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Foreign bid on Dallas to Mexico rail line

News 8 Austin | March 30, 2006
By Jennifer Bordelon

Louis Repa shows the land he would lose to the Trans Texas Corridor.

Louis Repa has been farming his land near Granger for almost 50 years.

Ten years ago he dodged a proposed light rail line that was to run right through the middle of his corn field.

Now, the Trans Texas Corridor threatens to do the same.

"If it goes through this piece of property and I have 20 acres on this side and then have another 20 acres on this other side. It's going to be hard to get over here to this other plot that's going to be left. It's just going to make a big shuffle in the farming community. It's not going to be as easy for us to get our grain to town. It's going to be a big mess," Repa said.

On Wednesday the Texas Transportation Commission announced it received a proposal from Cintra-Zachary to build an extended railway from Dallas-Fort Worth to Mexico, a 600-mile line worth $5 billion to $6 billion. The line would be a part of the Trans Texas corridor.

"The proposal suggests all intersecting roads will go above or below the new railroad," Ted Houghton of the Texas Transportation Commission.

The company would open the line to any freight rail company interested in paying to use it, the TTC says.

There are several details to be worked out and in the end another competitor could come in and win the bid.

The project could remove more than 10,000 tractor-trailers from Interstate 35 every day, the TTC says.

The new rail line could improve traffic safety and air quality, supporters said. But if all goes through it would still be awhile before any construction would be seen.

"The Texas corridor, 35, the road bid, the whole process took over two years. This would probably take about that long, maybe a little less," Transportation Commissioner Rick Williamson said.

A statement from independent gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn's campaign says this is just a secret agreement for land grabs by foreign companies.

"Our roads, our railways, our bridges, our seaports, our airports and our border crossings are vital to our economy and prime targets for terrorists ... Why take the chance and let a private or public foreign operation control vital Texas infrastructure and property?" the statement said.

Repa agrees.

"What we don't understand is why are we letting a company from Spain build this road for us and probably have control over this road for probably 50 years?" he said.

Now, he said, in addition to praying for rain so he has a good crop. The 61-year-old farmer also prays for his land's safety.

"We build up our value. It's basically in our land that over the years we have acquired. And when you start losing that back to something like this and you don't get a fair market value for it, that's what hurts us in our retirement plan," Repa said.

If toll roads or freight lines plow straight through his future, Repa said, he plans for retirement will be gone.



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