Opposition continues for 299 Loop

Published 12:16 pm Wednesday, November 16, 2016

By Dawn Burleigh

The Orange Leader

The Coalition Opposing Vidor Loop 299 wants citizens to know the Loop has not been stopped.

“Citizens misunderstood when the resolutions were passed that it stopped the 299 Loop,” Ellen Buchanan, president of the Big Thicket natural Heritage Trust, said during a Tuesday evening meeting. “It is not stopped.

The cities of Vidor, West Orange, Bridge City, Orange and Pinehurst passed resolutions opposing Orange County, Texas financing, either in part or in full, the roadway at the present time. Orange County Commissioners Court approved the pass thru agreement for the 299 Loop.

Last month, according to Orange County Commissioner Barry Burton, the county was two months away from an economic study.

The financial, management and environment costs are not justified according the Coalition.

“The estimate is $53 million with a 30-percent design of the project,” Buchanan said. “In 2011, a 6.2 mile road was estimated to cost $41.92 million. Only $40 million will be eligible for reimbursement.”

Reimbursement funds would be based on actual traffic on the road; a number, which TxDOT estimates, is 11,000 cars a day.

The actual number of traffic in Vidor is not available at this time.

“They just did another count,” Vidor Mayor Robert Viator said. “Those numbers are not available yet.”

Brad Childs said the math did not make sense.

“For 11,000 cars, is eight cars a minute 24 hours a day,” Childs said.

Viator, who has spoken against the project since the beginning, said he was pleased with the turnout for the meeting.

“There was a full house with people standing in the hall,” Viator said. “I am thrilled with the number of citizens who turned out for the meeting.”

Strategic Planning and Program Development, Inc. A. Scott Young J.D., P.E. spoke before the court, in October, concerning how the project became available at this time.

“In 2011, there was a call for projects for funding,” Young said. “There was an alternate list if and when there were available funds. TxDOT has moved to the alternate list.”

The next step of the project is to go before TxDOT Commission to authorize to move forward on the project.

Moving forward would create the information needed to make a decision as to build or not to build as the cost of the roadway could then be generated.

Young said the responsibility would come back to the county to decide.

An unidentified woman said one County Commissioner was for the project.

“Commissioner Pct. 4 has been on board from day one,” She said. “Crump has made his mind up.”

Another citizen pointed out the court could vote on the project as early as the middle of December.

The Coalition said there are three things a citizen can do to help stop the project.

  • Contact the county judge and one’s commissioner to urge the county to withdraw the request to TxDOT to approve FM 299 for TxDOT’s Pass-Through Toll Program.
  • Contact the South East Texas Regional Planning Commission and ask them to remove the Vidor Loop from the long-range plans.
  • Contact the Texas Transportation Commission and urge them to remove Vidor Loop 299 from the list of TxDOT pass-through projects when they meet Dec. 14-15.

The monthly meeting of the South East Texas Regional Planning Commission (SETRPC) Executive Committee will be held on at 12:00 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16, in SETRPC’s Mayor Homer E. Nagel Room, located at 2210 Eastex Freeway, Beaumont, Texas.

South East Texas Regional Planning Commission (SETRPC) will host a public meeting at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16 at City of Orange Public Library, 200 5th Street in Orange, providing citizens in Jefferson, Orange and Hardin Counties the opportunity to learn about and comment on the Revised JOHRTS 2017-2020 TIP Amendment #1 and the Revised JOHRTS MTP 2040 Amendment #5.

Another concern with the project is the Floodway.

A “Regulatory Floodway” means the channel of a river or other watercourse and the adjacent land areas that must be reserved in order to discharge the base flood without cumulatively increasing the water surface elevation more than a designated height. A floodway requires a special permit.

Which differs from a floodplain or flood plain, which is an area of land adjacent to a stream or river that stretches from the banks of its channel to the base of the enclosing valley walls and experiences flooding during periods of high discharge.

A buildup of the area for the roadway could increase flooding in Wexford Park, which is near the planned route of the roadway.

“A buildup will increase flooding in the park and Church Street,” Viator said. “It is a tremendous concern.”

The mayor also said it was projected an estimated 250 homes valued at $500k would be needed iin order to offset some of the cost of the project.

“They use $100,000 homes for an estimate, which is 1,250 homes, in the middle of the flood plain,” Viator said.

Ellen Buchanan said she would present the slide presentation to any interested group.

“I can speak 10 minutes or 10 hours, if needed,” Buchanan said. “Vidor is the gateway to the Preserves.”

The wetlands along the area are also of concern for citizens.

“Wetlands preservation is not one to one acreage,” Viator said. “You are given credits for the wetlands and then purchase 10 acres of land to replace one acre of wetlands and 200 feet on each side.”

“And this is high quality wetlands,” Buchanan said.