Thursday, September 15, 2005

"The way they used to build roads is over with."

Gladewater city manager resigns from NET-RMA

September 15, 2005

By Jimmy Isaac
Longview News-Journal
Copyright 2005

GLADEWATER – Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt said he will seek input from Gladewater Mayor John Paul Tallent and White Oak Mayor Tim Vaughn on who will replace Jay Stokes, who resigned as board member of the Northeast Texas Regional Mobility Authority Wednesday.

Officials recently learned that state laws governing regional transportation boards disallow members who are either elected officials or are employees of the entities, particularly if they receive Texas Department of Transportation funding. Stokes is the city manager of Gladewater, which could be awarded a portion of the proposed East Texas Hourglass highway connecting possible outer loops around Tyler and Longview.

"It's in the best interest that I turn in my resignation to avoid any future conflicts of interest," said Stokes. The board accepted his resignation and later named him chairman of the Hourglass subcommittee, both with a unanimous vote. Mobility board subcommittees have no restrictions against employees of entities.

"His resignation was strictly technical," said Stoudt.

In other business, the board heard from Central Texas RMA Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein about that board's start-up and current projects, including the tolling of U.S. 183-A in Williamson County.

The board has plans to use tolling to fund its projects, including Tyler's Loop 49 and the Hourglass.

"Someone who tells you that toll roads are discontinuous to economic development are flat wrong," said Heiligenstein, pointing out that cities Leander and Cedar Park are moving their central business districts closer to the new toll road.

The Central Texas RMA represents Travis and Williamson counties that encompass the greater Austin area, which suffers from the most severe traffic congestion in the nation. He said that the area recently lost about 10,000 Dell Computer jobs because of congestion.

Stoudt said the NET-RMA is "truly a vision for the future of East Texas in terms of infrastructure and highway construction."

Heiligenstein said that Austin, even with its 11 state representatives, finds it difficult to compete for highway dollars with Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston areas, making the Northeast Texas RMA vital for East Texas.

"The way they used to build roads is over with," said Stoudt. "Today was probably the first day that we saw the meat and potatoes of what we can do."

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