Monday, February 20, 2006

Gov. Perry's appointees will vote to seek a private contractor to build and toll I-69 (now TTC-69)

TxDOT studies I-69 tolls

February 20, 2006

By Stephen Palkot
Fort Bend Herald
Copyright 2006

A major step in the development of the I-69 corridor is scheduled for Thursday.

The Texas Transportation Commission this week will vote on whether to begin finding a contractor for the entire road through Texas. If the vote goes through on Thursday, TxDOT will seek requests for proposals from companies looking to build and maintain the road.

The highway would run about 600 miles and is expected to cost several billion dollars. The latest plan on I-69 calls for a contractor to not only build the road, but also to finance the construction and maintenance of the road.

The contractor would be allowed to charge tolls along the road and collect from those to make a profit.

County Judge Bob Hebert said he does not have ample information to support the idea of a tolled I-69. He points out that I-35, which runs roughly parallel to the proposed I-69, could also be a toll road.

"The question I asked them was, 'Has anybody done an economic analysis to determine the dynamics of building one major toll road from Mexico to the Texas border and then building another toll road from Mexico to the Texas border?' he said.

Also, Hebert said a private company building a massive highway and looking to collect tolls would have an incentive to lobby the Legislature to "not allow competition to exist."

"I think they need to have a thorough analysis of the 35 project and the 69 project and their impact on one-another," he said.

The interstate has been proposed as a single highway to connect Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. Local officials for years have been discussing the idea of converting U.S. 59 into I-69, through upgrades of the road.

According to TxDOT, the agency would undertake a two-step, 15-month process to select a contractor for the highway.

Meanwhile, studies continue into the development of the Trans Texas Corridor. The TTC has been proposed as a large, multi-modal transportation corridor throughout Texas, and TxDOT officials are looking to make I-69 a portion of the TTC.

Copyright © 2006 Fort Bend Herald