Sunday, June 04, 2006

"Who's calling the shots?"


Let North Texans decide

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2006

Who's calling the shots?

Who will have final say on where and how the Trans-Texas Corridor system is developed in the Dallas-Fort Worth area?

Will it be the Texas Transportation Commission, working with North Central Texas elected officials and transportation planners who know the region and its long-term mobility needs better than anyone?

Or will it be a Madrid-based company, Cintra, whose primary interest is making bucks by extracting tolls?

The Star-Telegram Editorial Board strongly believes that state and regional officials and transportation planners should decide.

The primary determinant should be what best meets the current and future transportation and economic needs of the Metroplex, rather than what ensures the most lucrative outcome for Cintra and its Texas partner, Zachry Construction of San Antonio.

A priority of the Trans-Texas Corridor in the D/FW, Austin and San Antonio areas is to relieve congestion on Interstate 35, which runs through both Fort Worth and Dallas.

Cintra and Zachry are lead partners in a venture in which they propose to use $6 billion in private investment to build a 316-mile, four-lane toll road dubbed TTC-35 from the Metroplex to San Antonio and pay a $1.2 billion concession to the state.Cintra-Zachry would collect tolls for 50 years.

Cintra favors running the TTC-35 segment around the east edge of Dallas County, presumably because it would be more profitable.

Many D/FW-area officials, business leaders and transportation experts want the corridor to run up the Metroplex's middle, along the path of an extended Texas 360 and on to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.

That concept, which we prefer, has been endorsed by the Regional Transportation Council (RTC), which includes many local officials and is the chief transportation planner for North Central Texas.

Metroplex officials are concerned that Cintra-Zachry might have greater sway in determining TTC-35's path than they do. Comments by Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Ric Williamson magnified those concerns.

Williamson also has said, however, that D/FW officials will have a voice. He noted that Cintra has proposed eventually to build a rail line around the western side of the Metroplex. It could become part of a huge outer transportation loop for freight trains, 18-wheelers and autos, similar to one envisioned by the RTC.

The Trans-Texas Corridor is to be discussed in RTC meetings, open to the public, June 26 and 27 in Fort Worth, Dallas and Richardson. The Fort Worth meeting is at 6:30 p.m. June 26 at the Intermodal Transportation Center, 1001 Jones St.

Regional transportation issues also are to be discussed at RTC meetings June 12 and 13 in Fort Worth, Lewisville and Duncanville. The Fort Worth meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. June 13 at the Intermodal Transportation Center.

The Trans-Texas Corridor is likely to become the most expensive and far-ranging transportation undertaking in the state's history.

It's important that it be done right in the Metroplex, with state and local officials and transportation planners calling the shots instead of Cintra.

© 2006 Fort Worth Star-Telegram: