Tuesday, May 15, 2007

TxDOT leaks 'mysterious letter' to sabotage NTTA bid against Cintra on SH 121

Tollway chief steamed over leaked memo

May 14, 2007


(Dallas/Ft. Worth)
Copyright 2007

PLANO — It was nearly a done deal.

The Texas Department of Transportation was going to award operation of the new Highway 121 toll road in Collin County to Cintra, a private company based in Spain.

But in mid-March, state lawmakers let the North Texas Tollway Authority enter the competition late.

NTTA Chairman Paul Wageman told lawmakers that he could top the Cintra deal and keep toll road money in North Texas.

Days later, a mysterious letter began making the rounds in Austin blasting the NTTA proposal. It alleged "there is a serious flaw," and also said the "NTTA proposal begins to make no sense."

The letter added this analysis: "The proposal shows the likelihood of bankruptcy."

"What was disturbing was is that it was being circulated anonymously—that the author was not willing to put his or her name on it," Wageman told News 8.

The critical letter also found its way onto a toll road news web site, where it was billed as an analysis prepared by investment banker Goldman Sachs. Sachs says that characterization is false.

News 8 has learned the letter originated in a state office building at the Dallas division of the Department of Transportation.

Deputy engineer Robert Brown admits that he was the author. "I'm not sure how they got it," he said. "It wasn't our intent for it to get out."

Nevertheless, Brown said he stands by his criticism of the NTTA in what was intended to be an internal memo targeted at his boss.

But NTTA officials are asking the state to disqualify brown from any further involvement in deciding who receives the lucrative 121 Toll contract.

"We are just going to absolutely object," Wagemen said. "I think it's patently unfair to us, and I think the public would expect nothing less than the department to utilize people who are objective."

NTTA says it will submit a formal bid in the coming days that will help drivers on Highway 121 save on fares.

The only thing Wageman asks in return is a fair shake.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

© 2007 WFAA-TV: www.wfaa.com

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