Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Perry and Williamson: $10 Billion secret bid on first segment is proof that Corridor will work

Firms put in Trans Texas bids

Officials say plan to fund toll roads, rail lines will work

July 9, 2002

W. Gardner Selby, Austin Bureau
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2002

Six firms submitted a $10 billion bid Monday to build a multilane toll road plus high speed passenger rail lines from Denison, north of Dallas, to south of San Antonio, all within a dozen years, state officials said.

Gov. Rick Perry and Transportation Commissioner Ric Williamson called the bid proof that Perry's Trans Texas Corridor plan to privately fund 4,000 miles of toll roads and rail lines across Texas will work.

Perry outlined the 50-year plan - estimated to cost between $145 billion and $183 billion - in January.

Last month, the transportation commission endorsed four priority corridors for the plan, including one from Denison to Brownsville.

Referring to the bid, Williamson said Monday: "It's road, rail, the whole enchilada. It's what we wanted."

He said bids to build toll projects from northern Harris County to Fort Worth and from Laredo to Corpus Christi and Houston are expected soon.

Williamson said the project would run east of Dallas parallel to I-35 past Austin to Seguin before wrapping under San Antonio, with links to Texas 130, a planned Central Texas loop, as well as Kelly AFB.

The Texas Department of Transportation declined to reveal details, including the identity of the bidding firms.

Under state law, aides said, details can become public only after the department's staff assess whether to recommend the proposal to the three transportation commissioners.

At that time, other builders will be given a chance to offer bids.

The bidding firms say they can complete portions of the project within five years of start-up, with the entire project done in 12 years, Williamson said.

Williamson said the proposal envisions four traffic lanes in each direction with fifth and sixth lanes being built as toll proceeds build.

He said four rail lines are also in the proposal with a commuter rail line.

A spokesman for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tony Sanchez, whose ads portray Perry as swayed by campaign donations, was not won over.

"You've got an ethically challenged governor who has what appears to be a sealed bid for a massive construction program sitting on his desk while he's soliciting campaign contributions," spokesman Mark Sanders said.

Joseph Krier, president and chief executive officer of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, called the timetable "historic speed."

On a related front, Perry said the state will set aside $10 million so communities including San Antonio can research whether to create regional mobility authorities with the power to plan and build local toll links.


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