Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New rail line from Taylor to San Antonio or expansion of the line through Coupland?

“ACRE” includes anti-rail expansion through our area

Several years ago, ACRE began in Coupland as the Anti-Corridor/Rail Expansion group. For the most part, our focus has been on the “Anti-Corridor” part. More has been going on with the Trans-Texas Corridor than with “Rail,” with the exception of some discussion of the rail portion of the Corridor.

TxDOT proposes expanding rail through Coupland area

However, now a report has come out that deals with rail routes in our Coupland area. At the end of July, TxDOT released the Central Texas Rail Relocation Study.
To see the entire report, go to:
The Study contains 147 pages with detailed maps and a letter from Union Pacific at the end.

Once again, people who live elsewhere have thought of another use for our land. They want to move UP’s freight rail from the line in Austin through our valuable farmland so that they can put commuter rail on the line in Austin. It is beside the point that very few will use this commuter rail because of the arrangement and dispersion of our population and our preference for personal transportation. This does not matter to those who would line the pockets of contractors and elevate officials and bureaucrats through the construction of new or expanded rail lines through our area and of the new commuter line.

No power or money to move the freight rail right now

I don’t want to alarm residents in our area. The alternative routes that are in this Study would cause disruption, but so far, there is no power and no money to move this freight rail. We in our area need to be aware of what is in this Study because both of the proposed changes in freight rail begin at Taylor.

Taylor and Coupland affected

There are two main alternatives discussed in this Study. One is to upgrade UP’s existing route beginning in Taylor, going through Coupland, and on to Elgin and Bastrop. The second is an entirely new route going from Taylor to San Antonio.

Taylor would be affected by route changes as seen on the map entitled Figure 1-1 that is the 121st page in the Study document. Expanding the existing line going south would involve changes in how the line is connected in Taylor and changes in curves south of Taylor. Building a new route between Taylor and San Antonio (the Austin Bypass) would involve a new line leaving existing rail east of Taylor and cutting a diagonal line toward the southwest, south of Taylor.

Expanding the existing route through Coupland

Coupland residents need to know that the Report says:

“An overpass for FM 1466 is proposed in Coupland. Coupland is a small
community and the main business district is located along FM 1466 and only a
few hundred feet away from the railroad
(Figure 1-1). Elevating FM 1466
through this area will have a significant impact to access to the businesses.
Further study is needed to determine if a grade separation is feasible at this

The map Figure 1-1 on the 121st page of the document notes the proposed overpass at Coupland.

Austin Bypass

The alternative other than expanding through Coupland is called the direct Austin Bypass. It is a totally new route, moving the freight rail from Austin to the southwest of Taylor and west of Coupland.

Study is a presentation of possibilities

I want to emphasize that there is no definite plan for any of the alternatives in this report. First, there is no money. The July 31 Statesman article by Ben Wear says, “[I]t remains unclear how either the state or Central Texas governments will raise the money for the freight line bypass or the commuter line.” The TxDOT engineer in charge of the study said, “The biggest obstacle is funding.”

One possibility for funding is a rail relocation fund approved by state voters in 2005. Our Coupland voters and many other rural districts around the state voted against this rail relocation fund. (Some may remember Sylvia Summers and me standing outside Coupland School holding signs against this rail fund. Thanks for your support!) So far, this fund is unfunded; the commuter rail proponents hope to convince legislators to put money into it.

Union Pacific doesn’t want to move and doesn’t have to

Union Pacific is not pushing this project. When UP’s Joe Arbona spoke in Coupland, he said that UP was happy with its current routes. The state can’t force UP, which is regulated by the federal government, to do anything. The Central Texas Rail Relocation Study concludes, “UP, as a private industry, owns and operates on its existing facility and may be resistant to relocating to another corridor without adequate compensation.”

UP rejects Trans-Texas Corridor

UP also does not want its routes to be included in the Trans-Texas Corridor. “[W]e are opposed to any relocation of Union Pacific’s operations in the San Antonio-Austin area as a part of the Trans Texas Corridor. Inclusion of this corridor as part of the TTC project would limit both operation and commercial flexibility,” UP Vice President John Rebensdorf said in a letter to TxDOT. This letter from UP to TxDOT is on the last two pages of the Study.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hearings on using 183A to finance 290 East toll road

Sent by Andrew Hawkins through fix290.

Public Hearings for Statement of Purpose and the Financial Plan for a Portion of US 290E CAMPO, together with the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA), will hold two public hearings on a draft Statement of Purpose for creating a “system” comprised of 183A and a portion of US 290E. The draft Statement of Purpose may be viewed by visiting the CAMPO website or may be obtained by calling 512.974.2275.

• Wednesday, November 5, Cedar Park Public Library, 550 Discovery Boulevard

• Thursday, November 6, Akins High School, 10701 South 1st Street, Austin

An Open House will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a presentation starting at 6:30 p.m. Comments will be taken after the presentation or may be submitted until November 19 to CAMPO by letter, fax or email. Additional information and contact information for CAMPO is available

Two additional public hearings will be held on November 12 and 13 at Bluebonnet Trail Elementary School, 11316 Farmhaven Road in Austin, to receive comments on the financial plan the CTRMA developed to deliver the US 290E project. The financial plan raises the possibility that revenue from 183A and US 290E could be used to support each other in the future to the benefit of either project. An Open House will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a presentation starting at 6:30 p.m.

Comments will be taken after the presentation or may be submitted until November 19 to CAMPO by letter, fax or email. Additional information and contact information for CAMPO is available at: For questions: 512.974.2275 (Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Statesman's Ben Wear investigates Craddick's TTC "dead" comments

Back on October 20, we reported that KXAN was running a quote from Speaker Craddick that the Corridor was dead. Craddick said, "Everybody in Austin knows it's dead. Everybody across the state knows it's dead. It's just something to be talked about."

Today, the Statesman's Ben Wear discusses the situation, with comments from Craddick's office.

Entire column at

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Coupland books for sale

Saturday was a great day for selling Coupland books at Elgin's Hogeye Festival. Sharing a booth are (seated) Charlene Hanson Jordan, whose latest book on the history of the area is Stuck in the Mud at Post Oak Island, and (standing) some members of the Coupland Civic Organization Cookbook Committee, Jack and Barbara Piper and Chairman Loretta Patschke, selling Coupland Country Cookin'. If you didn't get to the Hogeye booth, you can still order the cookbook; call Loretta at 512-856-2468.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Gov. Perry--in Williamson Co. or not? Acknowledged or not?

I am struck this evening by the difference in the info on the Democratic and Republican blogs in Williamson County. The Democratic blog, Eye on Williamson, notes:

“Rick Perry in Wilco?Bring it on!
Literally 1,000 Feet from Democratic HQ, Gov. Perry is trying to revive the Duty and Daniels Campaign.
Gov. Perry and the local candidates are meeting at the 620 Café at 10am Saturday morning to rally."

For the entire post, go to

With an entirely different approach, the Republican blog, Williamson Republic, announces:

“Saturday, October 25th, 9 to 11 a.m.- Coffee with the Candidates at the 620 Café and Bakery, located on RM 620 at 910 Round Rock Ave. in Round Rock. Local candidates and elected officials will be on hand to meet voters and encourage early voting for the Republican ticket.”

This post is on

Is it just me, or has anybody else noticed that the Democrats mention Gov. Perry and the Republicans do not? Is Gov. Perry really not going to be there? Or is he going to be there, but he is so unpopular in much of Williamson because of trying to pave us over with the Trans-Texas Corridor that the Republicans don’t want to mention him?

Very interesting.

Coupland Country Cookin' at Elgin's Hogeye Festival tomorrow

The Coupland Civic Organization will be selling the new Coupland Country Cookin' cookbook tomorrow at the Hogeye Festival in downtown Elgin. The CCO will be sharing a booth with Coupland author Charlene Hanson Jordan, who will be selling her new book about the history of the community, Stuck in the Mud at Post Oak Island, so come get some wonderful Coupland books.

(Photo: selling Coupland Country Cookin' at the October 4 Choo Choo Fest.)

Attorney representing your interests in eminent domain not "unfortunate"

The Taylor Daily Press reports that "Williamson County Commissioners have approved the first of what will likely be many eminent domain acquisitions for the expansion of Chandler Road from Hutto to Taylor."

Property owners north of Taylor will have eminent domain used against them to force them to sell their land for the road.

Pct. 4 Commissioner Ron Morrison was quoted as saying, "This is something I don't like to do." He continued, "Unfortunately they are getting attorneys involved."

I disagree with his use of "unfortunately." If a landowner thinks he or she is not getting a fair offer for property, it is smart to consult a condemnation attorney. If a condemnation attorney thinks the landowner has a good case, the attorney will take the case on a contingency basis. This means the landowner does not have to pay the attorney unless the attorney gets payment for the landowner over and above the original offer.

The above is not specific legal advice. However, consulting your own attorney is usually in your best interest--not unfortunate.

See the whole article at

Photo: Sunrise over Coupland, October 24, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sunrise over Coupland

State Republican Executive Committee Member asks Craddick to step down as Speaker

After Craddick declared the Corridor "dead," and after some of the leading Corridor opponents commented on his comment, now Mark McCaig, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee, has a column in the Statesman calling for Craddick to relinquish the speakership.

He believes "a Democratic takeover of the Texas House of Representatives is a very real possibility" and that "the only way to prevent further erosion of the Republican majority in the Texas House is for Tom Craddick to immediately announce that he will not seek another term as speaker."

Among other complaints, McCaig points to Craddick's "lobby-driven agenda at the expense of issues important to ordinary Texans." McCaig doesn't mention it specifically, but I would point to such special interests as road contractors driving the Corridor and other public-private partnership toll roads at the expense of rural landowners and the traveling public.

Read the whole column at

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

More on Craddick says TTC is "dead"

The ACRE message about the quote from House Speaker Craddick that the Trans-Texas Corridor was “dead” has prompted interesting comments. Some commenters were concerned that people would think because Craddick said the Corridor was “dead” we didn’t have to struggle against it anymore. This is not the case; we do need to continue our efforts.

The quote is significant because Craddick had never said anything like this about the Corridor before. It is significant that so many politicians, including Craddick, in this campaign season think it is necessary for them to oppose the Corridor in order to get elected. This is a big change. When we started fighting against the Corridor, politicians weren’t saying this. This means that we are making progress.

We can’t say that the Corridor is dead until it is officially killed legislatively. So we all need to continue working toward this end, but I think it is encouraging that more and more politicians are coming out against it in their campaigns.

Here are comments from representatives of some of the organizations that have been in the forefront of the fight against the Corridor.

DAN BYFIELD, American Land Foundation
“Don't believe that the TTC is dead. Politicians will say anything to get re-elected. Mr. Craddick had the opportunity the past two sessions to kill this, but why would he now reveal that it's dead? The Legislature is the only body capable of ‘killing’ the TTC, but they're not in session. What is very revealing about this statement is his need, like so many other politicians running for office, to say anything about the Trans-Texas Corridor - especially something this negative. He realizes it is a hot button issue with his constituents and fellow House members (who will be voting for him for Speaker), otherwise he would never have mentioned it on the campaign stump. We are making a difference, but if Mr. Craddick and others who voted for the TTC get back into office, nothing will change and the TTC will live on.”

AGNES VOGES, Blackland Coalition
“I doubt seriously that Craddick has the truth in this matter. Granted, TTC may have hit a snag or two, but one way or the other, it is still happening. Again, the LAW has to be changed before this thing is dead. If not, then there is nothing that will keep it from being resuscitated at any time they can get their fingers on some money.”

LINDA STALL, Corridor Watch
“The law creating TTC remains and it should be changed . . . and some oversight legislation for PPPs put in place. We are hearing from a few people around the state that their Counties are getting into strangely oversized road projects, and we are concerned that the push will shift to developing ‘County projects’ that then are shifted to TxDOT and linked together . . . TTC under the radar.

“It is nice to hear that Craddick realizes it’s in his interest to say the Corridor is dead. I am always leery when a leadership official says something like that, just in case he's trying to get people to stop speaking out . . . and to undermine his opposition candidate's ability to make political mileage out of the Corridor as an issue.”

TERRI HALL, San Antonio Toll Party and TURF
“Craddick's comments are no more true than saying the sun won't rise tomorrow. This is an election year, period. NO law has been changed or policies reversed to prove this statement correct. In fact, they've gone underground and are cheating in how they're supplementing the environmental record to make it appear they'll use existing right of way for TTC-69 using clever language rife with get of jail free cards. Also, TTC-35 is barreling forward unabated.

“It's huge he [Craddick] even feels the need to say it to get re-elected!”

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Learn how to use 391 coordination strategy to stop TTC

Dan and Margaret Byfield have been having a great deal of success in helping to form 391 Planning Commissions along the path of the Trans-Texas Corridor. The first one, Bell County’s Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission, is in the path of TTC-35 and has stalled the release of the TTC-35 Final Environmental Impact Statement. The other 391 commissions are along the path of the Corridor through East Texas.

The commissions are based on section 391 of the Texas Municipal Code that allows local communities to organize to demand coordination from larger entities who are threatening their areas. Now, the Byfields are hosting the Call America 2008 Conference in Austin, November 13-15 to show others how to implement this “coordination” strategy.

For more info and to register, go to

Monday, October 20, 2008

Krusee formally charged with DWI

HD 52 Representative Mike Krusee was in a Williamson County courtroom today to be formally charged with driving while intoxicated, as reported by Austin’s FOX 7. He pled not guilty and will go to trial on November 17. Krusee is not running for reelection.

Interestingly, the charge was read to him by Dee Hobbs, Williamson County prosecuting attorney, who ran in the Republican primary for Krusee’s seat. Hobbs was defeated in a primary runoff by Bryan Daniel, who is the Republican nominee for the seat. Also running are Democrat Diana Maldonado and Libertarian Lillian Simmons.

Krusee was the author of HB 3588 that created the Trans-Texas Corridor at the behest of Gov. Perry. All three candidates for the seat say they are against the Corridor.

To see the FOX 7 report, go to;jsessionid=EC6AD84C97BA701E004DA24A2CC8B405?contentId=7683094&version=1&locale=EN-US&layoutCode=VSTY&pageId=1.1.1&sflg=1

Craddick says Corridor is "dead"

At a Midland debate last night with his Democratic opponent Bill Dingus, House Speaker Tom Craddick declared, "I have to clear this up. I did not vote for the Trans-Texas Corridor."

Dingus responded, "Even though he says he didn't vote for it, he didn't vote against it either."

KXAN-TV reporter Jenny Hoff commented, "Vote or not, one thing Craddick said clearly, the Trans-Texas Corridor will not happen."

Craddick said, "Everybody in Austin knows it's dead. Everybody across the state knows it's dead. It's just something to be talked about."

To see this report, go to and click on Latest Videos.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Reining in TxDOT

The Fort Bend Herald reports that State Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, Vice Chair of the Sunset Advisory Commission, has reinforced the sentiments expressed at the TxDOT Sunset hearing that TxDOT officials “have been arrogant and have shown disdain for the Texas Legislature.” Hegar expects the Legislature to implement changes at TxDOT during the upcoming session.

Hegar is advocating some of the reforms recommended by the Sunset staff in a report that was highly critical of TxDOT.

Members of the commission will vote in December on implementing the proposed reforms. One possible change would be to replace the five-member Transportation Commission with a single Commissioner. Other changes could include the Legislature taking more control over the TxDOT budget and projects, reining in TxDOT’s rush toward public-private partnerships such as the Trans-Texas Corridor, demanding more transparencies in TxDOT’s decision-making, and requiring better communication with the public.

Hegar points to instances where TxDOT has gone against the will of the Legislature, including the ad campaign for the Trans-Texas Corridor that ended up being the subject of the lawsuit by the group TURF, and the Legislature’s call for a moratorium on some public-private partnerships. “That’s just unbelievable to me. Unbelievable. We just made a statement and then [TxDOT] went around and did something completely different,” he said.

One of the most striking and unusual possibilities is that the Legislature is “likely to make TxDOT go through a Sunset review in four years,” rather than the usual 12 years.

See the entire article at

Photo: Madeleine Garry Hensley

Thursday, October 16, 2008

When transportation was more peaceful, albeit slower

What transportation looked like in Coupland's earlier days. Photo from October 4 Coupland Choo Choo Fest, courtesy Madeleine Garry Hensley.

290 E design like 281--in violation of legislative intent

This summer's Sunset Advisory Commission hearing on TxDOT gave several interesting views on how the old and new leadership at TxDOT would continue to act and on what legislators might think about it and might try to do to correct the arrogance and excesses of TxDOT.

For one thing, Deirdre Delisi, new Transportation Commission chair, did not stay to hear any of the public testimony, which went on into the evening. The panel of legislators noticed. They commented that since one of the big issues was communication with the public they would have thought Delisi would have made a point to listen to the public.

Also, TxDOT executive director Amadeo Saenz had a revealing exchange with legislators. First, they told Saenz that making the free lanes on 281 in San Antonio the frontage road lanes, with tolled highway lanes in the middle, was NOT their legislative intent when they forbade converting free lanes to tolled lanes. This is the plan for 290 East, also--the free lanes will be frontage lanes with a lower speed limit.

The panel tried to hope that Delisi and Saenz were turning over a new leaf and that the Legislature and the public would have a better relationship with TxDOT and the new leadership. The video with the exchange between Rep. Ruth McClendon of San Antonio and Saenz is an informative and entertaining illustration of how the new leadership is continuing the policies of the old leadership.

HD 52 candidates on Corridor

The Taylor Daily Press has covered the views of the candidates in the HD 52 race. Regarding transportation,

“[Republican Bryan] Daniel said he is opposed to the Trans-Texas Corridor being built in Williamson County. ‘I don’t think it’s right for Williamson County,’ he said.”

“[Democrat Diana] Maldonado is against the Trans-Texas Corridor and is for mass transit.”

“[Libertarian Lillian] Simmons views the Trans-Texas Corridor as a way for the government to import vast amounts of goods from China via Mexico. ‘I’m opposed to it,’ she said. ‘It’s the largest land grab in the history of the U.S.’”

About TxDOT in general,

“Maldonado said additional funding for TxDOT may be appropriate, but the department needs further oversight.”

“Simmons said giving TxDOT any additional funding would be a bad move. ‘It looks like they’re using a lot of money for promoting the Trans-Texas Corridor,’ she said.”

“To Daniel, new leadership at the Texas Department of Transportation encourages him to believe that the embattled agency may be back on track, he said. He supports a suggested $1.5 billion cash infusion for the department, provided that the new leadership shows that it can spend taxpayers’ money wisely.”

The complete

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

If 183 A and 290 East form the beginning of a "system,' then system-wide meetings needed

I am excerpting some comments from Beki Halpin of fix290 about the concept of linking all the Phase 2 toll roads into a system, the need for system-wide public meetings, and CAMPO’s disrespect toward the citizens who took time to attend this meeting:

“This will also mean that if they connect these two disjointed and disconnected roads [183 A and 290 East] in to a ‘system,’ that they will then likely connect all the phase 2 toll roads to the same system, robbing revenue from any road that is making money to prop up others that are failing or need revenue to back construction bonds.

“ . . . hearings region wide as well as within the 290 E and 183 A corridors are required to turn these two roads into a ‘system.’ I think we need to require them to hold system wide meetings because all the phase 2 toll roads could become a part of the system. One of the CAMPO staff made a comment that they were not sure they would follow the letter of the law on this or ‘common sense.’ I later wondered if that meant they would hold as few public hearings as possible.

“There is also good reading on Sarah Eckhardt's blog:

“At the CAMPO meeting itself, no reason was given for pulling the item regarding 290 E from the agenda and no apology was made to all the citizens who came to speak about it.”

More on tolling 290 East

Good comments from Andrew Hawkins of the fix290 group. Fix 290 has been working to implement a better solution on 290 West than the TxDOT plan for a massive elevated tollway. The fix290 group is interested in all the tolling plans around Austin, including 290 East.

Andrew adds more detail about Sarah Eckhardt’s covenants:

“Unfortunately, the covenants are not an absolute bar to this desperate and risky 183A/290E 'system' approach--the covenants provide a way to override the corridor restrictions by developing a statement of purpose, holding public hearings, and getting a 2/3rds vote from CAMPO.

“So I would add that the plan now is to hold those required hearings, and that is what CAMPO will be doing soon (as I heard from CAMPO staff). In my mind, that doesn't it anyway make this wacky proposal any more reasonable.

“In any case, just thought I would clarify this so folks are aware that these meetings will come up, probably sooner rather than later.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

290 East Toll Plan Postponed

Last night, CAMPO was set to consider the plan from CTRMA to use toll revenues from 183-A to back the financing to turn 290 East into a toll road. KLBJ-AM covers this story as “290-East Toll Proposal Booted From CAMPO Meeting.” You can see the entire story at

The lecture hall at the Joe C. Thompson Center was filled with members of the public who objected to the plan. The main CAMPO board advocate against the plan was Travis County Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt. She had gotten covenants of agreement passed last year, which prohibited sending toll revenue from one area to another area. She rightly pointed out that this plan violated this agreement, plus, according to the covenants, this proposal needed a two-third vote and additional public meetings.

Interesting comments from Cynthia Long, Williamson County Commissioner and CAMPO Vice Chair, who seemed to think the plan should have gone forward and had been publicized enough. She said, “It was on the agency tonight for a vote. This has been in a public meeting. We had a Finance Committee meeting where this was publicly discussed. We had a CAMPO workshop last week where this was publicly discussed.”

However, when the KLBJ reporter asked Commissioner Long if a vote by CAMPO would potentially violate the board’s own covenants, she said,
“I have no idea. I mean, I’m not an expert on the covenants. That’s a question for someone else who is.”

Interviewed separately, Eckhardt said, “I’m extremely familiar with the covenants and there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that the proposal falls under the covenant. It requires a two-thirds vote. . . . there is going to be the other issue that they [183-A and 290 East] are separated by 14 miles . . .”