Texas Farm Bureau offered several viable transportation and funding alternatives to the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) in meeting Texas’ future transportation needs during testimony before the Senate Transportation Committee.
“Let me assure you, as an industry we absolutely support and recognize the need for building and maintaining roads in Texas,” said Texas Farm Bureau State Director Tom Paben. “We feel this can be accomplished within the current framework of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).”
“However, there is a need for redirection, as well as a review of the current priorities of the agency,” Paben added, noting several concerns about the TTC project raised in a report commissioned by Farm Bureau and conducted by professors at Baylor Law School. He also said Farm Bureau believes that the recent Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS) of I-69 “is fatally, flawed,” and would not stand up to judicial scrutiny.
Paben, who represents 15 counties potentially affected by the massive TTC transportation project, said the first option for new highway and road construction, when possible, should be use of existing rights-of way and routes.
“In many cases, using entirely new routes would impact irreplaceable farm and ranch land,” Paben said. “If new right-of-way is needed, at a minimum, landowners should have reasonable access to their property.”
The cattle, corn and hay producer said members of the state’s largest farm organization supported funding alternatives, including indexing and/or increasing the gas tax, to finance new road construction. Paben suggested bonding could also help build roads across Texas.
“Recent articles suggest the Cintra-Zachry Consortium stands to make billions of dollars from the TTC,” he said. “If they are able to do so, then why can’t the State of Texas? It seems those kinds of revenues could certainly go a long way in funding Texas roadways in the future.”
Although Farm Bureau does not support tolling existing roads, Paben said the organization does not oppose the use of tolls to fund construction of new roads.
The Farm Bureau testimony suggested the state focus on transportation projects that will help the “impending stress” on traffic ways—using existing routes—in the Golden Triangle, where it is estimated 60 percent of the state’s population will live in the next 30 years.
The testimony also recalled Farm Bureau’s support of legislation by Senator Steve Ogden to utilize the existing state highway “trunk” system.
“We believe the trunk system comprised of improving current state highways, and constructing by-passes and loops, could greatly relieve traffic flow in our metropolitan centers,” Paben said.
The farm leader noted Texas Farm Bureau members support the need for new and better roads in Texas.
“We are an industry no different from any other and need to move our products throughout the state,” he said. “…if building highways is to be a profit center, then let those highways be built by Texans for Texan taxpayers.”