Farm Bureau steps up opposition to the Trans Texas Corridor

Texas’ largest farm organization is once again describing the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC) as a disaster for farming and ranching operations that lie in the potential path of the TTC and a major mistake for Texas itself.

The Texas Farm Bureau is also discovering that there are many allies in opposing the massive highway project, some of them members of the Texas Legislature.

“Our members are overwhelmingly opposed to the Trans Texas Corridor,” says TFB President Kenneth Dierschke, a grain and cotton farmer from San Angelo. “There’s never been any doubt that the impact on agriculture would be negative, but now we see a growing number of people who believe the TTC would be bad for all of Texas.”

Dierschke says Texas Farm Bureau agrees with that sentiment, citing the lack of transparency in developing the TTC, non-compete clauses in the contract with the Spanish company that proposes to build the roads and potential lost revenues for the state.

Several bills in the Legislature are aimed at addressing the growing concerns of legislators concerning the TTC, which seems at least slightly less inevitable than during previous sessions.

Brenham State Representative Lois W. Kolkhorst has filed several bills, two of which are getting some attention. HB1881 is written to kill the TTC by removing it from the statutes.

The second bill, HB2772, seems to have more momentum. It would establish a two-year moratorium on the use of private equity comprehensive development agreements. This means outside entities would be prohibited from buying the rights to build and operate toll roads in Texas and keep the resulting revenues. Kolkhorst’s bill currently has 105 house co-sponsors.

Jacksonville Senator Robert Nichols is carrying an identical bill in the Senate, with 27 of 31 state senators currently listed as co-sponsors.

“It’s a prohibition, for a 24-month period, for any governmental entity in the state of Texas to enter into a tolling agreement with a private entity,” Nichols said. “It prohibits them from selling an existing toll road to a private entity in that same period of time.”

Nichols, a former member of the Texas Transportation Commission, is also concerned that Cintra-Zachry, the Spanish company slated to build the TTC, has inserted “non-compete” clauses in the contracts, meaning that competing toll roads could not be built in Texas for decades. Kolkhorst, Nichols and State Senator John Carona have filed bills to address that concern.

Many members of the Legislature are agreeing with farmers and rural landowners that the TTC is not in the best interests of Texas.

State Senator John Carona of Dallas, chairman of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee, sees the TTC at the center of a gathering storm of public opposition. He believes that the Corridor as originally conceived will never be built, with the exception of major projects along and near I-35.

“Pieces of the Corridor will be built over the years ahead,” Carona said. “They are the pieces that would have been built anyway, such as State Highway 130 in Austin, but not four football fields across.”

Carona added that the eminent domain usage currently envisioned for the TTC cannot be justified. “This is not the solution to our mobility problems,” Carona said.

Farm Bureau President Dierschke says the growing opposition to the TTC at the state capitol is encouraging.

“The Texas Farm Bureau remains strongly opposed to the Trans Texas Corridor,” Dierschke said.

It’s a stance that seems to be catching on.

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