It was co-hosted at the Alexander Convention Center by the Eagle Ford Consortium, the South Texas Energy & Economic Roundtable, America’s Natural Gas Alliance, La Salle County and the City of Cotulla.
“Our region’s rural highways are critical to our way of life, and we repeated and reinforced our serious concerns about the plan to turn them into gravel,” said Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, an organizer of the Caucus.
“The agency provided a commitment not only to work with counties to develop alternatives, but also not to convert any more roads to gravel before the end of October,” the senator added. “It is critical that TxDOT have better collaboration and communication with legislators and local leaders going forward, including involving them in the decision-making process and developing appropriate policies, procedures, criteria and rules regarding this and other TxDOT decisions that impact our communities.
“We also must ensure that TxDOT develops a plan and a timeline for reconverting any gravel roads to paved roads as part of its Unified Transportation Plan. Finally, it is imperative that legislative committees address this issue. Accordingly, the EFSLC will request that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Speaker Joe Straus charge legislative committees to address graveling and other recent TxDOT proposals.”
Their options include directing the finance, appropriations and transportation committees of the Senate and of the House of Representatives to hold hearings, to appoint an interim committee and to appoint the Select Committees on Transportation Funding, Expenditures and Finance authorized by House Bill 1 (Third Called Special Session).
State Reps. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, and Tracy King, D-Batesville, also addressed participants and questioned TxDOT at the Cotulla meeting.
“Bringing everyone to the table is a start, and hopefully we’ve move passed the blame-game so that we can come to a solution,” said Rep. Guillen. “Bottom line—we have a problem; we need action, and tearing up these roads is not an option.”
“I want to thank the community for participating in the public meeting,” said Rep. King. “I am disappointed that TxDOT has chosen this path but want to work with them to maintain paved roads in Texas.”
Eight county judges from the shale also expressed concerns and asked questions, including: Joel Rodriguez, La Salle; Jim Huff, Live Oak; Jim Teal, McMullen; Marvin Quinney, Wilson; Diana Bautista, Atascosa; Carlos Garcia, Frio; Joe Luna, Zavala; and Francisco Ponce, Dimmit.
The county judges expressed their strong continued opposition to the paved-to-gravel road proposal and pledged to collaborate in identifying alternatives.
Participants submitted more than 35 questions for agency representatives, all expressing concerns about the wisdom, safety, efficiency, economy, impact and consequences of graveling roads. No one expressed support.
Before the meeting, local leaders guided TxDOT officials on a tour of several of the farm-to-market roads slated to be graveled in Dimmit and La Salle counties. Tour participants were able to see firsthand how important the highways are to farmers and ranchers, the oil and gas industry and local residents in rural communities.
Through the Caucus, 28 members of the Texas Legislature address issues related to natural resource production in the Eagle Ford Shale and collaborate to develop and support associated legislation. The Caucus focuses on short- and long-term solutions to the impacts of the EFS on transportation, education, public safety, housing, the environment and other areas.
Additional information about the Caucus and about the Sept. 10 meeting is available from Rachel McClure, 512-463-1818. Persons interested in signing up to receive documents about the roads issue via Dropbox should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.