Monday, January 28, 2002

TTC Plan Announced by Perry

Trans Texas Corridor Plan Announced By Texas Governor Perry

AUSTIN, TX, Jan. 29, 2002 - An article in the Dallas Morning News reported that on January 28, Gov. Rick Perry announced a $175 billion blueprint for Texas transportation, calling for 4,000 miles of new toll roads, high-speed rail lines and pipelines to complement the state's aging and congested transportation network.

Governor Perry noted in the article that without changes, Texas roads will choke as the state is expected to double its population in 20 years. "I say nothing is too big for Texas when economic security and quality of life are at stake."

According to the article, Perry's plan, the Trans Texas Corridor, would put an intrastate rail system alongside highways and underground pipelines, dramatically changing Texas' transportation scenery within 50 years. At this point the plan apparently has limited funding.

In the article, the governor said Texas should use an array of recently approved funding methods to pay for the corridor - and not raise taxes. Those methods include public-private toll partnerships, exclusive development agreements and state bond revenue to cover the costs of building roads in undeveloped areas. Perry aides said that current state plans call for $100 billion in road construction in the next 50 to 75 years. He wants to add $75 billion in new projects.

According to the article, Texas voters in November approved a constitutional amendment creating the Texas Mobility Fund, which can issue bonds for road projects. That fund cannot be filled with existing federal highway money, so state legislators must dedicate money to it from elsewhere in the state's lean budget. Transportation policymakers have hoped to be able to set aside $100 million from the state's general fund, an amount that would net $1 billion in bond revenue. Another funding option allows the state to set aside about $500 million in federal highway funds to spend on joint toll road projects with regional agencies. That option, however, also has not been used. All federal funds for the next few years have been allocated for non-toll road projects.

The article goes on to say that progress could be seen as early as summer, when the Texas Department of Transportation must offer its initial assessment of the plan, along with details on how to design and finance the corridors. According to concept drawings, the state would buy 1,000-foot-wide swaths of land that parallel many major highways, offering relief routes around many congested urban areas.

Those swaths would feature three vehicle lanes in each direction, high-speed freight and passenger rail lines, regional commuter and freight lines, and underground pipelines that could carry water, electricity, fiber-optic cables, oil and natural gas. The pipelines could boost economic development in the state's more rural areas by guaranteeing delivery of utilities to growing areas, according to some supporters. As reported in the article, rail and pipeline operations could be built, operated and maintained by private groups, but the state would own the land and charge fees to pipeline companies. Toll roads will be a featured component, but no estimated tolls have been announced.

Mr. Perry's plan also calls for corridors to extend into sparsely populated West Texas and the Panhandle.

Dallas Morning News: