Citizens speak against Vidor 299 Loop

Published 9:52 am Wednesday, June 21, 2017

By Dawn Burleigh

The Orange Leader

While Orange County Commissioners Court was approving a resolution for County of Orange approval of Hazard Mitigation Plan update required by FEMA, citizens were concerned the court has intentions of bringing the 299 Loop project before the Texas Transportation Commissioners for approval on June 29.

“Why is the county taking this project before the commission when it has not been talked about publicly since last fall,” Coalition Opposing FM 299 representative Leslie Barras said. “There is a new alignment for the project and new debt.”

Through a recent Open Records request, the Coalition Opposing FM 299 found that:

  • $52.24 million is the updated cost estimate as of April 2017 (per a Scott Young email to Brint Carlton and Jody Crump), but doesn’t include the substantial $ for environmental mitigation
  • $11.76 million is the estimated cost of the debt to be incurred by the County (also as per Young’s email)
  • $64 million in total estimated costs (this is the amount of debt proposed to be incurred by the County) (per Young’s email)
  • $36.17 million is the estimated reimbursement from TXDOT IF the traffic use over the next decade is as estimated (per Carlton letter to TXDOT, 4/12/17)
  • $27.83 million is not accounted for – this, along with any unreimbursed $ from TXDOT, falls on the County, and residents as taxpayers

“Judge Carlton’s 4/12/17 letter to TXDOT states that the County debt will likely be “Certificates of Obligation/Revenue Bonds and a tax pledge” by the County,” Barras said. “These types of bonds do NOT require voters to approve increases in their tax $ to repay the debt, unless 5% of the Co. registered voters petition for an election.”

Barras also said the coalition will proceed with a petition so the issue could be taken to the voters.

“This is someone’s pet project,” Barras said. “Why push so hard for it when there is a large opposition by residents as it is proposed and financed?”

The court approved the pass thru agreement for the 299 Loop in November 2016.