SOUTH-CENTRAL STATES REGIONAL REVIEW
Formed in 1993 among public and private sector leaders from east and south Texas, the Alliance's goal was to build a multifaceted infrastructure improvement program based on the combination of two federally
In December 2005, empowered by a recent overhaul of the Texas transportation code expanding the authority of the Texas Department of Transportation in both highway and rail infrastructure development, Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced a new public-private partnership to advance the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC), which includes both I-69 and an improved I-35 corridor.
"For decades Texas has relied on the private sector to finance and build our telecommunications and utility infrastructure," he said. "It's time we harnessed the private sector to finance our roads and railroads, too."
If the idea sounds familiar, you may have seen it discussed in these pages in 2002, when Perry first unveiled a version of the plan in response to U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta's request for the state to propose a highway project for accelerated environmental review. A state study evaluating environmental impact of the 50-year project is now approaching the halfway point. Meanwhile, the past two federal transportation bills have provided little support for such work, prompting Texas to take action.
"Texas has never been a state that waits for others to lead or innovate, and we've never been afraid to try something new when the old ways don't work anymore," Perry said. "We have no better choice than public-private partnerships. They are the wave of the future because they are faster, cheaper and fairer, charging a cost only to those who use toll roads."
Among the components of the plan is the removal of hazardous cargo transport from the most populated areas, commuter lanes with speed limits up to 85 mph and passenger rail between cities. However, if public polling is any indication, another urgent topic may interfere. As of Feb. 1, in response to an online poll conducted about the project by the Texas Dept. of Transportation, some 70 percent of respondents said that acquisition of property was the most pressing issue to address in developing the TTC.
Alternative corridor routes were established in spring 2005, followed by a series of 37 public meetings held throughout the summer.
What price progress? Proposals for the I-69 portion are yet to be assembled. But for the I-35 portion, in late 2004, the Texas Transportation Commission recommended a proposal from an international group of engineering, construction and financial firms called Cintra that included investing $6 billion in a toll road from San Antonio to Dallas and paying the state $1.2 billion for other improvements between Oklahoma and Mexico. In return for the project, Cintra wants a 50-year negotiated contract to maintain and operate the toll road. A contract with the state was signed in April 2005.
Among the TTC-35 plan's provisions are 316 miles (508 km.) of new four-lane divided highway between Dallas and San Antonio; relocation of the existing Union Pacific railroad line between San Antonio and Austin and separate lanes for cars and trucks on State Highway 130.
The estimated overall cost for developing the entire 4,000-mile (6,400-km.) corridor? $184 billion.
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