Gov. Rick Perry, in satellite interviews with TV stations around the state Monday, said the $184 billion Trans Texas Corridor project is the best solution to the growing congestion on Interstate 35, especially in urban areas.
“It will take that massive amount of congestion out of city centers,” Perry said.
Perry’s Trans Texas Corridor Plan calls for a 4,000-mile network of transportation corridors that would crisscross the state with separate highway lanes for passenger vehicles and trucks, passenger rail, freight rain, commuter rail and dedicated utility zones for water, natural gas and broadband communications.
The Texas Department of Transportation signed a contract Friday with the Cintra-Zachry consortium for planning on the controversial Trans Texas Corridor project, the most ambitious highway construction project since the Eisenhower administration launched the effort to build an interstate highway system.
Madrid-based Cintra was chosen in December by the Texas Transportation Commission to begin developing the first phase of the massive project.
Designers envision a corridor with six separate passenger vehicle lanes and four commercial truck lanes; two high speed passenger rail lines, two freight rain lines and two commuter rail lines and a utility zone that will accommodate water, electric, natural gas, petroleum, fiber optic and telecommunications lines.
Under the agreement signed Friday, Cintra-Zachry will begin work on a master development plan for the first segment of the corridor, which will parallel Interstate 35 from San Antonio to Oklahoma.
The plan will take 12 to 15 months to complete.
Cintra, which is an international engineering and construction firm, and the San Antonio-based Zachry Construction Corporation, have agreed to provide $7.2 billion for construction of the first six segments of the project, Perry’s office said.
Cintra will spend $6 billion to build a four-lane toll road on the corridor and will pay the state $1.2 billion in return for the exclusive rights to operate the toll road for 50 years, money that Perry said could be used for maintenance and expansion of the existing interstate.
Cintra would also operate businesses along the route.
A constitutional amendment approved by voters in November 2003 cleared the way for the state to issue bonds to fund major transportation projects on an accelerated basis and to combine available funds with other funds to help build toll roads.
Perry says the project will be good for Texas, but the plan is not without its opponents.
Officials in Interstate 35 corridor cities such as Waco and Dallas are concerned about the commercial impact of the project.
McLennan County Commissioners approved a resolution last month opposing the corridor.
The Waco-based Texas Farm Bureau also opposes the project because of concerns about the loss of farm and ranchland and the impact of the construction on the tax base of Texas counties and communities.
The newsletter of the conservative Eagle Forum called the project “Tyrannosaurus Tex.”
Perry likened those who oppose the plan to Texans of an earlier age who stood in opposition to the construction of interstate highways or farm to market roads.
“There will always be opponents to change,” he said.