Saturday, September 09, 2006

David Stall will speak at a public meeting about the TTC in Marlin, TX

Meeting Scheduled Saturday On Trans Texas Corridor Project

September 9, 2006 (Waco Temple Killeen)
Copyright 2006 co-founder David Stall speaks at a public meeting about the controversial Trans Texas Corridor project Saturday evening in Marlin.

The meeting is from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Marlin High School.

The Texas Department of Transportation signed a contract in April 2005 with the Cintra-Zachry consortium for planning on the project, the most ambitious highway construction effort since the Eisenhower administration launched the effort to build an interstate highway system.

The $184 billion plan ultimately calls for a 4,000-mile network of transportation corridors that would crisscross the state with separate highway lanes for passenger vehicles and trucks, passenger rail, freight rain, commuter rail and dedicated utility zones.

Designers envision a corridor with six separate passenger vehicle lanes and four commercial truck lanes; two high speed passenger rail lines, two freight rain lines and two commuter rail lines and a utility zone that will accommodate water, electric, natural gas, petroleum, fiber optic and telecommunications lines.

Cintra, which is an international design and development firm, and the San Antonio-based Zachry Construction Corporation, have agreed to provide $7.2 billion for construction of the first six segments of the project, the governor’s office said.

Cintra will spend $6 billion to build a four-lane toll road on the corridor and will pay the state $1.2 billion in return for the exclusive rights to operate the toll road for 50 years.

The meeting Saturday, organized by Independent Texans, is intended to be a follow up to the series of public meetings organized earlier this summer by the Texas Department of Transportation.

TxDOT held 50 hearings on the project around the state to give residents a chance to ask questions and register opinions about the Interstate 35 leg of the massive transportation project.

Opponents turned out in substantial numbers at many of the hearings in Central Texas.

Linda Curtis, the founder of Independent Texans, will also talk about solutions and changes that would give residents a chance vote on such major projects in the future.

The 10-mile-wide study area for the Central Texas leg of the project runs generally along and slightly east of Interstate 35, state transportation officials announced in April as they released a 4,000-page draft environmental impact study that identifies the study area.

The report narrows the study area from Gainesville to Laredo, close to Interstate 35 and metropolitan areas north of San Antonio, but centered on Interstate 35 from south of San Antonio to Laredo.

© 2006 Gray Television Group, Inc. :


"Texas doesn't have a law that can’t be repealed or an elected official that can’t be voted out of office.”

Van Os makes local whistle stop in election campaign


By Jerrie Whiteley
Sherman Denison Herald Democrat
Copyright 2006

Calling on Texans to help him bring Texas out of an age of greed, Democrat David Van Os, brought his “whistle stop” campaign for Texas attorney general to Sherman Wednesday. Standing near the steps of the Grayson County Courthouse, dressed in a button-down blue shirt, a black vest, a white hat and light colored pants, Van Os said his victory in the race will spell doom for the “robber barons” in the oil and insurance industries.

He said he plans to try to break up the mega monopolies that are practicing in Texas in what he called a violation of the Texas constitution. Van Os said the actions of those companies and the politicians they support has led to “an age of greed” that is unlike any seen in recent memory. He said the state has laws against such centralization of economic, and therefore political power, but no one seems to want to use them.

Van Os vowed he will use those laws to go after those industries if he is elected.

He faces Republican incumbent Greg Abbott in November’s general election.

Van Os, a self professed, “boat rocker” has gone up against Abbott in the past. The two faced off in a race for seat on the Texas Supreme Court in 1998. Abbott won that round, but Van Os said he doesn’t think Abbott’s luck will hold.

The power of the state of Texas, Van Os said, belongs to the people of the state of Texas. It is theirs to take back and Van Os said he hopes they will join him in a fight for a return to democracy.

The San Antonio attorney who specialized in labor law reminded those who attended his rally in Sherman that people in the state of Texas can’t afford gas for their vehicles, insurance for their homes or health insurance for themselves. He said that puts Texans in a bind that they should be able to look to their attorney (general) to help them escape. However, Van Os said, contributions from big companies have made many politicians resistant to the call to take industry to task.

Van Os vowed not to join the “silk-stocking social clique that runs Texas government as if it were their private club,” if elected. He said he will fight against them to help Texans get some relief.

Van Os also said he plans to fight against the Trans Texas Corridor. He said many Texas politicians would like the residents of Texas to believe that the TTC is “done deal.”

Not so, said Van Os. He said the state doesn’t have “a law that can’t be repealed or an elected official that can’t be voted out of office.” Van Os urged people to keep fighting the issue “till hell freezes over and then continue to fight it on the ice.” He said the TTC plans to tear up thousands of acres “of the best farm land” in the state and put the land once used to feed millions “in the hands of foreign company that will take the toll money and send it back” to its country of origin.

The 56-year-old Texan said if voters listen to the pundits at “big papers” they might think he doesn’t stand a chance because Abbott is raising more money. However, Van Os said, he doesn’t think the ability to raise big money from large corporations is an indication of the ability to represent the people of the “grand state of Texas.”

He said he hopes the people of that state agree with him in November.

© 2006 The Associated Press:


"The incumbent attorney general is part of the silk-stocking social clique that is running our government as if it were their private club."

State AG candidate blasts Trans-Texas Corridor

September 09, 2006

By David Doerr
Waco Tribune-Herald
Copyright 2006

The Democratic candidate for state attorney general pledged on the steps of the McLennan County Courthouse Friday to oppose the Trans-Texas Corridor if he’s elected in November.

After a 30-minute speech in which he blasted incumbent Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot and other state Republican leaders, David Van Os put his pledge on record at the McLennan County Clerk’s office in the form of a sworn affidavit. In the affidavit, he promised to “use every legal means available to me by (the office of attorney general) to halt and/or invalidate the unconstitutional and illegal . . . Trans-Texas Corridor.”

It was the 171st time Van Os has given such a speech and filed the affidavit at a county clerk’s office this year as Van Os has traveled across the state on a “whistle-stop tour.” If elected, he said he plans to investigate the activities of large oil and insurance companies for possible antitrust violations.

Van Os repeatedly hammered the $7 billion Trans-Texas Corridor project, which he said is illegal because it would use the power of eminent domain to enrich private companies that would build and operate the tollway.

Van Os also said Abbott, who has served as Texas attorney general since December 2002, has served the interests of the Republican leadership rather than Texas citizens.

“The incumbent attorney general down there right now is part of the silk-stocking social clique that is running our government as if it were their private club,” Van Os told a crowd of about 15 supporters. “We the people have got to knock down the doors to that private club.”

Daniel Hodge, Abbott’s campaign director, declined to respond to Van Os’s comments. Abbott is focusing on his job rather than engaging in politics, Hodge said.

“Greg Abbott is seeking re-election so he can continue arresting child sex predators, protecting families and cracking down on criminals who defraud tax payers,” Hodge said.


© 2006 The Waco Tribune-Herald:


Friday, September 08, 2006

Abbott "hopeful that records detailing financing anbed development plans of the TTC will be released before the November elections."

Texas attorney general warns lawsuit threatens state open meetings law

Abbott fears case could let cities do business in secret

Sept. 8, 2006

Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau
Copyright 2006

AUSTIN — The Texas Open Meetings Act is under assault in federal court, Attorney General Greg Abbott warned Friday, but he vowed to fight for the public's right to know what its government is doing.

"Not on my watch as attorney general are we going to have the open meetings law of the state of Texas struck down," Abbott declared, prompting applause at the annual meeting of The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.

Abbott ticked off a number of recent victories under the Texas Public Information Act, even as he sounded the alarm on the legal challenge to the state's law protecting public access to governmental gatherings.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, earlier told the open government group that more needs to be done to make records at the federal level available, including passage of pending legislation he's sponsoring in Congress.

Former and current City Council members in Alpine are suing in federal court, claiming that the state open meetings law violates their first amendment rights to free speech.

They are represented by high-profile Houston attorney Dick DeGuerin in the case presided over by U.S. District Judge Robert Junella former Democratic state lawmaker appointed by President Bush.

Abbott called it a "bedrock principle" that people need access to government meetings in order to hold elected officials accountable.

The federal lawsuit, however, "aims to lock those meeting doors and toss 'we the people' out on the street," Abbott said.

"It's incredible this outrageous position could return Texas government decision making to behind-the-door, smoke-filled rooms where decisions would be made without the benefit of sunshine."

The Alpine case stems from e-mail messages sent by two then-City Council representatives to fellow members of the council about a personnel issue. The two were indicted for violating the Open Meetings Act, charged with conducting city business in private, though the case later was dismissed.

Texas' open meetings and open records laws were enacted in 1973 on the heels of the 1971 Sharpstown banking and bribery scandal.

Less than 1 percent of Abbott's rulings requiring the release of government records are challenged in court, he said, and he added that his office's partnership with the open government group was leading to victories.

He cited recent court decisions requiring the state to give the Dallas Morning News records about assaults in state mental hospitals and the birthdates of state employees.

The attorney general's office is also hopeful that records detailing financing and development plans of the Trans-Texas Corridor will be released to the Houston Chronicle before the November elections, said Missy Cary, general counsel.

Cintra Zachry, the state's only contractor on the controversial toll road project, asked a court last year to block release of its plans. Abbott has ruled they are public records.

A case involving the Houston Chronicle's request for financial records on Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle's investigation of Tom DeLay is heading to court in late October. Earle is challenging Abbott's ruling that the records are public, claiming the records would reveal his prosecution strategy .

© 2006 Houston Chronicle:


Public information stays Private in Partnerships

Stadium plans are kept secret

September 08, 2006

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2006

ARLINGTON -- The Dallas Cowboys have declined to release architectural drawings of the new publicly funded stadium under construction in Arlington, saying that the plans should remain confidential under the Texas Homeland Security Act.

In a letter to the Texas attorney general's office dated Wednesday, the Cowboys also argue that the stadium plans should not be released to the public because they are a trade secret and subject to ongoing economic development negotiations with the city. Their release 'would cause substantial competitive harm,' the letter from Forrest Roan, a San Antonio attorney, states.

Cowboys spokesman Brett Daniels declined to answer specific questions about the decision to withhold the plans.

'At this time, we believe it's premature to release the documents because of proprietary business practice information as well as issues with security,' Daniels said.

Arlington taxpayers will pay $325 million of the stadium's $650 million construction cost through increased sales taxes. Most of the stadium bowl southeast of North Collins Street and Randol Mill Road has been excavated. Three cranes have been erected on site to move concrete columns into the bowl. As of July, $118.1 million has been spent on the project, with the city paying $58.9 million.

Team officials have said the stadium will open in time for the 2009 season. Preliminary plans have shown the stadium will seat about 75,000 for games, with the ability to seat 100,000 for other events with seats in the open end zones. The structure is to be about 20 stories tall.

Despite the progress, Arlington residents have not seen any drawings or architectural renderings of the complex since passing the referendum in 2004. Black tarps on a chain-link fence that surrounds the site prevent the public from looking into the 50-foot-deep stadium bowl.

Bruce Deramus, chairman of Concerned Taxpayers of Arlington, said the public has a right to see the plans. Deramus noted that the city used its eminent-domain power to force owners to sell their land for the project.

'The whole thing has been shrouded in mystery, and they try to keep the taxpayers out of everything. It bothers me greatly,' Deramus said. 'You want to see what the thing is going to look like, and in my opinion it is all right to see it.'

Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck has said on various occasions that he has seen what the stadium will look like. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.

City Councilwoman Sheri Capehart said the stadium drawings should be released, but she said she did not know enough 'about what is truly proprietary' to comment on the Cowboys' argument.

'At some point the public is going to have to see what is being built,' Capehart said. 'I would hope that it is sooner rather than later.'

The Star-Telegram submitted a request under the Public Information Act to the city Aug. 7 seeking access to or copies of the stadium plans. The city forwarded the request to Attorney General Greg Abbott for a ruling on the issue after the Cowboys argued that the documents should be withheld because the team is a third party allowed to keep information confidential.

In its request, the Star-Telegram cited a city bond document that stated that the city and the Cowboys 'jointly own the architectural drawings, renderings, designs, plans and specifications related to the Cowboys complex.'

In its letter to the attorney general, Cowboys attorneys called the stadium 'critical infrastructure' that needs to be protected under the Texas Homeland Security Act because technical details could reveal the stadium's vulnerability to an act of terrorism.

Technical details, however, are already publicly available at local chambers of commerce and at City Hall as the Cowboys apply for construction permits and give potential bidders specifications for the project. For example, the structural concrete bid package available at the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce shows eight levels for the stadium -- including the Silver Star level and the Hall of Fame level -- with about 70 rows of seating in four main tiers.

City Councilman Robert Rivera, a longtime stadium supporter, said he saw a form at the construction site a couple months ago that was displayed to show the size and site position of the stadium, but not how it will look. He said he's looking forward to seeing the elevation and site plans and architectural plans as soon as they are ready.

This is not the first time that a third party has claimed confidentiality in withholding structural plans for a public project.

In 2005, the Texas Transportation Department and private contractor Cintra Zachry contended that their planning agreement to build a toll road between Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio should remain confidential. Several media organizations filed requests under the Public Information Act to view documents related to the Trans-Texas Corridor project, and the attorney general ruled in their favor.

Cintra Zachry and the Transportation Department then filed a lawsuit in state district court seeking to overturn the attorney general's ruling. The case is pending and the documents have not been released to the public.

In June 2004, the Texas attorney general ruled that the city of Roanoke had to release public documents describing the exterior elevations, landscaping plan and a tree survey for a Citibank data processing center in the Alliance business park. The city had argued that the documents were confidential because the center was 'critical infrastructure' and as such its details were protected from public view by the state Homeland Security Act.

Randy Sanders, president of the nonprofit Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas in Dallas, said such confidentiality arguments relating to public information requests may increase as local governments do more business with private companies. The issue, he said, is one his organization and other public information advocates may need to raise during the next state legislative session.

'When the Cowboys get in bed with the government, it would seem to me they should have to follow the same conditions that a governmental agency does,' Sanders said.

Staff writer Neil Strassman contributed to this report.

Public-private stadium

In 2004, Arlington voters passed a referendum that allowed public financing for the new $650 million Dallas Cowboys stadium. The agreement between the city and the Cowboys stipulated that:

The city's contribution of $325 million would be funded through a half-cent sales tax. About $300 million in bonds were issued last year for the city's portion of the stadium costs.

The city issued an additional $147.8 million in bonds for the Cowboys portion of the stadium costs that will be paid for by a 10 percent admissions tax and $3 parking fee.

The Cowboys will pay for any cost overruns because the city's share is capped at $325 million.

The city will receive a $2 million annual rent payment and 5 percent of any naming rights deal from the Cowboys.

The Cowboys will fund a $16.5 million nonprofit organization called the Arlington Youth Foundation over 33 years.

The team is required to manage the stadium and perform maintenance during its 30-year lease.

SOURCE: Star-Telegram archives

© 2006 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:


Corridor Objections Fall on Deaf Ears

Perry Scope


The Texas Observer
Copyright 2006

TTC From the Right

Gov. Rick Perry’s plan to pave Texas with a 4,000-mile system of futuristic toll roads has made enemies among those he usually counts as supporters. Known as the Trans-Texas Corridor, the proposed network of superhighways will crisscross the state and contain as many as 16 lanes for trains, trucks, and cars, as well as a utility corridor. Madrid-based Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte has teamed up with San Antonio’s Zachary Construction Corp. to propose building a corridor segment that will parallel Interstate 35.

Phyllis Schlafley, the conservative doyenne who almost single-handedly defeated the Equal Rights Amendment, recently criticized the plan. The galactic-sized highways caught Schlafley’s attention when she realized that they would bisect the entire country–not just Texas. A supporter of tough immigration laws, Schlafley says the most egregious aspect of the plan is the fact that the highways would be “designed to bring in Chinese goods from Mexican ports in sealed containers, first by rail, then by Mexican trucks, none of which would be inspected until Kansas City.”

Conservative Republicans are opposed to the idea that a foreign company will be given carte blanche to raze homes, churches, schools, businesses, ranchland, and farmlands for private toll roads that will be cash cows for the next 50 years or so. “Because there are issues of confiscation of private land, state and national sovereignty, and other similar concerns, we urge the repeal of the Trans-Texas Corridor legislation,” states the Texas GOP party platform. The platform speaks even more harshly of the concept of eminent domain, saying it should not be used to seize “private property for public or private economic development or for increased tax revenues.”

The Texas Farm Bureau has equally strong anti-corridor language in its 2006 legislative blueprint. Nonetheless, the bureau’s political arm, the “Ag Fund,” supports Perry’s re-election. Perry hails from Paint Creek, a farming community roughly an hour north of Abilene. In 1990, he was elected to the statewide post of Texas Commissioner of Agriculture, and up until now he has always benefited from rural support. Explains Farm Bureau spokesman Gene Hall, “The Texas Farm Bureau is not a single-issue organization.”

TTC From the Center

Ric Williamson, Texas Transportation Commission chairman and a Perry appointee, has come up with a novel way to sell the unpopular Trans-Texas Corridor—the new superhighway will be a boon to the environment. According to Williamson, the corridor will reduce congestion, improve air quality, and increase safety.

But experts for Environmental Defense, who reviewed the state’s 4,000-page Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the corridor, say the superhighways would be “an environmental disaster,” wreaking havoc on waterways, farmland, wildlife habitat, air quality, human health, and rural communities.

Given today’s price of oil, opponents also maintain the corridor project is already obsolete and will only increase urban sprawl, traffic growth, and greenhouse gases. “In the history of the U.S. and probably the world, there has never been a transportation project like the big, precedent-setting Trans-Texas Corridor,” writes Mickey Burleson of Environmental Defense. “This system is the most destructive in the world,” she continues, noting that the four priority corridors will eventually claim over a million acres, much of it in rural Texas.

The corridor project will also damage the Texas Hill Country, where millions of tons of rock will be blasted and crushed and hauled out for roadbeds. Ironically, the trucks used to haul the rock will further damage existing roadways, she says.

The corridor project has proven fertile ground for Gov. Rick Perry’s gubernatorial rivals. Democrat Chris Bell, whose poll numbers have been edging up in recent weeks, says the plan is “rife with insider dealing, cronyism, and conflicts of interest.” Kinky Friedman, cigar-chomping maestro of the one-liner, claims the project is nothing more than a greedy land grab that will eventually cost more than the Iraq war. And Carole Keeton Strayhorn, the state comptroller who’s running as an independent, promises that if elected, she will “bust” any contracts between the state Transportation Department and private companies. “Texas property belongs to Texans–not foreign companies,” she says.

Perry TTC Consequence Free

During a normal statewide campaign, Rick Perry undoubtedly would have to at least give the appearance that he cares about his constituents who are angered at the prospect of having their property paved over with superhighways. But with three other candidates dividing the vote in the gubernatorial race, Perry needs only 26 percent to win a third term. As of late August, polls showed he had 35 percent of the vote.

So when rural Texans complain, a Perry spokesman doesn’t have to be particularly conciliatory. Texas is facing an “infrastructure crisis,” and farmers and ranchers whose property is going to be gobbled up by superhighways are just going to have to suck it up. That’s basically the message from the Perry campaign these days, though spokesman Robert Black hastened to add that the governor is “sympathetic” to his rural constituents. “Every road in the state of Texas was once on private land,” he said. “All those roads were vehemently opposed. Now they’re the lifeblood of the state.” Black went on to say that the country’s founders predicted the day would come when the taking of the land would be necessary for the greater good. “We are in a time like that,” he said.

© 2006 The Texas Observer:


Thursday, September 07, 2006

"When government can seize your property without your consent, all of your other rights are negated. "

Elected Officials Threatening Property Rights

September 07, 2006

by Rep. Ron Paul, M.D.
The Sierra Times
Copyright 2006

In recent weeks I've written about the threat of rising property taxes posed by state and local governments hungry for more and more of your money; and the threat of widespread eminent domain actions posed by a planned North American superhighway running straight through Texas.

It's clear that many political and business interests are only too willing to drive people literally out of their homes to make way for the grand schemes of those in power.

This is why every American needs to understand that property rights are the foundation of a free society. Without property rights, all citizens live subject to the whims of government officials. When government can seize your property without your consent, all of your other rights are negated.

Our founders would roll over in their graves if they knew that the takings clause in the Fifth Amendment was being used to justify unholy alliances between private developers and tax-hungry local governments.

Now one year removed from the notorious Kelo decision by the Supreme Court, Americans are still reeling from the shock of having our nation's highest tribunal endorse using government power to condemn private homes to benefit a property developer. The silver lining, however, is that many Americans have been stirred to action and are demanding new state laws to prohibit the Kelo scenario from repeating itself in their cities.

The Kelo case demonstrates that local government can be as tyrannical as centralized government.

Decentralized power is always preferable, of course, since it's easier to fight city hall than Congress. But government power is ever and always dangerous, and must be zealously guarded against.

Most people in New London, Connecticut, like most people in America, would rather not involve themselves in politics. The reality is that politics involves itself with us whether we like it or not.

We can bury our heads in the sand and hope things don't get too bad, or we can fight back when government treats us as its servant rather than its master.

Congress can and should act to prevent the federal government from seizing private property.

I've introduced and cosponsored several bills that prohibit or severely limit the power of Washington agencies to seize private property in locations around the nation. But the primary fight against local eminent domain actions must take place at the local level.

The people of New London, Connecticut, like the people of Texas, could start by removing from office local officials who have so little respect for property rights.

Dr. Ron Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.

© 2006 The Sierra Times:


Dewhurst talks about the TTC and water supplies

Dewhurst identifies key legislative issues


Kerry Curry
Managing Editor
Dallas Business Journal
Copyright 2006

Clean air, highway congestion and water supplies are among the key issues that legislators will need to grapple with during the 2007 state legislative session, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Thursday.

The session begins in January.

Dewhurst was the keynote speaker Thursday during a Greater Dallas Chamber luncheon event in downtown Dallas.

"(Highway) congestion is going to affect not only the economy, but our quality of life," Dewhurst said. "We've got to get you home quicker."

Responding to a criticism about the route of the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor during a question-and-answer period, Dewhurst assured the audience that the route is not yet finalized. An audience member criticized the state's proposed route, which bypasses Dallas and Fort Worth and runs through East Texas.

The Trans-Texas Corridor is a planned multiuse, statewide network of transportation routes that is expected to incorporate existing and new highways, railways and utility rights-of-way. It is being designed to carry passenger vehicles, trucks, and freight and commuter rail. It also is expected to provide infrastructure for utilities, such as gas and oil pipelines, telecommunications fiber and transmission lines for electricity.

"We want to make sure from a business standpoint that Dallas and Fort Worth is not bypassed ... yet still be able to move people around the state," Dewhurst said.

Dewhurst also said he's got concerns about air pollution affecting the Dallas and Houston areas. Both metropolitan regions do not meet federal Clean Air Act regulations, and it's unlikely that Dallas will reach compliance by an upcoming 2010 federal deadline, he said.

Dewhurst said he'll support "cost-effective reductions (in air pollution) to keep our economy running."

On water, Dewhurst blasted the state for failing to plan for adequate water supplies for its future. The state, he said, will have a water deficit in 35 years if it doesn't begin spending money on new water supplies.

"Here we are in 2006; we've made virtually no investment in water since 1995," he said. | 214-706-7124

© 2006 The Associated Press:


Interstate 30: the cost of traveling in the ‘managed toll lane’ on could be as high as six dollars each way.

Commuters Prepare For I-30 'Managed Toll Lane'

Sep 7, 2006

Stephanie LuceroReporting
(CBS 11 News) DALLAS
Copyright 2006

North Texas transportation officials are having a public meeting Thursday night to explain how one of the most traveled freeways in north Texas is about to change. I-30 from downtown Dallas to Arlington is going to be the center of an experiment that could cost you to use it.

Normally during rush hour in north Texas, I-30 is crowded with commuters. In the not-so-distant future transportation officials say they will guarantee that motorists will be able to drive 50 miles an hour on the freeway - if they pay the cost of admission.

The Texas Department of Transportation is building an express lane. Technically - they call it a ‘managed high occupancy vehicle lane’.

When the lane opens, next summer, it will operate as an HOV lane, allowing at least two people in a car to travel for free. Then sometime before 2009 the plan is to turn the lane into a ‘managed toll lane’. After the change motorists will be charged a fixed price to ride - the estimate now is one to two dollars each way.

“Really, to tell you the truth, I think it's a waste of money because I mean people go this way all the time back and forth and to just hike it up just like a toll road, it really makes no sense,” said commuter, Charles Hamilton.

The North Central Texas Council of Governments says by 2009 they will start using a new system called dynamic pricing. Every six minutes a computer will assess congestion and the more traffic - the higher the price for the toll.

Koorosh Olyai, with DART, says at peak times the toll could increase to three dollars, but it will come with a guarantee. “We will maintain a speed limit of 50 miles per hour, (and) guarantee that so if you have paid a price to use the facility, we're going to provide you the service and that's guaranteeing the 50 mile per house speed of travel.”

State and local officials say all of the money from the toll will go back into maintaining and operating the interstate.

Several other U.S. cities are already using 'dynamic pricing', but this would be the first test of its kind in north Texas.

The idea of lanes that charge during peak or congested hours doesn’t sit well with some north Texans. Commuter David Hanschen told CBS 11 News, “I understand the price goes up depending on the density of traffic. In my opinion, I think that creates an elitist solution to a problem that doesn't really solve the problem of too many cars on the road.”

Transportation officials say the more people who use the ‘managed toll lane’, the higher the cost of the toll.

There is another concern for commuters - if traffic conditions worsen over the years, transportation officials say the cost of traveling in the ‘managed toll lane’ on I-30 could be as high as six dollars each way.

(CBS 11 News)

© 2006 The Associated Press:


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Big Campaign Issue.

Trans-Texas Corridor Big Issue In Race For Governor

Opponents: Trans-Texas Corridor Too Big, Even For Texas

September 6, 2006 (Dallas/Forth Worth)
Copyright 2006

DALLAS -- Gov. Rick Perry has proposed the Trans-Texas Corridor, and now his political opponents are making it a big issue in the race for governor.

It would cost billions of dollars to build a new highway running across Texas near Interstate 35.

I-35 is the only major north-south corridor in the state of Texas.

“It’s impossible to widen the highway in some areas,” Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Mark Ball said. “So the alternative is to build a separate corridor.”

But the Texas Transportation Corridor is much more than just a highway from Mexico to Oklahoma, blazing a trail three times wider than the average highway -- wide enough for more than just cars and trucks.

“The corridor is for rail, it's for commercial use for trucks, it's for private use, and it's also for utilities,” Ball said.

But opponents said the Trans-Texas Corridor is too big, even for Texas.

“Twelve hundred feet wide is far more than your average interstate. Your average interstate would be about 350 feet wide,” corridor opponent Linda Stall said.

“You're putting traffic lanes with high-speed rail and all the high fencing that goes with that, creating a barrier across Texas, dividing Texas everywhere it goes,” Stall said.

North Texas transportation leaders support the project.

"If we don't have this avenue that we're going to add to our infrastructure, then Texas is going to begin to go backwards as far as our economy, as far as jobs, because once we lose our infrastructure and our transportation, everything goes downhill from there,” Denton County Commissioner Sandy Jacobs said.

But leaders said they want the corridor to go around both sides of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.

“What that does for us is that it integrates a within-region route and an inner-city route into the same right of way,” North Texas Council of Governments Michael Morris

Because tolls would pay for the corridor, it guarantees transportation will remain a big campaign issue.

© 2006


Infrastructure sell-out could take an electoral toll in Indiana

Indiana, Republican Bastion, May Favor Democrats in House Races


By Laura Litvan
Copyright 2006

Indiana, where President George W. Bush won 60 percent of the vote two years ago, was supposed to be the political floodwall against any Democratic tide in this year's congressional elections. The dam may now be cracking.

Democrats have a chance to pick up three Republican-held House seats in the state as voters register their discontent over the Iraq war, the loss of thousands of jobs and unpopular decisions by Republican Governor Mitch Daniels.

"I think fence-sitters who don't necessarily vote in every election have gotten fed up with the Republicans in general,'' said Max Schut, a 43-year-old registered Republican who lives in South Bend and works at a local mortgage company. Schut, who said he usually votes, may not bother this time.

That is bad news for his congressman, Representative Chris Chocola, who says the biggest risk to his re-election is that Republicans won't turn out to vote. He and fellow Republican incumbents John Hostettler and Mike Sodrel are all locked in razor-thin races whose outcomes, Chocola said, may determine whether Republicans hold their House majority.

"If all of us lose, I think we'll have lost the House,'' Chocola, 44, said in an interview.

That appears increasingly possible, according to the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report. The Washington newsletter rates all three Indiana races as "toss-ups'' with a slight Democratic advantage, and predicts Democrats will gain 15 to 20 House seats in the Nov. 7 elections. A gain of 15 would give them control of the 435-member House.

Most of the other strong opportunities for Democrats this fall are in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New York -- all of which backed Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004 -- and Ohio, which narrowly backed Bush.

A Republican Tradition

With the exception of 1964, Indiana has backed the Republican candidate in every presidential race since 1936, and Republicans now hold seven of the state's nine House seats.

That could change this year, said Del Ali, president of Research 2000, an Olney, Maryland-based polling company that has conducted surveys in Indiana.

"I think these elections are going to be nationalized,'' Ali said. "You could have a situation where voters say, 'Throw them all out.'''

A poll of 400 likely voters Ali conducted July 21-23 found Chocola had support of just 41 percent of likely voters, while 46 percent said they would support his Democratic opponent, business owner and lawyer Joe Donnelly.

Sensing opportunity, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is now targeting all three Indiana races for extra television ads and other help before Election Day.

Impersonating Bush

In southeastern Indiana, Sodrel, 60, a trucking-company owner, is battling former Representative Baron Hill, 53, the Democrat he unseated in 2004 by just 1,425 votes. Seeking to exploit Sodrel's support for Bush on issues such as overhauling energy policy, the DCCC produced a TV ad in which an actor impersonating Bush leaves a voice-mail message for Sodrel thanking him for supporting tax breaks for oil companies and allowing energy companies to gouge Indiana drivers.

In southwest Indiana, Hostettler, 45, is facing the toughest campaign of his six terms in office, said Nathan Gonzales, political editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

In the past, Hostettler's opposition to abortion and federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research has allowed him to rely on church-drawn volunteers to win re-election. Ed Feigenbaum, editor of Indiana Legislative Insight, a nonpartisan newsletter based in Noblesville, said it isn't clear this time whether he can count on the same level of support from evangelical Christians.

Not a `Wacko'

Hostettler's opponent, Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth, stresses his own conservative views on social issues. ``He's a Democrat who can legally carry a gun in the district,'' Feigenbaum said. ``He's not a liberal wacko who can be painted as Hostettler's polar opposite.''

Ellsworth, 47, had raised $1 million in campaign funds through June 30, with $676,000 cash on hand remaining. Hostettler raised just $287,000, with $195,000 cash on hand.

Much of the dissatisfaction Republicans are facing in Indiana stems from disenchantment with Bush. An Aug. 14 statewide poll of 600 Indiana adults by Survey USA found that just 45 percent of respondents approved of the job Bush is doing, while 52 percent disapproved.

Adding to that are controversial decisions by Daniels, who was Bush's director of the Office of Management and Budget before being elected governor in 2004. They include a decision to lease the Indiana Toll Road, which runs through Chocola's northwest Indiana district, to an Australian-Spanish consortium for $3.9 billion. The proceeds from the deal are going to help build roads throughout the state, which angers many local toll-paying residents.

A Time-Zone Patchwork

Daniels also pushed through the state legislature a plan to put Indiana on daylight savings time, which created a patchwork of time zones in Chocola's district as each county selected its own.

Voters, the congressman said, are "mad at the governor, so the question is, will they take it out on me?''

Chocola said he hears more complaints from voters about job insecurity than he does about the Iraq war. His district has lost thousands of manufacturing jobs in the last decade as companies such as Rockwell Automation Inc., Whirlpool Corp. and Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. cut back operations.

Donnelly uses every opportunity to remind Democratic voters that Chocola in his first term supported Bush 100 percent of the time in key votes tracked by Congressional Quarterly magazine, and 90 percent of the time in 2004. Donnelly cited the incumbent's support for Bush repeatedly last week as he made the rounds at a fish fry, a local club for veterans and a union hall.

"This is crunch time,'' Donnelly told members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in La Porte. "Right here in Indiana, this is Ground Zero.''

Chocola, for his part, says he is proud of his record, which includes support for low taxes and less regulation for manufacturers. He won't, he said in an interview, distance himself from Bush to ``save my political hide.''

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura Litvan in South Bend, Ind., at

© 2006 Bloomberg:


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

As head of the FHA, Peters was a big proponent of toll roads.

Former AZ official picked as next U.S. Transportation secretary, Napolitano hopes that's good news


By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
Arizona Daily Star
Copyright 2006

Former state transportation chief Mary Peters was named Tuesday by President Bush to be the next federal transportation secretary. And that, according to Gov. Janet Napolitano, could be good news for Arizona.

The White House, in a statement announcing Bush's nomination, called her the "right person" to take over the huge federal agency.

"As Secretary of Transportation, Peters will work closely with State and local leaders to ensure that America has a state-of-the-art transportation system that meets the needs of our growing economy," according to a White House press release.

Napolitano said that Peters, who is not only originally from Arizona but moved back here last year, will be "very cognizant of the needs of our rapidly growing state." And those needs, the governor said, appear to have been ignored in Washington.

"Arizona didn't do too well in the last federal highway bill," she said. "On a per capita basis, we're either 49th or 50th even though we're the first or second most rapidly growing state,"
Napolitano continued. "Our transportation needs are huge. We need money for roads but also other transportation modes as well."

Technically, Peters has nothing official to do with how big a share Arizona gets of the federal pie.

But gubernatorial press aide Mike Haener said Peters will influence Bush in what the administration proposes in future years in federal transportation funding.

Members of the state's congressional delegation are aware of the issue: Both of the state's senators refused to support the latest highway funding legislation.

"While this year's transportation funding bill was an improvement over past years, due to the efforts of Sen. (John) McCain and me, it still fell short of an equitable share for Arizona," said Sen. Jon Kyl.

But Kyl noted that things are getting better: Arizona is now getting back 92 cents of every dollar in gas tax revenues it sends to Washington; 12 years ago it was just 86 cents.
Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., said he also recognizes Arizona remains a "donor state" in providing more to the Federal Highway Trust Fund than it gets back.

Franks said Peters "thoroughly understands what Arizonans and citizens of similar donor states deal with on a daily basis."

Peters dodged questions about whether she believes Arizona is getting shorted, telling Capitol Media Services she doesn't want to comment on policy issues -- at least not yet.

"I'd be happy to talk about that more freely after the confirmation process, should the Senate confirm me."

Hearings, she said, could begin before the November election. But whether Peters would use her post to recommend that Arizona -- or any state -- get more money remains unclear.

As head of the Federal Highway Administration, Peters was a big proponent of "user fees" to pay for new road construction instead of relying on congressional appropriations. And one key way of raising those fees is through toll roads.

In a speech as highway administrator to the National Council for Public-Private Partnerships, Peters said the Bush administration supports such joint ventures. And she detailed some of what she called the "success stories."

That list, Peters conceded, did not include Arizona, where ADOT floated the idea in 1991 as a method of funding a freeway around the back end of South Mountain south of Phoenix.

Those plans came to a halt amid legal and other questions; the road has yet to be built.

One of the companies that submitted a proposal for that freeway was HDR Inc., an engineering firm. Peters currently serves as a senior vice president for the company.

Peters would not comment Tuesday about her position on toll roads and user fees.

Peters last year weighed a run for governor as a Republican. But that was derailed after it was learned that after Peters went to Washington in 2001 to head the Federal Highway Administration she voted in Virginia, raising legal questions of whether she would meet Arizona's constitutional requirement to be a resident of this state for five years before seeking office.

© 2006 Arizona Daily Star:


Cosigner of Cintra-Zachry CDA for Trans-Texas Corridor to be appointed Secretary of Transportation

Bush to Name Mary Peters as Transportation Secretary


By Brendan Murray and Eric Torbenson
Copyright 2006

President George W. Bush is set to name Mary Peters, a veteran highway official, as secretary of transportation, an administration official said.

Peters will replace Norman Mineta, who left Bush's Cabinet in July, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. She was Bush's federal highway administrator from 2001 until July 2005, when she resigned to join an engineering firm. She previously served as transportation director in her home state of Arizona.

The nomination of Peters will be announced later today, the aide said. If confirmed by the Senate, she would take over the 60,000-person department as it tries to end gridlock in the skies, ports and on the ground costing the economy about $200 billion a year.

"Mary Peters has the potential to take it to the next level -- she's a fabulous pick,'' said David Berry, a spokesman for Phoenix-based Swift Transportation Co., the second-largest U.S. trucking company. "She really understands the critical role that goods movement plays in our nation's economy and how critical it is that the system be secure and that the infrastructure be well maintained and grown.''

As highway administrator, Peters sought more private investment in U.S. roads and bridges, according to the Transportation Department's Web site. She also promoted enhanced highway safety using such new technologies and advocated more spending on highways and transit systems.

Praise for Tollways

Speaking in Austin, Texas, in March 2005, she praised Texas's efforts to build more toll roads, saying tollways "are cutting the congestion that's choking our economy.''

"Our goal in the Bush administration is to make it safer, easier, faster and less expensive to move travelers and freight,'' she said.

Other issues facing the new transportation chief include overhauling the method for funding the nation's air-traffic system and enacting an aviation treaty with the European Union.

Mineta was the longest-serving Transportation secretary in the 39 years the job has existed. He was the only Democrat in Bush's Cabinet, joining the administration at the start of Bush's first term. He oversaw the federal takeover of security operations at the nation's 425 airports after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Peters would be the second woman to head the agency on a permanent basis. Elizabeth Dole ran the Transportation Department from February 1983 to September 1987.

Peters is a member of the National Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, which was created by Congress to study the future of U.S. surface transportation, according to the panel's Web site. The commission is scheduled to start public hearings around the U.S. on Sept. 20-21.

To contact the reporters on this story: Brendan Murray in Washington at ; Eric Torbenson in Dallas at

© 2006 Bloomberg:


Monday, September 04, 2006

New Governor would change the makeup of the Texas Transportation Commission

Openings leave opening for Perry foes

September 04, 2006

Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2006

If one of Rick Perry's trio of serious electoral challengers does manage to beat him in November, they likely will have an immediate opportunity to change things in transportation. And the governor has only himself to blame.

Perry, for reasons that aren't totally clear, has yet to name replacements for two departed or overdue-to-depart members of the Texas Transportation Commission. That decision not to decide, along with the coming end of commission Chairman Ric Williamson's term Feb. 1, means that a Gov. Grandma or a Gov. Kinky or a Gov. No-Nickname-Bell likely would be able to instantly appoint a majority of the five-member board. And that board, which governs the Texas Department of Transportation, has a profound effect on what happens with Texas roads and rails.

One could safely assume that any of those main Perry foes would name commissioners who would stop the toll road stampede.

Robert Nichols, a Jacksonville businessman, resigned from the commission in June 2005 to run for the Texas Senate. Houstonian Johnnie Johnson's commission term ended Feb. 1, 2005, 19 months ago. Johnson, who is ready to move on, has been serving in overtime since then.

Perry could have named a Johnson replacement during the 2005 legislative session and, assuming the Senate confirmed his nominee, would have had a Perry-ite in that position until 2011. As for Nichols, the Senate would have been able to confirm a replacement during one of the three special sessions called since he left, and that person could have served until 2009. Had Perry named one.

So, why hasn't he?

Perry wasn't available to ask last week. The folks close to him who were available gave polite but not completely illuminating answers.

The focus, his spokeswoman Kathy Walt said, "is on getting the right people and the best people." Well, glad to hear that. But in 19 months they couldn't find that magical best and right person to replace Johnson, or 14 months for Nichols? I mean, Texas has 22 million people, and I hear a lot of them are Republican. Perry's office has 118 applicants on file.

Williamson, who goes back two decades with Perry to their legislative days, said finding commissioners is more difficult than it might appear. Williamson said the person would have to have no financial connections to building roads, be 100 percent on board with Perry's philosophy and be willing "to serve full-time." At an annual salary of about $15,900.

Besides, Williamson said, Perry feels the four still on the job are nicely advancing his agenda, which they most certainly are.

Still, 19 months?

Maybe this is just a sign Perry is confident he'll win, which would render all this moot. He could reappoint Williamson, who said he's willing to do whatever Perry asks. Then, when two of these apparently unique individuals turn up, fill the open slots.

But what if, say, Kinky Friedman wins? Maybe his musical sidekick Little Jewford would like the job.

Getting There appears Mondays. For questions, tips or story ideas, contact Getting There at 445-3698 or

© 2006 Austin American-Statesman:


"Some will rob you with a six-gun and some with a fountain pen."

Readers' Responses

Downtown Plan Politics in Lyrics

September 4, 2006

Newspapter Tree
Copyright 2006

It came as no surprise that in July the city council voted 5-3 to ignore the many voices who spoke out against the downtown plan, and voted again for eminent domain abuse.

For those who didn't attend the community meetings, I'll try to summarize the various comments made against the downtown plan. And since this is a self-proclaimed "progressive" city council, I'll to try to present these comments in a different, progressive sort of way, through the lyrics of folk music songwriters.

From the song entitled Pretty Boy Floyd:
"Some will rob you with a six-gun and some with a fountain pen."

From Bob Dylan:
"Steal a little and they throw you in jail, steal a lot and they make you king."

Also from Dylan:
"These people that you mention, yes I know them, they're quite lame; I had to rearrange their faces, and give them all another name."

From Kinky Friedman:
"I'll give you all of the dreams you can use, before all hell breaks loose."

From Leonard Cohen:
"Everybody knows that the deal is rotten."

From Chuck Brodsky:
"I can tell with every handshake whose lying through their skin."

From Townes Van Zandt:
"If you want good friends, it's gonna cost you."

And finally the lyric which probably best captures the essence of the downtown plan.

From Loudon Wainwright:
"It's OK to steal, ‘cause it's so nice to share."

I believe it was Tom Paxton who once said that politicians give him so much material that he'll never run out of ideas for songs.

Between the toll roads, the downtown plan, and other schemes that will be promoted by special interests groups and this city council, expect El Pasoans to be burdened with more song ideas that will further divide the city, and increase the distrust of local government.

Marvin Rosenbaum
El Paso

© 2006 The Associated Press:


"Follow the money" explains all.

Greedy politicians seduced by siren song of filthy foreign lucre

September 4, 2006

Phyllis Schlafly
Copyright 2006

Conservatives believe that private industry does a better job than government - right? Conservatives are for divesting some government functions so private industry can run them more efficiently - right?

Many state and local governments take this idea seriously and, unnoticed by the U.S. public, have been selling off some of our infrastructure to foreigners. Then suddenly the news hit the fan about the proposed sale of 22 East and Gulf Coast port operations to Dubai Ports World, a maritime company controlled by a Middle East government.

When devotion to private enterprise ran up against U.S. sovereignty and national defense, not only conservatives but the American people opted for the latter. The anti-Dubai uproar swept across all party and economic lines because there is a limit to whom we want to sell our essential transportation systems. A federal agency known as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States is supposed to be guarding our national interests when foreigners seek to buy U.S. properties. CFIUS operates in secret, so the public is in the dark about its procedures.

CFIUS is apparently also in the dark about what the U.S. public thinks and didn't foresee that the Dubai Ports deal would be controversial. Foreign purchase of U.S. infrastructure has been proceeding at a rapid pace both before and after the Dubai Ports flap.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr., a former Defense Department official during the Reagan administration and current columnist for, discovered that "out of more than 1,500 cases of foreign acquisitions reviewed since 1988, CFIUS has only formally rejected one." Homeland Security admits that 80 percent of our 3,200 terminals nationwide are operated by foreign companies and countries. In June, a Spanish firm, Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A., paid $1.3 billion for a 50-year lease to operate a 10-lane toll road through the heart of Texas. The same month, an Australian company bought a 99-year lease on Virginia's Pocahontas Parkway.

Also in June, an Australian-Spanish partnership paid $3.8 billion to lease the Indiana Toll Road for 75 years. Last year, Chicago sold a 99-year lease on the eight-mile Chicago Skyway to the same buyer for $1.8 billion, and tolls are expected to double.

Almost weekly, we learn about other U.S. properties that have been sold or leased long-term to foreign companies. The tolls from the U.S. side of the tunnel linking Detroit to Windsor, Canada, belong to an Australian company. Why the rush to sell our transportation systems to foreigners? "Follow the money" explains all.

State and local governments pocket the money upfront and get to spend it here and now, so politicians can cover their runaway budget deficits and enjoy the political rewards of spending for new facilities. They ignore the fact that U.S. citizens must pay tolls to foreign landlords for the next two or three or even four generations.

Foreigners like the deals because they know that, unlike the rest of the world, American law enforces contracts and the U.S. government doesn't nationalize industries. The foreign companies can raise tolls without having to cope with objections from local customers.

These deals leave a lot of questions unanswered. Texas ranchers are concerned about the use of eminent domain to cut a wide swath through their properties in order to build a very-limited-access corridor on which foreign trucks and trains will transport Chinese goods in sealed containers, uninspected until they reach Kansas City, Mo.

The Texas governor is already talking about more toll roads through Texas, north and south, east and west.

Indiana legislators are concerned that the Spanish firm could rake in $133 billion over the 75-year life of the Indiana toll road lease for which Indiana received only $3.8 billion.

The Indiana governor is now seeking an I-69 toll road from Evansville to Indianapolis that critics claim will destroy vast Hoosier properties: 5,100 acres of farmland, 1,600 acres of forest, 140 acres of wetlands, 400 homes, 76 businesses, and 135 existing roads. A foreign company could collect tolls for decades into the future.

Orange County, Calif., was burned by its contract with a French company that bought part of state Route 91 for $130 million. When Orange County found that the fine print in the contract prohibited it from building more roads, it had to buy back the lease for $207.5 million.

The U.S. government blessed this rush to sell off American infrastructure on April 30, 1992, when then-President George Herbert Walker Bush signed Executive Order 12803, called "Infrastructure Privatization." It directed federal departments and agencies to encourage state and local governments to "privatize infrastructure assets."

Infrastructure assets were defined to include "roads, tunnels, bridges, electricity supply facilities, mass transit, rail transportation, airports, ports, waterways, water supply facilities, recycling and wastewater treatment facilities, solid waste disposal facilities, housing, schools, prisons and hospitals."

The first President Bush's order failed to put restrictions on who the purchasers could or should be, American or not, or friend or foe. The current president, George W. Bush, is now acquiescing to European Union demands to open U.S. airlines to foreign ownership.

Is America for sale?

© 2006 Salem Web Network:


Dough Nuts


In the hole

Sep. 04, 2006
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2006

Eureka! Now that the proposed loop of the Trans-Texas Corridor around Dallas-Fort Worth has been nicknamed "The Doughnut," there's a place to dispose of all those intrusive citizen comments in opposition to the $7.2 billion toll road.

Yep. In the hole!

Marianne Alderman, Willow Park

© 2006 Fort Worth Star-Telegram: