Friday, March 10, 2006

Carlyle Group gets ready to do it in the road.

Carlyle Group to raise $1 billion U.S. infrastructure fund

Mar 10, 2006

By Henry Teitelbaum and Nicole Lee


LONDON (MarketWatch) -- The Carlyle Group (CAY.XX) is raising a $1 billion U.S.-focused infrastructure fund, people familiar with the matter told Dow Jones Newswires Thursday.
The Washington, D.C.-based group is the first buyout house to create a fund of this size focused on U.S. infrastructure, such as rail, airports, water assets, schools, hospitals and public-private partnership projects.

The fund reflects the strong demand from institutional investors, particularly pension funds, for assets that offer long-term, stable returns to cover their liabilities.

"There is a growing demand from institutional investors to look at other investment classes, including infrastructure, because of the long-life nature and low-risk profile of infrastructure assets," said Robert W. Dove, a former senior vice president of Bechtel Group Inc. (BTL.XX).
Dove and Barry P. Gold, a former managing director and co-head of global structured finance at Citigroup Inc. (C), will head the fund.

"There is demand for increased funding from the private sector in public infrastructure assets, because of government privatizations, new build, or public-private partnerships," Gold told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview.

Carlyle joins several major banks in raising billion-dollar infrastructure funds: U.S.-based Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) is raising a global fund, while Netherlands-based ABN Amro Holding NV (ABN) is raising a global fund with a focus on Europe.

The U.S. is attractive for infrastructure investment because the country needs an estimated $1.6 trillion in the next five years to replace and expand its aging roads, rail lines and other infrastructure, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Legislation enacted by U.S. states since 1995 allowing private companies to take over the financing, construction and operation of public infrastructure also has encouraged investment. More than 20 U.S. states now have such legislation in place.

Public-private partnerships are currently underway in Texas, California and Illinois. In 2004, for example, Australia's Macquarie Infrastructure Group (MIG.AU) and Spain's Cintra S.A. de C.V. (AMEXICO.MX) paid a record-setting $1.83 billion in cash to win a 99-year concession from the City of Chicago for operating the 7.8-mile Chicago Skyway toll road.

Carlyle's new infrastructure fund reflects its push into new areas of investment - the firm is also raising a fund that will invest in renewable energy infrastructure.

Carlyle's new team of eight infrastructure investment professionals, who will start Monday, will be based in New York and Washington, a person familiar with the matter said.

Dove has operational and financing experience in infrastructure, and served as a board member of U.K.-based Tube Lines, one of two companies responsible for the maintenance and upgrade of London's underground network of subway trains and tracks.

Gold led the financing of several major infrastructure projects, such as Chicago Skyway and Highway 407 in Toronto, Canada, among others.

A spokeswoman for The Carlyle Group declined to comment on the new fund.
-Contact: 201-938-5400 End of Story

© 2006 Copyright © 2006 MarketWatch, Inc.


"It would be nice if local elected officials knew something.”

Trans-Texas Corridor could cut through Collin County

March 10, 2006

By Amy Morenz
McKinney Courier-Gazette
Copyright 2006

Courtesy North Central Texas Council of Governments Regional planners are considering the President George Bush Turnpike, the Dallas North Tollway and Collin County’s proposed Outer Loop between U.S. 75 and the Rockwall County line as potential Trans-Texas Corridor options.

Regional planners are considering three Collin County routes as options for the state's proposed Trans-Texas Corridor, which would link Mexico to the Oklahoma border.

The President George Bush Turnpike, Dallas North Tollway and the proposed Collin County Outer Loop are included on a Trans-Texas Corridor study conducted by the North Central Texas Council of Governments. The agency manages the Regional Transportation Council, which allocates federal transportation funds.

The agency developed maps for potential auto, freight and rail traffic. The state will narrow study options for the corridor's future in the next few weeks.

No decisions on narrowing potential paths for the 600-mile corridor from Laredo to the Rio Grande Valley have been made, said Gaby Garcia of the Texas Department of Transportation's Keep Texas Moving program. Officials expect to narrow the potential corridors from the current 50- to 60-mile path to 10 miles wide, she said.

The final route for the state's 50-year plan won't be determined until 2007. The state has been conducting public hearings for two years to determine Trans-Texas Corridor options.

“Suggesting a route suggests an entirely different stage of the game,” Garcia said. “Everybody wants to know how it will connect and will it connect at all.”

The Trans-Texas Corridor planners envision separate toll lanes for passenger vehicles and large trucks, plus freight railways and high-speed commuter railways routes. Planners have to determine how to minimize right-of way needs for the project, the state's project Web site states. The Trans-Texas Corridor should use existing infrastructure by aligning with existing highways, railways and utility corridors, it adds.

“Local officials should help determine how communities access the Trans-Texas Corridor,” it says.

Regional planners are considering ways to connect the Trans-Texas Corridor through the middle of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including the Dallas North Tollway and the Bush Turnpike, both of which are controlled by the North Texas Tollway Authority, said NTTA spokeswoman Donna Huerta. The NTTA is referring all questions to the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

NCTCOG developed ideas based on using the current tollway system, said Greg Royster, its principal transportation engineer. It plans are based on “near-term” solutions for auto traffic for the next 10 to 15 years The two NTTA routes would serve auto traffic that already exists, he said.

No figures have been developed on the amount of additional traffic the NTTA's routes would carry or required changes to the two options, he said.

“The original route didn't work for the region because it's investment was way outside and involved a costly transportation infrastructure,” Royster said. “We want to bring traffic on existing and planned facilities.”

Collin County's proposed Outer Loop is being considered by regional planners to serve long-term needs over 50 years, the Trans-Texas Corridor's. Collin County's proposed Outer Loop would link North Central Expressway to Rockwall County.

County commissioners weren't aware of that idea, said Commissioner Joe Jaynes. He was unaware regional planners were considering NTTA's two routes in Collin County for potential Trans-Texas corridor use.

“They have been talking about an area 1,400 feet wide, I just don't see how that can happen,” He said. “I heard rumors and got an e-mail from one constituent, but that doesn't make sense. It would be nice if local elected officials knew something.”

Long-time toll road opponent Sharon Overall continues to question the idea of toll roads. Overall campaigned against using tolls to finance construction of State Highway 121 main lanes.

“Tollways are discriminatory to poor and middle class people. They have segregated Plano by income,” she said. “Poor people can not afford to live on the west side of town. They all live along U.S. 75. When I was sending out e-mails fighting SH 121 to become a toll road, one person replied that it would make our property values go up. Another was more blunt: He said that it would keep the riff-raff out. Does this sound like economic justice? This sounds like class warfare.”

County commissioners will conduct a public hearing on proposed Outer Loop alignments at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Collin County Courthouse, 210 S. McDonald in McKinney.

Contact staff writer Amy Morenz at 972-398-4263 or

© 2006 McKinney Courier-Gazette


Thursday, March 09, 2006

"The government wants their land and doesn't have to be nice about it."

Voters Take Stand On Eminent Domain

Mar 9, 2006

Mary Stewart Reporting

Dallas-Fort Worth
Copyright 2006

(CBS 11 News) FORT WORTH Texans voting in the republican primary this week sent a clear message to state lawmakers. 94% supported a constitutional amendment preventing the government from taking private property through eminent domain for economic purposes.

Several projects in North Texas have infuriated private property owners who feel that the government wants their land and doesn't have to be nice about it.

The upcoming Dallas Cowboys’ stadium is one of those projects. It has claimed many houses that stood in its way.

The Trinity River Vision in Fort Worth is next. Plans call for flooding the locations of several northside businesses to make way for a bypass channel.

Many people are opposed to the project. Stephen Hollern is with the Tarrant County Republican Party. He said, "The Tarrant County Water Control District is couching this as a flood control measure when only $10 million of the $435 million is going to flood control.”

An overwhelming majority of those who voted in the republican primary want a constitutional guarantee protecting private land from government takeover for economic uses.

But properties in New London, Connecticut will also face the bulldozers to make room for offices and condos. Homeowners took their case to the United States Supreme Court and lost.

New London city leaders claim the decision will benefit all residents by producing new taxes.

In that Supreme Court case, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor issued a stinging dissent, saying the court’s decision will favor those with "disproportionate influence and power ...including large corporations and development firms."

© 2006 CBS Broadcasting Inc.


"The jury remains out on the political power of the toll road issue."

Urban Affairs:

Power of toll issue hard to gauge

March 09, 2006
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2006

Sal Costello and the Austin Toll Party were quick to claim victory Wednesday, taking credit for the defeats of two toll road supporters: Travis County Commissioner Karen Sonleitner and state Rep. Carter Casteel, R-New Braunfels.

Toll opponents certainly have a case to make with the defeat of Sonleitner, given victor Sarah Eckhardt's enthusiastic embrace of the anti-toll cause. But given the margin of victory — almost 15 percent — and other campaign dynamics, it's difficult to know for sure whether tolls made the difference.

As for Casteel, opponent Nathan Macias benefited from more than $600,000 in campaign cash from San Antonio conservative and school voucher proponent James Leininger and a political action committee Leininger controls, and still won by only 45 votes. Chalk that one up to vouchers, not tolls.

Then there's state Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Williamson County, chairman of the House Transportation Committee and the Godfather of Toll. A candidate endorsed by toll opponents took him on and lost by 28 percent.

Former Texas Transportation Commissioner Robert Nichols, a tireless toll road advocate, easily won a GOP primary for the state Senate in East Texas over three opponents, while David Stall from Fayette County, the Trans-Texas Corridor's leading critic, came in a distant third in another state Senate race.

The jury remains out on the political power of the toll road issue. November's governor's race, with a direct challenge to a sitting governor who has made tolls the centerpiece of his transportation policy, could provide the answer.

© 2006 Austin American-Statesman:


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

RMA: "Another semi-autonomous bureaucracy to be established with no accountability to the citizens."


Toll road malarkey


El Paso Times
Copyright 2006

See? El Pasoans are not as dumb as the big shots like to think. (Many in El Paso oppose toll roads; Times, Feb. 26.)

We know TxDOT is trying to blackmail us into accepting toll roads by saying we'll have to otherwise wait 25-30 years for new roads.

Who decided that? And why?

The proposed Regional Mobility Authority is just another semi-autonomous bureaucracy to be established with no accountability to the citizens. The governor appoints the chairperson and City Council appoints the board members?

How nice. How cozy. How corrupted will that be?

What if toll roads are built and nobody comes? What then?

Who will be responsible for maintenance? Not TxDot. What if maintenance is poor -- like the streets of El Paso?

Who, how and when will toll rates be determined? Increased? On what grounds? Will the public know?

Just because some local politicos want toll roads built so they can get their nameplates on them is no reason for El Pasoans to be manipulated, coerced or bum-fuzzled into accepting them.

Jim Parker
Upper Valley

Copyright © 2006 El Paso Times


"There is an anger and alienation brewing against both parties in the Texas electorate."

Getting Kinky

March 08, 2006

By John P. Avlon

Fox News
Copyright 2006

As the sun rose in Texas after this Tuesday’s primary, the biggest race of the political season really began to get underway, as independent candidate for Governor Kinky Friedman and newly independent state comptroller Carole Strayhorn begin their two-month mad dash to collect 45,000 verifiable signatures of registered Texas voters to get them on the ballot this fall.

Kinky Friedman’s quixotic campaign is beginning to turn into a populist Lone Star crusade, with bumper stickers sprouting up around the state which read, “Kinky for Governor: Why the Hell Not.”

The recently retired mystery novelist and former lead singer of the Texas Jewboys (known for such defiantly anti-PC ballads such as “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews like Jesus anymore”) comes to the race a full fledged local icon, equal parts Will Rogers and Willie Nelson. His campaign has been up and running for the better part of a year under the tutelage of former independent Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura’s campaign manager, Dean Barkley. They have 3,000 precinct captains and 30,000 volunteers signed up on the campaign website –

At first glance this campaign might look like a joke, but beneath the surface something serious is happening. Texas hasn’t elected an independent governor since their iconic first governor, Sam Houston. Now in 2006, there are not one but two credible candidates running for governor as an independent.

There is an anger and alienation brewing against both parties in the Texas electorate -- they are frustrated by the excesses of the Republican establishment, but can’t bring themselves to align with the Democrats because they’re allergic to the lack of common sense they see on the liberal left.

This mirrors a national trend: Across the nation, in states that register voters by party there has been an average 300 percent increase in the number of independent, or non-affiliated, voters since Texan Ross Perot’s independent run for the presidency in 1992.

“There are very few Republicans and Democrats left in Texas,” Kinky says from his ranch in the Hill Country outside of Austin, where five dogs run around and Fox News plays on the TV in the background (not a plug, just a fact). “I think there are just people who are disgusted with politicians; people who are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.”

He describes the two-parties as “the Crips and the Bloods, playing little insider games with each other, like neighborhood bullies…. The only time they got off their asses is to attack each other. And they’ll do it forever. They’ll never stop until there’s an alternative available.”

Kinky’s plan is to be that alternative, and he’s already assembled a small army to get that message out. Last year, the buzz began from fans and folks looking for an honest and independent candidate to shake up the system. One young college age volunteer from Maine – inspired in part by the successful two-term Independent governorship of Angus King in the 1990s – took a semester off school and drove down to Texas to take part in the crusade.

But Kinky has a strategy beyond sheer enthusiasm, based in the 71 percent of registered Texas voters who stayed home during the last gubernatorial election where incumbent Rick Perry was elected, even after a record $100 million dollars in advertising was spent – because – in Kinky’s eyes, “We thought the choice was plastic or paper.”

To say that Kinky Friedman represents challenge to typical politicians is an understatement.

“Politics is the only field of endeavor in which the more experience you have, the worse you get,” he says. “I’d like to have someone elected who can ride, shoot straight and tell the truth. Someone who’s not a Jack Abramoff-Tom Delay type but who is a Mark Twain-Will Rogers type – a truth-teller.”

“The parties tell these people what to think,” Kinky continues. “You won’t find a Democrat anywhere in the nation who will campaign for prayer in school. The fact that God wasn’t there in Columbine is why it happened. It wasn’t the NRA’s fault. The only time those kids prayed [in school] is just before they died…[But] When I say that I support gay marriages and prayer in school, they say this guy has got to be telling the truth. Instead of using gay marriage to take our eye off the ball; how about talking about real issues, like the border and education.”

The country maverick who would be governor is not shy about listing the failures of the current state status quo.

“We are number one in executions, toll roads and property taxes,” he says. “We’re at the very bottom – 50th in education and 50th in care of the elderly. One in four kids does not have health insurance. As Dr. Phil would say, ‘How’s that working for you?’”

Unlike many of today’s politicians, he explains how he would pay for his proposals to cut property taxes while increasing funding to education and border security -- through a combination of selling the naming rights to state sports facilities and legalized gambling. This is not a man who stands on ceremony or respects the sacred cows of conventional politics.

That’s precisely why his campaign is attracting widespread interest both in and outside of Texas. Kinky Freidman is the perfect antidote to today’s politics of polarization, pandering to special interests and the predictable spin cycle.

And if Texans declare independence from politics as usual over the next two-months during the petition drive and then again in the fall, they could create a heartening symbol in the Lone Star State for U.S. politics in 2006 – a new inspiration to the rising tide of independent voters nationwide.

John P. Avlon is a columnist and associate editor for the New York Sun, former chief speechwriter for Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, and author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics (Random House, 2004). For more about John Avlon, visit his web site, Independent

© Copyright 2006 FOX News Network, LLC


"Perry has a sneaking suspicion who his biggest opponent will be."

Perry, Bell win nominations as independents seek signatures

Wed, Mar. 08, 2006

Associated Press
Copyright 2006

AUSTIN - It'll be weeks before Republican Gov. Rick Perry knows exactly which candidates he'll face in November.

But he's got a sneaking suspicion who his biggest opponent will be, and he's trying hard not to mention her by name.

Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, billing herself as "one tough grandma," has millions of dollars to spend on her independent run for governor against Perry and at this point poses his biggest threat. She and author-musician Kinky Friedman moved their independent candidate petition drives into full gear Wednesday, following Tuesday's party primaries.

Democrat Chris Bell, a former congressman, captured his party's nomination over former Texas Supreme Court justice Bob Gammage, winning 64 percent of the vote to Gammage's 28 percent. Perry cruised to victory over three little-known GOP opponents.

When Perry greeted campaign supporters in Austin after his primary victory, he took a broad swipe at his rivals, without naming them.

"The real test of leadership is not saying what you're against. It's saying what you're for. Texans deserve better than empty criticism that serves as a substitute for real substance," Perry said.

For a couple of years, Strayhorn has chided Perry over children's health cuts and the Legislature's failure to fix the school finance system. The Democrats and Friedman also have made it their mission to denounce Perry's tenure.

If Strayhorn and Friedman gather the 45,540 registered voter signatures they each need to make the November election ballot, Texas will have a historic four-way race. They have until May 11 to turn in the signatures.

Friedman kicked his petition drive off with a midnight rally at the Texas Capitol, where several hundred supporters cheered and lined up to sign their names.

"This is a true moment in history," Friedman said. "When we get on the ballot, we'll be making history."

No independent candidate has won the Texas governorship since Sam Houston in the 1850s.

In the Democratic race, neither leading candidate had much campaign money, and certainly not enough to buy television advertising. That may have to change for Bell if he expects to be a serious contender in the fall. Television commercials are usually essential in winning a race for governor in a state as large as Texas.

"Obviously we are going to have to raise the money necessary to get the message out to the people of Texas," Bell said.

Bell may start attracting more Democratic donors, some of whom have been giving to Strayhorn, if he succeeds in casting Strayhorn as too similar to Perry and unlikely to beat him, said Mike Lavigne, former chief of staff of the Texas Democratic Party.

"He has to make it very clear that there are only two visions on the ballot," Lavigne said, referring to the Democrat and Republican nominees. "Strayhorn is a part of the establishment, whether she likes it or not."

Strayhorn ran for her current office as a Republican, but on the final day of primary filing in January she announced she would run for governor as an independent.

Republican consultant Ray Sullivan, who worked for Perry's gubernatorial campaign in 2002, said in the coming weeks Perry should try to continue to be viewed as a strong governor focusing on important issues and "let the other candidates gripe and grouse and scramble for support."

So far, Perry has mostly let his campaign spokespeople talk directly about his opponents, and that is likely to continue, Sullivan said, adding that he expects the campaign will speak out about flaws in the other candidates.

"Many of the other candidates have changed positions or parties or philosophies over the years and, when appropriate, the Perry campaign should point that out," he said.

Strayhorn, a former conservative Democrat, served three terms as Austin mayor before switching parties and running unsuccessfully for Congress as a Republican in 1986.

By running for governor as an independent, Strayhorn avoided the probability of a primary loss to Perry and gave herself more time to campaign and raise money.

Despite the criticism lobbed his way the multi-candidate field that appears to be emerging, Perry is riding a wave of success that he hopes to maintain.

It's his eighth run for office. He has never lost.

© 2006 The Associated Press:


Toll Road lobbyist Mike Weaver advises "35W Coalition"

35W Coalition pushes to speed up construction

Mar. 08, 2006

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2006

Business leaders along Interstate 35W say they’re frustrated that it may be more than two years before ground breaks on the highway’s expansion.

“Why can’t we accelerate this project? We have to ask hard questions that sometimes politicians don’t want to answer,” Russell Laughlin of Hillwood Properties said Wednesday during the second gathering of the 35W Coalition, a group formed in January to push for more highway dollars.

About 80 business owners, elected leaders and other residents attended the session at a Coca-Cola plant on Fossil Creek Boulevard, northeast of the I-35W/Loop 820 interchange.

Organizers urged those attending to campaign fiercely for more funding. Business owners were asked to speak out on behalf of the coalition at public meetings in North Texas, Austin and anywhere else necessary.

An estimated $600 million or more will be needed to build toll lanes on I-35W from Alliance to Meacham airports, and for the adjacent expansion of Loop 820 from I-35W to the Airport Freeway vortex, Laughlin said.

Area leaders have said they will accept tolls on new lanes if that’s what it takes to get them built before 2015.

When delivery trucks are delayed by traffic — even by just 15 minutes — the lost productivity can add up to “well over a million dollars” per year, said Jay Long, who represents Coca-Cola on the 35W Coalition.

Some progress has been made, Laughlin told the group. The Texas Department of Transportation is expediting an environmental study of I-35W that is required by federal law before road work can begin.

Even so, it may be the end of the year before the state agency is ready to ask companies to bid on toll lanes. And, it may be 2008 before a contract can be awarded. The project’s design and buying land for highway expansion could further delay the project, consultant Mike Weaver said.

“It’s not only about money, even when you have money in the bank,” he said. “It takes a couple of years to buy right-of-way, no matter how fast you try to do it.”

But Weaver did say that area businesses can put pressure on their neighbors to cooperate in land sales to the state.

Gordon Dickson, (817) 685-3816

© 2006 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:


"We're in for a real barnburner."

It's Perry vs. Bell, with more in wings

Governor: Strayhorn, Friedman start petition blitzes to join race

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2006

AUSTIN – Voters in the Lone Star State, get ready for a governor's race that's anything but lonely.

The political marquee features an independent named Kinky, a veteran vote-getter who calls herself "one tough grandma," a Republican incumbent with less-than-sterling poll numbers and a Democrat who's a mystery to most Texans.

Gov. Rick Perry is the favorite to win re-election, experts say, but there's enough uncharted territory in a possible five-way race for governor to rewrite Texas political history.

"We're in for a real barnburner," said Greg Thielemann, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. "There's a lot of politics between now and the end of the elections."

On Tuesday, Republicans nominated Mr. Perry to seek a second full term in November, and Democrats selected former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell of Houston, hoping he could become the first Democrat elected governor since 1990. A pair of high-profile independents – Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn and humorist Kinky Friedman – immediately embarked on petition-signature drives aimed at winning spots on the general election ballot.

Add a Libertarian to the mix – the party selects its nominee this summer – and Texas could have its busiest fall gubernatorial ballot ever.

Mr. Perry holds both the power and perils of incumbency, and each of his rivals brings a different approach for ousting him from office. According to their campaign blueprints, Mrs. Strayhorn will run an anti-Perry campaign and Mr. Friedman an anti-politics race. For the Democrat, it will be all about getting the base to come home.

With five years in office and an unparalleled war chest, Mr. Perry's task is to convince Texans that he's a leader with vision. Even if he falls well short of a majority, he can win easily if he can keep his coalition of religious conservatives and die-hard Republicans together.

The 36 percent that he garnered in a recent Dallas Morning News poll is "really terrible for an incumbent," Dr. Thielemann said.

But it could be enough. Mr. Perry will sell himself as the only conservative in the race.

"Something that is indisputable about Rick Perry is that he campaigns as a conservative Republican, and he governs as a conservative Republican," spokesman Robert Black said.

Mr. Perry is also prepared to fire relentlessly on any rival that gains ground.

"It's important for candidates to contrast themselves. And Rick Perry has never shied away from doing that," Mr. Black said.

The major stumbling block may be the special session on school finance. Five failed attempts to pass a plan leave him vulnerable.

"You will see the governor do everything he can to get a bill passed," Mr. Black said.

Bell looks for base

For Mr. Bell, restoring the Democrats' base will be key. In 2002, Democratic nominee Tony Sanchez got 40 percent in losing to Mr. Perry.

"All we have to do is get those Democrats to vote for Chris Bell, and we'll sleep well on election night," said Bell spokesman Jason Stanford.

But the Democrat seems to have been shrouded in Harry Potter's invisibility cloak. First – with virtually no money and no name recognition – he will have to convince voters that he exists. Up to this point, the party has been "an afterthought" in the campaign, Dr. Thielemann said.

What helps is that the Democratic Party has a grass-roots organization – perhaps in need of weeding, but it exists.

The independents "are having to build from the ground up with popsicle sticks," Mr. Stanford said.

But as Dr. Thielemann noted, Mrs. Strayhorn is taking in donations from major traditional Democratic contributors. The statewide party is "so beaten down" that many are willing to vote for an independent, nee Republican, in hopes of winning, he said.

Mr. Stanford said he recognizes the problem, but Mrs. Strayhorn has failed to distinguish herself and now is having her independent base split by Kinky Friedman.

"There might have been some merit to trying to beat Rick Perry with a Republican, but her awful campaign and the political landscape are conspiring against her," Mr. Stanford said.

A climb for Strayhorn?

To win, Mrs. Strayhorn must attract Republican voters unhappy with Mr. Perry's performance, especially on public education, and Democratic voters who see her as the best chance to defeat the incumbent.

Analysts say the political math is dicey. She must consolidate anti-Perry voters whose support is now spread among herself, Mr. Friedman and the Democratic nominee.

"It's a big mountain to climb," said pollster Mickey Blum. "The opposition is split three ways, and none of them have a shot. One of them has to break out, and people have to decide that if they don't want Perry, they have to agree on one of the others."

The comptroller, a Republican who chose to challenge Mr. Perry as an independent, is casting herself as a candidate who transcends partisanship.

She has denounced Mr. Perry as an ineffective leader who has failed to fix the state's school finance system, is influenced by big-dollar donors and has proposed a potentially unpopular toll road project.

Her fundraising reflects her bipartisan appeal. She has solicited money from a diverse donor base that includes both long-time Republican givers and a coterie of Texas trial lawyers who have long been a base of support for Democrats.

Friedman's mission

In contrast with his opponents, who are competing with a universe of likely voters, Mr. Friedman's hopes hinge on attracting millions of new voters.

"He has to go expand the electorate," said campaign manager Dean Barkley, who pursued much the same strategy to elect wrestler Jesse Ventura governor of Minnesota.

Mr. Barkley sees the same colorful persona in Mr. Friedman, a cigar-chomping country singer and mystery novelist with a classic outsider's slogan: "How hard could it be?"

"The nice thing about Kinky is he's already different than anybody else running," he said.

Analysts say that cuts both ways, though, and Mr. Friedman must demonstrate that he can offer serious ideas and govern if elected.

Mr. Barkley said the campaign hopes to stretch $8 million raised from individual donors and merchandise sales to pay for unorthodox TV media advertising and high-profile events featuring celebrities such as Willie Nelson.

"We're going after young voters who haven't voted, and see no reason to, and older voters who can't stand what they've seen," he said.

E-mail and

© 2006 The Dallas Morning News Co


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

"I’d hate to see El Paso hoodwinked by the Texas Department of Transportation."

Pickett easily wins re-election to Texas House

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

By Gustavo Reveles Acosta
El Paso Times
Copyright 2006

Joe Pickett handily won re-election to the Texas House in Tuesday's Democratic primary, guaranteeing him a seat in Austin for another two years.

Pickett’s convincing win over challenger Jerry “Thumper” Kelly will give the incumbent a seventh term as the District 79 representative because there is no Republican on the November general election ballot.

“I’m honored and humbled,” Pickett said. “Most people know that I do this job full-time and that I love doing it.”

Next for Pickett will be this spring’s special legislative session on public-school funding and then the regular legislative session early next year.

He said he will focus on three things: Fort Bliss, the University of Texas at El Paso and funding for the Texas Tech University medical school in El Paso.

Pickett also said toll roads should not be an issue for El Paso.

“This road deal is not really a legislative deal. ... I’d hate to see the city hoodwinked by” the Texas Department of Transportation, he said. “Toll roads are bad for our region.”

Kelly said he was disappointed by the results, not just in his race but throughout the county.

“I was hoping El Pasoans would come out and vote for the change that they say they need,” he said. “The results don’t scare me off, though. If anything, this is a great learning experience.”

Gustavo Reveles Acosta may be reached at; 546-6133.

Copyright © 2006 El Paso Times,


Kinky Friedman: “I’ll end the drought and stop the Big Road.”

Kinky Friedman, movie star

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2006

Perhaps fitting for this primary election night, there was a larger and more enthusiastic crowd for a candidate who got no votes Tuesday than there were at Bob Gammage’s watch party.

Kinky Friedman, the comedian/musician/mystery novelist who intends to run as an independent, was holding court at the Star Bar on West Sixth Street. At 8:45 he had settled in at a bar table on the outdoor patio, wearing his characteristic black hat, black embroidered tuxedo coat and blue jeans while he brandished a stogie and talked on his cell phone.

A documentary film crew led by Los Angeles director Wayne Miller recorded his every move. Miller said the crew had been following Friedman’s gubernatorial efforts for about a year for the as-yet-untitled film.

“I’m a dealer in hope,” the Kinkster said, waxing serious for a moment. “It’s about making Texas Texas again.”

Friedman tried his hand at making political promises.

“I’ll end the drought and stop the Big Road,” he said, referring to Gov. Rick Perry’s Trans-Texas Corridor toll road plan. “I’d like Texas to be first in something besides executions, toll roads, property taxes and high school dropouts.”

Friedman plans to begin his drive to collect more than 45,000 signatures, the number needed to get him on the ballot, just after midnight.

© 2005 Austin American-Statesman:


I-35's evil twin casts a shadow over the Blackland Prairie

Path of I-35 twin a mystery

Rural Texas on edge as state prepares to reveal general route of TTC-35

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

By Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2006

MALONE — On this particular morning, fog has Texas 171 socked in for the whole 15 miles east from Hillsboro to this tiny German farm town. While you can tell that the winter-bare black loam is mostly flat moving toward the invisible horizon, you can only guess what might lie beyond.

Barger Geltmeier and Benny Mynar and their fellow Hill County farmers have a pretty good idea, however, what might be forming out in the fog near Austin and heading their way, and they don't much like it: the Trans-Texas Corridor.

"Ninety percent of the comments you hear about it are negative," says Geltmeier, who lives here and farms about 48 acres a few miles to the east. The rumor mill in Hill County has it that the Texas Department of Transportation, which has a broad canvas on which to paint the future path of the toll road alternative to Interstate 35, is looking at running what will be called TTC-35 right over FM 308 and on past Malone. The agency in a few weeks will announce the tentative 10-mile-wide swath that eventually, after a couple of years of more detailed study, will yield a specific route.

What makes TTC-35 unique is the tremendous freedom that the state has in deciding where it goes. Unlike virtually every major highway built by the state Transportation Department in its almost 90-year history, this one has no definite point A and point B at each end. Just "somewhere in Oklahoma near I-35" to "somewhere along the Rio Grande." It could go east of I-35, perhaps near Malone, or west of I-35 where the road might skirt, for instance, President Bush's ranch near Crawford. The road could hug I-35 — probably so, according to the state's top transportation official — or stray out 10 to 20 miles into the frontier.

The state, after stirring myriad environmental, sociological, economic, engineering and political factors into a pot and tossing in a heaping helping of public comment, will decide.

The most likely path of the road, however, is east of I-35 from near San Antonio to east of Dallas, which just happens to contain some of the most fertile farmland in the state, according to the American Farmland Trust, an advocacy group that works for the preservation of farmland against development pressures. And that has cafes buzzing from Bartlett to Malone.

Geltmeier serves on the City Council of Malone, home to 278 people, the Frogbranch Saloon and the Wild West Steakhouse Saloon II, where Geltmeier, Mynar and some friends usually have their morning coffee. The toll road, its sponsors say, will de-congest I-35, helping everyone who drives the state's main vein and boosting the Texas economy by easing the movement of goods. But in Malone, all they see is a stretch of state-owned right of way up to 1,200 feet wide eating up rich cotton and sorghum land, dead-ending county roads they use every day and bifurcating acreage.

So, if nine out of 10 of Geltmeier's neighbors hate the proposed road, brainchild of GOP Gov. Rick Perry, who are the other 10 percent who like it?

"Those that are voting Republican," Geltmeier says.

After the fog lifts later in the morning and after some research, it is obvious why this part of Hill County would be a road builder's dream: gently rolling country, with few creeks, utilities or other obstructions, and, compared with subdivided rural tracts found near Texas cities, relatively few landowners to haggle with over right of way. And land costs are low, at least according to the Hill County Appraisal District; the market value is less than $1,000 an acre.

Contrast that with the money set aside for buying right of way along Texas 130, the toll road rising east of Austin: More than $100,000 an acre. Given those figures, it makes sense when state transportation officials say they can build a brand-new road in the sticks cheaper than they can expand I-35.

The big question, however, is just which sticks will give way to concrete.

Factoring in obstacles

Unfurl a detailed map of Texas on a table, and it doesn't take long to figure out where an I-35 twin shouldn't go.

"There are some environmental constraints you can see from 30,000 feet," says Doug Booher, environmental manager for the turnpike division of the state Transportation Department and the guy shepherding the TTC-35 federal approval process. He has a 4,000-page report, still confidential, currently under review by the Federal Highway Administration. That "Tier I draft environmental impact statement" contains the 10-mile-wide recommended swath everyone is waiting to see.

So what does a Texas map tell you?

Stay away from towns, of course, even the tiny ones. West of I-35 between San Antonio and Austin is probably a bad idea, what with all those hills and environmental concerns about the Edwards Aquifer. You'd certainly want to miss the enormous expanse of Fort Hood west of Belton; Waco Lake west of Waco and Tradinghouse Creek Reservoir about six miles east of Waco; Whitney Lake and Aquilla Lake west of Hillsboro; and Navarro Mills Lake northeast of Malone. And, in the real world, ranchland northwest of Crawford is probably off-limits.

"I imagine Bush told Perry, 'You keep your (butt) on the east side of I-35,' " says Mynar, who farms land near West.

And then there's Texas 130, the Central Texas toll road due to open next year that almost surely will be connected to TTC-35. It's east of I-35.

But even with those arguments in favor of a path east of I-35, you still don't have an answer to the question on everyone's mind: How close do you put the road to the interstate?

"The vast majority of people in Hill County want it to follow I-35 as closely as possible," says Kenneth Davis, the Hill County judge. "We don't want ghost towns made out of places like Hillsboro," which now depends on the businesses that slowly grew up along I-35 after it bypassed the city in the early 1960s.

Making a difference

The reality, state officials say, is that TTC-35 will take no more than 15 percent of I-35's cars and trucks, given that it will cost at least 10 cents a mile to drive on TTC-35 and I-35 will remain free. And with that traffic volume growing quickly, those Hillsboro interstate service stations and hotels will not lack for business. But Davis and his neighbors have other reasons for wanting TTC-35 within three miles of the interstate, not out near Malone.

"When you get from Bynum to Malone, that is premium land," Davis said. "Why cover up more of that good production land when they don't have to?"

It's that kind of detail, well known to the people who live in the Blackland Prairie east of I-35, that Booher says he wants to hear. And despite suspicions that some small corps of people in suits is making all the decisions about where to put the road, Booher says the local folks can make a difference.

"The worst thing that can happen from my perspective is if the public doesn't comment," Booher says. "I love piles of public comment."

What people have had to say — the state has gotten about 4,000 comments and held almost 120 public meetings on TTC-35, with more to come — may or may not have made a difference. But the put-it-near-the-interstate crowd should be reassured by what Perry's best transportation buddy has to say.

Ric Williamson, chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission and the state's No. 1 salesman for the Trans-Texas Corridor, says that even he doesn't know what's in Booher's opus on TTC-35. But when he talks about where the road might be, you pay attention.

"I think it will be pretty close to I-35," Williamson says. "But not for economic reasons. There's a reason I-35 was built there. It's flat, the river flows are containable. The soils are stable. It's not underlain by shale and sand and gravel that shifts. The closer you are to the perfect spot, the better off you are."; 445-3698

© 2005 Austin American-Statesman:


Monday, March 06, 2006

"The only purpose of these meetings is to push their agenda."


Focus: Toll Roads


San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2006

Thanks for plan critique

Congratulations to Terri Hall for criticizing the proposed toll roads and San Antonio transportation plans ("Toll road foe has her say," Feb. 24).

First, the suggestion that the toll road plans aren't congestion relief but congestion manipulation for profit rings true for many who call San Antonio home.

Second, I couldn't agree more with the letter "Stop playing with our money" (Feb. 26). There is more than one thing wrong with an increase in our gas tax to pay for toll roads. We already pay taxes for streets, and look what we have: A U.S. 281/Loop 410 interchange or lack thereof and an increase from one to two lanes on Loop 1604 and still too much traffic congestion.

Surely, something besides the major construction that we will have to endure on an already overcrowded road can produce much more efficient solutions.

- Sonya Harvey

Appointees one-sided

I would like to cheer on the San Antonio Toll Party and Terri Hall for stopping (temporarily) the conversion of the already-paid-for U.S. 281 north of Loop 1604 and taking the time to speak out against the conversion of existing highways with Transportation Commissioner (appointee) Ric Williamson (who is for tolling existing highways).

Most people do not realize just how many existing highways this appointee wants to convert ... without a public vote. This should be criminal, shouldn't it?

Converting existing highways, without a public vote and claiming our alternative free route is the access roads, but with much slower speed limits and with all the stoplights, stop signs and yield signs. Ha! That is not free. That's one-sided thinking.

But that's what you're more apt to get when officials are appointed — like Williamson, the San Antonio Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority. All are appointed and for the conversion of existing highways into toll roads without a public vote ... without your vote.

Thank you, Terri Hall, for informing us on this double-taxation plan of Gov. Rick Perry to convert existing, paid-for highways (Interstate 35, U.S. 281 North, Loop 1604, Wurzbach Parkway, Bandera Road and many more) into toll roads.

- Michael L. Maurer Sr.,

Spring Branch

Look into alternatives

The article "Toll road foe has her say" really got my dander up. The Transportation Commission, San Antonio leaders and Texas Department of Transportation are not interested in why toll roads aren't necessary. They have already determined what is required. The only purpose of these meetings is to push their agenda.

Their cavalier attitude is very apparent. (How can we ordinary citizens know anything about these complicated issues?) The citizens who will be most affected by toll roads are too busy trying to earn a living to attend these meetings.

I was also amazed at the large group of highway engineers and other promoters at the meeting. Why aren't they looking into alternative solutions to congestion or, better yet, access roads and overpasses?

Regarding Joe Krier's remark about "baloney," I wonder if he's familiar with the proverb "People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones."

I'm with you, Terri Hall, but I think you are wasting your time talking to toll road proponents. By the way, I'm not a disgruntled Democrat. On most issues, I'm pretty conservative.

- John T. Elliot,

Canyon Lake

© 2006 San Antonio Express-News:


TxDOT CDA 's "will apply to a broad range of public-private partnership models in addition to roadway concessions."

United States: Toll Road Update (Project Finance)

CDA- Pigs in a toll road


by Jacob S. Falk, in Washington, and Lauren R. Garsten, in New York
Chadbourne & Parke, LLP
Mondaq Copyright 2006

The new year got off to a quick start for the US private toll road market.

The winning bidder was selected for the Indiana toll road, which will be the largest privatization of an existing asset in the United States to date, and the Texas Department of Transportation unveiled two new projects for which it will solicit proposals this spring.

Texas also announced the preliminary terms for a standardized "comprehensive development agreement" that it would like to use for all of its public-private partnerships, and the US Department of Transportation solicited applications for the use of tax-exempt private activity bonds for projects utilizing private financing.

Indiana Toll Road

Governor Mitch Daniel’s plan to lease the Indiana turnpike to the private sector for 75 years is almost a reality. On January 23, the governor announced the winning bidder for the concession, a Macquarie-Cintra consortium that offered an upfront payment for the privatization of $3.85 billion.

The Indiana legislature must still approve the proposed concession agreement with the winning bidder. The House passed it by a 52-to- 47 vote on February 1. It must still pass the Indiana Senate. The current legislative session is scheduled to end by March 14. Not surprisingly, some state lawmakers were waiting to see the proposals, and specifically the amount of money that would be paid to Indiana up front, before taking a position.

The $3.85 billion winning proposal from Macquarie-Cintra seems to have helped push many of these lawmakers toward privatization.

The governor appears willing to compromise to win support. The governor has apparently earned the support of the Indiana Motor Truck Association by agreeing to spread over the next several years an increase in truck tolls on the Indiana turnpike instead of implementing the increase all at once this spring. The governor has also agreed that certain revenue from the deal would be used to jump start improvements to the I-31 corridor, which had been delayed until 2011. One state senator said that prioritizing the I-31 corridor is the "carrot we need to even consider this deal."

Proposals for the lease were solicited and short-listed by Indiana at the end of last summer, and the deadline for submitting detailed proposals was January 20. The governor continues to stress that the state intends to move quickly on the lease.

Two Texas Projects

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) announced in mid-January that it will be launching two new projects over the next three to four months.

An initial request for qualifications from TxDOT is expected in March for the TTC-69, or trans-Texas corridor/I- 69 project. TTC-69 will be part of a 1,600 mile national highway system connecting Canada, the United States and Mexico. The section comprising TTC-69 would extend approximately 650 miles from Texarkana and Shreveport (along the Texas border with Arkansas and Louisiana) to Mexico. TxDOT indicated that it is looking for a long-term strategic partner for this corridor, and the state’s standardized "comprehensive development agreement" for the project is likely to be similar to the agreement signed with Cintra-Zachry in connection with the I-35 corridor — meaning a pre-development agreement that gives rise to a number of additional procurements as the full scope of the corridor is nailed down. Texas expects to have the comprehensive development agreement negotiated and executed by the end of 2007.

The second project TxDOT announced is a procurement for SH161 that is expected to be initiated in May 2006. The SH161 project would be an extension of SH161 west of Dallas from SH183 north of Dallas to I-20 south of Dallas through the cities of Irving and Grand Prairie. The right-of-way for this project has already been acquired and environmental approval has been secured, but is being updated to incorporate tolling. An unsolicited proposal for this project was received in August 2005.

TxDOT has created a public master schedule of all comprehensive development agreement projects and will update each project’s status as it progresses.

Texas CDAs

TxDOT hosted a workshop entitled "Launching the Next Generation of CDA Projects" in mid-January.

The state emphasized that it is "open for business," and expressed a desire to create a streamlined program that speeds up the process and saves developers money. By providing greater consistency in the procurement process and using a standardized "CDA" (comprehensive development agreement),Texas hopes to bring consistent and predictable deal flow to the market.

At the workshop,TxDOT distributed a CDA term sheet that summarizes the key terms and conditions, including the risk allocations,Texas would like to see in a CDA for a roadway concession. TxDOT asked for industry comments on the term sheet by February 8. The term sheet contains provisions for developer and TxDOT compensation, toll rates, tolling systems, financing and refinancing, environmental risk, design and construction, operations and maintenance, insurance and bonding, excused performance, defaults, disputes and termination.

TxDOT indicated that the CDA concept will apply to a broad range of public-private partnership models in addition to roadway concessions. CDA agreements will also be used for "pre-development" projects. An example is use of a CDA for the TTC-35. The CDA model will be modified to fit specific project requirements in accordance with the nature of the project.

To further streamline the request-for-proposals process, TxDOT plans to apply in advance for TIFIA funding. TIFIA — the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 1998 — provides public and private sponsors of road projects with supplemental subordinated credit, loan guarantees or loans of up to 33% of project costs from the federal government. TxDOT will take the lead in procuring conditional loan approvals for projects from the TIFIA office in the US Department of Transportation before projects are put up for bid. This will give bidders an early sense of whether TIFIA financing will be available for a project and some idea of the terms and conditions on which such financing would be available.

TxDOT indicated that it will make similar efforts to determine whether tax-exempt private activity bonds are available for a project before putting the project up for bid. TxDOT expects to analyze whether tax-exempt bonds make sense on a project-by-project basis and to be the conduit issuer of bonds for Texas projects that mix tax-exempt financing with private financing.

Private Activity Bonds

The massive federal highway bill that was enacted last August authorizes $286.4 billion in spending over the next six years on highway and transit programs.While most of this money will be spent on roads funded exclusively with federal, state and local government money, the new law also makes available a new category of tax-exempt private activity bonds that can be used for certain highway and rail-truck transfer facilities that are privately financed. Private activity bonds are bonds issued by state or local governments to finance facilities that will be put to private business use.Tax-exempt bonds are usually supposed to be limited to use for schools, hospitals, free-access highways and other public facilities.

The bonds will be exempted from general state volume caps on private activity bonds, but there is a $15 billion national cap on the aggregate amount of such bonds that can be issued over the next 10 years. Before the highway bill, tax-exempt financing was not available for highway projects over which a private party has a concession.

The US Department of Transportation published a notice in January soliciting requests for allocations of scarce bond authority. (The highway bill gives the secretary of transportation authority to allocate the bonds.) While the standard rulemaking process usually includes an official comment period after which the rules will be revised, the department will be collecting public comments on the bond allocation process on an ongoing basis.

The department did not explain in the January notice what standards it will use to evaluate applications. Applications must comply with relevant statutory requirements and the department will take into account taxexempt authority otherwise available for the type of project and location, but the secretary of transportation has broad decision-making authority in making bond allocations. The notice said the department is "particularly concerned that once it makes an allocation, tax-exempt facility bonds are issued in a timely fashion." If agreed-upon financing schedules are not met, then allocations may be withdrawn.

There is also no prescribed form for applications, but the notice asks for the following information to be included in the application: the amount of allocation requested, the proposed date of bond issuance, the date of inducement by the bond issuer (including a copy of the state or local resolution authorizing the issuance), a draft bond counsel opinion letter, information about the financing and development team, information about the borrower, a description of the project, the proposed project schedule, the financial structure of the project (including a breakdown of the sources and uses), a description of federal funding that the project is already receiving or that the project is due to receive, project readiness and signatures and declarations. Applications should be submitted with 10 copies to: Mr. Jack Bennett, US Department of Transportation, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy, P-20, Room 10305E, 400 7th Street SW,Washington, DC 20590.

While the bond program is fundamentally designed to encourage private investment in transportation projects, a number of its provisions may prove restrictive.

One such provision is the requirement that each project applying for a bond allocation must include federal assistance in its financial structure. This requirement is restrictive because any project receiving federal assistance must comply with additional federal rules, such as Davis-Bacon wage rate requirements, Buy America Act requirements and federal-aid procurement regulations. Under the Davis-Bacon Act, federal contracts worth more than $2,000 for the construction, alteration or repair of public buildings or public works (including roads and bridges) must contain provisions ensuring that certain minimum wages be paid to various classes of workers employed under the contract.Wages are determined by a listing of wage rates and fringe benefit rates determined by the US Department of Labor. The Buy America Act provides a preference for domestically-produced goods over foreign goods in US government procurements. Under the federal-aid procurement regulations, state and local agencies must adhere to certain requirements — for example, using a competitive bidding process to award construction contracts — when procuring projects with federal-aid highway funds.

Another statutory restriction that may prove a hindrance to private investment is that companies benefiting from bonds are not able to use an accelerated depreciation schedule to realize certain tax benefits that might otherwise be available.Whether the savings on lower interest rates provided by the bonds will offset the lost tax savings to be gained from use of an accelerated depreciation schedule will probably need to be analyzed on a case-by-case basis. In general, there are three situations in which the savings to be gained by the lower interest payments associated with taxexempt financing would be worth the lost tax subsidies of accelerated depreciation schedules: where the interest savings exceed the lost tax savings, where the developer cannot use the tax subsidy because of an inadequate tax base, and where the road is not considered privately owned but rather the private party has a concession to maintain the road and collect tolls. If the concession does not confer ownership, then there is no loss of depreciation when improvements are financed with tax-exempt debt because the concession owner was not entitled to claim accelerated depreciation in any event.

One issue related to the bonds that has not been addressed yet by the transportation department is whether private developers or operators may receive bond allocations for privatizations of existing public roads. So far there has been no agreement on this in the transportation sector, although some have suggested that the purchase of existing public roads will not be allowed under the new private-activity bond guidelines. This issue may become important as more and more states consider privatizing their existing assets on the heels of the Chicago Skyway lease in 2005, the potential privatization of the Indiana turnpike discussed earlier and the potential privatization of the Dulles toll road in Virginia.

The highway bill last August also requires that 95% of the net proceeds from a bond issuance must be spent within five years of the date of issuance. Otherwise, the issuer has 90 days from the end of the five-year period to use all unspent proceeds from the bond issuance to redeem the bonds. An exception to this rule is established for circumstances beyond the control of the issuer, but this provision may still prove to be problematic. An effective five-year call on the bonds is not typical in capital markets and may create pricing issues that offset any benefit to be gained from taxexempt financing.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

Specific Questions relating to this article should be addressed directly to the author.

Copyright © 1994-2006 Mondaq ® Ltd


Sunday, March 05, 2006

“I don't think we are going to be a gas tax-based Department of Transportation in the future.”

Toll roads steer transportation debates

March 5, 2006

Tony Hartzel
Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2006

Toll roads are getting top billing among in transportation discussions these days, and for good reason.

Texans will soon know have a better idea of where the Trans-Texas Corridor might run.

Private companies are expected to compete to operate several new state toll projects: on State Highway 121 in Denton County and Collin County; State Highway 161 in southwest Dallas County; and LBJ Freeway in North Dallas.

In addition, regional policy makers could tackle several other toll-related issues: what how much to charge motorists for driving on new, privately operated toll roads; and whether to charge higher increase tolls during during peak commuting times.

Charging a premium to drive during peak hours makes sense to traffic planners, who constantly search for ways to accommodate growing demand on a fixed road network, much like cellphone companies try to manage demand during business hours.

“Cellphone companies do not charge the same rate every minute of every day of every week,” said Michael Morris, director of transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, the regional planning agency. “And if a plane is empty, you're going to pay less. If the plane is fully, prices are going to go up.”

The first variable-rate tolls project could begin on Interstate 30 between Dallas and Fort Worth, he said.

The toll lane, which is being added in the center of the rebuilt highway, is scheduled to open in 2007. Variable tolls could come later. Higher peak-period tolls could force more people to make choices, including commuting at different times, car-pooling or taking public transit.

But that idea poses some difficulty, with dispersed commuting patterns and the lack of mass transit in many suburbs. charging higher tolls also could prompt commuters to take other routes, which could crowd city streets.

“I don't know where we're going with all this yet. Before we do anything, we likely will pose that question to our existing customers,” said the North Texas Tollway Authority's executive director, Allan Rutter.

Regional leaders also will be asked this spring to consider setting a rate policy for the new, privately operated toll roads. Tolls hover around 10 to 12 cents per mile on tollway authority roads run by the authority, which recently set its own toll rate policy.

Politicians and most Texans do not support a statewide gas tax increase, state transportation officials say. Therefore, tolls must play a larger role in creating revenue for new road projects, said Ric Williamson, chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission.

Mr. Williamson predicts that Without tolls, the state would have to charge 75 cents per gallon in taxes for about 10 years to build many needed projects needed by 2030, Mr. Williamson said. After a decade, the tax rate then could be lowered to about 35 cents per gallon. That's still which is nearly double higher than the current 20 cents per gallon.

“We judge that to be absolutely impossible,” he said.

Another member of the transportation commission, Ted Houghton, said: “I don't think we are going to be a gas tax-based Department of Transportation in the future.”

Local leaders must strike a balance, said Mr. Morris, the regional planner.

“We can't let the revenue tail wag the transportation dog,” he said.

At a Statewide level, Look for the Texas Department of Transportation says it will to unveil a narrowed study area for the a proposed Trans-Texas Corridor in two to five weeks. The state could narrow the focus of the project to a 10-mile-wide swath from the Red River to the Rio Grande.

As envisioned, right now, the corridor could combine toll roads, truck lanes and rail lines in one 1,200-foot-wide leg. Proposals so far call mostly for toll roads, with a possible rail line relocation project near Austin.

North Texas leaders have pushed for a corridor route close to the metropolitan area, possibly including some interim links that could take traffic through the heart of North Texas until the entire corridor is built.

Tony Hartzel can be reached at and at P.O. Box 655237, Dallas, Texas TX 75265.

© 2006 The Dallas Morning News Co


Indianans ask Gov. Daniels: "Hoosier sugar daddy?"

Too much, too fast?

Many Hoosiers don't like Daniels' rush to make changes, The Star finds

March 5, 2006

By Mary Beth Schneider and Theodore Kim
The Indianapolis Star
Copyright 2006

After pushing to change everything from Hoosiers' clocks to who runs their Toll Road, Gov. Mitch Daniels has seen his popularity plummet during his first year in office.

About half of all adults in Indiana say Daniels has made too many changes too quickly since he became governor in January 2005, according to an Indianapolis Star poll taken last week. His approval rating has dropped from 55 percent a few months after taking office to 37 percent in the most recent poll.

Mary Kendall, 70, an independent voter from rural Fayette County, said she became a Daniels fan during the 2004 campaign as he traveled from town to town in his RV. But she says she probably wouldn't vote for him again if the election were held today.

"I thought he was great," Kendall said. "But now he's trying to do too many things too fast."
Hoosiers also disapprove of the biggest change Daniels has sought since becoming governor: the $3.85 billion lease of the Indiana Toll Road to an Australian-Spanish consortium to raise money for highway projects.

Only 30 percent of those polled say the lease is a good idea, while 60 percent said it's a bad idea.

Daniels is shrugging off the state's dissatisfaction.

"Doing the right thing may have to be its own reward," Daniels said of the poll numbers. "I'd be a lot more concerned about going weak in the knees and breaking faith with what we said we'd do than about anybody's poll."

The governor's low popularity could affect everything from his ability to push through the rest of his agenda to this fall's legislative elections, where half the Senate and all of the House will come before voters. Political leaders agree Daniels has plenty of time to recover before his term ends in 2008, and the governor maintains his aggressive agenda ultimately will pay off.
Daniels said the people he admires, in all walks of life, are those who move ahead despite resistance, understanding "they would have to continue to explain and then produce results."
"Folks do change their view over time," he said.

Moody Hoosiers
Hoosiers, however, are more pessimistic about the state's condition than before Daniels was elected governor 16 months ago. More than half -- 53 percent -- of those polled think Indiana is off on the wrong track, with only 38 percent saying the state is headed in the right direction.
In March 2005, 42 percent of Hoosiers said the state was headed in the right direction, while 48 percent said it was on the wrong track.

The new poll of 501 Hoosiers statewide has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points and was taken Feb. 28 through March 2 by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, Iowa. The numbers were statistically adjusted to reflect the state's population by age and race.
"I don't think it's surprising that folks are hesitant when we bring this much change this rapidly," Daniels said. "I think it's only human."

Kendall, the Fayette County voter, doesn't like leasing the Toll Road to foreign management and feels misled on time zones. She said she thought Daniels was going to put all of Indiana in the same time zone. Instead, federal officials decided 18 counties will now be on Central time with most of the state on Eastern, though all counties will observe daylight-saving time starting April 2.

"He might as well have left things the way they were," Kendall said.

But the governor has won some converts, too. Marlin Bontrager, a 48-year-old Democrat from Granger, didn't vote for Daniels in 2004, but he'd consider doing so in 2008.

"Part of what I like is that he's at least doing something. He's aggressive," Bontrager said.
The Toll Road bisects his Northern Indiana county, St. Joseph, and Bontrager said he is open to Daniels' effort to lease the highway, which he added is in need of some upgrades.

"I think it can be OK, but you have to be careful that you make it a good deal," he said.
Trying to build support for the Toll Road lease, Daniels has courted business and labor groups, held town hall meetings and lobbied lawmakers, always underscoring the state's road construction needs in a 10-year timetable of projects he calls Major Moves.

Legislation that would allow the governor to finalize such road privatization deals has passed both the House and Senate, but in very different versions. Lawmakers now are trying to negotiate a final version that can pass both chambers before the session ends March 14.

Foreign fears

Many Hoosiers seem to link the Toll Road deal with broader changes in the global economy that have hurt U.S. manufacturing. That concern has manifested itself in distrust, even hostility, toward foreign ownership.

Of the poll participants who said the Toll Road lease is a bad idea, nearly half (47 percent) said they oppose it mainly because of Macquarie-Cintra, the overseas consortium that wants to lease the road for 75 years.

Only 13 percent of opponents said their top concern was possible increases in Toll Road rates.
In the meantime, half of those polled said they wanted to use the money for other state initiatives in addition to roads. The governor wants use of the proceeds limited to transportation initiatives.

Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Lakeville, a supporter of the governor's plan, said Daniels' biggest challenge is conveying the merits and details of the Toll Road deal.

"When you have a chance to take on the heated questions one-on-one, people begin to understand what the governor is talking about," she said. "The opponents have had a feeding frenzy on the fear and paranoia people are feeling."

House Minority Leader B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, disagreed, replying, "People aren't stupid. They're against it."

Sen. Marvin D. Riegsecker, R-Goshen, a lease supporter, said he believes that many Hoosiers are philosophically opposed to privatization. He said they equate the governor's zeal to pass the Toll Road deal to the quickening tempo of the economy.

"Globalization is happening at a faster pace than we can keep up with," Riegsecker said. "It's this phenomenon, and the speed at which it is happening, that people feel uncomfortable with."
Dana Malott, a 36-year-old Republican from Lake County, staunchly opposes the Toll Road lease because she sees it as a sign of declining U.S. ownership.

"I think this whole country is selling out," the poll respondent said. "We're going to be a Third World country soon."

Historic lows

Daniels' poll numbers are among the lowest recorded for a sitting governor in Indiana since The Star began polling in the late 1980s.

A poll taken in January 1990 showed that Democratic Gov. Evan Bayh, after one year in office, was viewed favorably by 82 percent of Hoosiers. His successor, Gov. Frank O'Bannon, was approved of by 57 percent of Hoosiers after his first year in office but saw that drop to only 34 percent by 2002, after the economy bottomed out.

Bill Blomquist, a political science professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, said Daniels' numbers may be a historic low for a governor after one year, but he noted Indiana hasn't had a governor quite like Daniels before.

"We haven't had in Indiana for a while a governor willing to spend his political capital in the first year and wait for people to get over their ruffled feathers before he comes back on the ballot," Blomquist said.

Dan Parker, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, said Daniels engineered the drop in poll numbers by focusing on daylight-saving time and a foreign lease of the Toll Road, rather than things Hoosiers care about, particularly education and jobs. And while Daniels has cast the Toll Road lease as "the jobs vote of a generation," Parker said the public isn't buying that.
"He thought he had political capital to spend, and he didn't. He burned it," Parker said.

Indiana Republican Party Chairman Murray Clark said he is "not completely surprised (by the governor's low approval rating) just because of the initiatives he's taken on. They're bold. They're the kind of things some people can't immediately get their arms around."

But, he said, these numbers will turn around in the long term, as people see the benefits of the changes Daniels is bringing.

"We live in an immediate gratification world," Clark said. "This isn't an immediate gratification governor."

About the poll

The Indianapolis Star poll was conducted by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, Iowa, from Feb. 28 to March 2.

The poll is based on telephone interviews with 501 Indiana residents age 18 and older. Interviewers contacted households using randomly selected telephone numbers. The sample was drawn in such a way that every household equipped with a land-line telephone had an equal chance of being contacted. The poll was adjusted by age and race to reflect Indiana's population age 18 and older.

Most questions in the poll have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points at a confidence level of 95 percent for the full sample. The poll asked these questions:
I'm going to mention some elected officials, both individuals and groups. For each, please tell me if you approve or disapprove of the job they are doing. Mitch Daniels as governor. Evan Bayh as U.S. senator. Richard Lugar as U.S. senator. The Indiana General Assembly.

Do you approve or disapprove of the way George Bush is handling his job as president? The situation with Iraq? The economy? The federal budget? The fight against terrorism? Immigration policy?

Do you think things in the state of Indiana are headed in the right direction, or have they gotten off on the wrong track?

Do you think things in the nation are headed in the right direction, or have they gotten off on the wrong track?

Gov. Daniels has proposed leasing the Indiana Toll Road to an Australian-Spanish consortium, which would pay $3.85 billion upfront for a 75-year lease. The state would have money for statewide road improvements. The consortium would set tolls, which would likely go up. Do you think this is mostly a good or mostly bad idea for Indiana?

What is the main reason you think it is a bad deal? A foreign company would manage the Toll Road, a private company and not the state would manage the Toll Road, tolls would likely increase, some other reason, not sure.

The money the state gets from the lease of the Indiana Toll Road might be used for other government programs, as well as statewide road improvements. Should the money be restricted to only highway and transportation-related issues or used for other programs as well?


Here's a brief look at the governor's plan to lease out the Indiana Toll Road:

• The lease: An Australian-Spanish consortium, Macquarie-Cintra, has offered the state an immediate payment of $3.85 billion for the right to take over Toll Road operations, maintenance and revenues for 75 years.

• The purpose: Gov. Mitch Daniels, who engineered the deal, wants to use the one-time payment to pay for road projects around the state. The agreement would allow the state to start those projects much earlier than originally planned.

• What's next: The Indiana General Assembly is considering legislation, House Bill 1008, that would ratify the Toll Road agreement and allow the governor to make similar deals in the future. The House and Senate have passed separate versions of the bill and are now trying to iron out their differences in a conference committee before the General Assembly adjourns March 14.

The new Star poll asked Hoosiers for their opinions about Gov. Mitch Daniels and President Bush. They may not want to hear the answers.

The Star asked Hoosiers if they think the governor's proposal to lease out the Indiana Toll Road for 75 years in return for $3.85 billion now is a good or bad deal.
• 60% Bad deal
• 30% Good deal
• 10% Not sure

Of those who said it was a bad deal, The Star asked why. Here are their answers:
47% Foreign control of the toll road for 75 years
13% Tolls would likely increase
12% Private control of a public asset
27% Other reasons
1% Not sure

Spending restrictions
The Star asked Hoosiers, should money raised by leasing the toll road be used only for highway and transportation related projects.
50%Use for other programs as well as transportaion
41% Restrict to highway/ transportation uses
9% Not sure

While about 73% of Hoosiers in the northwest part of the state think the leasing of the Toll Road is a bad deal, far fewer Hoosiers (58 percent) from the southern part of the state believe it's a bad deal.

The governor's approval rating has dropped dramatically over his first year in office.

March 2006
• Approve: 37%
• Disapprove: 52%
• Not sure: 11%

March 2005
• Approve: 55%
• Disapprove: 30%
• Not sure 15%

The Star asked Hoosiers if Gov. Daniels has made too many changes too fast, or is a lot of change good for a new governor?
51% Too many changes too fast
36% Good to have a lot of change
13% Not sure

About 43% of people younger than 45 years old approved, while only 28 percent of people 65 and older approved.

Daniels gets a 51% approval rating among those who say the economy is better than a year ago, compared with 24 percent who say the economy is worse.

Right or wrong track
Hoosiers who believe the state is moving in the wrong direction is increasing.

March 2006
• Right track: 38%
• Wrong track: 53%
• Not sure: 9%

March 2005*
• Right track: 42%
• Wrong track: 48%
• Not sure: 9%

January 2004
• Right track: 40%
• Wrong track: 48%
• Not sure: 12%

Numbers may not equal 100 due to rounding.

Call Star reporter Mary Beth Schneider at (317) 444-2772.

Star reporter Michele McNeil contributed to this story.

© 2006 The Indianapolis Star


Hagar the Horrible? -- Trans-Texas Corridor backers give $500,000 to defeat David Stall in the Republican primary

Highway and land developer lobby rushes to assist Hegar in Senate race

Since January Senate candidate Glenn Hegar has received a surge of campaign contributions from highway contractors, highway engineers, railroads, land developers, home builders, and even a well known water marketer.

Between January 1, 2006 and February 25, 2006 the Hegar campaign has received a windfall of contributions totaling $504,042.38. That’s a lot of money.

These names and organizations in particular are worth your attention:

  • Union Pacific Corp Fund for Effective Govt, Washington, DC $5,000
  • James Pitcock, Houston (Chairman of TxDOT contractor Williams Brothers Construction) $2,500
  • Robert Lanham (VP of Williams Brothers Construction) $1,000
  • Zachry Construction Corp PAC (of Cintra-Zachry fame) $1,000
  • Boone Pickens, Dallas (Mesa Water and more) $2,500
  • Richard Weekley, Houston (Weekley Properties) $2,500
  • Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC (Richard Weekly Chairman & CEO) $50,000
  • Bob Perry, Houston (Perry Homes) $35,000
  • Future of Texas PAC (James Leininger funded PAC) $25,000
  • Harold Simmons, Dallas (Owner of Contran, worth a Google search!) $5,000
  • Robert Johnson (Austin attorney & lobbyist) $10,000
  • Hillco PAC (Another worth a Google search!) $2,500
  • Michael Toomey, Austin (Attorney & former Gov. Perry chief of staff) $1,000
  • Larry & Chad Johnson, Houston (Johnson Development Corp) $2,000
  • HomePAC of Texas (Texas Assn of Builders) $3,500
  • Home PAC (Greater Houston Builders Assn) $2,000
And the list goes on, and on …….

Accepting some of these contributions seem at odds with Hegar's oft repeated public claims of opposition to the Trans-Texas Corridor and concern for private property rights. Many of his new found supporters have a vested interest in highways, railroads, land development, and water. Mostly however they have an interest in exercising power and influence over our elected officials.

The full reports can be found at: )

Click here to go to the website

What are these contributors buying? Why the sudden interest in Hegar?

Of course Glenn is running against a very well know anti-corridor activist. Could that be a factor?

These contributors didn’t throw this kind of money at Hegar as a candidate for his House seat.

It's a shame that Austin lobbyists, PACs, and the extremely wealthy can effectively exert such stunning influence over the public selection of elected officials.

David Stall for State Senate Campaign