Texas Superhighway?

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It sounds like another tall tale told by a Texan -- the Lone Star State has embarked on a project to build superhighways so big, so complex, they'll make ordinary interstates look like cowpaths.

As envisioned by Governor Rick Perry, the Trans-Texas Corridor project would be a four thousand mile transportation network.

Its awesome $175 billion cost over fifty years would be financed
mostly -- if not entirely -- by private money. The builders would
then charge motorists tolls.

But these wouldn't be mere highways. Proving anew that everything's big in Texas, they would be megahighways. Corridors up to a quarter-mile wide would accommodate as many as six lanes for cars and four for trucks, plus railroad tracks, oil and gas pipelines, water and other utility lines -- even broadband transmission cables.

Supporters say the corridors are needed to handle the expected
NAFTA-driven boom in the flow of goods to and from Mexico. They
would also allow freight haulers to bypass heavily populated urban
centers on straight-shot highways cutting across the countryside.

But some critics call it a Texas-size boondoggle. Environmentalists worry about its effect on the countryside.

Ranchers and farmers who stand to lose their land through eminent
domain are mobilizing against it. Small towns and big cities alike
fear a loss of business when traffic bypasses them.

Even the governor's own party opposes the plan. The Republican
Party platform drafted at last summer's state convention rejected
it because of its effect on property rights.

But Perry is undeterred. Earlier this month, the Texas Transportation Commission opened negotiations with the Spain-based consortium Cintra to start the first phase of the project. That's a seven-and-a-half billion-dollar, 800 mile corridor from Oklahoma to Mexico.

For the Oklahoma-Mexico corridor, Cintra plans to spend six billion dollars for about 300 miles of four-lane highway from Dallas to San Antonio. It'll also give the state one-point-two billion dollars for improvements along the route. In return, Cintra wants to maintain and operate the toll road for 50 years.

Other potential corridors could stretch east-west from Orange to
El Paso, and north-south from Amarillo to Laredo.