East Texans express their opinions
for and against the proposed
I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor during town
January 18, 2008
By BRITTONY LUND,
Hundreds showed up to a town hall
meeting Thursday night in Lufkin, many
with questions for Texas Department of
Transportation officials about the
I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor that could run
through or around Lufkin, Nacogdoches,
Huntsville and other East Texas towns.
As it's drawn up, I-69/TTC would
include toll roads, high-speed freight
and commuter rail, water lines, oil and
gas pipelines, electric transmission
lines and telecommunications
infrastructure in one corridor running
north/south through Texas. One primary
purpose of the corridor would be to help
with the state's projected traffic
Although TxDOT directors assured
everyone that nothing is set in stone
and they want to hear the public's
ideas, current plans have the corridor
running through East Texas.
"One option is no-build," said TxDOT
Executive Director Steve Simmons.
"Another is a different alignment."
Many land owners expressed worry over
the corridor being built directly over
"There's a lot of 'ifs,' such as if
it's going to come through my land,"
Gary Smith of Trinity County told the
TxDOT officials. "I don't want to go
somewhere else, but I'm only one person
... Who's going to buy this
right-of-way, and what's going to happen
to our lives?"
Phil Russell, TxDOT assistant
director of innovative project
development, explained how the process
of buying someone's land works.
According to Russell, an appraiser would
be hired to assess the value of the
property. The owner would be shown the
value and given relocation assistance.
If the owner didn't like the price
offered, he could go through several
more processes of trying to come to an
agreement on a fair value.
Russell also encouraged everyone with
such concerns to contact TxDOT so the
agency could do what it can to avoid
The possibility of turning state
highways 59, 281 and 77 into toll roads
also concerned many people. Russell said
he believes that, if those roads are
expanded, only the new lanes would be
subjected to tolls.
Many people expressed concern over
other effects of the proposed corridor,
such as the loss of open space, the loss
of private property (including ranches
that have been in a family for
generations), and damage to the
environment. However, some expressed
support of the corridor.
"I'm tired of building tunnels under
roads so little frogs can cross the
road," said J.T. Smith, a former
transportation worker. "We need a better
dream than the rest of the world. Let's
build through downtown and keep our
Houston County Judge Lonnie Hunt also
expressed support for the corridor.
"Change is never easy, but change is
coming," Hunt said. "I think it's
important that we plan for it and that
we plan well into the future. This will
give you a greater connection to another
part of the world."
The town hall meeting came right
before 46 public hearings to be held in
different part of Texas over the next
couple months, beginning in Center and
Huntsville on Feb. 4.
Lufkin's is scheduled for Feb. 12 at
the Pitser Garrison Civic Center. All
meetings are scheduled to begin at 6:30