Saturday, July 29, 2006

CorridorWatch.org Files Formal Complaint Against Tx-DOT re. TTC-35

PRESS RELEASE - IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CorridorWatch.org FILES FORMAL COMPLAINT AND COMMENTS

Appearing in Dallas last night, CorridorWatch.org (an Trans Texas Corridor watch-dog group) filed formal comments and complaint with TxDOT with regard to TTC-35.

The full text of the formal written comment can be found at:http://www.corridorwatch.org/ttc/pdf/NEPA_DEIS_TTC35_27JUL2006.pdf

[ Text of oral comment follows ]

ORAL COMMENTS & TESTIMONY

TIER ONE DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT TTC-35 PUBLIC HEARING

DAVID K. STALL, CORRIDORWATCH.ORG

JULY 27, 2006, DALLAS, TEXAS

MY NAME IS DAVID STALL AND I AM COMMENTING ON BEHALF THE MORE THAN 5,000 MEMBERS OF CORRIDORWATCH WHO LIVE AND/OR OWN LAND IN 186 TEXAS COUNTIES INCLUDING ALL 38 COUNTIES WITHIN THE PREFERRED CORRIDOR AND REASONABLE CORRIDOR ALTERNATES.

TxDOT HAS FAILED ITS NEPA MANDATE TO ALERT AND INFORM THE PUBLIC OF THEIR PLANNED ACTIONS.
INSTEAD OF INFORMING THE PUBLIC OF POSSIBLE ENVIRONMENTAL CONSEQUENCES, TxDOT IS BOMBARDING THEM WITH A MARKETING EFFORT DESIGNED TO SELL THE CORRIDOR SCHEME. ANY CRITICAL OBSERVATION OF THE CORRIDOR IS MET WITH A SWIFT TxDOT REBUTTAL.

UNDER THE LEADERSHIP AND DIRECTION OF THE TEXAS TRANSPORTATION COMMISSION TxDOT HAS FAILED THE NEPA MANDATE OF A CAREFUL AND INFORMED DECISIONMAKING PROCESS CONDUCTED FULLY AND IN GOOD FAITH.

THE INTENTIONAL OMISSION OF, AND SECRECY OF, PROJECT DESIGN DETAILS CONTAINED IN THE CINTRA ZACHRY DEVELOPMENT AGREEMENT THWART A REASONABLY COMPLETE DISCUSSION OF THE PROJECT. WITHOUT THAT INFORMATION THE PUBLIC IS UNABLE TO ADEQUATELY EVALUATE THE SEVERITY OF POTENTIAL ADVERSE EFFECTS. SUCH OMISSION UNDERMINES THE “ACTION-FORCING” FUNCTION OF ACT.

RATHER THAN SHARING INFORMATION AND COLLABORATING WITH REGIONAL AND LOCAL TRANSPORTATION OFFICIALS TxDOT HAS BEEN INSTRUCTED TO SHUN THOSE THAT THE CHAIRMAN HAS IDENTIFIED AS WORKING AT CROSS-PURPOSES.

ACTIONS BY TxDOT TO QUELL UNWELCOME INPUT AND COMMENT ON TTC-35 MAKE A MOCKERY OF THE NEPA ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STUDY PROCESS.

COMMUNITIES, ORGANIZATIONS, AND ELECTED OFFICIALS ARE CHASTISED AND REBUKED FOR ATTEMPTS TO ADVANCE ANY ALTERNATIVE TO THE SINGULAR PLAN ADVANCED BY THE GOVERNOR AND HIS APPOINTED COMMISSON.

IT IS UNACCEPTABLE THAT THIS COMMISSION ACTS TO RETALIATE AGAINST COMMUNITIES, ORGANIZATIONS AND THEIR REPRESENTATIVE BECAUSE THEY OPPOSE TTC-35, A PLAN THAT IS ITSELF A MATTER OF PUBLIC DEBATE.

CORRIDORWATCH IS STUNNED AT THE THREATS AND COERCION CAST UPON PUBLIC OFFICIALS WHO DEVEATE FROM THE PREORDAINED PROGRAM.

THE COMMISSION HAS CREATED A CLIMATE OF INTIMIDATION THAT MAY MAKE IT IMPOSSIBLE TO RECEIVE VALUABLE COMMENTS, INPUT, OR ALTERNATIVES FOR FEAR OF REPRISAL.

CHAIRMAN WILLIAMSON SAYS THAT HE WILL NOT TOLERATE THE KIND OF AD HOC INPUT THAT THIS VERY PROCESS IS DESIGNED TO SOLICIT.

HIS INTENT IS TRANSPARENT AND THE MESSAGE IS LOUD AND CLEAR – SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP.

AS A RESULT THE INTERFERENCE BY THE COMMISSION IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR TxDOT TO COMPLY WITH NEPA AND CEQ REGULATIONS.

THROUGH THEIR ACTIONS THE COMMISION HAS REJECTED THEIR DUTY AND RESPONSIBILITY UNDER THE ACT. THEIR ACTIONS HAVE NULLIFIED THE PROTECTIONS THAT THE CITIZENS OF TEXAS ARE ENTITLED TO RECEIVE UNDER STATE AND FEDERAL LAW.

DESPOTISM HAS BECOME THE NEW MANAGEMENT CULTURE AT TxDOT.

BASED ON THIS AND THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THE TIER ONE DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STUDY THE DECISION SELECTED MUST BE THE NO ACTION ALTERNATIVE.
David Stall can be reached for comment at the above email address, or at # 832-984-4314, or 512-791-4628



George Eliot georgeeliot2009@yahoo.com
www.TexansAgainstTolls.com

Friday, July 28, 2006


A GOOD Sign: YOUNG PEOPLE Speaking up & Weighing in
From a PERRY stronghold today..
At least this young AGGIE (article below) has attempted to assess the transportation problems in the part of the world that he now occupies (TAMU) and react to his perception of the needs of Texas citizens.. UNLIKE the plans of the "head cheerleader" of the TTC, RICK PERRY to serve gigantic multinational special interests & his own BIG political ambitions. The young man does not have all of the facts about the "self contained" nature of the TTC vehicle/truck corridor designed with service stations, eating facilities, etc. within the corridor. But, it is heartening to see a QUESTIONING of the TTC from the younger generation. The 50 & 99 year terms of some of the contracts others signed with CINTRA make the TTC a threat for ALL generations!
In the interest of "fair and balanced coverage" I am also including a TTC article from a senior writing in the Daily Texan on Wednesday.
There is a public awakening taking place across the State as the Hearings finally allow CITIZENS to focus on the TTC issues. As ABRAHAM LINCOLN said "To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men". The issues and principles involved are so much more important than "building political party power" with a misplaced allegiance to the top of the ticket. PERRY is actually doing harm to his party in Texas and to ALL Texans with the secretive decisions & alliances he is ramming down our throats.

Martha Estes bentfork@pdq.net Citizens for a Better Waller County http://www.wallercountycitizens.org/

Perry's transportation idea has merit but overlooks key issues










Chad Stoermer - The Battalion

By: Andrew Burleson

7/27/06 Section: Opinion
© 2006 The Battalion Online http://media.www.thebatt.com/media/storage/paper657/news/2006/07/27/Opinion/
TransTexas.Alternative-2134674.shtml?sourcedomain=www.thebatt.com&MIIHost=
media.collegepublisher.com

Texas is facing a significant turning point. Gov. Rick Perry has called for the State to build a massive network of freeways with freight rail, commuter rail, utility lines, communication towers and oil and natural gas pipelines all concentrated into a single route. This massive corridor is intended to meet the future transportation needs of the state, which is expected to increase dramatically in the next 50 years.

Texas highways are already packed with cars and trucks, and gridlock strangles our major cities day and night. While the lofty goals of Perry's transportation program are admirable, the program has been met with opposition. In fact, all of Perry's opponents in the November elections are vehemently opposed to the plan.

Critics suggest that the corridor won't even require trucks to stop for customs at the border, but rather will operate as an "EZ-Tag"-style terminal, tracking shipments to central depots in Kansas before subjecting them to any examination. Of course, the trucks will have to exit the freeway numerous times to stop for gas before they could reach Kansas, and who is going to supervise the trucks there?

The route will do little to ease congestion in the cities. By looping 30 to 50 miles around every major metropolitan area, passenger vehicles are unlikely to find the corridor very practical. The suggested speed limit of 80 miles per hour is supposed to lure drivers to the alternative route, but how many Texans are going to want to drive an extra hundred miles and pay tolls the entire way just so they can avoid a bit of traffic?

Another problem with the plan is its rail component. Although a comprehensive high-speed rail system would be an economic boon, and being able to take a high speed train from San Antonio or Austin to Dallas could definitely reduce the number of passengers on I-35, it is doubtful that many people would want to drive 50 miles to the train station and rent a car at their destination, when they could just as easily fly or save money driving the whole way.

These challenges render the entire idea of the multi-modal corridor useless. Instead, the state needs to consider a different approach, routing different uses in different directions.

The most promising component of the plan is the freight rail. The freight rail could work as planned, but it would be even more effective if it was coupled with a system of spurs for freight trucks to transfer cargo on the final leg of its journey from an intermodal depot to the destination city. By picking up cargo in Laredo or McAllen and shipping it to Texarkana or Denton, countless freight trucks could be diverted from the interstate. Not only could this save the state a massive amount of money, but less land could be taken. Better, safer service could be provided using less fuel and generating less pollution and noise.

The passenger rail should also go directly to and from city centers. Texas could build high-speed rail networks through the medians of existing freeways, or over abandoned freight and utility lines. Austin and San Antonio have already been planning a connection using old right of way, which is currently underutilized. Coupling this with an investment in local level light rail and commuter trains could generate huge savings, reduce environmental impact and generate thousands of jobs. Not only could this offer rapid service between city centers (new trains can operate as fast as 300 mph) but would also give passengers safer, more affordable ways to travel. With an average of 43,000 Americans dying every year in automobile accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, now is the time to invest in safer transportation modes.

More congestion relief could be provided in the form of smaller regional bypasses, such as Austin's SH-130. That toll road is being built away from the major commuter destinations and will have limited entry and exit points in a deliberate effort to limit development on the bypass. By connecting to I-35 on either side of Austin, but running only slightly east of the city, travelers not intending to stop have a superior option to pass through the most congested parts of the existing freeway, without needing to add significant mileage to their trip.

Finally, to improve connectivity through areas currently underserved by infrastructure, an improved network of state highways a SH-21 from Bryan to Caldwell could be built with bypasses around the busier towns along the route. Divided roads offer improved safety (which the Texas Department of Transportation claims is their primary concern) without mandating excessive taking of property or cutting off current property owners. Taking the example of SH-6, roads like this can be expanded over time as traffic counts justify increased capacity, rather than sinking billions of dollars into roads, which will be virtually unused for an entire generation.

It's time for the governor to consider a Trans-Texas alternative, investing in multiple modes of transportation but routing them separately to fit the strengths and weaknesses of each transport type
.


7/25/06
A Trans-Texas Horror

By Karl-Thomas Musselman The Daily Texan Columnist
http://www.dailytexanonline.com/media/storage/paper410/news/2006/07/25/Opinion/A.TransTexas.Horror-2134019.shtml?
norewrite200607282136&sourcedomain=www.dailytexanonline.com

There is an issue in Texas quietly building steam in what could be a major campaign theme in this fall's elections for governor and the state agricultural commissioner.

It's an issue that has folks in rural Texas feeling the pain of Native Americans centuries prior. It's an issue that has farmers and ranchers readying their pitchforks. And it's an issue that has some of the most conservative counties in the state upset with Republicans they used to consider defenders of free men on the range.

The issue is the Trans-Texas Corridor, a 4,000-mile, $183-billion plan proposed by Republicans and promoted by Gov. Rick Perry as the 50-year solution to Texas' traffic needs. The routes span the state, snaking across central and eastern Texas, connecting Laredo to Oklahoma and Arkansas. Future routes could bring in an East-West line from El Paso or others up through the Panhandle.

Each corridor could contain up to four trucker lanes, six vehicle lanes, six rail lines and a 200-foot utility path. At its maximum size, each TTC could be 1,200 feet wide, consuming up to 9,000 square miles of land, more than exists in all of New Jersey.

These massive property and investment requirements give rise to much of the objection from rural landowners. Cutting through countless farms and ranches and looping around suburbia will be a path wider than the distance between Austin's Congress and First Street bridges. One could set the entire state Capitol inside of the right of way.

An unsettling vision, landowners will be faced with inaccessibility to land split on opposite sides of this monstrosity. The state would ideally pay fair market value for the 5.7 million acres wanted for construction, but as with any mu-nicipality, the "lowest" fair market value will likely be found.

Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, any acreage desired from particularly cantankerous landowners can also be taken via eminent domain. The Texas Legislature did pass a bill granting protections to Texans from excessive abuses of eminent domain in the wake of that ruling, but it made a convenient exception specifically for the TTC.

For localities, any land consumed by the TTC disappears from the tax rolls, hitting small rural communities the hardest. Proponents claim that new business growth around interchanges and the corridor will offset that.

Unfortunately, primary TTC users will be transporting goods, not buying them. The frequency of off-ramps will likely be less than that for traditional highways, allowing for fewer business opportunities. The few ramps that will exit the TTC will be surrounded by land owned by the management company, Cintra Zachry.

Any commercial value that land will have will belong to Cintra Zachry, not the rural communities torn apart by the TTC. They won't see a string of gas stations and IHOPs as doing much to replace the revenue, character or community lost to this multi-billion-dollar boondoggle.

There are other facets of the project that are unsettling as well. While the Texas Department of Transportation has worked around historic lands or sensitive properties before, there is no law to guarantee that old community cemeteries won't be paved over or that historic buildings won't meet the bulldozer.

Add to that the fact that the presumptive private construction partner Cintra Zachry is an overseas firm based in Spain. Just as security-oriented citizens were unsettled by Dubai running American ports, many are cautious about having a foreign firm build a transportation network connected to Mexico. It only amplifies conservative concerns about border issues and immigration, though in truth, the TTC does not create any new border crossings.

The most unsettling thing about the project is that the terms are sealed, unreadable by the public. Texans have no way of knowing who will ultimately pay for the inevitable cost overruns, nor do they know what will happen when the actual revenues from the TTC are lower than the estimates used to secure the financing. Who will pay for that: the private management company or Texas taxpayers?

Already, 186 of Texas' 254 counties have made their disagreements with the plan public record. Both the Texas Democratic and Republican Party platforms officially state their opposition to the TTC. Every candidate for governor is in opposition to Perry on the issue. The TTC has even shaped up to be the prime topic in the otherwise quiet race for agricultural commissioner between state Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, who co-sponsored the TTC legislation, and Democratic candidate and farmer Hank Gilbert, who opposes it in any form.

Headed to November and through the next decade, the Trans-Texas Corridor will likely become an issue that is, pardon the pun, as big as Texas.

Musselman is a government senior.

George Eliot georgeeliot2009@yahoo.com
www.TexansAgainstTolls.com

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Bosque County Says ‘NO!’ To Corridor

Reproduced from http://www.cliftonrecord.com/news.asp?iArt=3
July 21, 2006

By David Anderson
ASSOCIATE EDITOR
CLIFTON — An estimated 400-plus packed the Clifton High School cafetorium Wednesday evening to issue a resounding “no thanks” to the Trans-Texas Corridor 35 running through Bosque County. An open house and public hearing hosted by the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Transportation Commission ran into unanimous opposition locally, and citizens almost as strongly opposed the entire project statewide.

TxDOT Turnpike Division Project Manager Jack Heiss served as the evening’s moderator, and presented an overview of the project. However, the citizens who testified at the hearing seemed to already be well-educated on the subject.

Bosque County Judge Cole Word opened the public testimony by reading a resolution passed last year by Bosque County Commissioners’ Court. Word emphasized the court still opposes the project, whether it comes through the county or not.

Verlie Edwards, chief of staff for District 58 State Rep. Rob Orr, spoke for the legislator, urging TxDOT to “listen closely, and slow down the process so all options are explored.” From there, the elected officials gave way to speakers from the general public, who one by one pled for the project’s elimination.

“No one has been able to give me a list of benefits of the corridor to Bosque County. I don’t believe it exists,” John Faubion said to applause from the crowd.

John Campbell asked anyone in the crowd of over 400 who supports the project to identify themselves, if they weren’t too afraid to.

No one stood, to laughter from the crowd.

As to the alternative route that could slice Bosque County in half, many pointed to the effects it would have on the landscape.

“Our rolling wooded hills, valleys, the abundant wildlife, the fertile soils. The attractions that brought the settlers here in 1854 remain the very essence of the county today,” Walt Lewis said.

“We’re known as the Top of the Hill Country,” Morgan Mayor Pro-Tem Keith Vandiver said. “Bringing the corridor through here would mean blasting the tops of many of our mesas. We don’t want to become known as the Flat-Top of the Hill Country.”

Jamie Finstad wanted to know what the state believes is “just compensation” for taking land and memories that has been in his family for 150 years.

“I wonder where all the wildlife that’s being displaced will go, and I wonder why we’re all in such a hurry,” Finstad continued.

“If we give it up (the land) now, it’s gone forever, and they’ll just want more later on,” Carl Aspen said.

“We haven’t adjusted yet to the second stop light in our county,” Judge Word jokingly remarked. “We’re not for one inch of the Trans-Texas Corridor in Bosque County. If we wanted to live in the Metroplex, we’d move there. We don’t want the Metroplex brought here.” Several spoke to the corruption they believe underlies the Trans-Texas Corridor, and the lack of legislative action to end the project.

“Do you believe in communism or dictatorships? That’s what we appear to be headed for,” Sam Wells told the panel receiving the comments. “I hope TxDOT feels like General Custer, because the public is like Sitting Bull’s tribe, and we’ll do what we need to stop this. We won’t stand for somebody taking our land.”

“I’m appalled the state legislature has not stopped this. Our legislators have yet again turned a blind eye to the needs of this district,” said former Clifton Mayor W. Leon Smith.

“It gives me heartburn to think we’ll build a toll road and send the money to a company in Spain,” said David Pieper, adding that the state is diverting billions of dollars that should be earmarked for transportation improvements to other uses.

“This is not progress,” said Martha West. “It’s prostitution of our great state, and with filthy money.”

Aspen, who said he spoke with a TxDOT official before the public hearing, was not surprised at a comment he received.

“He told me, ‘We don’t want to hear, “Not in my back yard.”’

“Of course, he also told me the corridor won’t affect him where he lives,” Aspen added.

Many testifying suggested that, if the infrastructure is built, the name should be changed. Suggestions ranged from “The Corridor of Regret,” to the “Trans-Texas Horror-Door,” to “Ben Dover.”

Other concerns centered on the facilities being outdated before they are finished, especially considering quantum leaps in technology from year to year.

“It’s like trying to build a better manual typewriter,” Smith told the commission.

While many of those who spoke addressed generations of families that have lived in the county who will lose land should the corridor be brought through, others told of being proud transplants to the county, including Ron Harmon, Les Bowers, and David Anderson.

One by one, most of those testifying put the onus on the state’s legislators. Many said it was past time to send them comments. Most said it was time to send them home by voting them out in the next election.

“House Bill 3588 passed, effectively, unanimously, so they all need to go,” said Linda Curtis, founder of Independent Texans. “We need to get organized, and tell them where to put this corridor.”

Harmon agreed, saying Texas needs to get rid of any politician who supports or does not specifically oppose the TTC.

TxDOT’s officials remained after the public hearing to answer questions, but most of the crowd began filing out of the cafetorium as the public testimonies came to end, apparently having heard enough.

George Eliot georgeeliot2009@yahoo.com
www.TexansAgainstTolls.com

Friday, July 21, 2006

Australia has some Lessons for us IF we heed their Cautionary Tale

ON LINE
opinion - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate

Open up tunnel deal

By Tristan Peach
Posted Tuesday, 27 June 2006
For a democracy to function effectively, citizens must do more than just vote in elections.

A democracy, just like an economy, works best when citizens are active participants in the decisions that affect their lives.

The increased use of public private partnerships (PPPs) to deliver government infrastructure is presenting significant challenges to our democratic systems. Recent PPP ventures in Sydney and Brisbane have excluded the community from key parts of the decision-making processes.

In Sydney, the Carr State Government developed, negotiated and signed the contract for the controversial Cross-City Tunnel behind closed doors.

Only after the tunnel opened did the public find out how high the tolls were, that surface roads could be closed to "funnel" traffic into the tunnel, and that the private operator could sue the government if public transport improvements led to a loss of revenue.

Without citizen involvement in the PPP process, the interests of shareholders triumphed over the interests of the public.

And to further blur the line between private and public interest, soon after Bob Carr resigned as NSW premier he went to work for Macquarie Bank, a company involved in huge public private partnerships all over the world.

In Brisbane, Lord Mayor Campbell Newman recently signed the contract for the North-South Bypass Tunnel during a private press conference.

The contract locks Brisbane people into a 45-year agreement with the RiverCity Motorway consortium, which is promising shareholders a 6 per cent return on investment before the tunnel is even built.

The public will not see the contract before financial close, which is expected in early July.

To be fair, Brisbane City Council has provided the public with information on the North-South Bypass Tunnel over the past two years.

But it is worrying and unfair that the public are being excluded from the most important part of the decision-making process. The contract is where the rubber hits the road for this tunnel proposal, which has changed drastically since Newman proposed it in his 2004 election platform.

Secrecy was partially justified during the tendering stage because it allowed council to have the upper hand in negotiations between the two competing consortiums.

But once RiverCity Motorway was chosen, there was no longer a need for secrecy. Since then council has selectively released information regarding the contract.

The Lord Mayor has promised that there will be no onerous conditions in the contract and reassured us this won't be a repeat of the Cross-City tunnel disaster. But given the Lord Mayor's track record on promises and honesty, I think we have reason to be worried. In 2004 Newman promised us a $2 toll for the tunnel, which has risen to $4.10. More recently he told us that the tunnel would cost "$2 billion plus", but later revealed that this actually meant $3 billion plus.

And in May The Courier-Mail revealed that there are clauses in the contract that will give the council financial incentives to funnel traffic into the tunnel.

The Cross-City tunnel contract in Sydney includes similar profit-sharing agreements between government and the private sector.

It is certainly in the interests of the Lord Mayor and RiverCity Motorway to keep the dirty details of the contract secret until it is too late.

But ratepayers already have paid more than $83 million for the tunnel, will pay another $54 million this financial year, and will contribute $292 million for construction costs in the future. The community is a huge financial shareholder in this project, and we must ensure that a deal is made that promotes the public interest.

Therefore I call on Brisbane City Council and the RiverCity Motorway consortium to release the tunnel contract for 20 days of public scrutiny prior to financial close.

This is not an unreasonable request in an advanced modern democracy. If it is in the public interest then there should be no problem in releasing it for a brief period of public scrutiny.

First published in The Courier-Mail on June 19, 2006.

Tristan Peach lives and works as a part-time lecturer and tutor in urban and regional planning at the Queensland University of Technology. He is a member of Brisbane Group, Communities Against the Tunnels. He does not own a car and walks, cycles and uses public transport for most trips.

George Eliot georgeeliot2009@yahoo.com
www.TexansAgainstTolls.com
Here is the latest reality on Texas Condemnation law. As you can see, it changed in 2004 because of a ruling by the Texas Supremes.

March 3, 2006 http://www.txfb.org/ Texas Farm Bureau

(It is in the ARCHIVES part of the website.)

Landowners have few options in condemnations

By Bobby Horecka
Field Editor TEXAS AGRICULTURE [Texas Farm Bureau publication]
Texas landowners don't have many options when it comes to protecting their property when governments begin talking eminent domain.

Not, at least, until state laws regarding those issues are better defined by the state legislature, said Judon Fambrough, private property advocate with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University.

Traditionally, Fambrough said, local, county and state governmental entities were required by the interpretation of the law to offer landowners a "fair market value" for any property they intend to claim by means of eminent domain.

But all that changed on July 2, 2004, when the Texas Supreme Court issued its ruling in the Hubenak v. San Jacinto Gas Transmission Co. case.

"That one case threw out all incentives to receive fair market value. Period," Fambrough said. "For one, it removed several key restraints in the condemnation process that were favorable to landowners. But most of all, it changed how the process of the law worked when dealing with such cases."

In all cases dealing with condemnation proceedings, a basic three step process is involved: 1) the entity wanting the land must negotiate for its purchase; 2) if negotiations fail, they may go before a three-person appointed commission for a ruling; and 3) if parties are still unhappy with the result, the matter goes to a trial situation before a judge and jury.

Prior to 2004, most cases that made it to the third level in the process were often sent back to step one, Fambrough said, which forced the governmental body to come up with a better offer to the landowner.

But that changed with the Hubenak case. The courts ruled that "the condemnor's offer generally should not be scrutinized or compared with other indications of value." In essense, any offer made by the condemnor satisfied the letter of the law.

It also forced the burden of proving the land's worth to the landowner, not the condemnor.
"This is the only matter in civil law that I am aware of where the burden of proof lies with the defendant," Fambrough said. "You, as the landowner, must prove that the offer you were given is inadequate."

What that means for the landowner is that they must obtain—at their own expense—an independent appraisal of the land, and in so challenging, also pick up the tabs of legal representation, he said.

"Even if you win, the courts ruled that you cannot collect any additional amount to cover attorney fees and court costs," Fambrough said, adding that it can often cost as much to defend a piece of property as it is worth.

In real terms, that means if a governmental entity opts to condemn a piece of property that is actually worth $2,000 an acre, Fambrough said, there is no incentive for them to offer much more than $1,000 on the property.

"It will cost you at least $1,000 to prove them wrong," Fambrough said, "And they know it."
Several private property advocates, including Texas Farm Bureau, are working on legislation to change the letter of the law, but at least for the next couple of years, Fambrough said, that is what landowners will face until the law is changed.

Fambrough suggests landowners come to the commission hearings well prepared to make their case, as the costs of going to step three are prohibitive. He also suggested working agreements into the land's purchase that allow the landowner access to the property until the project is actually begun, which can prolong farming, ranching and even recreational uses.
These are the articles on the webpage.

Here are all the water articles.

The LINK for ALL Water Rights Issues Publications is
http://recenter.tamu.edu/pubs/pubssearch.asp?TID=47&AID=&TYP=18&STX

Water Rights
"Water Pressure: Below the Surface of GCDs"
(Gilliland) No. 1770, $5. Tierra Grande reprint, 4 pp. (2006).
"Water Power"
(Gilliland, Robertson & Cover) No. 1691, $2.50. Tierra Grande reprint, 3 pp. (2004).
"Groundwater Leases: What Texas Landowners Should Know"
(Fambrough) No. 1628, $2.50. Tierra Grande reprint, 3 pp. (2003).

Secrets for Negotiating Texas Groundwater Leases
(Fambrough) No. 1593, $5. Technical report, 12 pp. (2002).
"Drilling for Minerals"
(Fambrough) No. 1534, $2.50. Tierra Grande reprint, 1 p. (2001).
"Liability for Flooding Neighbor's Property"
(Fambrough) No. 1509, $2.50. Tierra Grande reprint, 1 p. (2001).
"Texas Surface Water: Ownership and Uses"
(Fambrough) No. 1508, $2.50. Tierra Grande reprint (2001).
"Rural Water: Plan Before You Plat"
(Gilliland) No. 1499, $2.50. Tierra Grande reprint, 2 pp. (2001).
Texas Water Law: The Next Century
(Johnson) No. 1469, $3. Special report, 29 pp. (2001).
"Water Stored Underground: Who Owns It?"
(Fambrough) No. 1458, $2.50. Tierra Grande reprint, 2 pp. (2001).
"H20 Pollution Solution"
(Gilliland) No. 1442, $2.50. Tierra Grande reprint, 2 pp. (2001).
"Who Owns Groundwater?"
(Fambrough) No. 1377, $2.50. Tierra Grande reprint, 4 pp. (2000).

"Got Water? Tapping a New Texas Market"
(Gilliland) No. 1357, $2.50. Tierra Grande reprint, 3 pp. (2000).
"Dam the Reservoirs, Full Speed Ahead"
(Gilliland) No. 1341, $2.50. Tierra Grande reprint, 5 pp. (1999).
"Before the Well Runs Dry"
(Gilliland) No. 1270, $2.50. Tierra Grande reprint, 4 pp. (1999).
"Texas Water Code: Brief Shower Creates Storm"
(Fambrough) No. 804, $2.50. Tierra Grande reprint, 1 p. (1990).
"Use Not Automatic: Ownership Governs Water Rights"
(Fambrough) No. 715, $2.50. Tierra Grande reprint, 4 pp. (1989).

George Eliot georgeeliot2009@yahoo.com

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Attorney general's map gives Travis County three Republican incumbents in Congress

State's map would strip Doggett of Democratic base in county.

Reproduced from Statesman.com

By Laylan Copelin, Tara Copp
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Friday, July 14, 2006

Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, offered a new congressional map today that would strip U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, of his Democratic base in Travis County and split the county among three Republican incumbents.

The U.S. Supreme Court last month overturned one border district, saying it discriminated against 100,000 Latinos because heavily Latino Laredo was split between that district and another one. The court required parties to the redistricting lawsuit to submit suggested fixes to a panel of three federal judges.

The state's map is just one of several expected to be filed today, but it likely will get serious consideration by the court because it represents the state's position.

"The state's map is a map that Tom DeLay would be proud of," said Ed Martin, a Democratic redistricting expert, referring to the former U.S. House majority leader who engineered the 2003 re-mapping of Texas that cemented Republican control of the state's congressional delegation.

The map splits Travis County among U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio; Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio; and Michael McCaul, R-Austin.

Doggett would be left with some difficult choices. He could run against Smith, who would inherit a large chunk of Doggett's Democratic base in Travis County. Or, as Abbott seems to suggest Doggett could run in his redrawn district, which would stretch from Caldwell County to the border.

Abbott, in the brief, defended the map, saying the Caldwell-to-the-border district includes many of the voters Doggett now represents.

Doggett was not immediately available for comment. But Martin said Texas Republicans are trying to silence Travis County Democrats.

"This is trying to split the most Democratic urban county in Texas among three Republicans," Martin said. "It is essentially to deny a voice for the Travis County majority."

The state's map also fuses Laredo back into a single district, which would run west to El Paso. Rep. Henry Cuellar, the Democrat whose district now runs from Laredo north to San Antonio, would be able to run in that new district.

Abbott's press secretary Jerry Strickland objected to calling the state's map Abbott's map.
"It's our client's map," Strickland said.

He said Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Speaker Tom Craddick, all Republicans, are Abbott's clients in the lawsuit.

But Strickland refused to say who actually drew the map or approved it before Abbott filed it today.

Although the Republican members of Congress said they were working through the attorney general's office, not all of them might be happy with the final map filed by Abbott.
Bonilla was making "very last minute" considerations on whether to submit his own proposal instead, said spokeswoman Brittany Eck. His office wasn't ready to comment on the state's map.
"It's so up in the air right now," Eck said.

lcopelin@statesman.com


George Eliot georgeeliot2009@yahoo.com

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

What I said in Hillsboro at the TxDot Hearing

July 13, 2006 Hillsboro TxDot meeting re: TRANS TEXAS CORRIDOR-35

Amidst all this talk of projected growth rates and traffic congestion on our local roadways, you would think that these fine people from TxDot might better spend their time and talents addressing these issues, not trying to build a NAFTA super highway. We need upgraded roadways and we need better-designed cities with creative solutions to the very real challenges we face from growth. Problem is, solving the day-to-day travel problems of most Texans is NOT what the TTC is all about. It just isn't.

This is not primarily about passenger cars or even viable public transportation. It is not about moving people to and from their jobs or getting your kids to school safely. It just isn't. This whole Corridor principle is about relieving congestion at our seaports resulting from the massive influx of products from Asia. Containers packed in Shanghai will be brought by boat to Mexican ports to be loaded onto trucks that will barely slow down at the Texas border on their race to the new SmartPort in Kansas City....from there to be distributed throughout our country and into Canada.This is the FedEx hub model gone Global. This is about global trade and the ONE MILLION acres of Texas land alone that will be required by this project. That is 146 acres for every mile of roadway. To these road-builders, our towns and rural communities, our lakes and rivers, our ranches, farms, woodlands and prairies are of no importance. We are just in the way of some urban planner's concept of "progress". Some new vision of what Texas ought to look like. We must be mollified first and removed next. This hearing is part of that process.

The Trans-Texas Corridor will not enrich the lives or the economics of ordinary Texans. It will simply move goods faster, not PEOPLE, and certainly not people just trying to get to work or to school. This is a very limited-access roadway and you will only be able to cross it every 50 miles or so. Towns will be carved up. Water sources will become increasingly polluted and scarce. Fertile farm and ranch land will be lost forever to miles of asphalt and security fences. This is not about helping US, the folks who live and work in Texas today, it just isn't.

Even the road itself would be operated by a foreign company. CINTRA, headquartered in Spain, has already paid the State of Texas 7.5 Billion dollars just for the right to run this road project. Use eminent domain to acquire land from Texans to lease to a foreign company to generate revenue. Is this even legal? We must all contact our elected officials and tell them we are not interested in giving up our state to this super-highway. Write letters to your local newspapers. Talk to your neighbors. Call for a statewide VOTE on this project. They cannot do this without Texas land and the cooperation of our state and local officials. We are the Gateway to Mexico and if this Corridor concept does not succeed here, it will not happen. What we stand to lose in community integrity, air and water quality is just not worth cheap goods from China. Texas is better than this.

Stop this project now or watch Texas morph into something you and I will no longer recognize as our home. Stand up, stand together and speak out. Let our "leaders" know what WE want and replace them if they don't listen. There is power in numbers. Let's USE that power.

- Susan Cook

Monday, July 17, 2006

North American Union Superhighway

July 13, 2006 -- Last week, WMR reported on the close ties between the American Trucking Associations (ATA), extreme right-wing neo-confederate movements, and key members of the Bush administration, including Dick Cheney Chief of Staff David Addington and former Bob Dole chief aide Jim Whittinghill. It is now being reported that George W. Bush's top pick to replace outgoing Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta is none other than former Kanasas GOP Governor Bill Graves. Graves has told the ATA that he does not plan to leave his current job.

Graves will benefit from Bush North American Union initiatives whether he remains at ATA or moves to Transportation Department.

Not surprisingly, Graves, who hails from a wealthy Midwest trucking family, became the President of the American Trucking Associations in 2003 after leaving the Topeka governor's mansion. Graves has been a major fundraiser for Bush and the Republican Party. It is no coincidence that Graves and his trucking interests will greatly benefit from the construction of a major superhighway from the Mexican border, through Texas, Oklahoma, and his native Kansas, to the Canadian border. That superhighway, which is attracting major Saudi and Chinese investments, will serve as a linchpin in the creation of the corporate-controlled "North American Union," a contrivance that will further erode democratic government. WMR has been told about the secretive North American Union plans by individuals associated with the traditional Democratic and Republican parties. The recent theft of the election in Mexico by Felipe Calderon's wealthy supporters and the accession to power of Stephen Harper's Tory government in Canada, both accomplished with the help of GOP and Democratic Leadership Council operatives from the United States, are also intended to spur along the North American Union agenda.

Information from www.WayneMadsenReports.com

www.NASCOCorridor.com

Monday, July 10, 2006

The standard justification for tolls is that the state of Texas has run out of money for roads and can't raise the gas tax. Therefore, private industry is invited to build new capacity, using private capital. If the roads are successful the capitalists will earn profits. If the roads are losers the capitalists lose money.

But, Texas is dealing with phony capitalists who use public money - yours - to earn their profits. If the roads they build are losers, they are likely to walk away and let you take the hit.

Cintra-Zachry will borrow federal funds to build SH 130 S. They will also borrow some money on the open market but those bonds will be senior to the federal bonds. (The private "investors" are all but guaranteed that they can't lose a penny.)

I assume that all of the interest will be tax-free. That's not the end of it. Congressman Lamar Smith requested and received federal grant money for SH 130 S (which isn't even in his district (!) or the CAMPO area.)

US 183A also received federal loans (and state and local grants) and I suppose every CTRMA project will, if any more are built. The question is, if CTRMA and private companies can get federal loans, why can't TxDOT? A 1 cent local increase in the state gas tax, dedicated to retiring the bonds, would suffice to build everything we need toll-free. Another penny would keep the new roads maintained.

- Vince May

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/
localnews/stories/062305dnmetcintraloan.36c03c5e.html


Texas Corridor Developer Now Seeks Public Funding
Deal had been sealed largely on plan to use private money

09:30 PM CDT on Wednesday, June 22, 2005
By TONY HARTZEL / The Dallas Morning News
Cintra-Zachry, the consortium that won a $7.2 billion development deal from the state for the first part of the Trans-Texas Corridor largely because it said it would use private money on the massive project, is looking for public funds to help subsidize the corridor's first segments.

The partnership has filed a letter with the Federal Highway Administration stating its interest in applying for a $320 million low-interest loan. If approved, it would help pay for the estimated $1 billion, 42-mile State Highway 130 extension from south of Austin to Seguin that the company identified as a potential corridor project in its letter to federal officials.

For months, state officials have touted the Trans-Texas Corridor as a way to get 316 miles of needed toll roads and rail lines built from North Texas to San Antonio without the use of public funds. And when the state and Cintra-Zachry signed the deal March 11, Gov. Rick Perry's office issued a news release saying that the construction would be done "at no cost to taxpayers."

"I believe we always said state dollars" would not be used, said Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman Gaby Garcia, drawing a distinction between federal and state money. "At the time Cintra-Zachry came on, we looked only at [whether there would be] the inclusion of state dollars. That's how we defined it."

In December, Cintra-Zachry officials outlined some of their financial and development plans for the corridor, which prominently included private funding for the public project.

José López, director of Madrid, Spain-based Cintra's U.S. and Latin American operations, said at the time that federal loans, known as Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loans, could be used. The loans are used to entice public and private investment in major transportation projects.

"This is part of our normal research in preparing for any eventuality to get needed roads built more quickly," Rossanna Salazar, a spokeswoman for Cintra-Zachry, said Wednesday.

Cintra teamed with San Antonio-based Zachry Construction Corp. and other firms to design and build the corridor project.

If Cintra-Zachry's federal loan request is eventually approved, it would mark only the second such loan given to a private entity for a large road project. An Australian firm received a $140 million loan for a toll road project near San Diego that broke ground in 2003.

Not surprised
Kathy Walt, spokeswoman for Mr. Perry, said he was not surprised that Cintra-Zachry would have to seek innovative forms of financing to help it build billions of dollars of new highways. The request is not a reversal of any of the consortium's previously stated goals about using private funds, she said.

"I disagree that the perception is any different here," Ms. Walt said. "A loan is a loan. It's not a grant, and it will be paid back with interest."

Still, the news that any government money could be used on the project dismayed some state leaders.

"This is the first we've heard of them essentially seeking tax money for the project," said Mike Sizemore, press secretary for Sen. Ken Armbrister, D-Victoria, who has publicly questioned the corridor project. "The whole thing is, it was touted as using private funds."

So does a low-interest federal loan use public money? It can be viewed both ways.

Opponents argue that the funds are coming from the U.S. Treasury, which could use the money for other purposes.

"I didn't think the federal budget has enough money to loan right now," Mr. Sizemore said.

Loan's terms
Federal officials who oversee the program also pointed out that the loan would be repaid with interest. But the terms on such loans usually are favorable to the borrower.

In general, the terms of such loans allow for repayment over 35 years. A recent loan for a Louisiana project featured the government's 4.45 percent interest rate. The loans typically don't require payments to begin until the project is substantially complete, an important point for a proposed toll road that would not generate revenue until it was opened to traffic.

Because it is part of a separate funding program, the loan would not affect the amount of federal highway money Texas regularly receives.

In debating whether public funds are going toward the corridor project, the state Transportation Department also makes a distinction on State Highway 130 itself. Technically, Ms. Garcia said, it is not considered part of the corridor because it received federal approval for construction before the Trans-Texas Corridor development deal was awarded.

In addition, Highway 130 also may not have room for roads, rail lines and utility lines all in one place, one of the key selling points the state has touted.

"If the corridor never moves forward, Highway 130 would be built on its own," Ms. Garcia said. "130 is a stand-alone project from the corridor."

But when the corridor deal was announced in December, the Highway 130 project was the first of six potential road projects listed in a presentation as links in the corridor. In addition, a Federal Highway Administration lists the proposed project name as "Trans Texas Corridor (SH 130 Segments 5 & 6)."

Federal officials could notify Cintra-Zachry within a few weeks whether it can file a formal loan request.

"We know this project is needed," Ms. Garcia said. "We've got to make it happen. The question is how to finance it" with either state funds or a private development deal.

E-mail http://us.f544.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=thartzel@dallasnews.com
The T-TC is a done deal for east Travis County, except for one aspect. Since SH 130, which is T-TC 35 through Travis County, has no room for T-TC auxiliaries like pipelines and rail, these facilities will probably be built somewhere between Manor and Elgin.

This should be the focus of any T-TC discussion in east Travis County. More farms will be cut up. More noise and air pollution will be created. Communities will become isolated.

The presentation must include environmental justice. People west of I 35 give us their landfills, prisons, tank farms and sewage plants. Now they want to give us their freight trains, too. We don't want them and won't tolerate new assaults on our way of life.

- Vince May

http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/03/30rail.html

Spanish Road Builder Weighs In on Rail
Cintra-Zachry wants to spend $5 billion-plus on Dallas-to-Mexico freight line

By Ben Wear
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Cintra-Zachry, the Spanish and American partnership already working with the state on a cross-state toll road, has offered to build a 600-mile, high-speed freight rail track from the Dallas-Fort Worth area to Mexico.

Numerous details remain to be worked out, including the route, and competitors (including any of the state's three major freight carriers) could in the end build the line instead. But Cintra-Zachry has offered to build a railway that could cost $5 billion or more, officials say, and open the line to any freight rail company interested in paying to use it.

The state's contribution to the project, as currently envisioned, would be to buy the right of way that the rail line — or lines — would pass through. And the state would pay the considerable expense of getting environmental clearance from the federal government. The project, officials said, would be built in the median or alongside the toll road that Cintra-Zachry is in the early stages of designing as part of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

It would also include what amounts to a giant loop around the Dallas-Fort Worth area, allowing cross-country freight to bypass the Metroplex' clogged rail system.

"We estimate that over 10,000 18-wheelers a day would be removed from the I-35 footprint," Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Ric Williamson said. In 2004, the highest Texas count for trucks on Interstate 35 was in Austin: 20,588 a day.

The proposal, as outlined by Texas Transportation Commission members Wednesday, would not require Union Pacific to remove any freight traffic from its track through the heart of the the Austin-San Marcos area. For years, transit advocates have been hoping that all or most of Union Pacific's two dozen or more daily freight trains could be routed around Austin, freeing up space on the line for passenger rail.

However, Williamson said companies such as Union Pacific, BNSF Railway and Kansas City Southern would no doubt be attracted to the line's anticipated top speed of 70 mph, considerably faster than existing routes. And, as proposed by Cintra-Zachry, the line would have no "at-grade" crossings — spots where cars and trucks have to drive over railroad tracks, allowing trains to maintain their speed.

"Common sense dictates that if Cintra-Zachry builds a high-speed rail line from Fort Worth to the Mexican border, all three railroads are going to be negotiating with them to locate their freight on that line," Williamson said.

Union Pacific, for its part, was noncommittal about what the proposed deal might mean to its Texas operations, or whether it would even be interested in paying to run freight on a Cintra-Zachry track.

"This is the first time we've heard about this proposal," said Joe Arbona, a Houston-based Union Pacific spokesman.

Several months ago, Union Pacific and BNSF signed agreements with the state to work to move the bulk of their freight operations out of urban centers.

Arbona cited five points in Union Pacific's agreement with the state, among them that relocation would be voluntary, that the railroads would pay only to the extent that it benefits them and that they would be involved in the planning. An agreement between the state and a third party — Cintra-Zachry — to build what amounts to a competing line throws those agreements into limbo.

"It's just going to take us a little time to work through this," Arbona said.

And there will be time, it appears.

The state is in the first stage of a two-step environmental approval process for the Trans-Texas Corridor segment paralleling I-35. The first step will take at least another 18 months, and the second stage two to five years. That means that work on the road, and the railway, could begin no sooner than late 2009. Who would build it, meanwhile, could be decided in only a year or two.

The Trans-Texas Corridor is the centerpiece of Republican Gov. Rick Perry's transportation policy for the state, and Perry is up for re-election. Given that, it was not surprising that politics entered into Wednesday's events.

Jim Dillon, an independent candidate for governor, repeatedly disrupted the Williamson's news conference, hinting darkly that the state was involved in creating concentration camps and was building the railroad mostly for WalMart and Halliburton.

Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, running for governor as an independent, released a statement saying Perry should not give the Spanish company control of another transportation project.

"Whether it is a foreign company running our roads, our rails, or operating our ports, it's wrong," she said.

In a statement, Perry's campaign fired back: "The Texas population is expected to double in the next 40 years and Gov. Perry has put forward a plan to address the transportation needs of Texas for the next century. Ms. Strayhorn, where is your plan?"

The rail proposal
What: 600-mile freight line from Dallas-Fort Worth to Mexico.
Who: Cintra-Zachry, comprised of Spanish toll road builder Cintra and Zachry Construction Co. of San Antonio.
When: Groundbreaking no sooner than late 2009.
Cost: $5 billion to $6 billion, not including right of way and regulatory costs to be borne by the state.
Worth knowing: Railway would have no at-grade crossings with roads and would allow steady speeds of 70 mph.