Tuesday, February 26, 2008

TXDOT MEETING 2-25-08

FOR YOUR INFORMATION (and some things to think about!!)........

Following is some information and a few of my thoughts on the TXDOT "La Entrada al Pacifico" meeting that I attended Monday evening, February 25, 2008. There were a few of "our" people there with some very good questions, comments, etc.

The CEED meeting room was full with some standing (over 200??). The TXDOT presentation was given by Brian Swindell. (I think we may have beat up on him a little...but after his attending several of these meetings in W.TX....he held up quite well in spite of us.)

Quoting from the La Entrada al Pacifico (LEAP) brochure: "This LEAP study, which will determine what highway improvements are needed to meet anticipated trade demand, is currently finalizing a Risk Analysis Process (RAP) that will provide forecast data on incoming freight at the Presidio Port of Entry for inclusion into the travel demand modeling process."

"The purpose of this study is not to promote a trade corridor," said Amadeo Saenz, TXDOT's Executive Director. "it is to assess the potential of a trade corridor and forecast trade flow at the Presidio Port of Entry."

"We are still fairly early in the study process and no outcome has been determined," said Saenz."

And all this time....I was under the impression (from news media, prior meetings and website information)...that this was a "done deal." Well...guess what??..."It's not!!"

W.TX citizens still have time for in-put and feedback....and stopping it!! The TXDOT representatives certainly got an ear full of complaints from the citizens in the meeting. (It had been reported that other TX location meetings might not have been as civil...especially the meetings involving the TransTexas Corridor in E.TX!!)

After the TXDOT presentation...a number of members from the audience stood up and gave their "piece of minds!" Some gave short passionate speeches!!! It was very orderly and informative....each followed by much applause of approval. Citizens from Marfa, Alpine and Fort Davis attended the meeting to give their side of the "I don't want La Entrada coming through my town!!" The truck traffic would be traveling "through" the small towns of Marfa, Alpine, Fort Davis, McCamey and Crane....not around them (unless reliever routes were constructed...at a cost...where possible??).

A representative from the McDonald Observatory gave his reasons for not wanting the highway through the Fort Davis area....the truck traffic and increased businesses would destroy the dark, wide-open, star-studded skies for miles around the observatory. The Marfa/Alpine reps said the highway would destroy the pristine wide-open area around their towns. (If you hadn't already heard....two of the Oscar movies were shot around the remote, wide-open Marfa area!) They were also concerned about the affect it might have on Big Bend National Park and the surrounding area.

A representative from the local MOTRAN (Midland/Odessa Transportaton) group spoke about how it was not their intention when they started this project in the early '90's to force this on the citizens of W.TX. It was also mentioned that Midland had earlier bowed out of this project.

The proposed LEAP corridor would enter Odessa (from Crane) by way of I-20 and east to Hwy 1788. We were told that the reliever route north on Hwy 1788...crossing Hwy 158 and around NW/N Midland to Hwy 349 was another phase....considering all reliever routes would be decided at a later time. My question to Brian was: "If the reliever routes are not being considered yet....why is the reliever route already being constructed around NW/N Midland??" (Midland had already paid $100,000+ for its share of this reliever route.) His answer was that the Midland reliver route was not considered in with this study....it was being constructed by local decision. What.....???!!!! Evidentally it was decided locally(??) to go ahead with the reliever route to provide for expansion in that part of N/NW Midland. (We might want to question our city leaders about this decision?)

There were strong concerns by most that creating this trade corridor through our W.TX area would cause an increase in illegal activity at the Presidio border crossing and throughout the area. My "after-thoughts" on this issue are that this corridor will not so much cause more illegal traffic at the border crossing as much as it is an economic and environmental issue for W.TX. (The economic part would probably be more profitable for Mexico??) There was concern that this corridor appeared to only be traveling in one direction....south from Mexican S/SW coastal ports to Canada!

The smugglers of drugs and illegals will find a way into W.TX....whether it is driving through remote low river beds with SUV's, dump trucks or pickup trucks full of drugs and marijuna ...or swimming across the river and catching a ride on the highways or hopping the trains across the southern section of W.TX to either El Paso or San Antonio....and states/cities beyond. They will continue (as they always have) hiding in trucks and vehicles....or any other form of concealment trying to get through the border crossings. Some are caught....some are not!! It has been reported often of the corruption on the border and at the border crossings by authorities and smugglers on both sides of the border.

As has also been reported in the past....all of the border crossing lanes are not being utilized for inspections due to lack of current manpower....and not every vehicle is being inspected now. Is creating the corridor going to remedy this situation?? I would hope it might help in some way....but I doubt it! Until our state and federal government gets serious about our TX border.....REALLY SERIOUS!!.....it will be business as usual.

Cameras and sensors cannot "catch or apprehend" these intruders.....only border agents, border sheriffs and National Guard (with authority to apprehend!)....or a fence at remote strategic locations can stop them. And closing down the TX sanctuary cities, fining employers, cutting off the jobs, cutting off free benefits and allowing our local law enforcement to assist border agents in apprehending illegals through the 287(g) government training would certainly help A LOT!!!

Allowing local law enforcement to form a much needed drug task force would certainly help with the abundance of drug crimes in our cities. (Midland/Odessa has been declared a major drug route and distribution center for drugs from Mexico in the 2006 report "A Line in the Sand: Confronting the Threat at the Southwest Border" www.house.gov/mccaul/pdf/Investigations-Border-Report.pdf !)

It has been suggested by a U.S. respresentative that the cedars growing along the river in remote areas of the river causing concealment for illegals and their drugs could be cut away and destroyed....allowing for open viewing and patrolling of the river by border agents....and fewer hiding places. But......cedars are a pain to get rid of (even I know that!) and would just grow back as fast as they are cut, burned or treated.

The message I was left with after the meeting was that this corridor is still in the "study" stage and we still have time to determine its fate....such as STOP IT!!! A statement was made and applauded that this issue should be put on the ballot and TX citizens should be able to "vote" on a trade route corridor that will be cutting across private and public land.....and costing a lot of money!! By the way....who is paying for this??? We never got an answer to that question either!

There is another trade route that is being studied by other TXDOT representatives....but was not mentioned by these TXDOT people (but was mentioned by me!)...and it is also being studied and considered "down the road!" I questioned why the Ports-to-Plains corridor route from Laredo...through Eagle Pass, Del Rio, San Angelo, Big Spring, Lamesa, Lubbock, Amarillo....and eventually ending in Denver....couldn't be utilized....and do away with the La Entrada plans??? Another question with no answer!! (We need to talk to our legislators about that!!)

While the truck traffic numbers traveling on LEAP corridor were "played down" in the meeting.....I questioned Brian (before the meeting)...would there be an increase in traffic in our area if the TTC in E.TX is delayed further....or not built at all?? Would the NAFTA/CAFTA trade route be through our W.TX towns instead of E.TX?? No answer!!

I believe most W.TX citizens are not aware of this dilemma we have concerning trade routes and Mexican trucks from the S/SW ports of Mexico....crossing at Presidio and traveling through our area and across the U.S......eventually to Canada!! Should we be concerned about losing our borders...our sovereignty...our culture....our language....our nation??? I think we should be more than concerned!! With the unknown staring at us with the upcoming elections....I would say we better be worrying about what's coming through our part of TX.....and yelling to high heaven!!

Word must get out to all W.TX citizens that we can still stop this "train wreck" that is coming in the form of the La Entrada al Pacifico....by calling/writing our governor and state legislators to let them know that....NO!!...WE DO NOT WANT THIS LA ENTRADA AL PACIFICO TRADE ROUTE COMING THROUGH OUR W.TX TOWNS.....NOT NOW....NOT EVER!!!!

The TXDOT representative told us we still have time to stop it....but only if EVERYONE lets their concerns be known NOW!!! Talk to your legislators...your friends....your relatives!!!! Let them know your concerns now.....or be prepared to put up with more and more American and Mexican truck traffic coming at us from all directions....even through parts of our towns....big and small!!!

Don't be confused that the La Entrada is part of any other corridor (such as TransTexasCorridor)....it's not!! If both the La Entrada and the Ports-to-Plains corridors are finalized ....(per previous reports) the two would connect at Lamesa and traffic would continue on up to Denver. In years to come....these corridors could possibly end up in Canada (by way of Kansas City???) We could have our own W.TX TTC trade route out here (but probably not in my lifetime...hopefully!!).

Otherwise........it was a good meeting!!!

Pat Kennedy
Concerned Citizens Coalition-Midland

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Faye said...
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