Remarks of Governor Rick Perry at the I-69 Alliance Annual Meeting
HOUSTON -- Gov. Rick Perry today made the following remarks at the I-69 annual meeting in Houston:
It is an honor to be here with so many men and women who share my vision for a world-class transportation system, and who are continuing to lead the fight for an interstate that connects South Texas, Houston and East Texas to the opportunities of the future.
For twelve years now, the members of this Alliance have invested a tremendous amount of time and resources to advance the I-69 vision.
From the very first feasibility studies to the millions of federal dollars that have flowed to Texas since then, your leadership has been critical in moving this important project forward.
I have been honored to join you in these efforts, because like you, I understand that if Texas is to maximize the benefits of trade, if we are to continue to attract new jobs and investments, we have got to be better connected to the industrial mid-west and opportunities beyond.
I have always supported the I-69 corridor. In 2002, when U.S. Transportation Secretary Mineta asked me to propose a Texas project for the president’s environmental streamlining pilot project I didn’t hesitate. I said I would propose I-69.
They asked me which part of I-69 - US 59 near Houston? I said, no, the whole thing.
They said, the whole thing through Houston? I said, no, the whole thing through Texas.
Because of this action the I-69 environmental study is approaching the halfway point and we should have some Tier one environmental documents to see this summer.
Now, I’m aware that one of my transportation commissioners delivered some bad news a couple weeks ago about I-69. Like Commissioner Houghton, I think it is important to embrace some frank realities.
First, despite the best efforts of the people in this room, and our congressional delegation, we have received little funding to design and construct I-69 in two separate federal transportation bills.
Second, we all have to recognize the federal funding genie is dead. The federal highway trust fund is heading toward bankruptcy, taking in less in receipts every year than what it is obligated to spend on new projects.
Look, by the time Washington funds I-69 we won’t need it; we’ll all be driving around in hover cars.
But Texans have never waited for Washington to solve our problems. (If we did, we would still be evacuating folks from hurricane Rita!)
That’s just not the way we do things. So while you have heard a lot of bad news lately about the I-69 concept, today I want to offer a proposal that I hope you will receive as good news.
Instead of baby steps, I say it’s time for Texas to take a giant leap forward. I think we can build the needed corridors that will connect the Texas cities and towns along the proposed I-69 route to the industrial heartland of Mexico, and the industrial base of Middle America.
How, you ask? By doing it ourselves.
Here is why we can. Over the last five years we have worked together to provide a variety of new ways to build the infrastructure this state needs.
We’ve passed three constitutional amendments, rewrote the transportation code and with your help, got the flexibility we need in federal law to complement our state plan.
We can now tap the power and resources of the private sector. For years this state has depended on private construction companies to build our roads. We are also using more private engineering talent than ever before. Now we can use the private financial markets to jump-start projects all across Texas.
For decades Texas has relied on the private sector to finance and build our telecommunications and utility infrastructure. It’s time we harnessed the private sector to finance our roads and railroads, too.
As you know, the private sector has offered to put over $7 billion in equity into the I-35 corridor to build TTC-35, the first segment of the Trans Texas Corridor.
This will allow Texas to build billions in new infrastructure at little cost to taxpayers, and use tax money on other transportation challenges.
Today, what I propose for your consideration is this: let’s resuscitate I-69 as TTC-69, using the tools of the private marketplace to advance this project without waiting on Washington.
We don’t know exactly what needs to be built and where it will go until after the environmental study is complete. But I-69 was always envisioned as an upgrade of the existing infrastructure into interstate quality roads.
TTC-69 is compatible with that vision.
Widening existing roads, adding truck lanes beside existing lanes, adding additional freight rail capacity, they are all components of the I-69 dream that the Trans Texas Corridor model can build much, much sooner.
The Trans Texas Corridor was always envisioned as a mix of different transportation uses. It’s not a one size fits all solution. There is no reason TTC-69 couldn’t include a mix of toll lanes and non-tolled lanes.
We should not wait any longer on this important trade corridor. We should not be afraid of private equity, of tolls, of building now and letting future users pay part of the cost.
Tomorrow I will instruct my commission to immediately begin developing proposals to build an interstate-quality highway to connect the Lower Rio Grande River Valley to I-37 south of San Antonio, including the consideration of new, separate lanes for commercial truck traffic.
I will also instruct the commission to begin soliciting from the private sector TTC-69 proposals from the Rio Grande River to Corpus Christi to Houston to East Texas, all the way to Northeast Texas, and if need be, to be prepared to invest state equity into those proposals.
When construction is complete, Texas will benefit from unprecedented trade opportunities, a faster, more reliable transportation system, and thousands of new jobs.
Texas has never been a state that waits for others to lead or innovate, and we’ve never been afraid to try something new when the old ways don’t work anymore.
When you consider the alternatives for building I-69, it’s easy to see that partnering with the private sector is truly the best choice for Texas. The alternatives include asking Texans to pay billions more in higher taxes at the gas pump, continuing to wait who knows how long for Washington to send the needed funds, or simply doing without I-69, and the new wealth it will bring to our state.
We have no better choice than public-private partnerships. They are the wave of the future because they are faster, cheaper and fairer, charging a cost only to those who use toll roads.
As we move forward on building this new highway, I want you to know that Texas values your opinion and needs your input. No one understands the importance of this project better than the members of this Alliance.
I ask each of you to work closely with Chairman Williamson and Transportation Commission so that Texas can benefit from your expertise.
I appreciate your leadership and dedication to bringing Interstate 69 to Texas, and I thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak with you today.
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