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Bridge Project Stirring Civil Rights Complaints

Some residents of Austin are asking lawmakers to reconsider their transportation plans due to civil rights issues consequences.

Testimony was given to a Senate panel on Wednesday on House Bills 13 and 20. Each bill puts forth plans for the local and state governments to prioritize ideas for the funding of transportation.

HB 13 requires a 10-year transportation plan that guides money being poured into the local region. The Texas Department of Transportation would be given a cash flow for 10 years or more. HB 20 includes metrics and performance measures in annual planning. The department would be awarded projects based upon certain criteria including assistance to rural and urban areas, safety, and how quickly the project could be started.

A group of residents from a neighborhood in Corpus Christi, primarily comprised of minorities, asks for the bills to be amended due to the Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge project.

The project is set to enhance and replace the bridge already in place. The cost estimate lies at more than $700 million.

According to local advocates, the bridge would cause noise and air pollution, affecting local minority neighborhoods. According to Errol Summerlin, a member of the alliance, “The residents of Northside deserve to be treated with respect. No governmental body has protected them.”

Supporting the civil rights complaint, the alliance is asking that lawmakers ensure that project planners evaluate projects for their impact on minority communities. Planners should also be required to find and implement solutions that would eliminate the harmful effects.

A resident of the Hillcrest neighborhood, Lamont Taylor, testified at the hearing. He wants Texas to match federal policies pertaining to minority communities and the effects that transportation and other projects could negatively impact those communities.

The bills were expected to receive a vote as early as Thursday of last week.

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