About 250 farmers and ranchers held a rally Tuesday at the state Capitol to protest Gov. Rick Perry’s Trans Texas Corridor plan, which critics say will gobble up the property of rural landowners.
Republican Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn joined the demonstrators and called Perry's associates "land-grabbing highway henchmen."
She also called the governor's plan the "Trans Texas Catastrophe."
Strayhorn is considering whether to challenge Perry in the 2006 GOP primary.
An aide to Perry watched the rally and told reporters that corridor road projects are receiving local input.
Spokesman Robert Black also says Strayhorn in the past has supported toll roads.
The property owners want the state House Transportation Committee to hold a hearing on proposed legislation that would impose a two-year moratorium on further corridor developments and on tolls on existing roads.
Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, who chairs the committee, said the panel does not plan to consider the bill Tuesday at its final meeting of the session to conduct hearings on bills.
The Texas Department of Transportation signed a contract last month 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.
The $184 billion 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.
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, 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, Perry’s office said.
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.
According to published reports, 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.
Cintra would also operate businesses along the route.
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 in February 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.