Saturday, September 30, 2006

“Many people realize this is a rip off of Texas citizens and we're doing our best to stop it.”

Texas Landowners Protest Superhighway Plan

September 30, 2006
(Dallas/Fort Worth)
Copyright 2006

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Protestors turned out across the state Saturday to voice their concerns about the multi-billion dollar Trans-Texas corridor.

The 4,000-mile highway is being developed, in part, to relieve traffic on Interstate 35.

The corridor would be three times wider than the average highway, wide enough for cars, trucks and trains. It would also be used as a route for utility lines.

However, not everyone supports the plan for a highway that would run from Mexico to Oklahoma, because in order to make this ambitious project a reality the state will have to take land through eminent domain.

“Many people realize this is a rip off of Texas citizens and we're doing our best to stop it,” said Russ Russell of Grapevine.

Protestors say people shouldn't have to give up land that has been in their families for generations.

“The people are entitled to their land and their homes,” Arlington resident Jerry Pikulinski said.

But it’s not just the land that's an issue, said Tarrant county resident Beth Kisor.
“I am very disturbed about roads being taken after they've been paid for by taxes and become toll roads.”

Still North Texas transportation leaders support the project saying if the infrastructure isn't improved, the Texas economy will decline.

© 2006 NBC Universal Inc.:


“The fight for Texas independence continues..."

TTC protest

September 30, 2006

Waxahachie Daily Light
Copyright 2006

Supporters of independent gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn and opponents of the Trans-Texas Corridor staged a protest Saturday morning at the Ellis County Courthouse in downtown Waxahachie “to show how many people are against the TTC in its current form,” organizer Ron Langenheder said.

Langenheder, who is Ellis County Treasurer and an ardent Strayhorn supporter, noted the protest was staged to coincide with another occuring simultaneously in Gonzales, where Strayhorn reportedly delivered a speech against the corridor next to the “Come and Take It Cannon,” according to a release written by Langenheder.

“How appropriate it is for us to be standing together here today with people across the state to say to the governor that if he wants our land, and our tax dollars — because that’s what tolls are, particularly on roads we’ve already paid for —then he can try to come and take it!” he added.

“The fight for Texas independence continues today in this election to defeat this governor and his administration’s penchant for closed and secretive government, instead of open and inclusive government.”

As part of the protest, many of those present emptied containers of dirt into the courthouse’s flower beds, an act which was to symbolically inform Governor Rick Perry “that is all he is getting before he is rerouted in November.”

Langenheder exhorted those present to participate in the election, saying “you have to get out and vote.”

In an interview after the protest, Langenheder detailed the reasons for his opposition to the corridor, stating that he opposes:

The taking of private property by the government for the “betterment of a business”

The increase in noise, light, and air pollution

The not knowing the nature of tranported goods on the road, which he states could be hazardous

The lack of entry and exit ramps

The rerouting of fire and emergency personnel by the corridor

That there are no plans to continue the corridor into Oklahoma and other surrounding states.

“This corridor’s crazy,” said protester Jannay Valdez, who considers the issues of illegal immigration and the corridor linked.

Valdez stated that the corridor will negatively impact “overflowing” schools, hospitals, and welfare roles, adding that, “I love Mexico, but I want Mexico to be in Mexico.”

Valdez, whose Mexican-born father immigrated to the United States, also said that “as long as the U.S. is an enabler by letting it(self) be an escape hatch, Mexico will never deal with its own problems.”

“Why do we have to have foreigners come build our roads?” Valdez asked, speaking of Cintra-Zachry, LP, which is slated to build the road (this limited partnership is one in which Cintra, a Spanish-owned company, controls 85 percent of the partnership’s equity).

Valdez stated that instead of passing new legislation, he thinks the government “should uphold the laws already on the books.”

“I don’t have a problem with immigrants,” Valdez said, “I have a problem with illegals.”

Democratic Ellis County Judge candidate Charles “Chuck” Beatty and members of his campaign staff were present at the protest, as was Democratic Precinct Chairman Harold Rudd, who spoke out against what he characterized as a similar plan to build a Loop 9 toll road near Midlothian. The event coincided with several other, non-related events at the courthouse, so an exact count of those attending the protest was not feasible.

E-mail Anthony at

© 2006 Waxahachie Daily Light:


Protesters to converge on courthouses across the state.

Protesters join hands to oppose toll roads

September 30, 2006

From Staff Reports
The Herald-Zeitung (New Braunfels)
Copyright 2006

Protesters will converge on courthouses across the state today to voice their opposition to the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor and other planned toll roads.

Grassroots groups in 43 counties and independent gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn have planned “Hands Across the Corridor.”

Locally, protests will occur at 10 a.m. at the Guadalupe County Courthouse in Seguin, at noon at Alamo Plaza in San Antonio, at 1 p.m. at the Hays County Courthouse in San Marcos and at 2 p.m. at the Comal County Courthouse in New Braunfels.

“This will be a time for neighbors and the community to voice their concerns,” said Terri Hall, Regional Director of San Antonio Toll Party, a group fervently against toll roads in Texas.

Many protesters will bring cups of dirt to symbolize that’s all Gov. Rick Perry will get in his effort to build Trans-Texas Corridor 35 from the Oklahoma border to Laredo, Hall said. The proposed route will run through Guadalupe County.

Secret sections of a contract to develop the corridor that have created a contentious point in the governor’s race were released to the public on Thursday.

The decision was announced at a Texas Transportation Commission meeting where a master plan for the first phase of the proposed corridor was revealed.

Because the master plan is an update of an earlier proposal by the consortium Cintra-Zachry, all parts of the earlier proposal — including portions that were kept secret for proprietary reasons — were released, said Amadeo Saenz, assistant executive director for engineering operations at the state transportation department.

That also means a transportation department lawsuit attempting to keep the contract secret will be dropped, he said.

Cintra-Zachry proposed paying $7.2 billion to build the first segments of the corridor, running roughly parallel to Interstate 35. The Spanish-American consortium said it would invest $6 billion to build a state-owned toll road and would pay the state $1.2 billion and get to operate the road and collect tolls. State transportation officials now say the private money invested could total as much as $8.8 billion.

Construction could begin by 2011, pending final environmental clearance to determine the ultimate alignment of TTC-35.

“The plan will help us take advantage of private sector innovation and investment to relieve congestion on I-35,” said Michael Behrens, Texas Department of Transportation executive director. “It will allow us to develop TTC-35 as it is needed and as private sector funding makes it feasible.”

Perry, up for re-election in November, has been a devout supporter of the toll road project. Gubernatorial challengers such as Strayhorn, Democrat Chris Bell and independent Kinky Friedman have come out against the plan.

© 2006 The Herald-Zeitung:


Statewide TTC Protests Today

Highway opponents blaze trail to courthouse today

September 30, 2006

By Dan Genz
Waco Tribune-Herald
Copyright 2006

Riesel rancher Robert Cervenka plans to bring a handful of dirt from his ranch to this morning’s rally protesting the Trans-Texas Corridor at the McLennan County Courthouse.

Cervenka said the 10 a.m. event organized on behalf of state comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn’s gubernatorial campaign aims to send a message: “A cup of land is all the governor can take from me without a fight.”

The massive road project that would use private investment to relieve traffic congestion on Interstate 35 has long galvanized critics and today’s rallies at 42 county courthouses across the state could show how much of their support is going to Strayhorn.

Supporters from both parties including Democratic Hillsboro Mayor Will Lowrance and former Waco Republican congressional candidate Dot Snyder are joining the anti-corridor protests.

However, other corridor critics, including McLennan County commissioners, are staying away because they support other candidates.

Snyder, who is organizing the McLennan County event, said it should appeal to anyone who opposes the corridor and anyone who supports Strayhorn’s candidacy.

“Some of the people are energized about Strayhorn and not the corridor and some people are energized by the corridor and not Strayhorn,” Snyder said. “All should come.”

The impact the project will have on the campaign this year is difficult to gauge because some corridor critics, including the Texas Farm Bureau, have put their opposition aside to endorse corridor champion Gov. Rick Perry in the Nov. 7 election.

Strayhorn has the support of several prominent anti- corridor organizations, but her fellow gubernatorial contenders, Democratic nominee Chris Bell and independent candidate and humorist Kinky Friedman, both oppose the plan and have drawn some support from corridor critics.

Some critics fear the project will use eminent domain to take their land.

Proponents of the plan, designed to relieve overcrowding and prepare the state’s road system for an expected population boom, say it is the best approach to addressing Texas’ swamped highway infrastructure. Public criticism of the project, they say, will be weighed carefully.

Perry spokesman Robert Black said Strayhorn needs to tell Texans what she will do to meet the traffic demand, saying her calls for transportation revenue bonds and expanding Interstate 35 are too expensive.

Strayhorn will be attending rallies at Gonzales and San Antonio.


© 2006 The Waco Tribune-Herald:


Friday, September 29, 2006

"Critics call the plan an outright attack on our sovereignty. Congress has been looking the other way."

The leaders of Mexico, Canada and the United States have been working to create a so-called North American Union. And they've done so rather stealthily.

Aired September 29, 2006

Lou Dobbs Tonight (Transcript)
Cable News Network
Copyright 2006

DOBBS: The leaders of Mexico, Canada and the United States have been working to create a so-called North American Union. And they've done so rather stealthily.

They're trying to speed the flow of both cargo and people, they say, across this nation's northern and southern borders.

Critics call the plan an outright attack on our sovereignty. Congress has been looking the other way. Christine Romans reports.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Plans for an integrated North American community by 2010, moving ahead swiftly and under the radar. Robert Pastor is an author of the Council on Foreign Relations document, seen as the project's road map.

ROBERT PASTOR, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: We need to deepen economic integration by moving towards a customs union, with a common external tariff. I think we need to enhance our security by beefing up both our borders and beefing up a continental boundary.

ROMANS: But critics fear an attack on American sovereignty, a super NAFTA with borders erased between three very different countries, with no public oversight. Texas Congressman Ron Paul is a rare voice of concern on Capitol Hill.

REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: We're not supposed to give this to the executive branch, devising a quasi type of trees that the Congress seems not to have any control of. Then it turns out to be managed trade for big corporations and not benefit to our workers and to our people.

ROMANS: The House International Relations Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have not held hearings on this and a high level conference this month in Bamf (ph) was closed to the press. Critics raise concerns about secrecy, but the plan has a website,, highlighting myths and facts. Without explaining how, it says the Canadian, Mexican, U.S. partnership does not attempt to modify our sovereignty or currency, nor undermines the U.S. constitution, but would create jobs by reducing transaction costs and unnecessary burdens for U.S. companies.

Robert Pastor says a more open public discussion would quiet what he calls conspiracy theorists.

PAUL: A north American union is impossible. None of the three governments or countries are interested in unifying into one country.

ROMANS: He says the goal is more cooperation.


ROMANS: But that doesn't quiet the concerns about this cooperation or what it's going to look like. Just yesterday Congressman Virgil Goode of Virginia introduced a resolution opposing a NAFTA superhighway and various elements of a North American Union, as the critics call it. And Robert Pastor, Lou, he says you're one of those critics, you're part of a conspiracy theory that just is not founded.

DOBBS: That I'm a conspiracy theorist? Well, I -- that's very flattering on the part of Mr. Pastor.

What he is is an out of control elitist, who hasn't been elected or in any way nominated by this government to do a darn thing that he's doing. And the fact that this administration and some of this country's largest corporations are pushing ahead with this, with some of Canada's leading elites and Mexico's -- there's not a single thing in this that even remotely has legitimacy and the fact that this Congress, thank goodness that Virgil Goode stepped up here, the fact that this Congress is not demanding an investigation into this right now is sickening.

This is elitism run rampant and it's just -- to me, it's just inexplicable why it's being tolerated. Pastor, what's his qualification?

ROMANS: He's studied North America and its institutions for 30 years.

DOBBS: Ah, good. And this is his conclusion after all that study at the Council of Foreign Relations? Thank you very much, Christine Romans.

That brings us to the subject of our poll tonight and Mr. Pastor, listen up because what we're going to do here is we're going to talk to somebody besides the head of a U.S. multinational or one of your little Bush administration friends or any of those other elitists in Canada or Mexico. Here we go.

Let's see what people have to say about your little idea. Do you believe there should be a federal investigation of U.S. government efforts to support a north American union? Yes or no. Please cast your vote at We'll have the results later here in the broadcast.


DOBBS: Results of our poll overwhelming: 97 percent of you say there should be a federal investigation of U.S. government efforts to support that North American union. Our political panel of Ed Rollins, Michael Goodwin, Robert Zimmerman, all agreeing that an investigation should be under way.

Time now for your thoughts. Harry in Alaska wrote in to say: "Regarding the Bush administration wanting to combine Canada, Mexico and the United States, maybe we've already had a coup and they just haven't told us."

And Harley in Idaho: "It doesn't seem to make a difference who you vote for, Democrat or Republican. Both parties are trying to destroy the middle class in this country."

And Spring Lea in Colorado: "Lou, everyone keeps asking who will win in November. The way things are going, it won't matter who is elected. No one will win."

We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts at Each of you whose email is read here receives a copy of Senator Byron Dorgan's new book, "Take This Job and Ship It."


© 2006 CNN (Cable News Network):


TxDOT: "If all the hurdles are jumped, construction on TTC-69 could begin in 2011."

State to seek corridor plans from 2 firms

Former partners are competing for the contract to develop segment of Trans-Texas project

Sept. 29, 2006

Houston Chronicle
Copyright 2006

Former business partners are now competing for one of the state's richest construction contracts — development of a transportation corridor between Northeast Texas and the Mexican border, passing near the Houston area.

The Texas Transportation Commission voted Thursday to seek proposals from the two for development of the route designated TTC-69, part of the state's ambitious Trans-Texas Corridor plan.

Projects envisioned for the corridor include a $12 billion toll road running west of U.S. 59, high-speed passenger and freight rail, pipelines and other utilities.

Spanish-owned construction giant Cintra and San Antonio road builder Zachry, which joined forces to win a contract to plan development of TTC-35 along Interstate 35, are competing against each other for the TTC-69 plum.

Combined forces

Joining forces with Zachry are ACS Infrastructure Development of Madrid, Spain; Williams Brothers Construction Co. and Dannenbaum Engineering, both of Houston; and six other team members.

Two other Houston firms, Othon and W.W. Webber LLC, are in the Cintra-led group.

"I find it fascinating that Cintra and Zachry have taken their experience on TTC-35 and each in essence has gone out and recruited and organized their own separate team," said Commissioner John W. Johnson of Houston.

"They are the most experienced in the state of Texas," he said. "The keener the competition, the better off we all are."

"I think you'll see more of that," said Phillip Russell, director of the Texas Department of Transportation turnpike division. "You're going to have cross-pollination."

At the same meeting, Texas Department of Transportation officials for the first time disclosed Cintra-Zachry's Master Development Plan for TTC-35.

Route undetermined

Despite its bulk — 1,600 pages — and the numerous maps included, the master plan does not include the actual route of TTC-35.

TxDOT says that will depend on the same federally required environmental process, including public hearings, as any other road project.

If all the hurdles are jumped, TxDOT says, construction could begin in 2011.

Because the master plan supersedes earlier "conceptual" development and financial plans that TxDOT declined to reveal in March 2005, these were released Thursday as well.

The Houston Chronicle and others had filed open-records requests to see the documents, and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott agreed they should be released.

TxDOT and Cintra-Zachry then sued Abbott, asking an Austin court to exempt the plans from disclosure on grounds that they would reveal proprietary information, give competitors unfair advantage and have a "chilling effect" on future proposers' willingness to reveal their ideas.

The lawsuit was dismissed Thursday by agreement.

The campaign manager for gubernatorial candidate and state Comptroller Carol Keeton Strayhorn had urged that the plans be made public.

Strayhorn said Gov. Rick Perry had "fought to keep Texans in the dark and his contract with a foreign-owned company to build toll roads across Texas a secret."

Commission Chairman Ric Williamson said the matter was handled the same way as proprietary information from firms seeking other TxDOT work.

$175 billion proposal

Perry announced the corridor plan in 2002, calling for a $175 billion, 4,000-mile limited-access transportation network built mostly with private dollars for profit but owned by the state.

TTC-35 generally would run east of Interstate 35 from Oklahoma to Mexico and would include an $8.8 billion toll road from Oklahoma to San Antonio.

The proposal has received continual criticism, despite efforts by TxDOT to reassure the public.

Farmers and ranchers have expressed concern that their property would be divided or taken by eminent domain.

Some concerns

Local officials feared that the corridor would draw business away from existing routes.

Others were concerned that negotiating a 50-year contract for a project of such size was being done behind the scenes.

Supporters of the corridor concept say gasoline taxes will not be able to fund enough roads to meet future need, but private companies can build and operate them for a profit at no risk to taxpayers.

If a corridor developer defaults on its contract, Williamson said, TxDOT can buy the facility, probably for less than it cost to build, and bid it to another.

© 2006 Houston Chronicle:


Thursday, September 28, 2006

TTC-35 plans push on, despite strong opposition in Central Texas

Work On Central Texas Phase Of Trans-Texas Corridor Could Begin By 2010

Trans-Texas Corridor Tolls May Discourage Some Motorists

September 28, 2006

KWTX Channel 10
(Waco, Temple Killeen)
Copyright 2006

Work on the Central Texas portion of the ambitious Trans-Texas Corridor project could begin within four years, the Texas Department of Transportation said Thursday as it released a plan identifying near- mid- and long-term phases of the privately developed toll road.

“The plan will help us take advantage of private sector innovation and investment to relieve congestion on I-35,” said Michael Behrens, TxDOT executive director.

“It will allow us to develop TTC-35 as it is needed and as private sector funding makes it feasible.”

The plan released Thursday identifies portions of the corridor from north of Temple to near Hillsboro and from Georgetown to Temple as among the likely near-term phases of the project, on which work could begin by 2010 and could be completed by 2013.

The Temple-to-Hillsboro leg of the corridor would cost an estimated $1.1 billion to design and build. The Georgetown-to-Temple leg would cost about $1 billion to design and build.

Tolls would range from about 15 cents a mile for cars to as much as 48 cents a mile for big trucks, which means the cost of a trip along the full length of the 370-mile toll road could cost from $56 to more than $216.

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, originally agreed to provide more than $7 billion for construction of the first segments of the project, which is now expected to cost nearly $2 billion more to construct.

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

Other near-term phases include an eastern loop around Dallas from US Highway 75 to Interstate 30; an eastern loop around Dallas from Interstate 30 to Interstate 35E southeast of the city; a southeastern loop around San Antonio from Interstate 10 to Interstate 37; a southeastern loop around San Antonio from Interstate 37 to Interstate 35, and a connection of the corridor from US Highway 75 to Interstate 35 near the Oklahoma border.

The final route won’t be determined until federal environmental impact studies have been completed.

TxDOT held 54 public hearings this summer along the Interstate corridor, seeking public input on the project, to which there is strong opposition in Central Texas.

The toll road project doesn’t lessen the state’s commitment to expanding the Interstate, TxDOT says.

“Everything that TxDOT is working on now and has scheduled over the next 25 years under the traditional gas-tax financed system will continue as planned,” Behrens said.

The state is widening a 94-mile stretch of Interstate from Georgetown to Hillsboro to at least three lanes in each direction in a $1 billion effort to reduce congestion.

The 10-mile-wide study area identified this spring for the Central Texas leg of the project runs generally along and slightly east of Interstate 35.

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.:


"Citizens Rebellion” brewing

Local protest planned against Trans-Texas Corridor

September 28, 2006

Brenham Banner-Press
Copyright 2006

The hotly debated Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) won't be built through Washington County, but local opponents have scheduled a protest to show solidarity with their fellow Texans who will be directly affected, for 10 a.m. Saturday.

It will be held at the Washington County courthouse.

Similar protests are set statewide, led by an event at the museum of the “Come and Take It” cannon in Gonzales. Independent gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn, a strident opponent of the transportation plan, is scheduled to appear.

She has been endorsed by the event's sponsors - Independent Texans, the Blackland Coalition, the San Antonio Toll Party, and Citizens for a Better Waller County. Related urban freeway toll projects are also opposed.

“We're going to send a cup of soil” to Gov. Rick Perry, leader of the TTC effort, “and tell him that's all he's getting from Washington County,” Joyce Covington, a local spokeswoman for the effort, said today.

That's what all the county groups, some 186 of them, plan to contribute to the governor. A couple where opposition appears include two along the New Mexico border in the Panhandle.

TTC is a massive highway, railroad, pipeline and communications infrastructure project designed to cut through the middle of Texas from north to south, paralleling Interstate 35 from near Laredo through the Dallas-Fort Worth area as one of its priority routes. One of its builders would be Spanish-based Cintra-Zachary.

The company “would be managing the project and getting the tolls,” Covington said. “We want to keep our money in the U.S.”

Detractors have stated that, in their opinion, the TTC is a money-making scheme, not a transportation solution.

In a press release, Independent Texans said a “citizens rebellion” has been brewing against the transportation plans being promoted by Gov. Perry.

Linda Curtis, founder of Independent Texans, called TTC a “double-tax urban freeway toll scheme.”

Terri Hall of the San Antonio Toll Party said both political parties approved planks opposing the TTC and tolls at their summer conventions.

Agnes Voges, a board member for the Blackland Coalition, said, “You'll note that (Perry's) ranch is not affected by the TTC, but you can't say that about the farmers and ranchers ... who now have to worry about their land being taken for something they didn't even have the right to vote on.”

“Ranchers are not willing to give up their land,” Covington added. “This (event Saturday) is a rally for our fellow ranchers and landowners.”

A portion of the route is projected to swing east of Austin. Area counties directly covered within the TTC priority model include Lee, Milam, Caldwell and Bastrop.

The Texas Transportation Commission received its authority to spearhead the corridor plan from the Texas Legislature. One of the more significant laws relating to awarding that management is House Bill 3588, according to

Covington said a statewide grassroots leadership meeting, “Toll and Corridor Summit II,” is planned in Austin Saturday, Oct. 7.

© 2006 Brenham Banner-Press:


"Truth Be Tolled" Debuts

Anti-Toll Roads Documentary Premieres In SA


KSAT-12 (San Antonio)
Copyright 2006

SAN ANTONIO -- A documentary that criticizes toll roads premiered in San Antonio on Wednesday night.

The film, "Truth Be Tolled," debuted at Silverado Theatres, which is near Loop 1604 and Bandera Road, where two toll projects are being considered.

The documentary features plenty of negative toward toll roads and Trans-Texas Corridor, a transportation project that has become a hot-button topic in the Texas governor's race.

Local film maker William Molina spent the past four months attending public hearings concerning toll roads and Trans-Texas Corridor.

"The reason I got involved in this project was I was very disturbed by the fact this was being forced on us, the taxpayer and Texans, without any public vote," Molina said. "So, as I began doing research into this, I realized that what is happening to us is not fair."

Molina said that he hopes his documentary will get people to vote against Gov. Rick Perry, who is pushing for approval of Trans-Texas Corridor.

The film heavily features Independent gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton-Strayhorn, who is opposed to toll roads.

Molina said while his film makes a political statement, it was not funded by any politician or political organization.

Copyright 2006 by :


“This whole thing is completely wrong.”

Trans-Texas Corridor plans revealed

September 28, 2006

The Dallas Morning News
Copyriht 2006

The first sections of the 370-mile Trans-Texas Corridor toll road could open as soon as 2013 and might cost $8.8 billion to build, according to new plans released Thursday by the Texas Department of Transportation.

Cintra Zachry, the state’s private-sector partner, submitted its 1,600-page vision for the project. The $3.5 million master development plan for the Texas-sized toll road has been two years in the making.

The basic idea behind the Trans Texas Corridor is that motorists need a new north-south alternative to the busy and often-hellish Interstate 35. Much of the plan is still subject to change. The final toll road route could be selected by next spring.

Cintra Zachry estimates that it or other highway builders would pay the state a total of $2 billion to let them build the project. In return, they could collect toll revenue for the next 50 years to recoup their investment.

The use of private-sector money to help build toll roads is a cornerstone of Gov. Rick Perry’s transportation policy, said Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Ric Williamson.

“Rick Perry didn’t go down this road lightly,” he said. “He understands the political risk of proposing to solve problems.”

Cintra Zachry originally estimated the project would cost about $6 billion and result in up-front payments of $1.2 billion to the state. Both estimates have increased dramatically in two years. State officials say inflation is partly to blame, as well as the addition of several new projects around southern San Antonio.

The report also predicts the initial cost to motorists when the first sections open around 2014. Cars and small trucks will pay about 15.2 cents per mile, or $56.24, to travel the entire route. Truckers initially will pay 58.5 cents per mile for a cost of $216.45 to travel the entire route. Final toll rates will be set when the state negotiates contract terms on each section of the toll road.

The corridor’s exact route won’t be announced until early next year. That leaves many details subject to change. For example, the plan includes several options for paths in or around North Texas, including the long-planned Loop 9 route across much of southern Dallas and Tarrant counties.

“This plan is only the concept for how it will be developed,” said Amadeo Saenz, assistant executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation. “Where it will be developed, which is where we’re getting most of our questions, is a separate process.”

When the route is determined, the state expects to pay Cintra Zachry an undetermined amount of money to update the development plan. So why release the plan now when it will just have to be updated next year?

"It’s so complex, it makes sense to start working out some elements of the project,” said Phillip Russell, director of the Texas Turnpike Authority division of the state transportation department.

The plan does not assume that Cintra Zachry will build the corridor. But the company has a leg up on the competition because it’s already guiding the planning process.

According to the agreement between the state and Cintra Zachry, the state has several options for choosing who can build portions of the project. Cintra Zachry can submit offers for any of the seven Trans-Texas Corridor segments.

The five-member Texas Transportation Commission, made up of gubernatorial appointees, can then decide whether to accept Cintra Zachry’s proposal or seek competing bids.

Cintra Zachry is a partnership between Cintra, a longtime Spanish toll road operator, and San Antonio-based Zachry Construction Corp., a giant in the Texas highway construction industry.

The company expects to contribute its own money to pay for up to 30 percent of the projects it builds. It could also use special federal loans, revenue bonds and private investment.

The financial arrangement under which companies give the state up-front payments in return for future toll money is not set in stone. State officials could forego part of its up-front money and take a share of toll revenue if it benefits taxpayers more.

The state’s general philosophy is to seek a mixture of up-front cash and future toll revenue.

Around North Texas, two separate sections of the corridor could generate $847 million in up-front payments.

Taking a cut of future toll revenue could be lucrative. For example, the plan predicts that the road will attract a substantial share of traffic from nearby congested urban highways almost immediately after it opens.

In southern Dallas County, for example, almost half of all trucks are expected to use that section of the new corridor rather than travel on adjacent clogged highways, according to the report.

Completion of the development plan marks the end of a major step in the Trans-Texas Corridor’s progress. The plan predicts that offers to build the first sections of the project could be submitted as early as next year. Projects such as a freight rail line from North Texas to Laredo would not open until around 2016.

Longer-term projects like high-speed rail lines and a road section from San Antonio to Laredo would not be built until between 2017 and 2055 — or never.

Some critics believe Cintra Zachry and the state have been too secretive about their relationship.

Attorney General Greg Abbott has ordered them to release documents relating to financial and development plans.

Cintra Zachry and the transportation department have filed suit to keep the documents under wraps, arguing they contain proprietary information.

A court hearing is scheduled for Oct. 10. Mike Behrens, executive director of the transportation department, said he hopes to resolve the matter very soon.

“We have to treat this exactly as we treat every other contract,” said Mr. Williamson. “We’re as anxious to remove this from the table of discussion as anyone.”

The discussion about the court case, as well as the release of the plan six weeks before the November elections, has stirred up Mr. Perry’s challengers.

“Nothing is going to change Kinky’s position on this,” said Laura Stromberg, the spokeswoman for independent candidate Kinky Friedman. “This whole thing is completely wrong.”

Texans are opposed to the way the contract for the corridor was awarded, said Heather Guntert, a spokeswoman for Democratic candidate Chris Bell.

“It’s misguided to think that pushing the Trans-Texas Corridor is a good campaign strategy. It will definitely backfire.”


© 2006 The Dallas Morning News Co


Lawsuit attempting to keep TTC CDA secret will be dropped.

Toll road contract at issue in governor's race to be made public

Sep. 28, 2006

Kelley Shannon
Associated Press
Copyright 2006

AUSTIN - Secret sections of a contract to develop the Trans-Texas Corridor that have created a contentious point in the governor's race are being released to the public, state transportation officials said Thursday.

The decision was announced at a Texas Transportation Commission meeting where a master plan for the first phase of the proposed corridor was revealed.

Because the master plan is an update of an earlier proposal by the consortium Cintra-Zachry, all parts of the earlier proposal - including portions that were kept secret for proprietary reasons - will be released, said Amadeo Saenz, assistant executive director for engineering operations at the state transportation department.

That also means a transportation department lawsuit attempting to keep the contract secret will be dropped, he said.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who proposed the Trans-Texas Corridor in 2002, has come under fire from opponents and anti-corridor activists in part because of the secret contract. Some are also mad because the giant toll road will take their land.

Perry, after a speech in Houston on Thursday, said secrecy surrounding the toll road contract was necessary during active negotiations. He compared it with asking that competitors bidding on a house divulge their offers.

"It would have been highly disruptive to the process to make all that public" before negotiations were complete, he said. Perry said he had nothing to do with the transportation department's decision to release the information.

While the Texas Department of Transportation said it posted all parts of the contract on its Web site Thursday, downloading the document was a slow process. It took The Associated Press an hour and 45 minutes to download a copy of the 256-page document, which included more than 50 pages of aerial photographs of the road's proposed route.

The agency was working on the problem and hoped to have the contract quickly accessible to the public via computer by Friday, said spokesman Randall Dillard.

Cintra-Zachry proposed paying $7.2 billion to build the first segments of the corridor, running roughly parallel to Interstate 35. The Spanish-American consortium said it would invest $6 billion to build a state-owned toll road and would pay the state $1.2 billion and get to operate the road and collect tolls.

State transportation officials now say the private money invested could total as much as $8.8 billion.

Cintra-Zachry initially had a development agreement to start working on the project. The company's spokesman, Rossanna Salazar, said it was always understood that once the master plan was completed and accepted by the Texas Department of Transportation, that Cintra-Zachry's development agreement would be released in full.

Independent gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn has been the most vocal Perry opponent criticizing the Trans-Texas Corridor and the state contract with Cintra-Zachry.

Over the summer, she attended several crowded public hearings along the corridor route to speak against the project and called for the contract to be made public.

"Texans have the right to know what their government is doing, but Rick Perry and his highway henchmen are determined to cram toll roads down our throats and were willing to go to court to protect this administration's special interests," Strayhorn spokesman Mark Sanders said Thursday.

Attorney General Greg Abbott's office ruled last year that the agreement should be public, but the transportation agency hired outside lawyers to go to court to fight that decision. A court hearing was scheduled for Oct. 10.

The first phase of the proposed corridor, as described in the master plan Thursday, would be a toll road built from north of Dallas-Fort worth to south of San Antonio, connecting to I-35 at those two points. The tollway would loop around Dallas and follow a path a few miles east of the interstate.

The Federal Highway Administration will have final say on the first-phase plan released Thursday. Construction could begin by 2011, pending environmental clearance.

Ultimately, the corridor would be a network crisscrossing the state and costing up to $184 billion, Perry has said. The corridor would be up to a quarter-mile across, consisting of as many as six lanes for cars and four for trucks, plus railroad tracks, oil and gas pipelines, water and other utility lines, even broadband transmission cables.


Associated Press writer Joe Stinebaker in Houston contributed to this report. Kelley Shannon has covered Texas politics and government in Austin since 2000.

© 2006 The Associated Press:


"This is a titanic land grab that benefits a foreign company. I don't know what these documents could show that would make that worse."

Disputed toll road documents might be released soon

Plans for Trans-Texas Corridor had sparked lawsuit and provided fodder for Perry foes.

September 28, 2006

By Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2006

State transportation officials say that, with the expected approval today of a master plan on the Trans-Texas Corridor's Interstate 35 twin, they can now release previously confidential documents that have sparked a lawsuit and played a prominent role in the governor's race.

The release of the documents, assuming they contain nothing explosive, will probably muffle charges from Gov. Rick Perry's gubernatorial opponents that he and his administration had a secret contract for the big toll road project. The agency, which posted the completed master plan on by noon, said the 253 pages of conceptual plans for the Trans-Texas Corridor likely will be released later today.

In addition, the agency and its development partner on the corridor alternative to I-35, the Spanish-American partnership Cintra-Zachry, will drop a lawsuit contesting an order to release the documents.

"We're as anxious to remove this from the table as anyone is," Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Ric Williamson said this week.

The Transportation Department and Cintra-Zachry, a Spanish-American partnership, in March 2005 signed a 104-page contract under which the agency would pay the partnership $3.5 million to prepare the master plan. The agreement also contemplated that Cintra-Zachry might build most of the roads and other facilities growing from such a plan. The agency immediately released that contract along with hundreds of pages of exhibits.

But it withheld two exhibits totaling 253 pages, a "conceptual development plan" and a "conceptual financial plan" for how the company might build what is now called TTC-35 and other facilities in the I-35 corridor. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, like Perry a Republican, on May 31, 2005, ruled that the Transportation Department should release the two exhibits because the contract had been signed and was thus final.

Disagreeing with Abbott's reasoning, Cintra-Zachry and the agency in June 2005 sued in District Court in Travis County to overturn his ruling. A trial in the case is set for Oct. 10.

In the meantime, Perry's three main challengers, in particular independent candidate Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, have made hay with the confidential documents. Rumors flew about what might be in those 253 pages, the implication being that they contained some sort of political dynamite that Perry wanted to suppress until after the Nov. 7 elections.

Jason Stanford, a spokesman for Chris Bell, Perry's Democratic opponent, said putting out the documents will not change the candidate's opinion about the corridor deal.

"Even if it's not a secret deal, it's still a really horrible deal," Stanford said. "This is a titanic land grab that benefits a foreign company. I don't know what these documents could show that would make that worse."

Strayhorn's campaign at midday had not returned a call seeking comment on the impending release of the disputed documents.

The Transportation Department's position, Williamson said, has been that until the master plan was prepared to the agency's satisfaction, the chance existed that the agency could throw out the whole effort and start anew with another contractor. In that case, the information presented in those withheld exhibits would give other vendors a free and unfair gander at Cintra-Zachry's thinking, the department said.

With the approval today of the master plan by Michael Behrens,, executive director of the Transportation Department, the agency will consider the contract final and release all information, Behrens and Williamson said. When?

"We want to do it soon," Behrens said this week.

The 1,500-page plan, presented this morning to the commission, lays out which roads, railroads and utility facilities should be built in the next 50 years, including what they might cost, how Cintra-Zachry would pay for them and which projects should be built when. It also includes estimates of what the state might receive in concession fees from Cintra-Zachry if the company builds and operates those projects.

In the plan, Cintra-Zachry envisions spending $8.8 billion to build a four-lane toll road that would run 373 miles from I-35 at the Oklahoma border, circle east of Dallas, parallel I-35 from east of Hillsboro to Interstate 10 at Seguin, and then loop around the east and south sides of San Antonio to reconnect to I-35.

There would be two spots with no Cintra-Zachry roads: a segment of 50 miles or so from near Waxahachie to Hillsboro, where drivers would return to the current I-35, and the 49 miles of the Texas 130 toll road under construction by Lone Star Infrastructure.

For the right to build and operate the corridor roads for 50 years, setting maximum tolls under formulas to be approved by the Transportation Commission, Cintra-Zachry estimates that it would pay the state $1.96 billion in 2006 dollars. That could be in single upfront concession payments when contracts to build those roads are signed, or in a combination of upfront payments and sharing of tolls once the roads open.

In the plan, Cintra-Zachry assumes it would pay for the full 1,200-foot-wide right-of-way swath contemplated in the Trans-Texas Corridor plan, although the state would retain title to the land. The relatively modest expressway it would build in the beginning — the company believes it could start construction on all eight segments of the 373 miles by 2011 — would take only a few hundred feet to build, leaving the rest for railroads, more highway lanes and utility and pipeline easements.

Cintra-Zachry's contract with the state, however, guarantees the partnership first shot at only $400 million of the work on TTC-35, and the company has already called in that marker. The department has agreed to let Cintra-Zachry build the southernmost 40 miles of what is now called Texas 130, from Mustang Ridge southeast of Austin to Seguin. That road, which along with its northern 49 miles east of Austin likely will become a part of TTC-35 eventually, will cost $1.35 billion to construct and generate $270 million in 2006 revenue for the Transportation Department, according to the plan.

In the plan, Cintra-Zachry estimates that construction would start on the Hillsboro-to-Georgetown segments next, in 2010, with work on all eight areas beginning by May 2013 and all segments complete by 2017.

The master plan also contemplates construction over the next several decades of dozens of other connecting roads (most of them also toll roads), freight rail lines and high-speed rail lines.

The master plan, however, is only that: a several-volume how-to manual for attempting a massive infrastructure project unlike anything Texas or any state has ever done. It commits the state and Cintra-Zachry to very little, and even the $8.8 billion cost estimate and $1.96 billion concession fee numbers will inevitably be rendered inaccurate by time and circumstance.

"The master development plan is a living document," Transportation Department engineering director Amadeo Saenz said this week. "As things change, changes will have to be made to the master plan."; 445-3698

© 2006 Austin American-Statesman: www.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

“It seems to me the only way to stop this is to elect a new governor.”

Corridor Watch presents more information

September 27, 2006

Gainesville Register
Copyright 2006

A flawed process gives us a flawed project, said the organizers of a resistance movement against what could be the largest transportation project in Texas history.

David Stall, co-founder of with his wife Linda Stall, spoke to a sparse crowd at the State Theater Tuesday night.

David Stall said with a $184 billion project, “you’d think the people would know what it’s about.”

“Sadly, they do not,” he said.

He said the Trans-Texas Corridor, a proposed network of multi-lane, multi-mode toll highways across Texas —including TTC-35, which is earmarked to pass through Cooke County — is a “completely new animal.”

He said the Trans-Texas Corridor would disrupt agricultural life and siphon away traffic from businesses that thrive from travelers along state highways and interstates.

He said he and his wife own a 90-year-old farm house near Fayetteville, and have cows for neighbors. He commutes more than 100 miles to his job at the Houston Yacht Club.

“And, frankly, we like it that way,” he said.

He showed on the former movie theater’s wall a DVD copy of an Aug. 8 KHOU-TV news clip from the Houston area. The reporter reviewed Columbus, a town south of Houston, and its dependence on traffic from Interstate Highway 10.

David Stall followed up by saying Interstate Highways were built as close to existing cities as possible to avoid disrupting their economies.

“With a corridor that is closed and further away that is not likely to happen,” he said.

He continued to criticize the project, and questioned the wisdom of its planning. He said the governor’s office came up with the plan, which was given to the Texas Department of Transportation to implement. He said Texas A&M University, known for its engineering faculties, was not consulted.

Showing an overhead view of I-45 in Houston, a 15-lane road took 300 feet in width and consisted of eight commuter lanes, six frontage road lanes and one high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane. TTC-35, comparatively, is projected to take up 1,200 feet in width, and consist of several commuter lanes, truck lanes, high-speed commuter and freight rail lines and space for pipelines and other utilities.

David Stall questioned the safety of the toll road, noting the high-speed rail requires race track-like embankments for the train to make curves. He said the Trans-Texas Corridor routes would be kept fairly straight to allow for the high-speed rail.

“TTC is nothing like the interstate system,” he said.

He said the Trans-Texas Corridor is not simply a network of roads to ease traffic congestion in Texas. He noted the name of the plan — Crossroads of the Americas: The Trans-Texas Corridor Plan.” He said “crossroads” is plural, noting a connection to other states and the Republic of Mexico.

“This is bigger than the road, and we all know that,” said William Baldwin during an audience question and answer period.

He said TxDOT has received memorandums of understanding from several Mexican states regarding the expansion of North American Free Trade Agreement routes. He said Gov. Rick Perry included utility lines in an agreement with Mexico, assuming Texas may be shipping water to Mexico.

Much of the details have been kept “proprietary” and secret, David Stall said. He said a conceptual development plan between TxDOT and Cintra Zachry, L.P. (a consolidation between a San Antonio-based construction company and a Spanish holdings company) as well as the conceptual design plan, were the subject of a struggle between a newspaper and the courts system.

He said the Houston Chronicle filed a freedom of information request to TxDOT for the information on the conceptual plans, and Attorney General Greg Abbot ruled in the Chronicle’s favor. However, TxDOT sued Abbot and has effectively tied the information up in court, David Stall said.

“Your department of transportation is suing your attorney general to keep you from seeing these documents,” he said.

The issue is set to go to trial Oct. 10, “before the election,” he said.

David Stall reviewed the possible costs of the Trans-Texas Corridor, even to non-users. He said since the road would be managed by the private sector there would be no control over the toll fees. He said freight companies, which normally include a “fuel surcharge” on their bills to consumers, would pass along the cost of tolls.

“Do you think they’ll absorb the cost? I don’t think so,” he said.

David Stall said an estimated half-million acres in Texas could be taken, or more. He said Cooke County could have 2,800 acres taken by eminent domain for the project, and Grayson County may have 5,200 taken. He said this could increase the cost of living in Texas due to property going from taxable land for school districts becoming non-taxed state land.

He then showed examples of other Cintra-related projects, including ETR 407 in Canada and a toll road in Indiana that he did not name. He said the Indiana toll road encountered difficulty from Cintra when emergency turn-around lanes were blocked to prevent drivers from cheating the toll booths.

“That’s what we’re getting in bed with for the next 50 years — maybe longer,” he said.

He said the Trans-Texas Corridor plan “is not a done deal” and residents should do everything they can to stay informed. But more importantly, he said, “to live life as you normally would.”

He said, though, unless electoral action is taken toll roads will continue to be a part of life in Texas. He said Texas Transportation Chairman Ric Williamson has a goal to make most public highways tolled.

“It seems to me the only way to stop this is to elect a new governor,” a member of the audience said during questions and answers.

David Stall said Corridor Watch attempts to be non-partisan, so his wife, Linda Stall, who joined the campaign of independent gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn, had to leave the staff.

Linda Stall did speak, however, and said Strayhorn is the only candidate in the five-way race for governor who has taken a bold stand against the Trans-Texas Corridor.

No one spoke representing the campaigns of incumbent Gov. Rick Perry, Democratic nominee Chris Bell, independent Richard “Kinky” Friedman or Libertarian nominee James Werner.

Linda Stall borrowed a statement used by Cooke County’s “Save Our County” organization and said, “The world is run by those who show up.”

“That puts you in the drivers’ seat — but it is a position of responsibility. And you have to tell people,” she said.

Linda Stall said she had safety concerns about the “closed corridor,” especially what would happen in the event of another hurricane evacuation. She said she was caught in traffic during an evacuation from Hurricane Rita, and at times she considered fleeing the jam on foot.

Sheila Cox, Collinsville-area resident, said she was concerned about rumored 16-foot-high “barrier walls” on each side of the corridor.

“Should there be a need for mass evacuations that will be unattainable with barrier walls,” she said.

David Stall noted his concerns about biohazardous material on closed-in corridor.

The theater was staffed with eager volunteers for the Stayhorn campaign and Corridor Watch. At one point during the speeches, a young boy placed a sticker opposing the Trans-Texas Corridor on this reporter’s back.

Linda Stall announced another opportunity for volunteers to act — Saturday at the Cooke and Grayson county courthouses. She said at 10 a.m. Saturday anti-Trans-Texas Corridor activists will join hands for “hands across the corridor,” and later at the Grayson County Courthouse at noon.

“We encourage everyone to come and bring a cup of dirt ... and send the governor a message ‘that’s all you’re getting from me.’”

Reporter Andy Hogue may be contacted at andyhoguegdr[at]

© 2006 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.:


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Who's on First? Attorney General's office represents both sides in TxDOT open records case.

Trial set on 'secret contract.'

September 26, 2006

Central Texas Digest
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2006

A trial will begin Oct. 10, just four weeks before Election Day, on an arcane open records dispute that has had a featured role in this year's gubernatorial race.

Travis County District Judge Lora Livingston will decide whether the Texas Department of Transportation must release sections of a contract with toll road builder Cintra-Zachry that the company says contains trade secrets.

Opponents of Gov. Rick Perry, particularly Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, have criticized him about the "secret contract" and demanded its release.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott ruled in May 2005 that the provisions must be made public, but the company and the Transportation Department sued several weeks later to overturn his decision.

© 2006 Austin American-Statesman: www.

For background on this story click HERE.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Toll road privatization in Florida is paved with political connections

Agency's go-to guy may be its downfall

John Beck, lobbyist for the Expressway Authority, is at the center of its crisis.

September 25, 2006

St. Petersburg Times
Copyright 2006

TAMPA - John Beck boasted credentials that went beyond transportation when a Hillsborough County toll road agency retained the Tallahassee attorney in 1999.

"Mr. Beck is a former General Counsel for the Florida Department of Transportation," the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority's minutes of a February 1999 meeting noted. "(He) was actively involved in Governor (Jeb) Bush's election and transition."

That last qualification underscored the importance politics and connections have played in Beck's stint as lobbyist and consultant to an agency now struggling to survive.

Some state lawmakers say recent allegations of improper bidding practices and questionable billings - some involving Beck - are the latest reasons to consider abolishing the Expressway Authority.

Such an outcome would short-circuit the growing clout Beck has at the agency. At the same time the agency is trying to expand its role in the Tampa Bay area with additional projects, Beck is helping to redefine what it means to build a road in Florida. The change could mean billions to private companies and more tolls for motorists.

Along with lobbying and planning projects, the Expressway Authority has decided that Beck, a stocky 59-year-old Vietnam veteran, should promote road privatization, a trend favored by many Republicans.

So Beck is advising the agency on how to launch a 3-mile toll road in New Tampa. It would be the first project in Florida in which a public agency hands over the construction, maintenance and operation of a toll road to a private company. If successful, it could be a blueprint for future projects.

Considered a pioneer in this new field of road privatization, Beck speaks at conferences and advises transportation groups throughout Florida about how to do it.

Beck did not return phone calls for this story.

The planning and building of the nation's roads are increasingly being driven by market ideologies like Beck's, said Tom Downs, president and CEO of the Eno Transportation Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank for transportation professionals in Washington, D.C.

"Transportation used to be an ideologically free zone," Downs said. "They used to say, there aren't any Democratic or Republican roads. But now, with privatization, that's no longer true. Roads have become partisan like everything else."

Texas is planning a $184-billion toll road project. Chicago is leasing its Skyway for $1.8-billion. Indiana is leasing its toll road system for $3.8-billion. And Virginia transportation officials plan to lease a toll road near Richmond for more than $500-million.

All these deals are between cash-starved public agencies and foreign corporations looking for investment opportunities.

In an age when gas tax revenue no longer covers the costs of road construction, governments are promoting these deals as a painless, tax-free way to operate and construct necessary roads.

"We're at the beginning of a major move toward the privatization of public infrastructure," said Richard Reinhard, a managing director at the Urban Land Institute.

But what's not clear are the guarantees, if any, that private companies taking over the roads won't hike the tolls charged to motorists, said Anne Canby, president of the Surface Transportation Policy Project, a nonprofit coalition of traffic experts, based in Washington, D.C.

"My sense is that this whole idea has gotten ahead without the public being brought along," Canby said.

These projects reflect a strong reluctance in both parties to tinker with gas taxes. An average of 18.4 cents a gallon, federal gas taxes pale in comparison to the $4 European countries typically levy per gallon, Downs said.

Privatization deals are quite complex and require a mastery of all the legal and technological details that can make many closing documents hundreds of pages long, Reinhard said. For those who can master them, it could mean millions.

Transportation officials in Florida say few here have the expertise to negotiate such a project. Many point to Beck, who served as the DOT's top lawyer in the early 1980s, as the exception.

"He's one of a handful of people in the state who has a firm understanding of this new phenomenon," said David Fierro, a former DOT official who interviewed Beck for an August article in Florida Transportation Monthly, an industry-supported publication he edits.

As legal adviser to a number of transportation boards across the state, Beck has touted his experience in privatization.

In a 2004 letter to transportation leaders, Beck said he had done work in Florida, Georgia and Texas regarding public-private partnerships.

"He just has a wealth of knowledge on the subject," said Sally Patrenos, the Florida Transportation Commission's executive director, who said Beck organized a workshop on privatization in Tampa last year.

But it's difficult to determine which companies are still Beck clients. In the state lobbyist registry, he lists his only client as the Expressway Authority. Yet Ralph Mervine, the agency's executive director, said Beck has other clients.

"I'm sure there are lots of other people paying him than just us," Mervine said.

The workshop Beck organized for the transportation commission included two officials with Parsons Transportation, a company that once employed Beck. Another company with representatives on the panel was Washington Group International, which Beck lobbied for in 2004 and 2005.

In addition, myriad ties link Beck to some companies vying to build the New Tampa toll road project he helped draft, including former clients.

None of this will matter if the Expressway Authority doesn't pull itself out of a crisis that could spell the end for the agency, created in 1964 to build toll roads in Hillsborough.

The latest controversy erupted last month when Bush's appointees to the Expressway Authority board rejected a committee's recommendation and fired attorney Steve Anderson, a Democrat.

The vote provoked a political dustup, especially after the Gray Robinson law firm, which has strong ties to Bush, won the contract. The ensuing scrutiny overwhelmed an agency accustomed to operating in obscurity. The spotlight's glare revealed a number of incidents, including a couple of ill-advised meetings with Gray Robinson representatives before the board vote. The governor ordered an investigation.

Taking a week to complete the investigation, Bush's general counsel, Raquel Rodriguez, found that no laws were violated. She concluded in a Sept. 8 report that when Beck met with two Gray Robinson lawyers in July, he didn't violate any laws or procedures. Rodriguez reached that conclusion partly because Beck said he met with attorneys from other competing firms, and therefore wasn't playing favorites. He explained those meetings were in August and he hadn't yet billed the agency for them.

When the Times inquired about the invoices last week, agency officials said Beck had yet to file the invoices showing those meetings.

Some of Beck's other billings have raised eyebrows. In June, he charged the Expressway Authority $175 for an hour's work. His invoice stated he spent the time writing the governor's office about an appointment of a board member. That member was board chairman Thomas Gibbs, whom Beck enthusiastically endorsed.

Beck has written other letters in support of board members. In 2003, he e-mailed Bush an endorsement of Kimberlee DeBosier, calling her a "loyal Republican." Bush ultimately replaced her with Alba Lopez-Isa, who had a raft of recommendations from GOP fundraising heavyweights Al Austin, Carlos Alfonso and former governor Bob Martinez.

In 2005, one of Beck's business partners, Cynthia Henderson, vouched for former Sen. Jim Hargrett. Although a Democrat, Hargrett endorsed Bush for governor in 1998. Henderson noted that Hargrett was a "very strong member of the board." Henderson herself has ties to Bush, having served as a top official in his administration.

Already, there are signs the state's investigations are limiting what Beck can do. Hargrett wrote Mervine an Aug. 30 e-mail about stopping a proposed bill that could abolish the Expressway Authority.

"I suggest that the Authority get Beck started early, along with yourself, visiting our local delegation members to explain why this is a bad idea," Hargrett wrote.

Yet as of last week, Beck still hadn't been brought in to lobby for the agency on that issue, Mervine said.

"He's been told to hang tight until further notice," Mervine said.

While Beck wouldn't return phone calls, his attorney, Brant Hargrove, said Beck is being unfairly tainted.

"He's handling it well, but anytime you see yourself being portrayed improperly, it's disturbing," Hargrove said. "I know he didn't do a darn thing wrong."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.
[Last modified September 25, 2006, 06:47:26]

© 2006 St. Petersburg Times:


"A cupful of my land is all this governor can expect to take from me without a fight."

'Hands Across the Corridor' event Sept. 30 to oppose Trans-Texas Corridor

Sep 25, 2006

By Media Release
North Texas e-News, LLC
Copyright 2006

Area residents and citizens across the state are gathering at their county courthouses on Saturday, September 30, carrying a cup of rich Texas topsoil and a message for Gov. Rick Perry.

"A cupful of my land is all this governor can expect to take from me without a fight," say organizers of this statewide event called 'Hands Across the Corridor.'

Carole Keeton 'Grandma' Strayhorn, candidate for Governor, will kick off the event in Gonzales, Texas at 10 a.m. outside the museum of the 'Come and Take It Cannon.' Mrs. Strayhorn is endorsed by the event sponsors Independent Texans, Blackland Coalition, San Antonio Toll Party and Citizens for A Better Waller County.

Locally, residents will gather at the Fannin County courthouse in Bonham at 3:00 p.m. to demonstrate their opposition to Governor Perry's Trans-Texas Corridor and related urban freeway toll projects.

For over two years a citizen's rebellion has been brewing, but in separate and distinct communities -- rural and urban -- and against two related, but separate transportation plans promoted by Gov. Rick Perry.

Linda Curtis, founder of Independent Texans, said, "This is an opportunity for people from rural, suburban and urban communities to unite our movements against the Corridor and the double-tax urban freeway toll schemes of Rick Perry. Then we'll have the numbers to defeat him in November."

Terri Hall of the suburban and urban based citizens' group, the San Antonio Toll Party (like the Boston Tea Party), said, "We call the Governor's urban toll plan what it is, a double-tax plan. Our statewide movement has already rerouted four candidates in the primary last March. Many candidates and office holders are running for cover, while both political parties passed planks against the Corridor and tolls at their conventions this summer."

Agnes Voges, board member of the Blackland Coalition based in the richest farmland area in central Texas said, "We intend to make this the number one reason why Rick Perry is voted out of office. You'll note that his ranch is not affected by the TTC, but you can't say that about the farmers and ranchers who have been struggling to make ends meet for the longest time, and who now have to worry about their land being taken for something they didn't even have the right to vote on."

© 2006 North Texas e-News, LLC:


Perry leverages gubernatorial power with stealth legislation, political appointees.

The ever-presumptive Mr. Perry

September 25, 2006


Cox News Service
The Lufkin Daily News
Copyright 2006

WACO, Texas — For better or for worse, Rick Perry is making a few of us eat our words.

The words, between two slices of white bread: "weak governor."

Commentators like me used the words, for instance, to wonder what it was about being Texas governor that made George W. Bush such a hot commodity. Dixie's forefathers had no intention of arming Texas governors with much more than a quill for initialling what the Legislature does.

Perry, mocked as a lightweight swept along in his predecessor's wake, has turned into the most powerful governor in recent memory.

For better or worse? November is a dandy time to decide. Perry has given voters quite a few referenda onto which his name can be attached.

One is the Trans-Texas Corridor. One is the gallop to build coal-fired power plants. One is the long-delayed, long-botched quest to equitably fund schools. One is the protracted, life-sucking, all-consuming gambit of redrawing congressional districts twice in a decade. That one's not done, by the way.

Election-wise, opposition to the Trans-Texas Corridor may be the Loch Ness Monster in Perry's pond. It's only a slight exaggeration to say that in setting the TTC in motion, less debate was given to the mammoth undertaking than lawmakers might give to proclaiming Pinto Bean Appreciation Week.

Many Texans now inflamed don't realize it, but they effectively approved the TTC in 2001 when they amended the Constitution to create the amorphous-sounding Texas Mobility Fund.

With little debate, and near-unanimity, lawmakers then passed an omnibus bill to enable the use of tolls and bonds on highways. So doing, they gave the governor the power to set in motion negotiations for a massive superhighway paid for by tolls and contracted to a foreign company.

That's power granted by the Legislature. Some of Perry's power has come through regulatory agencies, though the Legislature may reserve the right to intervene.

Perry issued an executive order cutting in half the normal permit process for a spate of coal-fired power plants proposed by TXU Corp. This was in exchange for an agreement by TXU to phase in a big rate increase in two increments rather than one.

We know it's all about "good government," but that very day Perry signed his order, former TXU chairman Erle Nye donated $2,000 to the good governor's campaign. It was followed shortly by $5,000 from a TXU political action committee, then another $25,000 by Nye. Ah. So, that's where Perry gets his power.

Last week, State Sen. Kip Averitt, chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, said that the fast-track matter is essentially moot. The permitting process will take as long as is necessary, he said.

More significant, however, was Perry appointing Martin A. Hubert to the vacancy on the three-member Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. That's just in time to break any possible stalemate on the plants. TXU's donors will be watching.

All of the above might trouble those who thought governors in Texas were feather dusters. Some were, but they didn't use their regulatory power the way Perry does.

The most eye-opening instance was Perry's declaration that schools be penalized on the state's fiscal accountability system unless 65 percent of all expenditures go to "classroom" needs.

This attempt to pit dollars for transportation, security and maintenance against whatever the state deems "instructional" has been roundly booed by analysts who say it makes no difference in education.

But it is a well-placed gig at school districts for lobbying (not an instructional expense) against Perry's pet school reforms like vouchers and policies that put tax cuts ahead of school needs.

Perry is no pipsqueak. He's more like Spider Man, a mortal of near-mythic power. Now, voters: Does he use his powers for good? Or are those powers better vested in another set of tights?

John Young is Opinion Page editor of the Waco (Texas) Tribune-Herald.

© 2006 The Lufkin Daily News: