Saturday, January 27, 2007 gears up for 80th Legislative Session

Happy New Year From

January, 2007

Copyright 2007

2007 promises to be a great year for, its members, and its efforts to question the wisdom of the Trans Texas Corridor. We have been very, very busy during the last two months despite the holidays. has seen tremendous growth in both December and January. We have jumped from members in 186 counties to members in 199 counties! We had such a surge in new members in December that our newsletter software crashed. Sadly we lost two weeks of newsletter subscriber information. That followed the failure of our primary website computer during the week of Thanksgiving. Not to be discouraged pulled things back together and launched a new website look with the New Year. If you haven't visited in the last month come see our progress. The new website is more member-driven and we encourage you to suggest additional content on every page. Just click the "comment on this page or topic" link.

Lots of Action on Lots of Fronts

Senator Jon Lindsay charges TxDOT with extortion, challenges sending Texas transportation revenues overseas, and denounces selling state highways as terrible public policy. In doing so he joins a growing list of elected officials who are increasingly critical of the strong arm tactics of our Transportation Commission and the bully Chairman Ric Williamson.

Senator Carona, Chairman of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee calls the Trans Texas Corridor plan a mistake and has publicly called for the Governor to replace Williamson with someone else as the Commission Chair.

A Real Public Hearing on the TTC & Toll Roads - March 1st

Senator Carona is stepping up to the plate and asking for real citizen input without subjecting us all to another TxDOT art, dog and pony show. Thursday, March 1, 2007, the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee will hold that public hearing in the Capitol Annex Auditorium. Finally, a state entity that wants to listen to someone other than pro-toll interests. Expect the hearing to start early and go all day. More details to come.

A Public Protest March & Rally at the Capitol - March 2nd

Farmers, ranchers, anti-toll, anti-corridor, and anti-animal tag groups plan a march up Congress Street and a rally on the South step of the Capital building for Friday, March 2. More details to come.

Public-Private Partnerships Coming Under Fire

Some of the new toll road deals around the country are starting to present unanticipated negative impacts. Independent financial analysts are finding them to be of questionable value for the government agencies involved. Others are questioning the effect of their non-compete clauses.

Tolls are Private Tax Collection

A reoccurring theme of higher and higher tolls is developing everywhere governments have a private partner. It is starting to become increasingly clear that there is no transportation facility that the government itself couldn't build, operate and maintain if it just kept and wisely spent only a portion of the windfall profit it is willing to allow private investors to extract from the public.

Welcome to the 80th Legislative Session

The Legislature is open for business. It's time to start calling and writing your Senator and Representative again. Bills are being filed every day and many of them are directly related to the Trans Texas Corridor - most opposed to some aspect of the project. Just today HB-857 was filed to repeal the authority to establish and operate the TTC. Another disolves the Commission and creates an elected Transportation Commissioner. And there are others already filed and many more to come. Stay tuned and we'll let you know how they progress.

TxDOT is Reviewing it's Public Hearing Process

As a member of TxDOT's Trans Texas Corridor Citizen's Advisory Committee, founder Linda Stall is interested in feedback from members who attended last summer's TTC-35 hearings. Please send your thoughts, comments and suggestions to Linda about how the public hearings could be improved so she can share them with TxDOT. Write

Get Your Free Stickers

Thousands of round vinyl NO TTC stickers have been given away and we have more to give away. Send a self-addressed stamped envelope to:
Fayetteville, TX 78940-5468

In return we'll send you two free stickers for your car or truck.

© 2007 CorrdorWatch

To search TTC News Archives click HERE


Friday, January 26, 2007

'Bubble kings' prosper by loading the world with debt


“Behind every great fortune lies a crime.”-Balzac

January 26, 2007

by Bill Bonner
The Daily Reckoning
Copyright 2007

You can tell a leopard by its spots. But can you tell a boom by its fattest cats?


But, first, how do cats get fat?

It is not the goodwill of the baker that puts bread on a man’s table. And thank god. Otherwise, we’d all go hungry. Nor does the busboy bus for the benefit of mankind. Instead, everyone schleps, humps, sweats and toils for reasons of his own.

This insight - that people can pursue their own interests, and in so doing improve the lot of everyone - is the central insight of modern economists, at least those who aren’t idiots. The theory is simple enough; a man bakes bread not to put bread on others’ table, but to put it on his own. That others have bread to eat too is merely the happy consequence of a virtuous system. Likewise, the electrician doesn’t fix your wiring because he likes to see sparks fly. He has to earn a living too, and he does it by providing something useful to others.

The symmetry of it is elegant. The morality of it is appealing. Do unto others...and they will do unto you. And the more you do for others...the more you can expect them to do for you. That is why a properly functioning economy does seem to deliver something close to rough justice. Henry Ford brought the benefits of automobile transportation to the masses. He deserved to make a lot of money. Andrew Carnegie provided the nation with steel. John D. Rockefeller rolled up and rationalized an early market in oil. Who can say these tycoons of yesteryear did not deserve what they got?

Just look along the ‘Gold Coast’ of Connecticut. By the early 20th century, you could find the mansions built by the kings of industry and commerce of the period. Greenwich was home to the Simmons family, who made a fortune in mattresses...the Phelps Stokes family, who made their money in copper products...the Milbanks of Borden Condensed Milk...and ‘Sugar King’ Henry O. Havemeyer. Their grand houses were testament to their grand contributions; they were the people who built the wealth of America.

The rich got their money honestly back then...or, at least most of it. They put their family names on their products and spent their loot grandly. Silk shirts, top hats, spats...great limousines with chauffeurs...grand balls with orchestras...and servants dressed in proper outfits.

But now, what’s this? A new bunch of kings have taken its place in Greenwich, dressed in perma-pressed khaki pants with blue, open-collared shirts. They are richer and busier than any group of bees the honey-pot nation has every produced. Still, don’t bother to look for their last names on your refrigerator...or on your armchair...or even on your liquor bottles.

Paul Tudor Jones, who lives in a house in Greenwich that resembles the mansion in ‘Gone with the Wind’, is a very rich man. But what did he do for the money? He is not a king of industry. He does not bring milk to the masses; nor does he provide copper pipes for their water systems...nor mattresses to rest their weary bones. Mr. Jones is a Bubble King, who manages a $15 billion hedge fund.

In another little town favored by the new moneyed classes, Norwalk, the granite mansion of steamship magnate and head of U.S. Steel, James Augustus Farrell, has fallen into the hands of another Bubble King - Graham Capital Management, a hedge fund with $5 billion in assets and only 150 employees.

Graham’s chief financial officer lives on the other side of Long Island Sound and is said to commute to work by boat. We wonder why. At this point in the credit cycle we are convinced that bubble kings can walk on water!

Last week we argued that the present boom is a ‘fraud.’ This week, we look at those whom the fraud is rewarding so generously. If they are so richly paid, says the theory of modern capitalism, they must richly provide. But what?

Take Lloyd Blankfein. The Goldman Sachs man took the wheel at the firm after Hank Paulsen went on to greater glory at the Treasury Department. In the six months from the time he took the job until the end of the year, he is reported to have earned $53.4 million. Let’s see, that is about $9 million per month...nearly $2 million per week...or about $400,000 every working day.

And here...our eyes roll up to heaven as we wonder: What hath this man done? This is where the theory of meritocratic markets begins to pinch the common man like a starched shirt at a summer wedding. He’s sure it’s what he wants to wear; but he’s beginning to get uncomfortable in it. There is no better system than free and unfettered capitalism, he tells himself. He loathes the thought of mobs at Mr. Blankfein’s door...and thinks he is clever enough to resist the meddlers who want to put a limit on how much a man can earn. Still, he senses that there is something not quite right.

How is it that - in a free market system, where people are supposed to be rewarded according to how much they provide to others - today’s biggest prizes go to those who provide so little? Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Blankfein do not add in any appreciable way to the world’s wealth. Instead, they merely move it around - from middle and lower class taxpayers to the super-rich...from householders to speculators...and, by loading up the world with debt, from the future to the present.

The answer is to be found in the details of modern finance.

Since 1995, the U.S. money supply has risen at about 10% per annum. The world’s supply of gold, meanwhile, has risen at only about 2% per year. And the world’s supply of goods and services only about 3%. A free market presumes that money itself is an honest measure. Otherwise, all the “information” that free prices give is distorted and untrustworthy.

“The introduction of a non-market driven money controller into the financial system invalidates the assumptions on which free-market economic theory is based,” writes Martin Hutchinson. “In 1929-32, as Milton Friedman and Anna Schwarz demonstrated in their ‘Monetary History of the United States’ that non-market player, the Federal Reserve system, kept money too tight and precipitated a depression of a duration and severity that should, under the classical theory have been impossible.”

Central authorities have kept money too loose, deceived a whole generation, and redistributed more wealth than ever in history. Like a cosmetic surgeon moving fat around, they’ve fashioned a financial world so lumpy and lop-sided, its own mother wouldn’t recognize it.

Hutchinson adds:

“Lax monetary policy has continued for far longer than would normally have been possible, fully 12 years, a period of monetary ease and low real interest rates entirely without precedent. For more than a decade price signals have been distorted and resources have flowed in artificial directions....

“Globalization and the greater ease of outsourcing have kept wages down at the bottom of the scale in the [United States] and Europe (an effect which excessively lax immigration policy has compounded.) However at the top of the scale those able to benefit from IPOs, those with excessively large homes, the managers of hedge funds and private equity funds and above all the gatekeepers such as Goldman Sachs, who control access to the overwhelming flood of liquidity, have all benefited far more than they should have in a well-functioning economic system...

“The [United States] and world economic system [have] been distorted in these people’s favor for more than a decade, to the excessive benefit of their net worth. They have enjoyed a bubbling bull market for twelve years, and the wealth of the world has been artificially redistributed into their pockets. They have come to expect such benefits; the Goldman Sachs participation in the Initial Public Offering for the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, in which the firm and its partners, mostly the latter individually, made a $6 billion profit due entirely to its insider position in the world financial markets, might have landed them in jail for insider trading in a more stringent environment but in this market only further fattened their bonus pool.”

Neither central bankers nor bank robbers create wealth. They merely redistribute it.

The mob idolizes holdup men; then, often, it lynches them. What they will do to the central bankers and their accomplices in the financial industry, we wait to find out.

© 2007 The Daily Reckoning:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE


"Bush’s announcement may draw anti-privatization sentiment from U.S. senators during the confirmation process."

Bush nominates Macquarie official as counsel for DOT


Land Line Magazine
Copyright 2007

President Bush has announced that he intends to appoint an official with toll-road investor Macquarie to be the general counsel of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

David James Gribbin, IV, of Virginia is currently the division director for Macquarie Holdings, a Washington, DC, company under the umbrella of the toll-road investor Macquarie Infrastructure Group of Australia.

Before that private sector job, Gribbin was chief counsel of the Federal Highway Administration. Current Transportation Secretary Mary Peters also worked at FHWA at that time.

Bush’s announcement may draw anti-privatization sentiment from U.S. senators during the confirmation process, according to Toll Road News, because Macquarie is one of the principal investors in the controversial Indiana Toll Road lease and others. The confirmation schedule has not yet been announced.

In June 2006, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, himself a former Bush advisor, signed over control of the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road to Macquarie of Australia and Cintra of Spain for 75 years. That transaction netted a one-time payment of $3.85 billion for state highways. Critics say the transaction will leave the state strapped for highway cash in a few short years while the private investors profit from the tolls.

Gribbin said in an e-mail correspondence with Toll Road News that he credits Peters’ recent appointment to DOT secretary as a factor in his nomination. He also gave props to Macquarie for being a leader in the U.S. public-private partnership market for infrastructure.

When Peters moved into her new role as transportation secretary, Gribbin left the FHWA to do volunteer work in Costa Rica. He has a law degree from Georgetown University.

Early in his career, according to a DOT press release, Gribbin was director of public sector business development with Koch Industries.

Macquarie’s U.S. ventures, subsidiaries of Macquarie Bank of Sydney, Australia, have 100 percent interest and control in the South Bay Expressway in San Diego; 100 percent in the Dulles Greenway toll road in Virginia near Washington, DC; 50 percent in the Indiana Toll Road; 45 percent in the Chicago Skyway in Illinois; and 30 percent in the 407 Express Toll Route in Ontario, Canada.

© 2007

To search TTC News Archives click HERE


"The Trans-Texas Corridor would destroy rural Texas as we know it."

Lawmaker Files Bill To Kill Trans-Texas Corridor Project

January 26, 2007

KWTX (Waco, Temple, Kileen)
Copyright 2007

A legislator from San Antonio has filed a bill to kill GOP Gov. Rick Perry's Trans-Texas Corridor toll road proposal.

Democratic Representative David Liebowitz says his measure would take away the Texas Department of Transportation's authority to buy land and do contracts for the project.

Liebowitz told WOAI radio that the Trans-Texas Corridor would "destroy rural Texas as we know it."

Perry's office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Joe Krier with Texans for Safe Reliable Transportation believes the Liebowitz bill, which was filed Thursday, is a mistake.

Krier says the project will make Texas globally competitive in this century and into the next one.

Perry 2002 proposed the Trans-Texas Corridor in 2002.

The $184 billion plan ultimately calls for a 4,000-mile network of transportation corridors that would crisscross the state with separate highway lanes for passenger vehicles and trucks, passenger rail, freight rain, commuter rail and dedicated utility zones.

Work on the Central Texas portion of the ambitious project could begin within four years, the Texas Department of Transportation said last fall as it released a plan identifying near- mid- and long-term phases of the privately developed toll road.

The plan identifies portions of the corridor from north of Temple to near Hillsboro and from Georgetown to Temple as among the likely near-term phases of the project, on which work could begin by 2010 and could be completed by 2013.

The Temple-to-Hillsboro leg of the corridor would cost an estimated $1.1 billion to design and build. The Georgetown-to-Temple leg would cost about $1 billion to design and build.

Tolls would range from about 15 cents a mile for cars to as much as 48 cents a mile for big trucks, which means the cost of a trip along the full length of the 370-mile toll road could cost from $56 to more than $216.

The Texas Department of Transportation signed a contract in April 2005 with the Cintra-Zachry consortium for planning on the project, the most ambitious highway construction effort since the Eisenhower administration launched the effort to build an interstate highway system.

Designers envision a corridor with six separate passenger vehicle lanes and four commercial truck lanes; two high speed passenger rail lines, two freight rain lines and two commuter rail lines and a utility zone that will accommodate water, electric, natural gas, petroleum, fiber optic and telecommunications lines.

Cintra, which is an international design and development firm, and the San Antonio-based Zachry Construction Corporation, originally agreed to provide more than $7 billion for construction of the first segments of the project, which is now expected to cost nearly $2 billion more to construct.

Cintra originally planned to spend at least $6 billion to build the four-lane toll road on the corridor and planned to pay the state $1.2 billion in return for the exclusive rights to operate the toll road for 50 years.

© 2007 Gray Television Group, Inc.:


"There’s still time to rethink the toll roads if legislators decide to enact a moratorium."

Low-Hanging Fruit

Texas faces obvious problems that the 80th Lege should fix. It probably won't.

January 26, 2007

by David Pasztor
The Texas Observer
Copyright 2007

On the frigid day in Texas that Rick Perry was sworn in for the term that will make him our longest-serving governor, one in five Texas children did not have health insurance. By the best estimate available, Texas public school districts needed nearly $10 billion to repair or replace decaying buildings. Texas power plants, factories, and cars continued to pump out more greenhouse gases than any other state, or most countries, for that matter.

David Dewhurst took his second oath as lieutenant governor, vowing to enact a death penalty for repeat sex offenders. At that moment, state prisons were already overflowing, including tens of thousands of mentally ill inmates who have received little in the way of treatment before or after landing in jail. In fact, the state of Texas is now trying to convince the U.S. Supreme Court that one of them—a diagnosed schizophrenic who represented himself at trial wearing a cowboy costume—is just sane enough to be executed.

Tom Craddick won his third term as House speaker after fighting back an insurgent challenge to his leadership fueled in part by growing disgust over the undue influence of rich campaign contributors, whose largesse has been rewarded with limits on lawsuits and protections for homebuilders. The flow of money continues to course unchecked through Texas politics.
Tom Craddick

While the strong have fared well under the leadership of these three men—and the Republican majorities in the House and Senate—the weak have not. State highways are being handed over to multinational corporations to run as profit-making toll roads, but there is not enough money to patch schoolhouse roofs or help battered women hire lawyers when they need protective orders. Many poor Texans who qualify for food stamps and other aid funded by the federal government still don’t get help, because Texas can’t or won’t deliver the federal dollars.

There is, in short, no lack of obvious, substantive problems in Texas that could be fixed.

And for now there is little chance they will be.

Streets of Gold

Since 2001, a clique of powerful Texas officials and their friends in the business community have been laying the legal and legislative groundwork to build a network of superhighways and toll roads. One of the most ambitious road-building plans in the world, the for-pay highways will suck up thousands of acres of farmland, induce development, and do little to reduce congestion along the state’s most glutted highways, most notably Interstate 35.

In the process, thousands of miles of state roads that have already been paid for by motorists through gasoline taxes will be turned over to multinational firms that will collect tolls for the next 50 years or so. The deals have drawn plenty of criticism, but with the help of state legislators and a fleet of Madison Avenue-styled public relations firms, highway officials so far have succeeded in steamrolling the opposition. The current leadership authored the plan and has shown little willingness to back away.

Gov. Perry with the thumbs up

New highway proposals are on the drawing board, and portions of State Highway 130, which will likely be the first leg of what’s called the Trans-Texas Corridor 35, are already open. Perry, Round Rock’s Republican state Rep. Mike Krusee, and Ric Williamson, chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, are the three officials primarily responsible for pushing this new world order.

In the coming weeks, the Texas Department of Transportation—an agency with annual revenues greater than the entire income of some states—will be back at the Legislature trying to widen its powers. It will also be asking for millions to fund a new entity called the Texas Rail Relocation and Improvement Fund, which basically will help two of the largest rail carriers in Texas—Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. and Union Pacific Corp.—upgrade their rail lines and cash in on the staggering growth in freight transportation projected for the next 10 years or so.

TXDOT wants to lift the cap on the 50- to 70-year contracts so it can negotiate more contracts lasting for as long as 100 years with multinationals from Spain, Australia, and Sweden. TXDOT also wants to amend state laws so it can perform its own environmental reviews and approvals. It might seem like an obvious conflict of interest for a department whose main function is to bulldoze and pave, but TXDOT says it could use the latitude to build projects faster, thereby reducing congestion, improving air quality, and enhancing safety.

Though deals are being drawn up, contracts signed, and concrete poured, there’s still time to rethink the toll roads if legislators decide to enact a moratorium and demand an open and honest debate with the public about how to address transportation gridlock. Then voters could be allowed to decide by what road they prefer to travel. That, as the poet says, may make all the difference.

The Best Leadership Money Can Buy

A good argument can be made that Texas’ inability to deal with its pressing problems stems from the ironclad grip a few contributors and lobbyists hold over the state’s policy agenda. The influence of their money drives the privatization debate and is felt in most every policy area, from education to transportation and electricity to social services. In one small example, most Texans, including most legislators, are opposed to school vouchers. The fear is that they will take money away from already underfunded public schools. Yet in 2005, Speaker Craddick scheduled a vote on a voucher bill. Might this have had something to do with the fact that the state’s biggest voucher proponent, hospital-bed magnate James Leininger, is also one of the GOP’s biggest political donors? Most recently, in the 2005-2006 election cycle, Leininger gave more than $5 million to Texas candidates. He’s not the only one. Republican home builder Bob Perry—the biggest political donor in the state and nation—gave $6.7 million to Texas candidates and political action committees, according to campaign watchdog Texans for Public Justice.

A number of simple steps could instantly diminish the power of money over sound public policy in Texas. The first would be an aggregate limit on individual contributions. Texas is one of the few states that have no limits on the size of campaign contributions, allowing mega-donors like Perry and Leininger to swamp an election with an endless flow of cash. During the 2004 election cycle, 87 individuals or couples donated more than $100,000 each to state candidates and committees. This accounted for 10 percent of all political donations. TPJ is part of a campaign-reform coalition that has suggested a modest contribution cap of $100,000 per election cycle. While legislation has been filed along these lines, with the current leadership it’s not likely to prosper.

In June 2006, state District Judge Mike Lynch tossed out a felony indictment against the Texas Association of Business. Lynch ruled that TAB had not expressly advocated the election or defeat of candidates when it spent $1.9 million in secret corporate money on “issue” ads in the 2002 election cycle. Lynch wrote in his order that most “non-technical, common-sense people” would see the ads as clearly violating the law, but that “these statutes and this indictment aren’t equipped to do the job [of keeping corporate money out of elections].” Unless the law is strengthened to strictly prohibit the use of corporate money for electioneering, business interests like TAB will once again use undisclosed corporate money to smear candidates with whom they disagree.

Finally, more legislation would probably not be necessary if Texas had a functioning Ethics Commission. Unfortunately, to call the current commission dysfunctional and ineffectual is charitable. It is a paper tiger, underfunded and, worse, loathe to enforce the law or improve upon it through its rule-making authority. At a minimum, legislators should create a separate law-enforcement division for the commission. They should also provide for a budget based on a funding formula that is independent of the Legislature. Finally, the eight-member commission should be abolished and replaced with one accountable executive director. As with most of what Texas desperately needs fixed, the state’s leaders won’t likely give the keys to the henhouse back to the public this session without a fight.

Additional writing and reporting by Dave Mann, Eileen Welsome, Forrest Wilder, and Jake Bernstein.

© 2007 The Texas Observer:


Dewhurst makes Kirk Watson vice chair of Transportation & Homeland Security Committee

On the Lege

Watson Having Fun Stateside

January 26, 2007

Austin Chronicle
Copright 2007

Well into his first month on the job, Kirk Watson is still bouncing off the walls with the energy of a 10-year-old. "It's just so much fun," gushed the freshman senator, hours before anti-toll-road activists would greet him with boos as he took the chairman's seat at Monday night's CAMPO meeting.

As Austin's former mayor, Watson is no stranger to verbal potshots at public forums; the genteel decorum of his new environs in the Senate chamber must seem like high church when compared to the emotional climates of road-planning meetings and City Council hearings. Or even House sessions, for that matter. "There have been a number of people in the Senate who have reached out to me – from both parties, I might add – since I've been here," Watson said. "Everyone seems to get along. You can tell that even with what are going to be some strong philosophical differences from time to time, the rules of the Senate allow you to take strong stands yet still maintain strong relationships. One of my rules in engagement is to try to create new constituencies without creating unnecessary enemies."

Like other Travis Co. delegates, Watson's interests run in areas of health care and education, but though he did not secure a seat on either of those Senate committees, he did win at least one plum assignment – as vice chair of Transportation & Homeland Security – the job held by his predecessor, Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos. "The lieutenant governor [David Dewhurst] had been very good about talking to me about what my interests were," Watson said. "He called me at home on a Friday night, and we talked about it, and he told me what he was going to do, and I really feel like he did me right." Watson's other committee posts include Business & Commerce (and its Subcommittee on Emerging Technologies and Economic Development), Jurisprudence, and Nominations. "As the senator from Travis County, being able to be involved in transportation, and being the vice chair of transportation, is a big deal," he said.

The Emerging Technologies post isn't too shabby either. "This is also a big deal because it allows me to be involved in everything from electric utilities to higher education. It allows me to have my finger in a number of issues that are of key importance." Watson sidestepped an opportunity to take a swipe at Gov. Rick Perry's controversial Emerging Technology Fund, a state-financed pet project of the governor's that many consider a boondoggle, without the necessary checks and balances to monitor its progress. But Watson does agree the program could use some tweaking. "This is one of those tools that you see other states use very effectively to create technology jobs," he observed. "So I'm looking forward to being on the committee to ask some of those questions about ways to make [the program] work better and be more accountable."

Dewhurst's other committee assignments held few surprises. (The less predictable House Speaker Tom Craddick is expected to announce his committee selections this week.) Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, whose district includes parts of Travis Co., kept all of his committee seats, including chairman of Jurisprudence. The only notable Senate demotion was no shocker. El Paso Dem Eliot Shapleigh had expected to get bumped off the all-important Finance Committee because he had actively campaigned against a fellow Democratic senator, the late Frank Madla, who had been friendly with the GOP leadership. But Shapleigh secured an equally significant committee seat on Health and Human Services. Conservative talk-radio personality and freshman Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston snagged assignments on Education, Intergovernmental Relations, International Relations, and Trade.

Can Texas Cure Cancer?
Watson didn't get his wish for a seat on Health and Human Services, but he'll be part of a team carrying an important bill that could make Texas a leader in the fight against cancer. The far-reaching proposal, which could go to voters in November if approved by the Legislature, calls for investing $3 billion – $300 million a year for 10 years – in a statewide cancer research consortium. About 50 people, including cancer survivor and cycling champion Lance Armstrong, Gov. Perry, and an assortment of medical doctors and research scientists, hashed out details of the plan over lunch at the Four Seasons on Monday. The bipartisan initiative carries the endorsement of two leading cancer-fighting groups – the Lance Armstrong Foundation and Susan G. Komen for the Cure – plus the state's leading research and treatment institutions.

On the Senate side, Watson, a testicular-cancer survivor, will co-author the proposed legislation with Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, and Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, while Reps. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, and Patrick Rose, D-Dripping Springs, will carry the House bill. Watson credited Austin businesswoman Cathy Bonner, who served under the late Gov. Ann Richards, and former Comptroller John Sharp with moving the idea forward. Richards died in September after battling cancer of the esophagus. "There are very few people who in some way haven't been touched by cancer," Watson said. "One of the gifts of cancer for me is that it gave me the freedom to do something else in life. It is an unbelievable gift that I now find myself in a position to maybe do something that can ultimately lead to the end of this disease." end story

© 2007 Austin Chronicle Corp:


"The battle over private toll roads is sure to heat up."

Head-On Collision

January 26, 2007

By Daniel Schulman
Mother Jones
Copyright 2007

Washington Dispatch: With Dem Peter DeFazio heading up the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit and a lawyer for a private-highway company about to become the lead lawyer for the Department of Transportation, the battle over private tolls roads is sure to heat up.

When I met with Peter DeFazio in his office last summer, the Oregon democrat was, to put it mildly, a bit exercised. Having flown in from Oregon the night before after participating in a charity bike ride, he was going on basically no sleep. And, when I asked him about the nascent trend of leasing the nation's highways to the private sector, he was particularly blunt: "It's a scam, basically," he told me. He was even more candid in his comments about Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, the former Bush administration official who pushed to privatize his state's 157-mile toll road, ultimately leasing it for $3.8 billion to a foreign consortium.

Daniels had appeared before the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit that May to talk up so-called public-private partnerships and DeFazio, then the ranking democrat on the committee, questioned him pointedly on the logic of such deals during the hearing. “Are we outsourcing political will to a private entity here?” he asked at one point, referring to the fact that Indiana had chosen to lease its road rather than increase its profitability by raising tolls. When we spoke later that summer, DeFazio, questioning how good these deals are for the public, said Daniels had "just screwed the state of Indiana and the people of the state of Indiana." (By one estimate, the Indiana Toll Road, in state hands, could have earned as much as $11.38 billion over the next 75 years. If so, then Indiana taxpayers will lose out on more than $7 billion in revenue.) "The point is these are very, very tricky things," he said. "You're making a 75 year commitment of vital public infrastructure and you're not getting a very good deal."

As Jim Ridgeway and I report in the current issue of the magazine, there are other problems with these public-private transactions. One of them is the keen interest investment banks, Goldman Sachs in particular, have taken in opening the toll road market to private investment. In doing so, Goldman has played the role of lobbyist, municipal finance advisor, and, controversially, would-be principal investor. In this new market, the potential for conflicts of interest abounds.

Last summer, when I asked DeFazio where he saw this trend going, he said, “if the Republicans retain control of everything, the Bush administration will push this hard I'm sure.” But, he added, “this is nowhere near a done deal.” At the time, he was particularly concerned by a blue ribbon panel, known as the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, which had been tasked, after the passage of the last highway bill in 2005, with the lofty mission of looking at ways to “preserve and enhance the surface transportation system to meet the needs of the United States for the 21st century.” “My understanding is it's turning more and more and more toward a sole focus of how to justify the privatization of infrastructure — just like Bush's Social Security commission," DeFazio told me. With several privatization advocates appointed to the committee, including transportation secretary Mary Peters, DeFazio certainly had reason to be concerned. "If we take control, we'll drag those people in here and remind them of their charge," DeFazio said.

Well, the Democrats have retaken control of Congress and DeFazio, who now serves as the chairman of the Highways committee, has kept his pledge. Yesterday, he gaveled to order the committee’s first hearing of the new Congress, dubbed the “Surface Transportation System: Challenges of the Future.” Among the witnesses, were two members of the transportation policy committee. “You should expect this subcommittee to be very active over the next two years as we conduct oversight on the implementation of the last highway and transit reauthorization, SAFETEA-LU, and prepare to meet the many challenges we will face in crafting the next reauthorization," he said yesterday. Then, he addressed the transportation policy committee directly, perhaps offering a subtle warning. “Congress created the Commission in hopes of getting a thorough and objective analysis of what our surface transportation system needs to become to support our economy in the future, as well as short and long term funding solutions to increase revenue into the Highway Trust Fund.” But yesterday's hearing was just the precursor for what's to come. Expect the real fireworks to arrive when the committee holds a hearing specifically on the topic of private-partnerships, which is expected to take place sometime next month.

Even though DeFazio has now ascended to the key post on the Highways committee, it remains to be seen whether or not his efforts will slow the privatization trend, which has the enthusiastic backing of the Bush administration. To this end, the president recently nominated D.J. Gribbin to be general counsel to the Department of Transportation. Who is Gribbin you might wonder? A former general counsel to the Federal Highway Administration, he has most recently been working on behalf of Macquarie Holdings, Inc., a branch of the very same company that has been so avidly buying up the nation's highways.

Daniel Schulman is an Investigative Fellow at Mother Jones.

© 2007 The Foundation for National Progress:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE


"Critics worry that a control of media by companies that own toll roads may lead to a spin of information."

Macquarie buys 40 Texas newspapers


By David Tanner
Land Line Magazine
Copyright 2007

The Australian investment company that leased the Indiana Toll Road in 2006 is used to being in the headlines. It happens often.

And even though the headlines Macquarie made this week in Texas were not directly related to any toll road, critics of one of the company’s recent business ventures are drawing a parallel.

Macquarie Media Group has purchased 40 community newspapers in Texas for $80 million, according to Editor and Publisher.

Critics worry that a control of media by companies that own toll roads may lead to a spin of information. Many of the small papers included in the purchase have been critical of the privatization of U.S. highways, according to the Bonham Journal, an affected newspaper that has been particularly critical of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

“The toll roads will be under control of foreign investors, which more than frustrates Texans,” the newspaper reported in November 2006.

Truckers know the Macquarie company name from the toll-road subsidiary called Macquarie Infrastructure Group – which is part of an expanding web of investment groups spun by the parent company, Macquarie Bank.

The company arm that invests in media purchased the newspapers Wednesday from American Consolidated Media and its principal investor, Halyard Capital, according to the reports.

American Consolidated Media’s group of 40 community newspapers was founded by Dallas Morning News President Jeremy L. Halbreich, who was quoted in Editor and Publisher as saying Macquarie was interested in “expanding the platform (it) already (has) in the local community papers segment.”

The papers are mainly small, community papers averaging 5,000 in circulation.

Critics of the purchase and of the buyer say the deal could be an attempt to control information about privatized toll roads in small Texas communities.

The Lone Star State has a number of controversial proposals making their own headlines.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has his sights on the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor consisting of a quarter-mile-wide swath of truck-only toll lanes, railway lines and multiple traffic lanes from the Mexican border to the Oklahoma state line.

Although Macquarie is not involved in that corridor proposal, its partner in the Indiana Toll Road lease is – Cintra Concessiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte S.A. of Spain.

Together, Cintra and Macquarie also operate the Chicago Skyway in Illinios and the 407 Express Toll Route in Ontario, Canada.

Macquarie Infrastructure Group operates the privately built South Bay Expressway in San Diego and the Dulles Greenway in Virginia near Washington, DC.

The acquisition of American newspapers was the first of its kind for Macquarie doing business in North America. Macquarie’s media subsidiaries own several media companies around the world, including BBC Broadcast in the United Kingdom.

Parent company Macquarie Bank reported the purchase of American Consolidated Media to its shareholders this week, according to Editor and Publisher. Macquarie Bank is publicly traded on the Australian Stock Exchange.

© 2007 Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE


"Many people feel like their voices have not been heard. They simply have not been listened to. "


Interview: Sen. Transportation chairman John Carona


William Lutz
The Lone Star Report
Vol 11, Issue 22
Copyright 2007

When you’re talking to Texans about cars and highways, you’re guaranteed their rapt attention. As Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas) well knows.

Carona last year won Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s nod for chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security. From toll roads to gasoline taxes to red-light cameras, issues before the panel stretch with the endlessness of a West Texas interstate.

Already the new chairman has filed several noteworthy bills and called for important changes in Texas transportation policies. He discussed it with LSR this week.

LSR: How do you view the Trans-Texas Corridor?

Carona: To this day, there is still a great deal of controversy surrounding the corridor. Many people feel like their voices have not been heard. They simply have not been listened to. It’s one of the reasons why on March 1 we’re going to hold a hearing here in Austin and allow the public to come forward and speak directly to the Legislature about their concerns.

If you have rural interests - you’re a farm or ranch owner - you’re very concerned about eminent domain.

If you are a taxpayer in this state, you are very concerned about what amount of state money, if any, will go into the project, how long it will take to be built.

If you are an elected leader in one of our communities along I-35, you’re concerned about what the Trans-Texas Corridor may do in terms of diverting business away from your center of commercial activity in your small town or region.

So there are a lot of reasons to be concerned.

Of course, the underlying concern [with the corridor] being whether or not it’s good public policy to have a private company operate a major Texas roadway, as would be the [case with the] corridor should it ever be built.

LSR: What is toll equity, and what changes should be made to it?

Carona: The term toll equity has been coined in that the Transportation commission and TxDOT will have to financially supplement a toll project that may not have as great a volume in one part of the state as in others. Not all areas are really automatically attractive for toll construction. Yet at the current time with limitations on the state funding for roadways, that might be the only way build a toll [road].

The question comes in with the subjectivity of the process. Many people feel that the formula that’s been used to provide equity - the amount of supplement for one toll project in one part of the state - hasn’t necessarily been consistent with the way the money has been applied in other toll projects in other regions. I think you’ll see the Legislature take a much more careful approach in that, and really begin to examine whether or not there ought to be toll equity and whether or not these projects are being handled in a fair and consistent fashion. And I think that’s an appropriate thing for the Legislature to do.

LSR: What are comprehensive development agreements, and what should the Legislature do with them?

Carona: Comprehensive development agreements are agreements between the public (in this case the state) and private companies to be able to build roads in this state. And these Comprehensive Development Agreements, or CDAs, are entered into after they are placed out for bid with private companies. Most recently - again - the conversation involving CDAs has to do with major toll projects throughout the state.

But there are some concerns about these comprehensive development agreements, which the Legislature authorized into law over the last six-year period. In particular, the concern is these agreements contain provisions that limit competition. The non-compete provisions actually keep the state from building other free roads that might ultimately compete with the toll road over whatever the length of the CDA is.

[CDA length] is also part of the concern. These CDA agreements can extend 70 years. And, in fact, the Transportation commission would like to take that limit off altogether, where, in theory, private operators could come in and operate these Texas roadways for a 100-year period of time. I think that’s inappropriate. It goes far beyond what ought to be the reasonable authority of the Texas Transportation Commission. So those are the kind of changes we’ll be looking to make in the years ahead. [Carona’s SB 149 would prohibit non-compete clauses in CDAs.]<>

© 2007 The Lone Star Report:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ric Williamson: "The road to Hades is paved with good intentions."

Emergency vehicles must pay tolls except during pursuits and emergencies, state commission decides

Standard for Central Texas is stricter than policies on other Texas toll roads.

January 25, 2007

By Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2007

DUNCANVILLE — Austin police, fire and emergency medical vehicles will have to pay tolls on Central Texas' three existing turnpikes unless they are pursuing a suspect or responding to an emergency, the Texas Transportation Commission decided today.

The policy for other Texas Department of Transportation tollways around the state will be more forgiving for public safety vehicles, allowing them to use turnpikes toll-free if they are "on duty."

The tougher policy in Central Texas is due to binding promises made to investors in 2002 when the Transportation Department issued $2.2 billion in bonds to build Texas 130, Texas 45 North and the Loop 1 extension. About 41 miles of what will eventually be 66 miles of those three roads opened last fall.

The department promised that all vehicles would pay to use the toll roads, with certain exceptions for military vehicles, construction vehicles and "marked public safety vehicles . . . traveling under flashing lights and sirens."

The policy passed today by the Transportation Commission in its monthly meeting alters the agreement slightly, forgoing the requirement for lights and sirens. Phillip Russell, the department's turnpike director, said it would be up to public safety agencies to later confirm that a given trip was an emergency or active police pursuit so the toll charge can be canceled.

Russell said he trusts public safety agencies not to abuse what will essentially be an honor system. The new policy will take effect immediately. By April 27, commissioners said they will evaluate the policy to see if public safety agencies are abusing the privilege.

"I think it will be OK," Russell said.

The policy does not apply to the 183-A tollway, which in March will be the fourth Central Texas turnpike to open. That road is being built and will be operated by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, which will set its own policy on public safety vehicles.

It also won't apply to any future tollways opened in the Austin area by the state Transportation Department because those roads would not be subject to the 2002 bond documents.

The commission is trying to keep toll exemptions to a minimum and avoid a slippery slope that led to the North Texas Tollway Authority granting no-toll passes to about 3,000 vehicle owners.

"The road to Hades is paved with good intentions," commission Chairman Ric Williamson said. "We're really sensitive about this."

Police had argued for the more forgiving "on-duty" policy on the theory that officers should never find themselves questioning whether a particular police trip would be worth the toll cost.

In other business, the commission approved so-called "video tolling" for the three Austin toll roads and set the toll rates at 33 percent above the charge for vehicles with toll tags. Drivers will be able to drive through toll tag lanes and receive a bill in the mail; the charge would be 60 cents for the typical exit or entrance ramp charge, compared with 45 cents for toll tag customers and 50 cents for cash customers.; 445-3698

© 2007 Austin American-Statesman: www.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Mike Krusee is expected to return as Chairman of the House Transportation Committee

House awaits committee assignments

Speaker expected to announce his picks later this week

January 24, 2007

By Laylan Copelin
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2007

Texas House members are anticipating their committee assignments by the end of the week, although Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, has not said when he will announce his appointments.

Trying to balance the wishes of 149 House members is always difficult, but there is sharper focus on Craddick's choices this session given the heated battle over his re-election two weeks ago.

The 68 members who voted against him on a key procedural vote are wondering what price they will pay for their failed coup. Yet Craddick has insisted he heard the complaints about his tight hold on the leadership reins and he will listen to members more this session.

Former Speaker Pete Laney, now retired, said a House leader has too few options to make everyone happy. There are about 40 chairmanships.

"You only have a certain number of positions to fill," Laney said. "You've got to take care of the ones who supported you."

But the message from within Craddick's circle is that members shouldn't expect "draconian" retaliation for backing Craddick's opposition.

For the Central Texas delegation, Reps. Mike Krusee, R-Williamson County, and Dan Gattis, R-Georgetown, are pretty much set.

Expect Krusee to continue leading the House Transportation Committee, where the state's toll road program will remain a point of contention. Gattis is likely to keep his coveted assignment to Appropriations, the committee that oversees state spending. The only question is whether he will slide off of State Affairs, another prominent committee, to Natural Resources because of the importance of water issues.

The more intriguing question is what happens to the two Central Texas Democrats who supported Craddick: Dawnna Dukes of Austin and Patrick Rose of Dripping Springs.

Dukes is already on Appropriations. It's unlikely she will be the next Vilma Luna, the Corpus Christi Democrat who served as vice chairwoman of that committee until her retirement last year.

But leading the Appropriation's subcommittee on health and human services would dovetail with her legislative agenda and her Travis County district.

Another possibility might be scrutinizing state contracts, particularly on the children's health insurance front, as chairwoman of the General Investigating Committee.

Although Rose is vice chairman of the Civil Practices Committee, don't expect him to lead the panel. Rose probably will move on after four years of refereeing fights between trial lawyers and business owners over ground rules for lawsuits.

Rose likely would remain on higher education because Texas State University is in his district and he has championed student financial aid. But his reward for supporting Craddick remains a mystery.

There are many options. As many as one-fourth of the 40 committee chairmanships could change hands, either because of the November elections or because the chairmen opposed Craddick's re-election as speaker.

The other members of the Travis County delegation backed Craddick's opponent, so they are unlikely to assume leadership roles. They will focus on trying to get assigned to committees that match their personal and legislative interests.

Seniority can assist long-term members. Half of the committee assignments, except Appropriations, are doled out based on seniority.

With 16 years, Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, is the longest-serving member from Travis County. His seniority should keep him on Health and Human Services, a committee he once led.

The all-important Appropriations committee was led by Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, who failed in his bid, along with Rep. Brian McCall, R-Plano, to unseat Craddick.

Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, is considered the front-runner to become Appropriations chairman, but others have applied.

Chisum worked hard for Craddick's re-election and has 18 years in the House. He's also been the point man for social conservatives on legislation dealing with abortion rights or banning same-sex marriages.

Speculation among House members is that Craddick can't — or won't — punish everyone who opposed him. Pitts may remain as a member of the Appropriations Committee he once led.

Even if Pitts and McCall were handed their heads, key lieutenants might fare better: Reps. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, or Alan Ritter, D-Nederland, for example.

© 2007 Austin American-Statesman: www.


"Our message has been 'Don't toll roads that are already paid for' and that will be our message."

Toll road plans received with little enthusiasm

TIP needs more funding; Texas Toll Party opposes incurring new surcharges


By Tyler Sandson
The Daily Texan
Copyright 2007

Plans for the construction of more toll roads proposed in Phase 2 of the Transportation Improvement Program were met with criticism and strong oppositions at Monday night's meeting of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. The plan calls for additional tolling to fund road maintenance and the construction of new highways.

The additional funding couldn't come sooner, said Bruce Byron, executive director of the Capital Area Transportation Coalition. With reallocation of taxes and revenue, funding for transportation gets "the short end of the stick," Byron said. "It has taken 20 years to build 183 and 290, because you can only build as fast as you have the money."

Despite the resistance to the extra taxing and additional toll roads, Byron feels that the changes are crucial to the healthy development of Austin's transportation.

"I feel that if the average person understood why we transition to toll roads, we wouldn't receive so much opposition," he said.

The plan to mend the $10 billion funding shortfall is to raise the gas tax 3 cents in addition to the installation of tollbooths on parts of U.S. 183, U.S. 290, Texas 71 and Interstate Highway 45 Southwest. If either of these plans are not approved, the funding shortfall will indefinitely increase, said Steve Pastelmick, a member of the Coalition.

The program proposes to establish tolls on existing highways in East and Southwest Austin, some in the form of managed lanes, which are similar to HOV lanes. Many individuals and groups went to show their objection to the proposal, among them the Texas Toll Party, a political action committee against the tolling of pre-existing highways.

The rally was very successful, claims Sal Costello, founder of the Texas Toll Party, the major opposing party at the rally. The committee delayed voting on the proposition until summer, now treating it as a separate entity from Phase 2 of the program.

The group claims that if the roads are already paid for, the resulting revenue is unaccounted for.

"Our message has been 'Don't toll roads that are already paid for' and that will be our message," Costello said.

Alternatives to tolling are currently being researched.

© 2007 The Daily Texan:


Macquarie snaps up community newspapers in Texas and Oklahoma

Macquarie Media buys US newspaper group

Macquarie Media grab2

January 24th, 2007

The Sydney Morning Herald
Copyright 2007

Macquarie Media Group Ltd has swallowed American Consolidated Media for $102 million and says it has an appetite for more US community newspaper businesses.

The Macquarie Bank-backed fund, which already has broadcast assets, is "in a number of discussions" with other US newspaper businesses, including some exclusive negotiations, but declined to offer more details.

The US community newspaper industry is large with about 7,800 different newspapers and has highly fragmented ownership, so there are opportunities for growth.

ACM publishes 40 newspapers distributed in nine regional communities in the US states of Texas and Oklahoma.

In the 11 months to November, it posted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of $8.9 million with an EBITDA margin of 25.1 per cent.

The acquisition is expected to be yield neutral in fiscal 2007, Macquarie Media said.

A spokesperson declined to give further forecasts.

"But obviously this is a first step in a broader strategy to build a larger portfolio that has the potential for improved market coverage and operating efficiency," the spokesperson said.

She said the operating environment in which ACM sits is "quite different" from Australia's declining newspaper market.

"We're talking about a community newspaper business, so it's kind of hyper-local, with a highly targeted audience and very local news.

"So there's little competition from other media.

"There's also significant barriers to entry because ACM has got the local franchisees and news gathering that works, and they're difficult to replicate."

Population growth in Texas and Oklahoma is generally above US averages making those states solid growth markets, the spokesperson added.

Macquarie Media managing director Alex Harvey said, as an asset class in general, community newspapers generate stable cash flows from predominately local advertisers, have little dependence on circulation and classified advertising, and limited capital expenditure requirements.

Of the 40 publications picked up in the deal, 16 are what the company calls "shopper" and specialty publications, 19 are weekly newspapers and five are dailies.

The ACM buy will be funded by a refinancing of Macquarie Media's local radio arm, Macquarie Regional Radio Networks, and the issue of Macquarie Media securities to some of ACM's existing investors.

Final settlement of the acquisition is expected in early February, subject to regulatory approval.

ACM was acquired from shareholder groups including Halyard Capital and Arena Capital Partners and several New York and Boston-based private equity funds.

It represents Macquarie Media's first foray in the print medium, and in the US, adding to its cache of Australian regional radio stations, its 13.8 per cent stake in Southern Cross Broadcasting Ltd and its 60 per cent stake in cable TV provider Taiwan Broadband Communications.

© 2007 AAP:


Loop 9: Another private toll road and future feeder for TTC-35

Loop 9 unveiled

See more articles about Loop 9 in TTC News Archives: [HERE]

January 24, 2007

Waxahachie Daily Light
Copyright 2007

MIDLOTHIAN — Massive maps were unrolled and Ellis County got a first look last week at two routes for Loop 9, a proposed six-lane toll-road that would run east and west across north Ellis County.

Texas Department of Transportation engineers and project administrators hosted a public meeting at the Midlothian Conference Center to allow property owners and area residents to look at initial plans for the project and ask questions about the estimated $1.8 billion, 44-mile project that could see right-of-way acquisition begin in two years.

“What we are showing this evening are two alternative routes and we are seeking public input on which would be the best route,” said Mike Nesbitt, Loop 9 project manager. “We are also seeking input on what we are calling ‘no-build.’ That would be for the state to build nothing.”

Local property owners and residents gathered around two 20-foot-long maps that showed a northern and southern route. The project begins north of Seagoville and heads south before turning west and moving north of Ferris, Red Oak, Ovilla and Midlothian.

Both the northern and southern alternative have the proposed highway crossing U.S. Highway 67 North near Skyline Acres and U.S. Highway 287 West near Padera Lake.

“We have a number of milestones on this project,” said Nesbitt. “We will have a final series of public hearings in a year and should obtain a record of decision in about two years. At that point we would begin obtaining right-of-way.”

Nesbitt said if the project moves ahead the state would break ground on Loop 9 in four years and vehicles could be driving on it by 2015.

The project also has to obtain environmental and design approval before any of that happens.

Nesbitt urged residents to contact local and state leaders with their concerns. He also urged people to look at the maps, plans and information at

Loop 9 is not the Trans-Texas Corridor, although highway officials have repeatedly said Loop 9 could take a similar track as the proposed TTC. Loop 9 is also being designed and proposed as a feeder-road to the TTC should it be built.

Loop 9 will be a toll-road. Being a private project has allowed the process to move faster than a state or federal construction project that has to wait on government dollars.

The Midlothian meeting was the second of two public meetings this month. The first meeting was held at Seagoville High School on Jan. 16.

Nesbitt said the idea of a major highway encircling the Metroplex is not new.

The Greater Dallas Planning Council first identified the concept of an outer loop freeway around the Dallas metropolitan area in 1964. In 1968, the Texas Highway Commission authorized this outer loop around Dallas and designated it as part of the highway system to be known as Loop 9.

The project languished for a number of years. Nine months ago TxDOT was told to develop plans to build and complete the project in 20 years. The southern sector, which would impact Midlothian, would probably be built first.

TxDOT has joined Dallas County as a partner in completing the draft environmental impact statement by December 2006. Due to the work already completed on the study, the region — and especially southern Dallas County cities — may be able to capitalize on an opportunity to get the project built faster as a potential connector to the Trans-Texas Corridor-35.

“The southern link is the farthest along,” said Eddie Haas, project manager for Parsons Transportation Group. “We expect a decision by 2008 from the federal government on its support from the project. At that point TxDOT would get right-of-way and we would go to work.”

Following direction from the task force, the proposed corridor has changed from a parkway configuration to a facility with three toll lanes and two to three access lanes in each direction within a 430-foot right-of-way. The study consultant, Parsons, is conducting detailed investigation of conceptual design changes and of corridor connectivity and operations.

Parsons is refining the original alignments to reflect the TxDOT requirement of 85 mph design specifications.

“It will not be posted for 85-mph,” Haas said. “But the curves and exits will be engineered and designed to 85-mph speeds.”

Engineers are designing the route so it will cross highways 67 and 287 at right angles.
Loop 9 has two projected paths. The southern-most path would cross Holcim quarry.

Holcim officials have pointed out Holcim has owned that quarry for 20 years and infringing on the quarry could reduce the plant’s lifespan as much as 10 years.

Midlothian Mayor Boyce Whatley said the project could define Midlothian’s northern border and fuel economic growth and development.

“The frontage roads have the potential for economic development as do the interchanges - of which we could have two,” Whatley said. “We are looking at how this affects our ETJ with Cedar Hill and what areas are currently in the city limits and what areas are strictly county.”

Developers are already snapping up property along the proposed route.

The Loop 9 Feasibility and Route Alignment Study was authorized in 1995. The limits of the study corridor were defined as the proposed extension of State Highway 360 in Ellis County to Interstate 20 in Mesquite.

The North Central Texas Council of Governments initiated a similar effort for the corridor continuing west of Highway 360 to beyond Interstate 35W near Crowley.

In 1997, study efforts resulted in a “technically preferred alignment” that was approved and/or adopted by many of the cities and agencies involved in the study. However, due to some problems with the preferred alignment, study efforts were suspended before a “locally preferred alignment” was identified.

The present day Loop 9 study picks up where previous study efforts left off, studying the original alignments as well as newly identified alignments, and incorporating new federal mandates pertaining to the development of an environmental impact statement.

© 2007 The Waxahachie Daily Light:


Perry: "Four years ago I laid out a plan and the Trans-Texas Corridor subsequently became statutorily the law of the land."

Land grab fears

January 24, 2007

By Jonathan Blundell
Waxahachie Daily Light
Copyright 2007

A recent poll posted at, shows that visitors to the site consider land acquisition as the most pressing issue needing to be addressed regarding the planned Trans-Texas Corridor.

Visitors to the site chose acquisition of property by an overwhelming 64 percent of the vote, with 14,280 votes.

The next highest vote was for connectivity to cities with only 12 percent, or 2,659 votes. The Web site is published by the Texas Department of Transportation to release information regarding the planned Trans-Texas Corridor.

The Trans-Texas Corridor is a large transportation plan envisioned by Gov. Rick Perry and TxDOT to provide high-speed lanes for personal vehicles, trucks and rail to criss-cross the state over the next 50 years. The roadways will be constructed using future tolls on the road.

The recent poll has received 22,288 total votes, making it the highest ranked poll on the site in terms of total votes.

The next highest poll on the site received 3,243 total votes.

Visitors to are allowed to vote once in the poll, which appears on the front page of the Web site.

In August 2006, Perry told the Waxahachie Daily Light that the TTC would be a multi-pronged solution to the state’s transportation needs.

“(As governor) It is a multi-pronged view that you must have,” Perry said. “There’s dealing with transportation infrastructure - which is the reason why four years ago I laid out a plan to deal with the congestion, air pollution, safety issues and the Trans-Texas Corridor subsequently became statutorily the law of the land, if you will. And now it’s being constructed.” Perry also touted the TTC as the first plan for the state’s transportation needs in the last 20 years.

“For 20 years there were people who looked at it and just scratched their heads and said, ‘Well, we’ll try to keep up and keep these roads open that we have,’” Perry said. “But there were no plans to create new infrastructure in the state. Economic growth as well as degradation of our environment and degradation of our citizen safety was about to become very pronounced in this state.”

After accepting public comments from 54 public hearings across the state last year, including two in Ellis County, TxDOT has begun the environmental impact study for the proposed north to south toll road.

And in late September, TxDOT released a plan proposing the first phase of the Trans-Texas Corridor, TTC-35.

The plan includes a connection to Interstate 35 south of San Antonio and a loop surrounding the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Pending final environmental clearance to determine the ultimate alignment of TTC-35, TxDOT has reported that construction could begin by 2011.

Under the master development plan, Cintra Zachry, a consortium led by Spanish and Texas firms, has suggested that the toll road extend south of San Antonio, connecting to I-35.

In North Texas, the toll road should connect to I-35 north of Dallas-Fort Worth and according to the plan, run all the way to Oklahoma.

Also included in the master plan is the southern section of Loop 9 around Dallas Fort Worth, a project that has been under study since the 1960s.

A definitive route between Hillsboro and Loop 9 has not been determined but early plans suggest a possible route through Ellis County, between Waxahachie and Ennis, a route through the Highway 360 corridor, or a route to the west of Johnson County.

In July, the Ellis County Commissioners joined the North Central Texas Council of Governments in support of a resolution to move the corridor from the eastern half of the county to the Highway 360 and Loop 9 corridors.

Ellis County, along with the cities of Carrollton, Cedar Hill, Dallas, Duncanville and Lancaster, have each passed resolutions recently supporting the Highway 360 alternative.

The court passed a second resolution in mid-November to encourage the Texas Legislature to re-examine the legislation surrounding the development and construction of the TTC.

The September report released by TxDOT indicates private investment could potentially be worth $8.8 billion with additional concession fees to the state for other transportation projects possibly reaching $1.9 billion.

TxDOT is currently reviewing comments and input gathered at the public hearings from last year. The comments will be addressed in a report to the Federal Highway Administration, which must give approval to the plan before plans for TTC-35 can advance to a second phase, or

Tier Two level.

Approval from the FHWA is not expected until this coming summer.

TxDOT anticipates that it could be four years before a final alignment for TTC-35 could be approved by FHWA.

E-mail Jonathan at

© 2007 The Daily Light:


Transportation Secretary pushes "Corridors of the Future" program

Remarks For the Honorable Mary Peters, Secretary of Transportation

Transportation Research Board, Washington, D.C.

January 24, 2007

Office of Public Affairs
U.S. Department of Transportation
Coyright 2007

Thank you, Bill Wulf, for the kind introduction. I have had the good fortune to work with the Transportation Research Board, and with many of you, over the course of my career. And I look forward to continuing that terrific working relationship as Secretary of Transportation.

As someone who has spent a good deal of time working in the public sector, I have developed a keen interest in American history, which is a tale of more than 230 years of innovation, ingenuity, and invention. It is really quite striking to realize that while the cast of characters and circumstances might vary, America’s resourcefulness does not.

Since our earliest days, our creativity and cleverness have helped us tackle the most challenging and complex tasks before us.

And now, the time has come once again, to harness our pioneering spirit and powerful imaginations to tackle the most pressing issues facing this country.

Today, our Nation is faced with growing threats to our economic, diplomatic, and national security. So, we must take serious steps to protect our families and our future.

Keeping America on track toward a more secure, more prosperous future means keeping America competitive today and tomorrow.

And the key to remaining competitive in an increasingly global economy is affordable, reliable energy. Unfortunately today, the majority of our energy supply comes from a single source – and that is oil.

America’s addiction to oil puts us at great risk. So, in order to safeguard and strengthen our security, it is clear that we must find alternatives.

Last evening during his State of the Union speech, President Bush laid out his comprehensive plan to improve our energy security by reducing America’s gasoline consumption by 20 percent in the next 10 years.

Americans rely on gasoline to get them where they are going--- whether it is driving to work, taking the bus to school, or flying across the country for business. When the oil supply is disrupted, regardless of the reason, prices rise and our families and businesses suffer. This kind of unpredictable hardship must come to an end.

The President’s new energy security plan aggressively increases the use of alternative fuels and increases automobile efficiency.

Together, these steps are a formula for a more stable and secure energy future. That is because they will increase and diversify domestic energy supplies in the marketplace, while at the same time reducing gasoline demand to lower the prices we pay for fuel.

America is on the move and that is not going to change. But, what is going to have to change is our obsession with oil.

Developing clean, domestic, affordable supplies of energy will not only help us meet our energy demands, but also the challenges of a global economy. And it will play a major role in reducing America’s gas consumption by 20 percent over the next 10 years.

Turning to technology and investing in innovation will allow us to expand the use of alternative and renewable fuels in the marketplace, defending drivers against supply disruptions and the gas prices volatility that results from them.

Since 2001, the federal government has spent nearly $12 billion to develop cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable alternative energy sources -- and we are on the threshold of incredible advances.

The President’s new plan will build on this momentum by increasing the supply of alternative fuels from 3 percent of the share today to 15 percent of all automobile gas consumed by 2017 --- a nearly five-fold increase in the fuel standard.

The people in this room and your colleagues in the field hold the key to making this 15 percent displacement goal a reality. In fact, the President made it clear last evening that the Nation is relying on you to do just that.

American researchers and scientists are on the cutting-edge when it comes to developing the technology and other advancements that have made our economy more powerful, productive, and prosperous.

So, whether it is finding a way to improve crop yields, developing advanced battery technologies for hybrid or electric vehicles, or discovering a cost effective way to produce cellulosic ethanol and bring it to the marketplace, your efforts are key to our energy stability and security in the future.

Alternative fuels hold great promise for helping to reduce our addiction to oil. But, there are additional opportunities to conserve gas while protecting our economy and environment as well.

A proven way to conserve gasoline is to reform Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards-- the average miles-per-gallon fuel economy of a vehicle.

Under his new energy security plan, President Bush wants to reform and increase CAFE standards for cars and, for the third time as President, begin working to increase those for light trucks and SUVs. And for the first time, we will begin the reform process with a clear savings target at the outset.

The President believes we can reduce our gasoline consumption by up to 8.5 billion gallons in 2017, which amounts to a savings of about one million barrels of oil a day. These savings would be cumulative over time, assuming a four percent annual increase in efficiency, beginning with Model Year 2010 for passenger cars and 2012 for light trucks and SUVs.

Reforming CAFE standards according to the President’s plan would allow us to cut our gasoline consumption 5 percent. And when combined with the savings from alternative fuels, we could reduce our gasoline consumption a total of 20 percent in the next 10 years.

The plan is careful to incorporate flexibilities that minimize the cost to consumers while maximizing the fuel economy of vehicles. For example, it would give auto companies the opportunity to buy and sell CAFE credits, helping to reduce the cost to the industry and consumers alike.

Since 2001, the Bush Administration has raised CAFE standards twice and successfully reformed the way the program determines standards for light trucks twice. We did this by emphasizing the size of the vehicle, which reduces incentives to game the system and reduce safety. The approach also recognizes that different consumers want different automobiles and preserves consumer choice.

Establishing standards in this way will reduce our fuel consumption by encouraging automakers to bring the same energy and innovation to fuel economy that they have been applying to design, safety, and product reliability for decades.

And while these reforms for light trucks and SUVs are critical, passenger cars still account for around 40 percent of all domestic gasoline consumption. So, the President’s plan focuses on reforming CAFE standards for cars first.

Today, because of our successful reform of the light truck CAFE program, we know how to establish a far more precise, equitable, and safe CAFE program for passenger cars. However, we currently lack the legal authority to do so.

Neither Congress nor the Department of Transportation has ever increased this standard beyond the original level set back in 1975. So, it is important that if passenger car standards are raised, Congress does not simply increase the number within the existing, 30-year old framework. It is critical that we first make the necessary structural reforms to avoid compromising safety and threatening jobs.

So, in the coming months, we will revise and resubmit our 2006 proposal which provides the Department with the authority to set the fuel economy standard in a way that protects safety and encourages innovation.

If given the authority to reform CAFE for passenger cars, we will replace the one-size-fits-all system with a size-based approach, as we did with light trucks.

Based on the automakers’ confidential product plans, our experts can objectively measure how much fuel saving technology we can require before the cost outweighs the benefit.

This method of formulating a fuel economy standard is science-based, subject to review and public comment, and spreads the burden of compliance across all product lines. And it is far more likely to produce an optimal result---President Bush’s savings target of 8.5 billions gallons of gas--- than if Congress were to raise the number arbitrarily.

A reformed CAFE program will do much to conserve gasoline. However, we will not save the fuel we need if we do not also curb congestion.

Today, congestion is choking our cities, clogging our highways and airways, and complicating our lives. Real world examples are endless, painting a telling picture of how gridlock is taxing our economy and our environment.

President Bush is urging Americans to stop accepting congestion as a fact of life or as just another cost of doing business.

That is why as part of his energy security plan, the President provides 175 million dollars to support the Department’s on-going congestion relief efforts. These new funds will supplement monies that have already been committed to helping state and local governments find fresh and innovative ways to reduce gridlock.

One of the most promising options for combating out-of-control congestion is to turn to technology and invest in innovation. And that is exactly the kind of approach we are embracing as part of our anti-congestion initiatives.

Foremost among these approaches is the new technological capability to accurately price the growing costs of congestion. In fact, there are few ideas that hold more promise to reverse, not simply just slow, the growth of traffic tie-ups.

We have seen this concept used on a network basis in other countries and in individual facilities in the United States. However, we have yet to see a broad demonstration here.

We believe that when you combine such new approaches to pricing highway systems with expanded commuter transit services, commitments from employers to expand work schedule flexibility, an expansion of real-time traffic information, and other successful operational strategies, we can demonstrate that a sustainable approach to congestion relief is no longer theory.

The Department is already taking steps to work with state and local communities to test a combination of these leading-edge approaches and technologies and bring them into the mainstream. Now, the President has called for additional funding to be made available.

The President will also ask Congress to provide funds to support our efforts to begin tackling congestion along our most critical trade and travel corridors.

Our competitive Corridors of the Future program seeks to accelerate the development of trade and travel corridors. The goal is to identify projects that have the greatest potential to relieve traffic based on current and projected growth patterns and target them for long-term investment.

Corridors of the Future encourages public and private entities to work together to leverage their resources, while at the same time cuts red tape so vital projects can be developed, built, and put into use faster than ever before.

We received nearly 40 applications for our Corridors of the Future competition. And tomorrow and Friday, we will announce eight corridor projects that will receive further consideration. These projects will be one step closer to getting on the fast track toward solving the chronic congestion that is keeping this Nation from reaching our full potential.

The technologies and leading-edge approaches that exist today are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reducing both congestion and our reliance on gasoline to fuel our lives. The fact is, while Washington can provide options and incentives, the innovation and ingenuity that we need will come, as it always has, from forward-thinking Americans like you.

Last night, the President of the United States spoke to the American people, saying that the state of our union is strong. He challenged us to keep that union strong by keeping America competitive. Energy security and energy independence are vital to achieving this goal.

If we work together, we can make the President’s vision for a more secure, more prosperous America a reality. And that means that we must once again rely on our resourcefulness and turn to technology to keep America moving throughout the next chapter of our Nation’s glorious history.

Thank you.

© 2007 U.S. Department of Transportation:

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