Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Trans-Texas Corridor is Dead

Ding, dong.  Last week the Texas legislature killed (or "stuck a fork in") the Trans-Texas Corridor.  The Corridor was supported by Governor Rick Perry as a visionary network of high-volume superhighways to crisscross the state and link it to transportation networks in the surrounding states and Mexico.  It was conceived as being mostly for trucks and for long-distance car traffic across the state; the roads would mostly bypass the major cities.  It was to be a 4,000+ mile network (Texas is big, but that's still a lot of road) of toll roads and freight and passenger rail, built and operated through public-private partnerships.  An article about the final nail, er, fork, is here

Perry had championed the Trans-Texas Corridor, an ambitious highway network proposal that included public-private partnerships and tollways.

An outcry from landowners and others, however, prompted the transportation agency this year to say it would scale back the network concept and drop the name.

The Corridor met widespread opposition when it was announced.  Some of this opposition was irrational--that it was a secret "NAFTA Superhighway" that would lead to the new world order, etc.  But the project was enormous in scope: an opposition group estimated that the total cost would be as much as $31 million per mile, and $125 billion overall.  [Update: the Houston Chronicle states the number for the propsal as $175 billion].  What was even more disturbing to some people was the massive amount of land it would consume, particularly in the rural areas where the Corridor was to be built (the Texas Farm Bureau has even endorsed Gov. Perry's primary challenger, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, largely because of its opposition to Perry's proposed Corridor).

This map shows the original master concept of superhighways crisscrossing all of the state.  The corridors were projected to be on the scale of 1,200 feet wide--that is a lot of land.  But what alarmed and energized opponents even more was the fact that the state in its initial plans (understandably) didn't know precisely where the actual roads and rails would be built, but they released maps such as this one (on keeptexasmoving.com by the state Department of Transportation) which show big, fat, snakes of land perhaps 5 or more miles wide as "recommended preferred corridors."  Everyone within those potential corridors complained, with some justification, that the proposed corridor and fear of eminent domain over a wide area was a Sword of Damocles that may have lowered their market values and made it more difficult to sell, regardless of where within that band the potential corridor might actually have been ultimately built. 

In the end the Trans-Texas Corridor was opposed from both flanks, by those concerned with property right and by those who oppose massive highway construction and favor alternatives like high-speed rail within "megaregions."

Thanks to Travis Crawford for the pointers.

- Matt Festa 

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/land_use/2009/10/the-transtexas-corridor-is-dead.html

Eminent Domain, Property Rights, Texas, Transportation | Permalink

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