For years, Texas has been planning a privately financed super turnpike from Mexico to the Oklahoma border. But like rush-hour traffic, the plan for a Trans-Texas Corridor is only inching along. "It ran into a firestorm of controversy in Texas,” said Neal McCaleb, a former Oklahoma transportation secretary. Critics have a wide range of concerns about the corridor, which has a key stretch that would parallel Interstate 35. (Another stretch would extend from the Texarkana/Shreveport area to Mexico.) Particularly upset are landowners who may be in the corridor's path. The Texas Transportation Department calls many concerns myths. The department says, for instance, that property owners will be paid fair market value and entire towns will not be wiped out.
How would it affect Oklahoma?Still, the critics, including former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, got the attention of Texas legislators. Last year, legislators approved a partial moratorium on private toll road deals. How the corridor — if it ever is built in Texas — would affect Oklahoma is unclear. McCaleb was a consultant for a company that was seeking to build the corridor along I-35. The company proposed extending the corridor through Oklahoma. "The Oklahoma arm never got off the ground because our proposal was not selected. And the other proposals had no provision for anything in Oklahoma,” McCaleb said.
‘There's a lot of misinformation'Oklahoma transportation officials say they have no plans to extend the corridor through Oklahoma. They say existing roads could be used to take the traffic. Oklahoma officials also say most of the planning in Texas is on the stretch of corridor between Dallas and San Antonio. "It appears to be that's where their focus is,” said David C. Streb, engineering director for the Oklahoma Transportation Department. "These things take a long time.” Streb said of the criticism, "There's a lot of misinformation.”
Oklahomans organize opposition to planOpponents of the corridor going into Oklahoma already have organized. A group, Oklahomans for Sovereignty and Free Enterprise, incorporated last year. "We heard of all the various problems with it,” said George Wallace, president of the group. "In Oklahoma ... at least 33,000 acres would be taken by eminent domain. ... It will be a private company running this and they can set their tolls at whatever they want.” Wallace is skeptical of claims the corridor may not be built in Oklahoma. "The corridors that we're talking about in Texas are up to 1,200 feet wide,” Wallace said. "They have lanes dedicated to trucks, lanes dedicated to passenger vehicles, rail lines, power lines, water lines, oil lines ... Let's say it comes up to the Red River. Is it just going to stop? "Doesn't make much sense, right?” Nolan Clay, Staff Writer