By JOANN LIVINGSTON
Waxahachie Daily Light
March 7, 2007
Gov. Rick Perry’s massive transportation project, the Trans-Texas Corridor, has encountered yet another speed bump.
On Monday, state Sen. Robert Nichols filed legislation that would immediately halt any further public-private partnerships or comprehensive development agreements from taking place, according to a press release from San Antonio Toll Party, an activist group in opposition of such measures.
Twenty-four other senators, including Sen. Kip Averitt, R-McGregor, have signed on as co-authors of the bill, which would provide the two-thirds vote necessary to put the bill’s provisions into immediate effect as well as indicate the votes necessary to override any gubernatorial veto.
The legislation, Senate Bill 1267, joins numerous other pieces of legislation filed this session relating to the Trans-Texas Corridor, tolling of public roadways and other transportation-related issues.
Nichols also filed SB1268, which would prevent any non-toll lane from becoming a toll lane, on Monday.
Complaints against the Trans-Texas Corridor have ranged from loss of farm and ranch land that has been in families for generations to loss of livelihood, as well as economic devastation for rural Texas. Many people have expressed fears their communities will be bypassed and or cut off by the transportation project that could - if built out completely - include 8,000 miles of roadway criss-crossing the state.
Perry’s plan would encompass not only lanes for passenger vehicles, but would also bundle lanes for large rigs, freight rail, passenger rail and other utility easements into a bundle that would be 1,200 feet wide. Opponents to the project say thousands of acres would be taken from property owners in eminent domain proceedings.
Nichols’ legislation comes on the heels of a very well-attended public hearing by the state Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security on Thursday and anti-corridor rally held on the steps of the state Capitol on Friday.
According to San Antonio Toll Party, Nichols is a former transportation commissioner. The Jacksonville senator’s bill would enact a two-year moratorium on comprehensive development agreements and create a study group to investigate the impact of those agreements on the public and its roadways, the group said.
“It’s noteworthy that every San Antonio senator signed on to the bill, the release reads. “This, too, is significant since it demonstrates the massive grassroots effort to gain the Legislature’s ear in the effort to beat back Perry’s toll proliferation and the privatization of our public highways.”
State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, filed an identical, companion bill in the House on Monday. She was joined by nine other representatives as immediate co-authors. Kolkhorst was one of three state representatives, including Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, and Nathan Macias, R-Bulverde, who spoke at the rally.
“This session will see more aggressive efforts to take the Trans-Texas Corridor out of the code,” she had told the crowd, noting the legislation being presented has bipartisan support. “This is just one of many things to take away our freedom.”