Texas Farmers Furious Over Superhighway
HILLSBORO, TEXAS — Leroy Walters has survived many a threat on the farm that has been in his family for 120 years — droughts, hailstorms, tornadoes, grasshopper attacks.
But now he sees a manmade danger on the horizon: a colossal, 600-mile superhighway that will plow clear across the state of Texas, perhaps cutting through Walters' sorghum and corn fields, obliterating the family's houses and robbing his grandchildren of their land.
"I don't think they're going to want to pay a toll to go across this land," he said. "They want to enjoy it free, as Texans should enjoy it."
That kind of fear and anger among farmers and other landowners across the Texas countryside could become a political problem for Republican Gov. Rick Perry as he runs for re-election in November.
It was Perry who proposed the Trans Texas Corridor in 2002, envisioning a combined toll road and rail system that would whisk traffic along a megahighway stretching from the Oklahoma line to Mexico.
The Oklahoma-to-Mexico stretch would be just the first link in a 4,000-mile, $184 billion network. The corridors would be up to a quarter-mile across, consisting of as many as six lanes for cars and four for trucks, plus railroad tracks, oil and gas pipelines, water and other utility lines, and broadband cables.
The exact route for the cross-Texas corridor has not yet been drawn up, though it will probably be somewhere within a 10-mile-wide swath running parallel to Interstate 35. Whatever course it takes, it is clear many farmers and property owners will lose their land, though they will be compensated by the state. Construction could begin by 2010.
The opposition comes in several forms: Some see it as an assault on private property rights; some object to putting the project in foreign hands (it will be built and operated by a U.S.-Spanish consortium); and some see the project as an affront to open government because part of the contract with Cintra-Zachry is secret.