying out in government-to-government meetings the flaws in TXDOT’s study and violations of law being committed by the agency.

They met two more times with the Transportation agency filing two lengthy petitions with the Federal Highway Administration, the latest one being sent in June, 2009 calling on the FHA to reject the study in its entirety. The ECTSRPC set forth 27 pages of violations of federal law being carried out by FHA’s agent, TXDOT that no one had pointed out before.

TXDOT and FHA have been in discussions on the final DEIS for most of this year. We have no doubt that the last petition caused the FHA to suggest TXDOT present another option. Today we learn that option is “NO BUILD.”

The coordination strategy utilized by these courageous Texans, developed by Fred Kelly Grant, president of American Stewards, stopped the I-35 Trans-Texas Corridor.

How big is this coordination victory for local government? Here is what we were up against:
  • The Trans-Texas Corridor was a keystone project for Governor Perry;
  • It was fully supported by President George W. Bush;
  • It had the funding of the Spanish Corporation, Cintra-Zachry;
  • The people of Texas tried to repeal the TTC project during three legislative sessions, but were thwarted each time by the governor and road lobby;
  • The State of Texas spent $16 million on environmental and planning documents;
  • $3.5 million were made in political contributions to candidates from TTC Contractors;
  • $6.1 million was spent by TTC Contractors for paid lobbyist to get the project through.
We’ve won the battle on the I-35 Corridor by using the coordination strategy because of the generous support and commitment of the members of American Stewards of Liberty.

If you are not a member of American Stewards, we invite you to join us. Click Here to sign up.

If you would like to learn more about the coordination strategy used to stop the I-35 Trans Texas Corridor, make plans to attend our annual conference, November 5-7 in Denver, Colorado where we will spend two-and-a-half days teaching you how you too can bring home local control. Click Here to learn about the conference.

Click Here to read the press release.

Click Here to read the petition to the FHA.

Click Here to read more about Texas coordination.

© 2009 American Stewards of Liberty:
Cintra: Texas Recommends Dropping TTC-35 Highway Project

By Jason Sinclair
Dow Jones Newswires

MADRID--Spanish toll-road company Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras SA (CIN.MC) said Thursday that the Texas Department of Transportation had recommended against going forward with the Trans-Texas Corridor-35 highway.

In a filing to the Spanish market regulator, Cintra said the Texas state government made the decision after the U.S. Federal Highway Administration raised questions about the environmental impact of the planned highway.

In 2004, a Cintra-led consortium was chosen to design and plan the TTC-35 highway.

Cintra is already building another Texas highway called the SH 130, which won't be affected by the decision, the company said.

Cintra has won a number of projects in Texas as the state looks to build new roads and privatize existing ones through public-private partnerships.

Company Web site:

91 395 8127;

© 2009 Dow Jones Newswires:

October 7, 2009

Mayors Defeat Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC-35) and TxDOT

Contact: Mae Smith, President/Mayor, 254-657-2460

Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission

Holland, Texas - Five local mayors took a stand 27 months ago and formed the state's first sub-regional planning commission to stand up against and stop once and for all the governor's massive land grab known as the Trans-Texas Corridor. No one thought they could.

Today, the Texas Department of Transportation and the governor announced that the State of Texas has officially killed the project by selecting the "No Build" option under the environmental impact statement study. Selecting that option was exactly what the Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission (ECTSRPC) forced the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) into choosing.

"Believe me, it wasn't what they wanted to do, it's what we forced them to do," stated Mae Smith, Mayor of Holland and president of the ECTSRPC. The planning commission began a series of what is called coordination meetings in the fall of 2007, by utilizing a little known state statute that forced the behemoth agency to come to Holland, Texas.

TxDOT came to Holland on three different occasions where they were asked to explain why they were going to destroy five towns and their school districts with a 1,200 foot-wide, 146 acre per mile toll road. "Through coordination, we forced them to our table and then we used the federal NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) statute to box them in a legal corner out of which they could not escape," stated Ralph Snyder, a local Holland businessman and board member of the ECTSRPC. "That's what forced TxDOT to recommend 'No Build' to the Federal Highway Administration because we had shown how TxDOT, as the agent of the federal government, had violated the federal statute in at least 29 ways," Snyder continued.

Fred Grant, president of American Stewards of Liberty, is the originator of the coordination strategy that brought TxDOT to their knees. "Had we not had five courageous mayors who represent a total of 6,000 people stand up to the governor and his rogue state agency, the Trans-Texas Corridor would have destroyed hundreds of thousands of private acres of prime and unique farmland, as well as, the economies of every community it dissected," stated Grant.

The TTC-35 is just one of the 4,000 miles of toll roads that nine state planning commissions are fighting.

"TxDOT can still continue to build 130, TTC-69, and the Ports-to-Plains toll roads, but defeating the TTC-35 is a major victory for the rural people of Texas."

To obtain a copy of the petition filed by the ECTSRPC showing the federal violations of TxDOT, please contact American Stewards of Liberty at 512-365-2699.

© 2009 ECTSRPC:

October 6, 2009

Perry pulls plug on Trans Texas Corridor...but another lives on

Terri Hall
San Antonio Express-News

If you believe Rick Perry, today he's finally conceded the death of the initial Trans Texas Corridor foreign-owned toll road, land-grabbing superhighway that would have paralleled I-35, called TTC-35. However, there's LOTS more to this story.

Perry would have us believe the announcement was because of the lack of political support, but since when does he care a flip about whether his toll road policies have political support? Look no further than his veto of eminent domain reform legislation, HB 2006, and the private toll moratorium bill, HB 1892, passed by a supermajority of the Texas Legislature in 2007 for proof.

There's never been grassroots support for his hefty toll tax increases nor the Trans Texas Corridor. The REAL reason Perry's highway department, the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT), put the nail in the coffin of TTC-35 was because it was under the threat of a federal lawsuit by a local government commission, the Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission, which was formed to stop TTC-35 dead in its tracks.

There's nothing that puts more fear in a politician up for re-election than a messy, well-publicized federal lawsuit against one of his most controversial, polarizing policies. So rather than risk certain death at the polls, Perry opted for the death of his beloved special interest TTC-35. Of course, the Texas Farm Bureau's endorsement of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison for governor played a role in the timing of the announcement.

Hutchison said in a statement today: "The Trans-Texas Corridor will not be officially dead until Rick Perry is no longer governor and his political appointees are no longer running TxDOT. Texans can't trust Rick Perry when it comes to protecting their land from the government, ceding to lease our highways to foreign companies or ending the Trans-Texas Corridor."

I couldn't agree more.

Trans Texas Corridor #2 still alive & well

To demonstrate the point that Texas isn't safe from Perry's policies until he's kicked out of office, the Trans Texas Corridor plan #2, known as TTC-69/I-69 in the hands of Spanish company ACS, is still on the table.

"Officials said that project (69), which unlike the I-35 plan would mainly involve expanding existing highways, remains alive," according to the Austin American Statesman on October 6, 2009.

When over 28,000 Texans went on the record AGAINST TTC-69, it goes to show Perry's same ol' stubborn indifference to the people of Texas in regards to the Trans Texas Corridor.

He throws the public a bone over here (saying the "TTC-35 is dead") in order to distract from an equally controversial debacle over there (TTC-69) that threatens to damage the environment, private property rights, and the economic prosperity of thousands of Texans.

Bottom line: Texans can't trust Rick Perry to keep his word or to truly KILL his destructive, detested toll road agenda. The only sure way to keep Texas safe is to give Perry the boot!

© 2009 San Antonio Express-News:

September 15, 2009

Super Highway Standstill

Executive Editors: Dan and Margaret Byfield
Standing Ground

We now have gone through three full legislative sessions in Texas since 2003, when the Legislature created the Trans-Texas Corridor, the quarter-of-a-mile wide superhighway designed to connect Mexican ports to Canada by creating an international highway through America.

Once again, in 2009, nothing has been done by the Texas Legislature to stop the largest land grab in American history.

In fact, the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT), the lead agency for the project, was up for sunset, a review process that determines whether the agency remains in existence, and if so, whether the agency is restructured. Although the Sunset Committee proposed several changes to the governance of the department, none of the changes were enacted. Instead, the Texas Legislature extended TXDOT for two more years and made a $2 billion appropriation for the state agency.

Although opponents of the TTC would have liked to have seen the superhighway killed by the legislative body, so too would the governor and TXDOT have liked to have enacted some necessary authorizations to continue the project, but neither happened. The 2009 Session was a critical stalemate for the TTC, providing some welcomed opportunities for local governments using coordination to stop the international highway.

The Session began with an announcement by Amadeo Saenz, the executive director of TXDOT, that the Trans-Texas Corridor was “dead.” The reality is that these projects were just renamed to the “Innovative Connectivity in Texas/Vision 2009” and are to move forward segment by segment.

Even Governor Rick Perry announced that “the days of the Trans-Texas Corridor are over,” but later said, “We really don’t care what name they attach to building infrastructure in the state of Texas. The key is we have to go forward and build it.” A significant number of road builders and businesses betting on the corridor have contributed to his campaign, so it is easy to understand why his comments indicate that the change is not much more than a public relations campaign. The TTC is alive and well.

As the 2009 Regular Session opened, controversial transportation legislation was filed and the battle began in earnest. The one bill introduced by David Leibowitz from San Antonio that actually killed the TTC was buried in committee. HB 300 became the vehicle upon which every amendment and wish list for the transportation department was attached.

In one overnight session, the bill ballooned to over 1,000 pages and was attempted to be voted on within 24 hours. Fortunately, it died on the last day of the Regular Session when the grassroots and rural folks opposed the effort.

In reality, nothing changed regarding TXDOT or the Trans-Texas Corridor. All the work and effort to kill it died on the floor of the House and Senate, but that also meant that everything TXDOT and the governor wanted died as well.

Remember, TXDOT was up for sunset. In other words, they had to be reauthorized statutorily by the Legislature or they would be extinguished. For several hours, many hoped TXDOT was gone, but the governor called a special session to deal specifically with transportation and approximately 20 other state agencies that remained unauthorized at the end of the Regular Session.

Special Session Gets Interesting

What occurred during the Special Session was nothing short of miraculous. Several bills were filed. SB 2 reauthorized TXDOT and all the other state agencies. The governor attempted to reauthorize TXDOT for four years, but the grassroots opposition were able to hold the legislators to only two years. TXDOT will once again be sunset in 2011 and the Legislature will again have to consider how to restructure TXDOT.

The other bill was HB 1, relating to funding of highways and transportation projects in Texas. It passed, allowing $2 billion worth of bonds to pay for highway con- struction and improvements, but removed any ability of TXDOT to use the funds for conversion of existing highways to toll roads and to build any new toll roads. So, that was a miraculous victory that no one expected. It showed how, when the only issue was transportation, the legislators weren’t willing to stick their necks out on such a controversial issue as toll roads.

The most interesting battle during the Special Session came from SB 3 and HB 4, filed at the governor’s and TXDOT’s request to reauthorize Comprehensive Development Agreements (CDAs) that would allow public/private partnerships (foreign companies) the ability to contract with the state to build toll roads.

During the Regular Session, no future CDAs were authorized, which were necessary for TXDOT to build the individual segments of the Trans-Texas Corridor, as well as other toll projects. Senator John Carona, Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, had also tried to pass legislation in the Regular Session that allowed local authorities to place on local ballots a referendum to raise taxes for highway construction.

That one amendment turned most legislators against HB 300, killing the bill in the Regular Session. When Governor Perry called the Special Session, he did not place Carona’s local tax bill on the Call. Senator Carona was furious, and he took out his revenge on the governor during the special session seeing to it that the Governor’s bills, SB 3 & HB 4, were killed. Carona wouldn’t allow SB 3 out of the Senate unless the governor placed his pet bill for taxes on the Call.

The dispute became a classic political standoff where members of the same party devoured their own. The end result: no additional CDAs were authorized, paving the way for the argument to be made that the Texas Legislature did not authorize the necessary segment contracts that would allow the building of the Trans-Texas Corridor. Therefore, whether deliberate or not, they in essence denied the continuation of the TTC project.

A Return To Local Control

The fight that took place in the Regular and Special Sessions and the reason TXDOT has not yet begun to build the Trans-Texas Corridor can be traced back to the stand taken at the local level by five 391 sub-regional planning commissions. Two years ago, American Stewards helped form the first 391 commission, which began requiring TXDOT to coordinate with local governments.

Since the beginning of these efforts, TXDOT has had to change their top down management approach to the project. When we first notified them they were required to coordinate with the Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission (ECTSRPC), they quickly changed their internal rules to include “coordinating” with local units of government.

Then, they formed Regional Advisory Segments and Councils where they appointed their own “local” people to “advise and coordinate” with the state on transportation issues. They then began forming Rural Planning Organizations (RPOs) in conjunction with Councils of Government and told them funding would come during the 2009 Legislative Session to finance the effort. It all failed when HB 300 died, but the point is, they formed these RPO’s specifically to combat the 391 commissions that over time sprang up in nine locations across the state. They needed a similar group to claim that “local” people wanted their vision of transportation, not the 391 version.

Then, the first announcement came in the summer of 2008 that one of the two major new corridor TTC routes planned, TTC-69, was dead and instead they would be using existing roads as the path for the superhighway. Several months later, and strategically timed immediately before the start of the 2009 Legislative Session, TXDOT’s executive director made his famous announcement that the entire Trans-Texas Corridor project was dead (renamed “Innovative Connectivity”). Both claims are absolutely false, but politically calculated to soften the opposition going into the legislative session.

The 391 commissions continue to press forward, ensuring the project, by any name, is coordinated at the local level. Last June, at the end of the regular session, the ECTSRPC again raised the issue before the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), filing a second petition, this time requesting the entire environmental study be rejected.
The 27-page petition illustrates why TXDOT has lost all credibility to prepare a valid environmental study, that the time has expired for them to complete the study under the Texas Administrative Code, that the Texas Legislature specifically denied passing authorization for segment building contracts (CDAs) for the TTC, and that the entire project, by their own admission, has changed significantly making the current TTC environmental study obsolete.

The FHA responded to the commission [ECTSRPC] with a letter, giving the local government petition the same weight as a public comment. In response, the commission [ECTSRPC] immediately sent a short, pointed letter to Janice Brown, FHA Administrator for the Texas Division, copied to the Department of Justice, as well as the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, stating:

“We will not have our complaints, based on fact and law, passed off as though they were mere comments. Our issues and the issues of thousands of Texans are with you and your agency within your federal obligation of oversight of TXDOT.
Mr. Jackson’s letter will be exhibit 1 in whatever action we take, as an admission of your continued complicity with an agency which the Texas legislature again rejected in the Special Session. We could not believe that the “brush off” as a mere public comment was sent with your knowledge and understanding of the consequences which we made clear in our Petition. This is your chance to tell us whether you intend to answer the questions posed in behalf of the citizens of this Planning Commission, or whether you desire to be the defendant in one or more of the above actions for refusal to even consider the merits of valid complaints based on factual legal violations of federal law.”

The letter was sent June 16, and the commission is waiting for Federal Highway’s response while preparing for the next step. In the interim, the environmental studies for the two TTC segments have not been finalized. In a coordination meeting held in October 2007, TXDOT informed the ECTSRPC that the I-35 study would be finalized in January 2008. That still has not taken place, and the only reasonable conclusion is that local governments initiated coordination on the project whereby they have brought to the agencies attention issues that should have been addressed in the study, and can be challenged in a court of law.

Through this process, local governments have met with not only TXDOT, but also other state and federal agencies connected with the project. In these government-to-government meetings, and through follow up letters, the commission has pointed out numerous violations of law made by TXDOT. They have also received commitments and omissions from the agencies that would be damaging to TXDOT if the issue moved to a court of law.

Local governments, through coordination, have been the only viable opposition to the once fast-tracked project. It’s now at a standstill as TXDOT and the Federal Highway Administration determine which direction to head, given the illegalities of the environmental study. Another key element of this decision will be the importance the new President places on the NAFTA trade corridor, of which the TTC is the first leg.

Delay of the project was the commission’s first goal, hoping that over time the financiers behind the superhighway would lose interest while the devastation of the agenda to America became more public.

Now, it seems, that may be occurring. Cintra, the Spanish-owned Corporation in line to build the TTC, if approved, is also a major investor in an Indiana toll road that cost $4.8 billion to build and is now estimated to be worth a fraction of that expense at $405 million. Toll roads everywhere are proving to be a bad investment. One could hope that good business sense will take hold, and not a political agenda, when deciding whether to move forward with the Trans-Texas Corridor.

Finally, A Rural Transportation Plan

In tandem with fighting the illegalities of the environmental study, the ECTSRPC has also been developing a transportation plan for the area covering their jurisdiction, the eastern half of Bell County and western half of Milam County. The Bartlett-to-Buckholts Rural Transportation Plan was finalized this spring and is the first transportation plan in the state prepared entirely from the rural perspective. A copy was sent to all the affected state and local agencies, including TXDOT, as well as, the Commissioners of Bell and Milam Counties.

Two of the Bell County Commissioners met with the ECTSRPC at their regular monthly meeting in June. The meeting was another coordination success for the commission. A key issue addressed in the plan was the numerous roads that remain unpaved, resulting in increased wear and tear on the five school district’s buses. The Commissioners agreed to increase the miles allotted for paving these roads and agreed to prioritize those roads identified by the school districts.

Another positive response to the plan came directly from TXDOT’s executive director, Amadeo Saenz, in a letter dated June 12, 2009: “Thank you for providing the Texas Department of Transportation with a copy of the Bartlett-to-Buckholts Rural Transportation Plan. I appreciate your research and coordination efforts related to the factors affecting the complex movement of people and goods in central Texas. We will use this information as we go forward with our planning efforts. We also look forward to continued coordination with your commission, along with the many partners that are involved in transportation-related issues in Williamson, Milam and Bell counties.”

It’s no secret that in the beginning the agency and certainly the governor did not relish the idea of coordinating with the now five unpaid mayors and their school districts that make up the ECTSRPC Commission. They did so and continue to do so because refusing would place them in violation of the law. Two years into the process, they appear to be honoring that commitment, not only to the ECTSRPC, but to the five other working Commissions in the state as well.

The ultimate conclusion to the TTC project is still unknown. But what is known is that the superhighway would have been half paved by now and over 500,000 private acres of land would be in line for condemnation proceedings if these courageous local leaders had passed up the opportunity to use the coordination process available to all local governments.

Instead, they took a critical stand and today continue to carve out a path for local governments to follow.

No longer does the TTC buck stop at the Texas Governor’s office. It stops in eastern Bell County.

© 2009 Standing Ground:

August 27, 2009

Cities partner to address 281/1604 project together

By Christine Stanley - Contributing Writer/North Central News
San Antonio Express-News

Hill Country Village is joining forces with Hollywood Park to form a sub-regional planning commission that would tackle the U.S. 281/Loop 1604 interchange revamp — and any other state or federal project that may affect the two cities.

Hollywood Park City Councilman Bob Sartor got the green light from his colleagues to start work on the commission last month. Hill Country Village council members approved the move Aug. 20.

State and federal law allows for at least two governing agencies — at the city or county level, or both — to form a sub-regional planning commission to promote the coordinated development of a particular region.

Such a commission can do that in a number of ways, including recommendations to higher governmental authorities on how to proceed with a particular project.

In this case, the sub-regional planning commission would focus on Alamo Regional Mobility Authority's proposed $140 million plan for the 281/1604 interchange.

ARMA plans to build four elevated “direct connectors” between the two highways that would connect travelers on 281 north to the east and west sides of 1604, and two more connectors would take travelers from both sides of the loop to 281 south.

Construction could begin as early as next year.

ARMA is reaching out to Hollywood Park, Hill Country Village and surrounding cities through its own citizen advisory groups and public meetings, but Sartor reminded Hollywood Park residents last month that the agency has no legal obligation to meet with any community.

By law, ARMA would have to meet with the sub-regional planning commission and take any of its recommendations into consideration before making a final decision on the connector project.

Hollywood Park council members have expressed concern about negative impacts to their constituents during and after construction.

Hill Country Village Mayor Kirk Francis said he is worried about ARMA's true intentions. He reminded his colleagues that ARMA was originally created by the state Legislature as a tolling authority.

“So I'm kind of curious why ARMA is hosting all these meetings that have to do with what's supposed to be a TxDOT project,” Francis said Aug. 20.

ARMA has stressed on its Web site and in recent public meetings that the 281/1604 interchange will not be tolled.

Francis said the two cities will work out bylaws for the sub-regional planning commission during the next few weeks. It appears the commission will include Francis and Hollywood Park Mayor Richard McIlveen, a council member from each city and a resident designee appointed by each mayor.

“Right now, (ARMA) can tell us after the fact, they can invite us to meetings — that's their form of communication,” Francis said.

He said the panel would also bring both cities closer in addressing health and safety issues of mutual interest.

Hill Country Village council members also approved a contract with Acadian Ambulance Service Aug. 20.

Francis was the tiebreaker in a vote to sever ties with San Antonio EMS last month. He broke a tie between council members Gabriel Durand-Hollis and Margaret Mayberry, who were in favor of sticking with San Antonio EMS, and Register and Elizabeth Worley, who wanted to switch to Acadian.

The ambulance provider would incorporate Hill Country Village into its coverage area for free, saving the city about $35,000 each year.

© 2009 San Antonio Express-News:

August 11, 2009

Perry dodges question on the Trans Texas Corridor

Terri Hall
San Antonio Express-News

The Victoria Advocate asked a simple question of Rick Perry August 6, but this video shows a long-winded "dodge" to the reporter's question (because he's still pushing the Trans Texas Corridor, or TTC, and knows it's political suicide to admit it).

In fact, he intentionally misleads the public into thinking the Texas Legislature killed the TTC last session when, in fact, it did not.
  • The TTC-35 contract was signed in 2005 and has not been revoked or bought out.
  • The entire TTC-69 was excepted out of the moratorium so segments of it can go under contract with foreign entities through 2011.
  • The bill to repeal the Trans Texas Corridor (introduced by Rep. David Leibowitz) never made it out of committee, and it was later attached to a bill that died.
© 2009 San Antonio Express-News:

July 28, 2009

Grass roots group remains concerned about highway planning

By Donna McCollum

NACOGDOCHES, TX - Thursday night a half a million dollars was approved by the U.S. House for I-69 Texas. The funds will be used to expedite the U.S. Transportation's environmental review to advance I-69. Today the I-69 Alliance publicly praised the legislation. The funding level for I-69 FY 2010 will be determined later this fall when the Senate spending bill is determined.

Meanwhile, the issue remains a topic in national, state and local politics. Tuesday night in Nacogdoches, another group is talking transportation issues with State Representative Jim McReynolds. The Piney Woods Sub-Regional Planning Commission (PWSRPC) is keeping a close watch on future transportation issues, includiing a loop by-pass around Nacogdoches, Lufkin and as far south as Diboll.

It's a good idea for moving people quickly, but could be a bad one if the route hampers accessibility to other roadways and towns. "Say on South Street, here in Nacogdoches, where you've already got a lot of businesses and you've got a lot of hotels," Nacogdoches County Judge Joe English began. "Are they going to try to move it (roadway) over a little bit either one side to the left or the right because they don't want the expense of having to replace all those businesses?," the judge questioned. "And so when they start moving it we've got the same issues we had before and that's taking the grass roots mom and pop property."

Sub-regional planning commissions remain in existence along the I-69 route despite recent legislative efforts to disband them. Members are determined to have their voices heard before the Texas Department of Transportation. "We want them to know that we're still looking at it and we're still addressing it and when the planning and the meetings are put together we want to be a part of them," English said.

The commission is gathering information for a rural transportation plan. Members have gatherings planned in Garrison and Chireno. "We'll develop a plan for each community and what their needs and concerns are for transportation in their community," Jan Tracy, a PWSRPC volunteer explained. "And then we'll come back and compile all that together and present that to TxDOT."

Another concern is the financing method chosen. The group questions toll roads and who will own the toll money.

It's a grass roots mission that remains even after the state says the Trans Texas Corridor has gone away.

© 2009 WorldNow and KTRE:

July 9, 2009

I-35 Segment 4 Kick off meeting

Kathy Palmer, President
South Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission

(For the full President's report click: [HERE])

Well this was certainly an interesting meeting.

It was held at the TxDOT District office in San Antonio and we had a variety of attendees from Laredo through to Seguin, including members of the San Antonio and Seguin Chambers of Commerce, a Frio County 911 Coordinator, City of St. Hedwig, City of Seguin and City of Laredo Planning and Zoning Commissioners, a Guadalupe County resident and a Guadalupe County Texas Farm Bureau representative.

Kudos to Judge Marvin Quinney, as he was the ONLY elected County official to attend.

Commissioners and Judges from Bexar County, Atascosa County, Medina County, Zapata County, and LaSalle County although invited, were nowhere to be seen. Being that the intent of this Segment Committee is to make sure your folks in your Counties are given yet another avenue to make their concerns, comments and considerations heard relating to the expansion of the Alternate I35 Corridor, one would think at least an alternate from those Counties would have been present.

It appeared by the input given at the start of the meeting approximately ¾ of the folks in attendance are very pro Commerce however it has to happen, while those in the rural areas are pro property rights and use of existing right of way.

There was lively debate as to the differences in the definition of “economic viability” as those in the city see the definition as commercial businesses all up and down the main roads and successful movement of commerce in those areas, while those in the rural areas see the definition as commercial business is good as long as it is not forcefully taking over the properties of residences along the roadways and building such roadways to bring trucks and freight through their once quiet farmland.

The Segment Committee members have been tasked in each of their individual areas to:
  • Identify transportation needs, Examine Existing and Planned Facilities
  • Identify areas where new location facilities may be needed
  • Prioritize the individual needs into a Master Plan
  • Finalize the Corridor Development Plan
While TxDOT is adamant that they want to “make sure we are getting the most out of the current facilities”, it is the Segment Committee members responsibility to hold them accountable to that expectation.

As members of the SCTSRPC, St. Hedwig and Wilson County as well as a portion of the representation of Guadaulpe County are all continuing with the original input of unfettered use of existing right of way on I10 and SH1604. Existing and future SH130 is a major part of this IH35 alternate plan, which directly affects Guadalupe County (Marion and Seguin via IH10), St. Hedwig (IH10 and SH1604), and Wilson County (SH 123 and expansion of SH1604).

The Committee’s main goal is to make sure that when a final recommendation is made of the Alternate to I35, that it indeed solves the true problem in the areas it will affect. That is the challenge that confronts each and every member as they will all be vying in the beginning for their individual areas while at the end will be tasked with prioritizing each issue brought to the table into a final Master Plan.

Eventually, the Segment 4 Master Plan will then be merged into the Segment 1-3 Master Plan therefore creating the “new”, specific, alternate route to I35 from the Texas/OK boarder to the Texas/Mexico border. As you can see the TTC 35 has not gone away, it has simply been broken down into smaller chunks to be analyzed and then reconstructed. TxDOT is looking for a “cohesive transportation system for the I35 Corridor with interstate multimodal transportation solutions”.

It is imperative that the public give competent, factual input to each of the Committee members as this runs its course. Following the NIMBY approach will not work. In order for the Committee member to be able to give it’s input as a reason to keep their issue at the top of the list, factual information from an environmental, historical and/or economical aspect must accompany the issue.

Meetings are open to the general public and you are encouraged to attend. This is an important issue that will affect each and every citizen in the East Bexar County, Guadalupe County and Wilson County area whether you think it will or not.

Please contribute and help the Committee members in your area as they strive to make sure their area is not left behind or worse yet, paved over.

© 2009 SCTSRPC:
Senator Robert Nichols and Toll Roads

(For video click [HERE])

By Roger Gray
KYTX (East Texas)

In the last legislative session, the future of toll roads was on the line.

But one area state senator was more involved than most. In fact some critics say the fix was in.

"You can't do toll roads in rural Texas. It won't work," says State Senator Kevin Eltife.

Yes, the original Trans Texas Corridors were huge, and controversial.

Whitehouse rancher and toll road critic Hank Gilbert called it, "the largest land grab in the history of the U.S."

Senator Eltife agreed. "It's a total property right's mess."

Gilbert added, "I don't think the people of Texas, rural and urban, are going to allow that to happen."

And Austin seemed to get the message.

"I think there's no question, the Trans Texas corridor is dead," Eltife concluded.

But some advocates clung to the idea of foreign companies building and running toll roads as private enterprises. Eltife is an opponent. "They should never be owned by a private company, ever. That's a gold mine for the state." As is Gilbert, of Texans United for Reform and Freedom. "Comprehensive Development Agreements that would allow private investors to come in, plan, build, operate, maintain, the whole nine yards."

Eltife agreed, "The state ought to own them. They ought to be a small piece of the puzzle." State Senator Robert Nichols "seemed" to agree when we spoke to him by phone during the session. "The people of East Texas are clear," he said. "They do not want the East Texas Corridor. But they do want to develop Interstate 69."

But did Sen. Nichols want to insure that private toll road contracts were a part of that I-69 development? He added an amendment to his transportation bill that seems to guarantee a contractor couldn't lose money.

Gilbert explained, "You have one of our own East Texas Republican senators is offering an amendment to his own bill which would guarantee a profit. To me that kind of goes against capitalism."

Nichols, though, disagreed. "There is language related to buy backs, but there is absolutely no guarantee whatever that anybody will ever get any of their debt back."

But, we have a copy of an e-mail sent out by toll road lobbyist Gary Bushell, and it says,

"...we have reached an agreement with Senator Nichols on a buyout provision...that provides protection of their position in the event they find themselves upside down on their debt to fair market value...I want to thank Senator Robert Nichols and his chief of staff Steven Albright for making this outcome possible."

Nichols doesn't think that's what he did. "Well, it's incorrect, because that's not true."

Gilbert concluded, "That's not very free market."

So, according to one lobbyist, Senator Robert Nichols went to bat for private toll road contractors.

"That's crazy," he protested. "No. I don't know who told you that, but that's nuts."

I responded, "Well, I've got an email from a lobbyist who says that's exactly what you did."

Nichols again disagreed, "Well, it's incorrect, because that's not true."

"So this lobbyist is wrong," I replied.

"If that's your interpretation of what he says," Nichols responded. "I'm not looking at whatever it is you're reading."

"I read you exactly what he said, " I said. "that provides protection of their position in the event they find themselves upside down on their debt to fair market value.'"

"Ok, I did not write that." He concluded.

Toll road critic Hank Gilbert is skeptical.

"At any point in time, this developer comes to the realization that they're not getting the return on investment they anticipated from this road, they can sell it back to the state at that time and with this amendment, they're guaranteed not to lose money."

Nichols again protested, "If you're saying the State of Texas or any entity is going to guarantee an investor his money back, no. Not correct."

But we have a copy of the amendment and it says.

".the fair market value of the private entity's not less than the (entity's) outstanding debt at that time plus other reasonable costs."

In short, they get out at least what they've put in.

So why would Nichols continue beating the toll road drum? The explanation may lie in his contributor list.

His top donor by far, James Pitcock of Williams Brothers Construction of Houston, the second largest TxDOT contractor for toll roads and they only gave money to one candidate in 2008, Robert Nichols.

But Nichols still insists toll roads aren't a certainty.

"So, it's your contention that even though these CDA's, comprehensive development agreements are in HB300," I asked, "we're not talking toll roads for East Texas."

"Well, now, that's a different question." He replied. "You have toll roads in Tyler."

And Robert Nichol's tried to push these CDA's again in the special session last week. He didn't succeed.

Apparently, as long as the political money is there, toll road advocates will keep pitching.

© 2009 KYTX:

July 6, 2009

In spotlight, toll roads too hot to handle

During special session, it's safety first for lawmakers.

by Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman

It's intriguing how a spotlight can change a politician's perspective. Or in the case of the special session just past, a whole bunch of politicians' perspectives.

Way back in the spring of 2009 (OK, about three months ago), the Texas Senate overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 404 and Senate Bill 17. The House Transportation Committee later passed both bills. And the Senate even passed them again, this time while they were taking a ride on the Texas Department of Transportation sunset bill that later died.

In fact, all of these bills died in the House late in the session. But it had nothing to do with the content of SB 404 and SB 17, which occasioned little debate during the regular session.

Then, last week, members of the House and Senate turned their noses up at both bills and declined to even vote on them.

To refresh your memory, SB 404 would have extended by several years the authority of TxDOT and regional mobility authorities to sign long-term toll road leases with private companies. Its companion bill, SB 17, would have mandated that such contracts protect the state's and residents' interests by making it easier to build nearby free roads and setting prices now for the state to buy back a private toll road if it ever wanted to.

Those two bills were combined, for the special session, into a single bill. Neither could get a vote in the House Transportation Committee or the Senate Finance Committee. The House Transportation Committee chairman, Joseph Pickett of El Paso, said members did not consider it a "safe vote." Meaning, it was a vote that could turn a legislator into a former legislator.

Remember, this same committee voted for the same changes to the law about seven weeks ago.

Why was it a safe vote in May and a dangerous vote in July?

Back then there were thousands of bills up for consideration, and thus the attention of the public and the press was fragmented. Transportation insiders, anti-toll activists and the few transportation writers for major dailies were paying attention to this. But most people weren't.

Now, with only three subjects on the special session call, and no controversy on two of them, that left the entire focus on this one bill. On legislators voting to allow private toll roads, potentially operated by (and sending profits eventually to) foreign companies like Spanish toll road builder Cintra. On lawmakers in effect undoing a moratorium on most such contracts that they voted for in 2007.

So, why not just bring it up and vote against it? Well, that could then be used against lawmakers later by an opponent saying they'd voted against badly needed roads. And it would be a vote against Gov. Rick Perry, who wanted to extend the authority for private toll roads. A vote against Perry, who has enthusiastically wielded his veto pen through the years.

Of course, presumably somewhere amid all this there is the "right" position to take on this issue — even if what is deemed right might vary from lawmaker to lawmaker — rather than the "safe" position. But Jefferson Smith went to Washington, not Austin.

And he was a fictional character.

© 2009 Austin American-Statesman: