Wednesday, December 26, 2007

TxDOT Suddenly Has Money to Spend

But follow the money.

Not TxDOT’s. That’s your money that TxDOT gets from taxes from wherever.

But suddenly, after crying poverty for so long, justifying that major new commuter highway projects be funded through tolls, TxDOT says that it can come up with $275 million to widen a rural highway in Fort Bend and Brazoria Counties. That’s right. TxDOT wants to widen a presently mostly two-lane State Highway 36 and Spur 10 into four lanes along a corridor stretching from Pleak Village (just south of Rosenberg) at SH 36 and FM 2218 to FM 1495 (aka Pine Street) in Freeport, Texas.

In two recent townhall meetings that TxDOT conducted, one at West Columbia High School in Brazoria County and the one most recently in the gymnasium of Needville High School, in Fort Bend County, TxDOT spokesman Roger Gonzalez, a TxDOT project manager, told the attendees (quoting The Chron):

“that the roads need to be widened to improve existing traffic flow in the area, to compensate for population growth in the region, to help in the event of a hurricane evacuation and to improve access to the Port of Freeport”.

“’The current capacity is not sufficient during an evacuation event,’ Gonzalez said.”

“He said the portion of Spur 10 that may be expanded saw 1,191 vehicles per day in 2005, and projections indicate that same part of the road will see 2,923 vehicles per day in 2025.”

“The part of Texas 36 set to be widened saw 10,283 cars per day in 2005, a number that is projected to increase to 16,453 in 2025.”

Now I am a little confused. I have been up and down SH 36 and I cannot for the life of me get a feel for the projections of increased traffic. There are times, I swear, you can see a Texas Tortoise make it’s way across the entire width of Hwy 36 unscathed.

But then, I guess we’re not just talking about natural growth along a two-lane highway are we? We’re talking cause and effect.

If you build it they will come.

From County Judge Hebert when the Fort Bend County Commissioners approved this project this past August. Quoting from FortBendNow:

“’If the project comes about’, Hebert said earlier this year, ‘it could help spur growth and development in the southern portion of Fort Bend County, and certainly it helps the Port of Freeport.’”

Straight from the horse’s mouth. TxDOT again will spend millions of dollars to improve a state highway in order to enable developers to expand into the rural areas along Highway 36. You know, like Needville.

Needville, Texas, for those of you who have never been there, sports a sign at its city limits that proclaims the city as the place “where thousands live the way millions wish they could”.

If you like rural living, there’s no finer place to live than Needville.

Unless, as Judge Hebert predicts, that ruralness is about to go away forever.

But there was one odd thing that Hebert mentioned toward the end that got me curious, as well as the comment by TxDOT spokesmen Gonzales:

Hebert: “…and certainly it helps the Port of Freeport.”
Gonzales: “…and to improve access to the Port of Freeport”

Freeport? Everyone wants to go to Freeport, as Gonzales suggests?

No, I think it’s pretty much the other way around. The Port of Freeport has just last year broken ground on the largest expansion of their deepwater terminal in 40 years. It’s called the Velasco Terminal, and at its full completion, it is expected to be able to handle between 800,000 and 1,000,000 20-ft-equivalent container units annually.

Where do all those containers go? Why on truck beds, of course. And those trucks will be sent north on a newly widened SH 36 roaring and screaming up and down the highway belching diesel exhaust day and night non-stop.

Turning Needville into a place where millions live where only thousands wish they could.

Why SH 36? What’s so special? Well for one thing it intersects at Rosenberg with the proposed Trans Texas Corridor, Interstate 69. That’s one destination, but not the only one, bringing us to why the H-E double-hockey sticks TxDOT wants to spend $42 million to widen Spur 10.

What is Spur 10?

Spur 10 is a little known road west of Rosenberg (but maybe soon to be included in Rosenberg), that marks the western end of what has become termed the triple forks area, an area of hundreds of undeveloped acres near the junction of Spur 10, FM 529 and the future TTC I 69 highway, where it has been recently proposed to build a major container on/off load site. The site is conveniently situated at the crossroads of I 69 and a major East-West rail line that locally runs along US 90A. More convenient if it were at the end of newly widened Spur 10/SH 36.

Last July 3rd I was present at a Nick Lampson town hall meeting at which Rosenberg officials pointed out the proposed project to Lampson. Lampson, a newly appointed member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, seemed startled at the news, but became acutely interested in the project, and I suppose, its ramifications.

So what is the point of this posting that seemingly jumps from one lily pad to another showing the connections but to what end?

It’s all about the money. Not your money. Their money. The money of Madrid-based Dragados SPL which is funding the construction of Freeport’s Velasco Terminal and will ultimately operate the terminal. Texas appears to be in full partnership with the Bush agenda as they outsource our infrastructure (and in this case our ports) to foreign interests.

And TxDOT is willing to pony up American taxpayer dollars to make this all happen, but not one taxpayer dollar to help Texas citizens get from point A to point B. Instead, TxDOT says, Texans that need to commute to work need to do so by paying exorbitant tolls. Nope, can't afford to pay for commuter transportation needs. Yep, when you see TxDOT loosen it’s purse strings to plunk down some taxpayer dollars, don’t expect it to be in the interests of Texan commuters. But that doesn’t prevent them from telling residents about how the expansion will help them by warning them about crowded hurricane escape routes and the expected increase in traffic. Of course there will be a traffic increase what with an additional 2,200 trucks roaring up and down the highway every day (that’s 1 truck every 40 seconds).
What to conclude? With apologies to JFK:

...and so my fellow Texans ask not what the Texas Department of Transportation can do for you, ask what they can do for foreign moneyed interests.


Anonymous said...

SIC'EM Hal! I am sick and tired of our government taking our tax dollars to encourage foreign countries to come here and fleece us. First we pay for the roads and infastructure with our dollars and then we have to pay to use the same roads we already paid for.

You and Geri keep reporting the things that THEY don't want us to know.

Have you asked our Representative to stop this use of Texas as a cash cow?

Sal Costello said...


Check out my post from today, and the links and video's I have on how TxDOT lies.

Sal "The Muckraker" Costello