Thursday, June 28, 2007

NTTA expects Texas Transportation Commission to award SH 121 'without condition.'


Tollway authority driving forward on Texas 121 project

June 28, 2007

Paul N. Wageman, Board Chairman, North Texas Tollway Authority
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2007

For half a century the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) has been a time-tested provider of mobility projects in north Texas. So, it was only fitting that the NTTA would submit a proposal to finance, build, operate and maintain the SH 121 toll project. As Chairman of the Board of Directors of the NTTA, I was pleased that our Board voted unanimously to move forward a proposal which provides superior financial benefits to the region we serve.

Our Board's confidence was ratified on June 18, 2007, when the Regional Transportation Council (RTC) voted overwhelmingly for the NTTA's proposal and thus recommending it to the Texas Transportation Commission as the region's preferred delivery method for SH 121. The council members should be commended for their hard work on behalf of the citizens of north Texas. Ultimately, the RTC's decision was based upon a thorough review of both proposals resulting in a determination – by nearly a three-to-one margin – that the financial value of the NTTA's commitment was greater than that of the private sector's commitment.

I had the pleasure of discussing the merits of our proposal with local elected officials, community leaders, legislators, and most importantly, our customers. Let me explain why the NTTA SH 121 proposal is the best for the citizens of north Texas.

First and foremost, the NTTA has secured commitments to finance an upfront payment to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) of $2.5 billion and annual payments over time equal to $833 million in 2007 dollars. The NTTA's upfront payment and annual payments greatly exceed the amounts provided in the private-sector proposal. Additionally, it is estimated that SH 121 will generate additional revenue of $1.3 billion in 2007 dollars which will be leveraged for future road projects throughout north Texas.

The NTTA is seeking to deliver the SH 121/Chisolm Trail, US 360, US 170, the East Branch of the President George Bush Turnpike from IH 30 to IH 20 and the Trinity Parkway. SH 121 enables us to play an even greater role in meeting the region's mobility needs.

Additionally, according to a recently released study by Drs. Bernard L. Weinstein and Terry L. Clower at the Center for Economic Development and Research at the University of North Texas, the NTTA proposal will contribute economic activity by increasing local labor income by $1.5 billion; increasing property income by almost $480 million through royalties, rents, dividends and corporate profits; and adding more than $106 million through local tax revenues, including state and local sales and use taxes, license and permit fees.

The study concludes that "The NTTA proposal to build and operate the SH 121 toll road is superior to the private sector proposal for a number of reasons." Those reasons include the fact that "because the NTTA doesn't have to pay dividends to shareholders, all of the net proceeds after expenses associated with building and operating 121 ... can be invested in new tolled and non-tolled highway projects in the four-county north Texas region."

In addition to the superior financial value recognized by the RTC, the NTTA's proposal provides the citizens of north Texas more local input over a vital regional transportation asset. The NTTA serves the citizens of this region and is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors who live and work here.

Finally, the NTTA is a trusted public provider of mobility projects. In fact, the RTC and the Texas State Legislature singled out the NTTA as having the performance history and expertise to be designated the provider of toll collection and enforcement functions on all toll roads and managed lanes in the region.

The NTTA is part of the fabric of north Texas. In partnership with the communities we serve in Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant Counties, the NTTA helped spur the growth and development of this vibrant region. On June 28, the Texas Transportation Commission will be asked to affirm its earlier commitment to follow the wishes of the north Texas region. The direction given to them by the RTC was clear and unequivocal. We certainly expect the Texas Transportation Commission will follow the lead of the RTC and award to the NTTA without condition the SH 121 toll project.

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