July 18, 2008

Austin, we have a problem

by Virginia “Dee Dee” King and Connie Fogle
Groveton News
Copyright 2008

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) announced June 11th that it will recommend that the I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) Project be developed using existing highway facilities “wherever possible”.

TxDOT is trying to slip through the current Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for approval by the Federal Highway Administration to get financing to start construction! As Craig Whealy wrote in his Letters to the Editor (June 19th), “when a project moves from a Draft EIS to Final after federal approval, all discussion and legal challenges come to a screeching halt.” The finalized EIS (Tier II) “does not preclude the use of the Preferred Alternate at some time in the future.”

TNT (like that acronym?) has requested a meeting with TxDOT to get answers to the concerns in Trinity and Polk counties. No reply, yet.

So, who and what in the heck is TNT?

Trinity-Neches Texas Sub-regional Planning Commission whose purpose is to coordinate with state and federal agencies on any concerns involving our counties. Mayor Grimes Fortune (Corrigan), Mayor Troy Jones (Groveton), Mayor Lyle Stubbs (Trinity), and member at large Bob Dockens make up the Board of Directors.

TNT wants the existing EIS rewritten to no longer include Trinity County, and to start addressing the Polk County issues involving US Hwy 59.

Connie Fogle, Dee Dee King, Jessica Parish, and Craig Whealy, all Planning Commission Associates, along with representatives from three other Planning Commissions sat in a meeting, on July 15th, between the ECTSRPC (East Central Texas Sub-regional Planning Commission) and the NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service), in Holland, TX.

Though the Topic of Discussion was “The Impact of the Trans-Texas Corridor, I-35 Segment”, TNT associates benefited from some insights presented by Donald Gohmert, State Conservationist and Dennis Williamson, Acting Soil Scientist. These insights brought home possible issues if the current DEIS is approved.

Two other Planning Commission Associates attended the Sunset Advisory Commission meeting in Austin, July 15th, concerning the proper functioning of TxDOT. Created in 1977, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission is to identify and eliminate waste, duplication, and inefficiency in government agencies

Noble Campbell, a TNT Associate member, attended the Sunset Advisory Commission meeting on TxDOT. Noble had prepared a 3 minute presentation for the commission, where he said “My second worry relates to an aspect of the supposedly agreed restructure of the route of the "corridor", moving it to the "footprint of existing highways" …from Laredo to Texarkana.

"The manipulations of the Environmental Tier I activities, at step 9, marks step 9 as a beginning of Tier II. There is an effort underway at TXDOT that Tier II of the original corridor route will not be eradicated, meaning that the original corridor route will remain legal and intact through eternity…and at this point, we get the 50 year hogwash treatment.

'There are four counties in the loop which was planned to bypass Houston on the west side… We are concerned that the "50 year hogwash treatment" may revert to about a "5 year hogwash" when TxDOT gets stuck in the middle of Houston and complains its way out, explaining that it has to revert to the Tier II route (in the current TTC/I-69 DEIS) through the four counties noted. (Waller, Grimes, Walker and Trinity)”

July 18th, the Sunset Advisory Commission posted the hearing report at listed 6 issues that Sunset had identified concern-ing TxDOT at http://www. sunset.state.tx.us/81streports/txdot/txdot_hm.pdf and added 16 more from the public hearings.

Hank Gilbert, of Whitehouse TX, submitted Number 16: which requires TxDOT to properly coordinate with all local governmental entities in the proposed pathways of their future projects, not just the elected officials TxDOT deems important. (Hank Gilbert, President – Pineywoods Sub-Regional Planning Commission)

© 2008, The Groveton News: www.easttexasnews.com

No comments: