Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Ferrell Pork


Road funding raises disturbing questions


San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2006

The Texas Department of Transportation should re-allocate $305,000 earmarked for a river crossing on a county road with limited public use in the Hill Country town of Vanderpool.

Funding for the crossing suddenly appeared in the state's budget for expansion work on FM 187.

The appropriation was never mentioned at a May 30 public hearing on the project.

Bandera County officials are upset they were not consulted on the project, the Express-News reported. They say it's a waste of taxpayer money to spend funds on a road that leads to private property.

Midland gas and oil businessman Ferrell Davis, who will benefit directly from the project, told Express-News reporter Zeke MacCormack he did not ask the state for a river crossing on the road leading to his part-time home and full-time ranch.

If no one asked for the crossing, why did it end up as part of a $13 million state project to widen 14 miles of FM 187 between Garner State Park and Vanderpool?

Improvements to the county road are a significant part of a $735,000 budget the department will use to adjust and repair 112 roads and driveways that will be affected by the road-widening project.

The allocation for Bush Creek Road makes no fiscal sense. The dead-end caliche road runs for 1.6 miles across the Sabinal River bed to five homes.

In the past, Davis lobbied county commissioners to improve the road, but his request was rejected. Bandera County officials said they couldn't justify the expense.

Texas transportation officials deny being under political pressure or giving preferential treatment to Davis, who has friends in state and national political circles, MacCormack reported. However, they have failed to provide an explanation justifying this project.

The funding raises questions about funding priorities in the Texas Department of Transportation. Better uses can be found for the limited transportation funds than projects with little, if any, public benefit.

© 2006 San Antonio Express-News: