Thursday, March 01, 2007

"We don't even know basics. We truly are in the dark, and we're the transportation committee and that's our frustration, if not our embarrassment."

Lawmakers Weigh In On Trans Texas Corridor

Mar 1, 2007

Keith Elkins Reporting
Copyright 2007

The state's transportation agency was in the hot seat at the State Capitol Thursday. They faced plenty of questions from state senators and angry taxpayers over toll roads and Governor Perry's Trans Texas Corridor project.

The project would build tollways, railways and utility lines from the Oklahoma border to México.

They came packing signs, wearing boots, and demanding to be heard. More than a thousand angry Texans came to the State Capitol, saying no to Texas toll roads and Governor Perry's Trans Texas Corridor transportation plan.

“We are not against roads, we are not against progress, we are not against toll roads, but we refuse to have our land taken for a trade route and revenue generated for private or state profit," Dr. Amy Klein said.

It's not just farmers and ranchers who are frustrated with the state transportation agency.

“We don't even know basics. We truly are in the dark and we're the transportation committee,” State Sen. John Carona R- Dallas said. “And that's our frustration, if not our embarrassment."

It took 18 months and nearly 200 emails to force TxDOT to tell anyone exactly what they're up to. And saying no to elected officials who control your budget has never been popular in Texas.

“We catch a lot of flack, and a lot of it we deserve, but let me tell you, if I don't leave you with anything else, I must impress this upon you--the population growth and density this state faces is unlike anything it's ever faced in its history," said Ric Williamson, chair of the Texas Transportation Committee.

Controversial roads are proposed for future congestion. But some say it's just a money grab by the state.

“It would have cost me $30 on this Trans Texas Corridor to drive from Arlington down here to speak to you fine gentlemen and Miss Shapiro and I’m going to leave it right here for you,” Linda Lancaster, opposes Trans Texas Corridor, said.

The problem, according to experts, is a matter of money--higher construction costs, additional roads needed to handle more drivers and state highway dollars that never stretch far enough.

That's why TxDOT entered into a controversial public-private contract with a foreign company. A Spanish firm that gives the state billions up front-and then collects many more billions in your toll fees long after construction is complete.

The problem is, state lawmakers are just now finding out what the fine print is in some of those contracts, which could bind the state for up to 50 years.

According to TxDOT officials, the Trans Texas Corridor project could cost more than $105 billion including right of way and construction costs.

© 2007 CBS Broadcasting Inc.:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE