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Trucking or tranquility?

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Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2007 12:00 am

Proponents laud the proposed La Entrada al Pacifico highway as progress marching on and opening international trade mar-kets to the Permian Basin.

Yuck, John Wotowicz said.

The proposition of bringing a highway and its unwanted trucks through the pristine, tourist-friendly Big Bend landscape upsets Wotowicz, a Marfa resident fond of his home’s seclusion.

Wotowicz and a determined band of residents living south of Interstate 10 want to make sure the semis do not receive the comfortable welcome that Permian Basin economic developers planned.

“It was a matter of reasonable behavior,” Wotowicz said. “Clearly, the citizens of southern West Texas — the Big Bend region — were not consulted. … In this case, it is the resources of the Southwest to be used to benefit the resources of Odessa-Midland.”

The campaign against the four-lane trade route to the Mexican port Topolobampo gained more muscle when hundreds of residents filled March public meetings on the highway’s feasibility.

Witnesses took the podium expressing environmental and economic concerns. They showed off their connection to the Western landscapes unique to Big Bend.

The battle won’t stop there, opponents promise.

Recently, signs against the roadway popped up in Big Bend residents’ yards. The dissidents wear anti-La Entrada T-shirts, and an online blog, stopthetrucks.org, supports the cause.

“It would be devastating to just our way of life,” Scott Williams, a fourth-generation Alpine resident, said. “We really like shar-ing our space, and tourism is a very clean industry. We just don’t feel good about the trucks coming right through Alpine and Marfa. We think the tourists will leave and find someplace else.”

The Texas Legislature designated a route from Lamesa to Presidio as the La Entrada al Pacifico trade corridor in 1997.

Its opponents surfaced 10 years later.

“Most people viewed it as a concept under discussion as opposed to something that was being proposed as a real initiative,” Wotowicz explained.

Studies have shown La Entrada al Pacifico could save $309 in trucking costs and as much as three hours of drive time over other routes — attractive numbers to shipping companies in the ever-growing Asian markets.

Due to the savings, experts predict that 550 trucks will pass through the U.S. border town Presidio daily by 2010. That’s 11 times the current rate.

“Development is going to continue, and communities need to prepare and position themselves for the progress that is going to occur,” Odessa Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer Mike George said. “Whether it’s Odessa-Midland preparing for infrastructure … or the smaller communities having reliever routes built around their communities so the corridor will not interfere with their normal way of life.”

Soon, research exposing the potential economic destruction in the Big Bend will be presented, Wotowicz promised.

Whatever Odessa and Midland benefit fiscally as a Pacific Rim goods distribution center has a consequence, Wotowicz said. The easy-going Big Bend lifestyle and the inherent regional beauty will erode and devalue its tourism-based economy.

With tourists comes interest in the Big Bend real estate market, Shawn Brugette said. Construction of new homes and re-modeling of the adobe relics has pushed Brugette’s Marfa plumbing business to new heights.

“If we don’t have the new people that are driving the economy, building homes and remodeling homes, I’m not going to be busy any more,” Brugette, 40, said

The front against La Entrada isn’t uniquely transplants as it’s been described, said Wotowicz, who himself moved there after years in New York City and London. Multi-generation cattle ranchers such as 58-year-old Billito Donnell of Alpine continually ask why, too.

Donnell doesn’t see how La Entrada will attract the trucks away from established routes through El Paso and South Texas.

“This is an isolated place on both sides of the border,” Donnell said.

And isolated is how he’d like to keep it.

Odessa, TX

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