Could the second meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday attract an even larger crowd? If so, organizers are getting ready for it.

About 640 names were on the sign-up sheet at the Save Our County meeting at Callisburg ISD Rad Ware elementary school last week, and according to organizers, several others left after seeing the room was packed, or could not find parking.

“We’re saying maybe 1,000 to 1,200 showed up,” said William Baldwin, an organizer of the meeting.

Organizers said the school, located along FM 3164 in Woodbine, is planning to open up the gymnasium adjacent to the cafeteria for overflow seating and provide a video screen for those who cannot see or hear the speakers. Security is also expected to be provided, and the air conditioning will be turned lower.

Both of the meetings were advertised as informational meetings regarding Trans-Texas Corridor 35 (TTC-35), a proposed multi-lane toll highway which also could include six rails and utility lines. The great majority of persons in the audience expressed opposition to the tollway project.

TTC-35, if built, would be 400 to 1,200-feet wide and span Texas from Gainesville to Laredo.

The “preferred route” for Trans-Texas Corridor 35 (TTC-35, the portion of the road which will run roughly parallel to Interstate Highway 35), presented by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), cuts through southeastern Cooke County.

TxDOT presented a map in March which included a 10-mile study area through Burns City, Callisburg, Collinsville, Gainesville, Lake Kiowa, Mountain Springs, Oak Ridge, Whitesboro, Woodbine and points in between.

Scheduled for Tuesday’s meeting are Rep. Rick Hardcastle, followed by representatives from the Texas Farm Bureau Austin office and the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.

Tom Carson, station manager of KGAF-AM, 1580, is scheduled to emcee the meeting.

Beans and cornbread is to be served while they last, according to a flyer for the event.

An official public hearing, hosted by TxDOT, is scheduled for July 10 at the Gainesville Civic Center, beginning with an open house at 5 p.m. and comments at 6:30 p.m.

No confirmation was received by press time of a local meeting in favor of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

Inland port plan raises eyebrows

One of the issues which may be addressed at Tuesday’s Trans-Texas Corridor meeting is that of an “inland port,” which was briefly discussed June 6.

According to an e-mail message from Agnes Voges, a member of Bell County’s Blackland Coalition who spoke June 6, there is an “amber circle” on TxDOT maps over the city of Gainesville.

“They have an even larger concern that Blackland Coalition does, in that Gainesville is surrounded by an orange (or amber) line. That means it’s going to be an inland port — i.e., distribution center for the goods coming in from Mexico, via China, etc. ...” Vogel wrote to supporters.

The concept is no point of mere speculation. One already exists between Gainesville and Fort Worth in the Alliance Airport area.

Nor is an inland port a new concept. The McAllen Foreign Trade Zone was established in 1965 as the first inland port to be approved by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Many other inland ports offer tax abatements, tax “phase-ins” and other incentives for distribution centers, warehouses, logistics centers and heavy industry to locate there.

There’s an organization called the North American Inland Ports Network (NAIPN), founded in 2003 to promote trade between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico by use of a network of inland ports.

According to it’s Web site: “NAIPN is a working group in North America’s SuperCorridor Coalition (NASCO). NAIPN advocates the interests of Inland Ports along the Mid-Continent International Trade and Transportation Corridor (MCITTC) and supports NASCO’s mission to strengthen the Secure, Multi-Modal Trade and Transportation System.

“... An Inland Port is a site located away from traditional land, air and coastal borders with the vision to facilitate and process international trade through strategic investment in multi-modal transportation assets and by promoting value-added services as goods move through the supply chain.

“... Inland Ports are efficient Economic Development engines for their regions. By networking Inland Ports together, NAIPN extends economic benefits throughout the whole Corridor. NAIPN improves the efficiency of International Commerce throughout the Mid-Continent. NAIPN increases trade flow with the Pacific Rim, Russia and Latin America.”

Sheila Cox, one of the organizers of Save Our County, noted the possibility of a warehouse district in the “amber circle” in previous Register stories. She said she had confirmed that TxDOT has plans to establish an inland port in and around Gainesville.

“It was in my phone conversation to him (Kris Heckmannm, transportation advisor to Gov. Rick Perry) that day that he discussed with me the warehouse district,” Cox said. “... Also, that day was another phone conversation that I had was with Mike Hallum (of the TxDOT Gainesville office) who reinforced the warehouse district concept inside the amber circle with “overflow space” to come from inside the blue line 10-mile swath and from inside the diagonally-lined ‘modal transition zone.’ Both Heckmann and Hallum said the same information without either one knowing I was talking to the other.”

No word was received by press time of official plans to establish an inland port in Gainesville.

Defining the terms “intermodal” and “multi-modal” is key to understanding the concept of an inland port. Alliance, for example, is described as intermodal and multi-modal, as it features a cargo-only international airport as well as a multi-track rail hub and access to Interstate Highway 35, with plenty of room for trucking companies to load tractor-trailers.

According to Sunday’s Dallas Morning News, Dallas business leaders are working on establishing on inland port closer to their city.

According to the latest TxDOT map, Cooke County may have up to three Trans-Texas Corridor routes running through it, in addition to Interstate 35.

During a meeting May 25 at Foxworth Galbraith in Sherman, Gov. Rick Perry addressed the three corridors which may wind up in Cooke County — one from Texarkana headed west parallel to U.S. Highway 82 ending east of Cooke County, and another from El Paso running east, which would end at U.S. Highway 82 between the Montague County line and Muenster.

On the Net:

• A map of the TTC-35 preferred route, including the “amber circle” over Gainesville, may be viewed at www.keeptexasmoving.com/projects/ttc35/deis_map_listing.aspx

• More information on NASCO and the inland ports project may be viewed at www.nascocorridor.com

Reporter Andy Hogue may be contacted at andyhoguegdr@ntin.net

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