Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Sen. Ogden: No need for 'exotic' funding measures

Highlights Tuesday from the Texas Legislature


April 3, 2007

The Associated Press
Copyright 2007

Gov. Rick Perry, joined by U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, spoke out Tuesday against proposed legislation that would put a two-year moratorium on private toll road projects.

Perry said the state's current transportation system, which involves public-private partnerships to build toll roads, needs to continue if Texas is to keep attracting big companies and jobs.

Perry visited the Samsung Austin Semiconductor expansion site in north Austin to make the pronouncement. He noted that eight years ago, Dell Corp. decided to expand in Tennessee rather than Austin because of road congestion in Texas' capital city.

"We've come a long way in a short few years," Perry said. "We're pouring more concrete, we're building more highways than any other state in the nation."

Perry said the state will always own the land beneath private toll roads and said there will always be a free road alternative for motorists. He said federal highway money is drying up. Both he and Peters said it's important to find road funding methods beyond the gas tax.

Peters, who met with some state legislators about transportation earlier in the day, said Texas is blazing a trail in highway construction that's being followed throughout the country.

The toll road moratorium bills in the House and Senate remain pending in committees. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said the Senate version could get voted out of committee as early as Wednesday.

Also on Tuesday, the Senate voted to allow transportation officials to use up to $6 billion in bond money — twice the current amount — for road projects.

Although the words "toll roads" were avoided in debate, the sponsor of the bill, Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, left little doubt his bill reflects concerns many lawmakers are raising over private toll road projects.

The measure should give the state plenty of money it needs as opposed to "exotic" funding measures, Ogden said.

© 2007 The Associated Press: www.ap.org

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