Friday, April 27, 2007

Texas tollers again resort to strong-arm tactics to thwart moratorium.

Feds threaten Texas over superhighway funds plan

Transportation Department opposes bills delaying NAFTA project

April 27, 2007

By Jerome R. Corsi
© 2007

The Federal Highway Administration has threatened Texas with the loss of federal highway funds if the state continues with its legislative plan for a two-year funding moratorium on construction of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

In the 4-page letter, FHWA Chief Counsel James D. Ray advises Michael Behrens, executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation, some of the pending legislative proposals, if signed into law, "could affect the State’s eligibility for receiving Federal-aid highway funds."

Ray praises Texas for being "the nation's leader in developing new transportation facilities through public private partnerships."

But the letter expresses concern that the Texas Legislature is nearing passage of a two-year moratorium blocking planned Trans-Texas Corridor toll-road projects.

"We do not see the benefit of a moratorium if the State has already committed to legislation for a continuation of the program," Ray wrote, adding, "If Texas looses (sic) the initiative it now has, private funds now flowing to Texas will go elsewhere."

"We stand ready to work with Texas officials to ensure continued compliance with all of the applicable Federal laws and regulations. We wish to make sure that Texas can continue to receive the full benefits available under the Federal-aid Highway Program," he concluded.

David Stall, co-founder of the website, alerted WND the federal agency was preparing the letter.

During a Wednesday morning teleconference, James Ray, chief counsel and acting deputy director of the FHWA, reportedly told the Trans-Texas Corridor Citizens Advisory Committee that the federal agency was preparing a letter to place the Texas Department of Transportation on notice that the proposed action by the Texas Legislature would jeopardize access to federal highway funds.

The Trans-Texas Corridor Citizens Advisory Committee is a group of citizens organized by the state transportation department to offer advice on projects concerning the Trans-Texas Corridor.

The federal agency did not respond to WND requests for comment, but Stall had an opinion.

"As you might guess, we greatly object to federal interference in state affairs and the attempt to influence public policy at the state level," Stall told WND via e-mail.

Stall told WND that Ray's letter was prompted by a request from Texas Rep. Mike Krusee, Williamson County, who sent a note to the FHWA asking for an opinion specifically on HB1892, the House version of the moratorium.

Krusee, a Republican, is a long-time supporter of the TTC toll-road project. In November 2006, he was re-elected with barely 50 percent of the vote in a campaign in which his TTC support was contested.

WND has reported previously that two different bills have passed the Texas House and Senate, and both are aimed at imposing a two-year moratorium on all public-private partnerships that would involve construction of new toll roads financed and operated by private foreign investment groups.

The large margins by which the moratorium bills have been approved suggest the legislature has the votes to override an anticipated veto by Gov. Rick Perry.

© 2007 Inc.:

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