Tuesday, March 06, 2007

"If we're going to use public funds to build road, we don't need a middle man."

Kolkhorst aims to derail TTC plans


By: TRACY DANG, Managing Editor
The Sealy News
Copyright 22007

State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst has filed two bills to stop the Trans-Texas Corridor in its tracks.

If passed, House Bill 1881 will repeal the TTC from the transportation code. This would remove the Texas Department of Transportation's authority over the project, creating a foundation for any future corridor projects.

"I said I was going to get the TTC in its conceptual design right now," Kolkhorst said. "We might need to look at certain tolling roads, but this is not it. Plenty of people share my concerns about these private roads and how they'll threaten communities, violate our property rights and create an unregulated transportation monopoly. My bill allows Texas to scrap the TTC plans and start over."

Kolkhorst also filed HB 1880, which would prohibit any public pension fund from investing in a private toll road project.

"One of the things we followed Centra and Zachry (the two companies who submitted applications to work on the project) on is how they usually only put up 10-17 percent of their own equity and get investors to invest in our roadways," Kolkhorst said.

"The state auditor report said gross revenues over the project TTC-35 alone was projected to be over $5 billion. If we're going to use public funds to build road, we don't need a middle man. No public pension funds can be used by private companies to build the TTC."

Kolkhorst said she has received hundreds of calls, letters and e-mails against the TTC. For anti-TTC groups such as Corridor Watch, the filing of the bills helps reassure them that their state legislators are listening to their concerns and fighting to represent their views.

"I think it would be better to have those bills passed and have all those organizations and institutions develop a plan that works for the entire state," Linda Stall said. She and her husband David are co-founders of Corridor Watch. "The TTC is not good for everyone, and putting in place something that works for everyone is where the legislators have that oversight.

"I think it's an absolutely brilliant insight on Rep. Kolkhorst's part because the TTC puts public pension funds are risk. There have been individuals that have put funds into retirement, and to have that put at risk I something we should not allow. Cintra, the company that is currently discussing developing the TTC, said they look to pension funds as a first for funding their projects. Everyone saw what happened when Enron collapsed, and people were left without their pension money. With that kind of speculation, it's not a good idea and it's not good for the citizens."

Although most of the discussion surrounding the TTC specifically refers to TTC-35, David Stall said TTC-35 would lay the foundation for other corridor projects such as TTC-69 and TTC-10.

"It's vitally important that these issues be addressed now than a time they come to impact Austin County," he said. "There are future corridors that could have an impact on the surrounding territories, so there is a lot of foresight being made by the representative. This is a good time to be addressing these issues before its too late."

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