Saturday, February 12, 2005


Trans-Texas Corridor

Over the last few months I have read several articles related the State of Texas's plan to build a transportation corridor that would be the highway to end all highways in the Lonestar State. Apparently, the transportation planners, engineers, and politicians who support this plan ascribe to the "everything is bigger in Texas,"slogan seriously, perhaps a little too seriously. Time for me to weigh in.

The Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) plan includes a 4,000-mile network of six-lane highways (in each direction, 12 total) and six tracks for rail transit. The plan also calls for a sytem of oil and natural gas pipelines that will be buried underneath the rail and highway. This unprecedented quarter mile swath of transit is a response to the continued suburbanization of Texas, and the American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has sent an ever-increasing amount of 18-wheel "NAFTA" trucks careening down the Texas freeway system. The TTC will purportedly facilitate less trafic congestion on the existing highway system, and will move goods more efficiently from Mexico to America. Though this may be true in the short term, like many others, I see several problems with this Texas sized boondoggle.

Assuming that Governor Rick Perry gets the TTC plan approved, the system will unquestionably relieve traffic congestion, and it will help move cheap goods from Mexico to America. However, this will only be a temporary solution, as the plan ignores the fundamental nature of highway systems. As highway usage increases, the clover leaf exit/onramps become the lifeblood for more formless sprawl and the traffic congestion that highways are suppossed to relieve in the first place. It's a deadly and circuitous system of development that has historically failed in America. These days highway systems are more about band-aid economic development than transportation. If this country really wanted more sustainable transportation efficiency, we would be building high-speed rail, not highways.

Speaking of rail, if the TTC system is anything like our country's current rail system (inefficent and underfunded), who the hell is going to use it?! Moreover, why build the rail system along the exact same corridor as the highway. Though it is smart to build rail for the imminent global energy crisis, the rail system will start off as a joke when motorists go rumbling by a train sitting at an empty station. If Texas was really serious about efficiently moving people and goods long into the 21st century, then the TTC would be mostly rail, with development oriented to its stations, not the clover-leafs.

The sheer size of this project will also cripple cattle ranchers. How the hell is a rancher suppossed to tend his cattle when a quarter mile highway/tranist corridor bisects his property? The answer is that he won't. Texas will seize the property via imminent domain and many ranchers will be forced to reduce their herds, or sell them completely so that new shopping and housing pods can grace the once bucolic Texas prairie land. The amount of land this project will consume is astonishing (9,ooo square miles of right of way), and not only spells economic injustice, but also ecological suicide. Has anyone thought of the security issues and ramifications of placing a natural gas pipeline and oil pipeline under a monstrous transportation corridor? If I were a terrorist, this obvious sign of American ignorance might be my number one target on principle alone.

Finally, the TTC plan calls for the privatization of the entire road. What this means is that the State will seize the land through imminent domain, use state taxes to fund the project, and then lease it to private interests. The private holders who will operate the system will then charge tolls throughout the entire 4,000 miles. This toll system will be incredibly expensive to maintain and in combination with rising gas prices will make the system nearly unusable in 25 years. The highway system has previously been funded through the gasoline tax, Texans must surely view this new development as unfair.

As far as I know, this project has a long way to go before it is actually approved. Not only is funding the TTC and issue, but it currently lacks public support. Regardless, the TTC plan still proves that much of America's governemnt refuses to think progressively about the way our towns and cities must be ordered so that they can survive the turbulence of the 21st century.

There is no chance that they're going to build the passenger rail lines... it's probably something thrown in to the mix in order to woo some ecologically-minded people. As the TTC is supposed to bypass major cities, where are those trains going to be going? I'd say there's a 95% chance that if that corridor is built the rail lines will be magically transformed into more asphalt. This is Texas, after all.

The privatization of the highway, however, is probably the fairest thing about it. At least this won't be financed with public money.

If built, this is guaranteed to lead to an explosion of sprawl.
hey mike,

It's spelled eminent domain.

I imagine the rail lines are probably for freight, not passenger service.

Quite a diatribe, but a little more research would be helpful...

As envisioned, each route will include:

*separate lanes for passenger vehicles and large trucks

*freight railways

*high-speed commuter railways

*infrastructure for utilities including water lines, oil and gas pipelines, and transmission lines for electricity, broadband and other telecommunications services
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
the once bucolic Texas prairie land? you obviously know not of what you speak. The proposed areas, first, are certainly not bulcolic nor are they prarie (minimum ranching in this area as well); second, the majority of the proposed areas are already developed or have exisiting interstates or highways crossing through them.

I also know you are clueless as to the current transportation situation in Texas. The sheer size of the project might seem absurd in other states, but this is the critical corridor of Texas and drivers trying to cross the state are often faced with 35 MPH average driving speeds. Texans love to drive and thus are willing to make sacrifices to improve the experience that others would not make. The political process will sort this out, no matter the nattering nabobs.

We all wish there were better solutions that didn't involve the confiscation of land and that eventually become obsolete due to unsurmountable traffic symptoms. But there aren't. The commerce that this project provides helps in the search of that panacea.

Projects of this type are what keeps Texas the most economically dynamic state in the Union. Though, the rest of you free-riders can keep enjoying your cheap consumer goods while content in a culture of elitism that bites the hand that feeds it.
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