Everything is bigger in Texas. That’s what a lot of Texans what Americans and people around the world to know – you don’t mess with Texas. In the 1950’s, when President Eisenhower created the first Interstate plan for the country and implemented new roads in almost every single state, it was the largest engineering feat in the modern world.
Now, almost half a century later, Governor Rick Perry is set to break that record, with the costliest, largest, and most incredible-sized proportion Texas Trans-Corridor, dubbed the “Texas Superhighway,” a 4000 mile, $175 billion dollar project that won’t be completely functional for another fifty years (Perry). This project certainly has proponents and opposition. But first, we must understand what the Texas Trans-Corridor’s purpose is in the state of Texas, and how it would affect the rest of the country as a whole.
Governor Rick Perry came into office as George W. Bush’s successor in 2000. Immediately, he laid down his plans for the future of Texas, without having the say of most of Texas’s constituents, since he was appointed based on Bush’s presidency. Perry’s grand vision is nothing short of incredible, even to the opponent’s eyes. At a quarter-mile wide, the Texas Superhighways that will probably soon cross Texas will be the largest transportation commodity in the free world (Stall).
Perry’s idea doesn’t just answer problems for congestion on highways – it answers problems for congested railroads in major cities such as San Antonio and Dallas, and it also develops one of the newest concepts to the Texas way of life, high speed rail, which has only dared to compete in the Northeast “corridor” of the United States. Perry also wants to develop a utility zone next to the highway, which will enable electricity lines, pipelines, fiber optics, even water pipelines toward any city that is connected to the corridor. (Perry)
Perry’s vision is supposed to answer one specific problem that almost all Texans do know about: How do we curb congestion on the most congested freeway with trucks and vehicular traffic in the United States? I-35, notorious for its bottlenecks between Austin and San Antonio, is part of the NAFTA Superhighway system. I-35 extends all the way to Michigan down to Laredo in South Texas (Associated Press – KBTX). When the NAFTA pact began in the early 90’s, President Bill Clinton noted that these cities in the particular Laredo – Dallas corridor would thrive based on commercial traffic between Mexico, the United States, and Canada.
Laredo contains 40% of the United States land-ship import traffic. Also, any traveler on the I-35 corridor in Texas runs into hundreds of eighteen-wheelers, increasing drivers awareness and causing disarray for drivers who are trying to see the road in front of them. Perry’s answer is to shift the traffic away from metropolitan areas. If truck drivers can bypass San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas, the time to their destination would probably save them an entire day in travel. Freight rail services could veer away from San Antonio’s railroad yard, an institution bustling with activity in the wee hours of the morning.
Also, commuter rail can solve environmental problems and help families keep in touch anywhere in the state without the over-burdening costs of driving (Perry). Perry’s plan begins with the setup itself: Six, twelve-foot vehicle passenger lanes in which the vehicle can travel at 80 miles per hour; Four, thirteen foot truck lanes; Two tracks for each of the following railroad establishments – high speed rail, commuter rail, and freight rail. No transportation facility exists like this in the modern world.
All of these integrations to modern society are completely bundled into one, and their concept is all the same – relieve traffic in urban centers and create a safe and enjoyable experience through the Texas countryside without interruption (Stall). “Based on an estimated cost of $31. 4 million per centerline mile, the 4,000-mile corridor will cost $125. 5 billion, not including right of way and miscellaneous costs. Factoring in right of way at $11. 7 billion to $38 billion and miscellaneous costs at $8 billion to $20 billion, the estimated total cost for the Trans Texas Corridor ranges from $145. illion to $183. 5 billion. ” (Stall).
The payment of this project is one of the hugest factors in determining its existence. Rick Perry acknowledges the high cost – the highest in any kind of public works project in history – and states that it will be paid by private investors, and by the toll system that will occupy these expressways (Palkot). Tolls have been protested in this state since Houston and Dallas first tested them out many years ago. Toll opponents in Houston claim that toll proponents should “move back to the North” where people don’t mind paying the high toll.
Perry is enthusiastic about the toll revenue the state will receive to help pay for many more programs Texas currently lacks in. Others are calling it a double-taxation, referring to the cost of highways itself burdens the tax-payer, plus paying the tax on the road when the road opens for service (Stall). The scope of the plan will probably last around fifty years (Osbourne). The entire concept of the corridor is to be built in numerous stages, with the priority corridors being built first. I-35 isn’t the only stressed corridor in Texas, Perry acknowledges (Perry).
It is just one of a few transportation options some truck drivers have to deliberately plan out on a daily basis. Interstate 37 is also a major part of the I-35 corridor as well. I-37 services the Rio Grande Valley and Corpus Christi. The I-10 corridor, from Orange to El Paso, controls all the traffic between Los Angeles and Jacksonville – both to connections with major cities in their respectable states (Perry). I-45 from Houston to Dallas accommodates the fourth biggest city and largest metroplex in America, respectively.
With the corridor being built in multiple states, the larger, thicker truck lanes could be built first, with 2 lanes in each direction. Once that segment begins to clog, the car lines will be built without harming the accessibility of the truck lanes. While the car lanes are also being built, the commuter rail and freight rail lines will each have a rail line in each direction. Of course, the process is just one-step, median-style economics. The high speed rail line will come near last, with traffic in both directions. The utility zones will actually be developed last, due to the ever-changing technologies of the 21st century.
A significant feature in these superhighways which will completely bypass cities is the way they are cut off from the rest of society. The corridors will not have frontage roads, and they will not have access to many farm roads that cut across it (Stall). All roadways crossing the corridor will have grade separations. This allows all roadways to cross the corridor but not access it, except the 1200 unpaved farm roads along the corridor’s route. Those unpaved farm roads will be reconnected to maintain the traffic flow in the area, or for farmers who desperately need to access the other side of their land.
Double diamond interchanges would be created for drivers to access other state and US highways. A directional interchange would be created for the major interstates that the corridor will criss-cross. For people in the major cities of Texas, they will not see any immediate change in traffic until those cities decide to build to it. According to TxDOT, The Department of Transportation for the state, cities will have to create their own roads that come off their local interstates or US highways and connect it to the corridor.
This also means for commuters to access the high speed and maybe even commuter rail service in the region, they will have to be bussed or taken by some other form to those train stations. Since there are no metropolitan connections, they will have to probably make three transfers before the end of their trip (Stall). The proponents and opponents for this major undertaking vary in significant ways, and don’t meet the traditionalistic standard of the Republican and Democratic parties. Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, has absolutely no support from his party (Time).
The major reason for that is because the people affected by the Trans-Texas Corridor are a majority of farmers. Farmers, in this time and age, are usually conservative. But Rick Perry isn’t showing his fiscal conservative side just as of yet – the $156 billion dollar undertaking by private firms will still costing Texas money right at the beginning. Texas has to cut through the land in the first place and then pay reapportions to the landowner for any financial consumption the corridor has made on their land.
The Democrats, however, are in mutual support for the Corridor but still have significant questions. Instead of being against the corridor like most Republicans, most of the Democrat constituents are located in cities – the same cities that are currently being boggled down in traffic congestion. The Trans-Texas Corridor might be a notorious undertaking, but Democrats were happy to hear that the undertaking for the beginning of construction was to be bid by private firms (Texas Legislature). The Republican Perry was extremely interested in the way the toll revenue would work.
All toll revenue will be used at TxDOT’s extent for new roads. Perry’s interest heightened when he heard the feasibility of connecting Dallas Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin, and Houston by high speed commuter rail (Stall). Rick Perry made a statement on why the corridor needed to be developed. One of the most interesting statements he made was “The system would have to aggressively promote economic opportunity in the less developed parts of our state” (Stall). What many opponents of this project can’t understand is how Rick Perry feels this is part of the plan.
Since there are no exits besides those at major roads, cities will actually suffer from the loss of economic profit from the superhighway. Perry’s plan calls for commercial development on the freeway itself – but since its accessible only to those who use the road, cities won’t receive that income. The state, actually, will be in complete control of these businesses (Stall). Gas stations, stores, even hotels will be developed on the corridor. Local businesses would technically suffer, opponents say. House Bill 3558 allows the department of transportation to take over any road in the city it desires.
Counties and School Districts will loose approximately 146 acres of taxable land for every mile of the Trans Texas Corridor that passes through their jurisdiction. Fayette and Wharton County signed a resolution against the corridor (Stall). The Texas Farm Bureau release notes, “the disproportionate burdens the Trans Texas Corridor plan would impose upon rural Texans, delegates opposed the state acquiring additional farm and ranch lands through the power of eminent domain for the construction of the Corridor. Stall)
The Texas Access Network claims that instead of relieving pollution for urban cities, we would just be pushing them into rural Texas. A San Antonio – Austin prevalent issue will be the fact that pollutants off the road will also effect the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone. Also, since the corridors don’t cut through urban centers, drivers in Texas using the corridors will spend 5. 4 billion more miles a year on the road (Texas Action Network). The Texas Department of Transportation has several convincing reasons on why the corridors are needed in Texas.
The nation’s Interstate system was only supposed to last thirty years. That was fifty years ago, and many interstates haven’t even begun to be updated (Perry). Some, however, such as Interstate 10 in Northwest San Antonio or in West Houston are constantly being updated to meet the new population patterns. In Houston, the Katy Freeway corridor growth blossomed much faster than any transportation planner could ever imagine. Before long, the Katy Freeway became the most hated road in Houston, with the most traffic jams and most congestion of any other freeway that crosses Houston (Slokkum).
Currently, TxDOT is rebuilding the Katy Freeway, which will somewhat meet the standards of the Texas Trans-Corridor but won’t accommodate the utility zones or the additional rail lines the Corridor will possess. By 2025, proponents expect Texas to have a population of 36 million. About 45% of all Texans live within fifty miles of I-35, and that is set to increase by almost half (Perry). The largest platform the TxDOT currently presents is: Additional driving lanes, options for different modes of travel including rail, and routes which separate long distance and local traffic.
TxDOT also stresses that any land they acquire now will be much cheaper than it will be in fifteen years – which, with expanded growth, might cancel the idea even to buy the land because it can likely be built upon in the next decade. Time Magazine states that the proponents say it’s the most innovative way to the transportation system in the United States. It is needed to redirect traffic from city centers and keep hazardous chemicals far away from those centers. Opponents say Texas will lose 9,000 square miles of land, and that would be highly unfortunate considering Texas is losing more land to sprawl than any other state (Booth / Hutto).
Technically, my theory on the Trans-Texas Corridor as a whole is one of optimism and paradoxical situation: I am a firm believer in public transportation (mostly rail in general) yet the very public transportation facilities I envision in the future will run side by side to the most gargantuan freeway system in the modern world. Perry’s points are extremely valid, and they make a lot of sense. The only problems he faces are the opposition – people he would directly affect thanks to his proper planning. Robert Moses, my idol, destroyed the lives of families in the South Bronx in the early 1960’s.
That’s not why he’s my idol though – he solely created the most extravagant road system in all of major engineering feats up to that time. He had to displace thousands of families because his vision sought the need for that freeway to go through that kitchen, or that bedroom, or that bathroom. Sadly, today the Cross Bronx Expressway is one of the most congested thoroughfares in the world. Rick Perry’s vision is so much simpler than Moses. And, Perry proves his highways won’t be congested – that would mean a toll-way that would accumulate traffic, and it would never fly in the great State of Texas.
People are against the tolls, the size, and the communities which will not have exit ramps to their town roads. Cities and even entire counties are against the extreme harm to their local cities which thrive on individuals passing through on a regular interstate. (Although New Braunfels is large in size, it sets a good example of a city which lives off the feeder roads). Legislators of Columbus show complete disgust for the corridor, stating that it will completely kill economic growth in the city (Stall).
I have long been a fan and a researcher on transportation projects world-wide. Unlike many people, I know what I want to do with my life, and it has to deal with transit, and how to make it better for everyone in the “impact zone. ” The impact zone for the I-35 region is every single small town that’s not Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio. Waco probably will be affected greatly as well. Since it’s not a large city, it probably will not have the money to fund the superhighway unless proper interchanges are created in the region.
The whole problem with the planners of the corridor is that they seemed to just figure out the most expensive and outrageous plan in the history of highway transportation. The only part that makes sense is the commuter rail lines. This will completely revitalize the region. It will allow non-driving students to hop on the train whenever they want to see family and friends. It will allow business travelers freedom to work in an urban environment and get away to their beautiful hundred acre farms in Central Texas. Southwest Airlines says it’s not afraid of the competition either.
Southwest provides quality, cheap air service to every commonly urban surrounding cities in Texas. But, they won’t be going out of business for a long time, so they’ll use Kenysian Economics: “In the long run, we’re all dead. ” Also, in the plan for commuter rail between San Antonio and Austin, the railroad will actually stop at San Antonio International Airport, therefore causing air travel to become easier to people along the I-35 corridor. (Austin – San Antonio Commuter Rail) It will ease traffic and congestion for commuters to go into large cities and take up space on the roadways.
High speed rail is possibly the greatest idea of the entire project. It will connect Houston and San Antonio at approximately one hour and thirty minutes. This project will be so tempting to lawyers, like Jim Adler, “The Texas Hammer,” to commute between his main campus office in Houston and his regional campus in San Antonio. Lawyers in particular have the money to support a candidate for governor. Rick Perry was supported by lawyers in the last action, probably not just for this action, but many he takes to help his rich, upper-class friends who are connected by seniority.
The roads on the corridor don’t necessarily have an unfeasibility factor, and it will make connections between cities faster – but it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way in all of Texas. Ripping up farmland from El Paso to Orange is a completely disastrous idea. I-10 along the east-west corridor route in Texas have plenty of median, feeder, and right of way with humongous farms and acreage of land to where no farmer could complain for losing several acres of land. It will probably be beneficial to them anyway.
If you work with the land you already have and stack the roads above each other like a soaring monster, congestion problems will be solved and it will be at a fraction of the price. I hate feeder roads. I think the idea is stupid and selfish. It causes the driver to make turnarounds an every day part of life. This is a terrible way of thinking – highways are supposed to make travel faster throughout a city and get people in and out quickly. It wasn’t meant to totally destroy the aspect of community living and walking.
Some people completely hate interstates altogether – but they’re needed. There’s just no doubt. They’re all over the world. No civilization with a vehicle can survive for very long. You can make rail go all over the city like New York and connect people to thousands of jobs daily, but at the same time, trucks from out of state aren’t connected by rail, so they have to come in through the city. Commuters in rural areas have to drive to park and rides and then ride transit into the city center. Highways shouldn’t have to make a city thrive economically, however.
But, if you took a bulldozer and wiped out every major corporation along I-10 between 1604 and 410, Northwest San Antonio would either A) completely die; or B) everyone will go through mass chaos. Hundreds of thousands of jobs would be displaced. Perry’s plan would direct traffic out of cities. I don’t know what other people in society believe, but I for sure don’t want to not see a city for a hundred miles, nonetheless not be able to stop in a small town if I have to use the restroom. If the Trans-Texas Corridor is built, my mother might have a small emergency on the roadway.
The commuter rail aspect will bring smaller communities together. Freight rail will allow for faster and easier trade around the state. Utility lines will bring broadband to small towns and counties which are currently untouchable by broadband service. Water from around Texas will be able to be transported anywhere at anytime upon completion of the corridor. Farmers get the short end of the stick. I’ve never been on a large farm before, but I can tell that acreage of land being taken up from a crop could be devastating to the family, even if they’re making good money.
Also, if a rich farmer with hundreds of acres of land gets his land swapped in half, he would have to travel the upwards of fifty miles to cross the corridor, then travel back down it to reach his field. Environmentalists say the land will be completely destroyed and will hurt precious wildlife. Well, of course the land will be destroyed. The corridor is wider than the entire UTSA main campus mall! The Sombrilla will probably be the width of the half the truck lanes and car lanes.