A landmark event occurred yesterday. Rep. Leibowitz’s (D-San Antonio) HB 11 to totally kill the Trans-Texas Corridor was heard in the House Transportation Committee. HB 11 may not make it past this point this session, but after fighting the Corridor for years, it is very encouraging to me, and an important symbol of how far we have come, to witness this bill given a hearing and to hear every single witness testify in favor of this bill, with no one who cared or dared to publicly oppose the Corridor-killing bill.
Corridor must be wiped from the books
As we know, the pronouncements during the last few months that the Corridor is dead may reflect the reality that the Corridor is very sick, that the people of Texas don’t want it, and that it has become more and more politically risky. However, Gov. 39% declared that the name might have changed, but that his “vision” of the almost quarter-mile wide, multi-modal network criss-crossing Texas would continue by segments. The name was changed to protect the guilty, but the essence of the project would continue piece by piece.
Rep. Leibowitz said, “Rural land will still be taken by cross-state tollways if we don’t repeal the authority to create the TTC. [with the passage of HB 11] If the state leadership wants to come up with a new multi-modal transportation corridor, they will need to start from scratch.”
Krusee creates Corridor, Maldonado tries to kill it
An ironic twist--we must observe that our previous HD 52 representative Mike Krusee was the author and prime mover behind HB 3588 that created the Corridor in the 2003 session. Our current Representative Diana Maldonado is a coauthor of HB 11 to destroy the Corridor.
Testimony in favor of HB 11
The hearing room was almost full, and Chairman Pickett announced that overflow capacity was available in another room. Many testified in favor of HB 11 and many more handed in testimony forms supporting HB 11. Staffers kept running out of witness forms and had to go out to get more.
Leading off the testimony was the president of the Texas Farm Bureau, Kenneth Dierschke, who, representing 425,000 member families, testified in favor of HB 11.
Representing other groups around the state were Terri Hall of TURF; Hank Gilbert of TURF and former Democratic nominee for Ag Commissioner; Beki Halpin, Fix 290; Margaret Green, Blackland Coalition; Bruce Burton, Texans Against Tolls; and citizens representing themselves and their families. Mary Anderson. Texans Against Tolls, did not speak publicly, but was all around the hearing room, supplying information and helping others get their witness forms. Citizens from all over the state testified to the committee and handed in witness forms.
About his HB 11 to kill the Corridor and HB 13 to prohibit the conversion of free lanes to tolled lanes, Rep. Leibowitz observed, “Nobody testified against them.” He said that HB 11 “takes TTC off the books. TTC is sucking the very life blood out of the heart and soul of Texas. We need to drive a stake through its heart—if it has a heart.”
Status of HB 11
Chairman Pickett left HB 11 and HB 13 pending. This means that the Transportation Committee may or may not vote these bills out to go to the full House. We will try to get an idea of what is going on with HB 11 in the committee and see if the anti-Corridor groups need to mount a campaign to communicate with the legislators to get HB 11 out of committee and to the House floor.
Filming the proceedings
Making a complete record of the proceedings was Bill Molina of Storm Productions. Bill has produced two award-winning documentaries against the Corridor—the “Truth Be Tolled” films. When history decides to go back and look at all the meetings and hearings around the state and at the Capitol on the Corridor, the entire record will be there in the work of Bill Molina. The Coupland Civic Organization hosted a showing of his first Corridor film two years ago—just one of the community groups around the state that have done so. Both of Bill’s films can be seen for free now on YouTube. Go to truthbetolled.com and click on YouTube on the top line.