Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"Do what you said you would do. Don't do something else and then make excuses."

Day of decision


Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2007

Put up or shut up, members of the Texas Transportation Commission. Do what you said you would do. Don't do something else and then make excuses.

On Thursday, the commission will meet in Austin to consider a recommendation from the Dallas-Fort Worth area's Regional Transportation Council on a contract to build the Texas 121 toll road in Denton and Collin counties. Last week, the RTC picked the North Texas Tollway Authority to do the work, rejecting an earlier proposal from the Spanish company Cintra.

It was a wise choice. NTTA's bid holds the greatest financial value for the region. Winning the lucrative Texas 121 project would enable the local public agency to remain strong in its mission to serve the region's transportation needs.

The Texas 121 project has been winding its way through the state transportation bureaucracy for more than two years. Meanwhile, people who travel that route have been driving on increasingly congested lanes built as frontage roads for the planned larger road. It's a daily nightmare for them.

The Transportation Commission -- most notably through its chairman, Ric Williamson of Weatherford -- has preached for years about the need to build toll roads because there is not enough revenue from gasoline taxes to pay for all of the new highways that Texas needs. To put it mildly, that message has not gone over well in some parts of the state.

Four years ago, the Transportation Commission gave bodies such as the RTC in each of the state's major metro areas the job of guiding their own transportation planning and encouraged them to make toll roads part of that process. The commission told local agencies to set their own priorities and make their decisions -- and then promised to support those decisions.

Now it's time to follow through with that promise. The commission must ratify the RTC's decision on Texas 121 and approve NTTA for the work.

Cintra is building major portions of Gov. Rick Perry's Trans-Texas Corridor, and in February it looked as if the company would get the Texas 121 contract also. But when it became clear that NTTA had been discouraged from bidding, some North Texas legislators cried foul. Last week, in a head-to-head comparison, NTTA's bid beat out Cintra's.

This has gone on long enough. Thursday is not a day for further delay. It is not a day for the commission to play politics. It's a day to let the local decision prevail and to award the Texas 121 tollway project to NTTA.


To contact commission members, go to:

Then select "TxDOT Administration" from the drop-down list.

Commissioners are: Chairman Richard F. "Ric" Williamson, Weatherford; Hope Andrade, San Antonio; Ned S. Holmes, Houston; Ted Houghton, El Paso; Fred Underwood, Lubbock.

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