Saturday, December 22, 2007

"This road needs to be built now, so we can meet the deadlines and commitments to the region and to the Dallas Cowboys."

Agreement reached on 161 toll road


Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Cpright 2007

ARLINGTON -- State agencies have finally agreed on business terms to get the proposed Texas 161 toll road project back on track and partly open by the time the Cowboys move to Arlington in 2009 -- and substantially completed by the 2011 Super Bowl.

After 23 sessions of tense negotiations during the past month, the North Texas Tollway Authority and Texas Transportation Department compromised late Friday to narrowly beat a state-imposed midnight deadline.

"We made a series of compromises that helped solve this thing," said Amadeo Saenz Jr., executive director of the state Transportation Department.

Texas 161, which has been planned for 50 years in Irving and Grand Prairie, is considered a crucial reliever route for Texas 360 in Arlington. The road is envisioned as a southwestern extension of the tollway authority's President George Bush Turnpike and a main route to the stadium from greater north Dallas.

Regional planners say they hope that it will be under construction by mid-2008.

The estimate at issue

About 10:30 p.m., the two agencies agreed on a crucial business term -- a probability line of 82.5 percent -- that over the next few months will be used to figure out how much money can be generated on the road through tolls to pay for other area road work. The result will likely be hundreds of millions of dollars for work across the region.

The probability line is essentially an educated guess that revenues generated by the road will be at or below 82.5 percent of its potential. The closer the percentage is to 100, the higher the risk that the agency building the road won't be able to cover its costs.

The tollway authority initially wanted the line set at 50 percent, while the Transportation Department favored 95 percent.

Consulting firm Wilbur Smith Associates has conducted a traffic and revenue study and will make projections for Texas 161 by Jan. 18. The tollway authority will then have several months to decide whether to accept the project.

If the authority rejects it, the Transportation Department can farm it out to one of four private companies interested in building the road.

However, tollway authority Executive Director Jorge Figueredo said late Friday that he is "confident the value will be such that our board will elect to take it."

Early this year, the Transportation Department was midway through the process of farming out the toll road to private developers when state legislators passed a law giving the Plano-based tollway authority first dibs on toll projects in Tarrant, Collin, Dallas and Denton counties.

If the tollway authority takes the project, it would control Texas 161 for 52 years.

Saenz said the state will likely get less money by letting the tollway authority build the road instead of a private firm.

"Are we sure we're getting the total highest value? I don't know yet," Saenz said. "The important part is, this road needs to be built now, so we can meet the deadlines and commitments to the region and to the Dallas Cowboys."

Construction timetable

No matter who builds the road, any further delays would be a disservice to Grand Prairie officials and residents who have supported the project despite a federal environmental lawsuit in the 1980s and toll road opposition in the 1990s, said Michael Morris, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

The Texas 161 frontage roads and bridges would be built by 2009, according to the Regional Transportation Council's plan to speed up the project. The main lanes from Texas 183 to Interstate 30 would be open by 2011.

The main lanes south of I-30 would open by 2012.

The tollway authority has also committed to break ground on Fort Worth's Southwest Parkway in 2008 and is in the early stages of planning Texas 170.
Gordon Dickson, 817-685-3816

© 2007 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

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"There are more than 20 other potential toll projects in North Texas. Three more –including the Trinity Parkway– will be negotiated relatively soon."

Agreement keeps Highway 161 toll plan moving

Terms don't require NTTA to build road; valuing deal is next

December 22, 2007

The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2007

The State Highway 161 toll road project avoided a death blow Friday when the North Texas Tollway Authority reached an agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation over how to value the 52-year contract to collect tolls on the 10-mile road.

The two agencies agreed on hundreds of business terms that together will determine the price NTTA will be asked to pay for the tolling contract.

The agreement does not obligate NTTA to build the road, which will run through Grand Prairie and help relieve traffic on State Highway 360 and at the new Cowboys stadium in Arlington.

If NTTA decides against operating the road, the state could ask private companies to do so, a scenario TxDOT officials say would produce even bigger dividends for the region.

But Friday's agreement does mean that the road will almost certainly be tolled, a huge priority for local transportation officials and leaders in Grand Prairie desperate for an alternative route to relieve congestion on Highway 360.

Scheduled for completion in time for the 2011 Super Bowl, Highway 161 has long been touted as the region's next big toll road after the State Highway 121 project in Collin, Denton and Dallas counties.

"I am very, very happy," NTTA executive director Jorge Figueredo said after an agreement was reached at 10:28 p.m. Friday, just 92 minutes ahead of a midnight deadline that, had it been missed, would have scuttled plans for the toll road entirely.

Amadeo Saenz, executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation, said the agreement didn't give TxDOT everything it wanted, but that the compromise was healthy for the agency and would result in Highway 161 getting built sooner.

"The important part is this road needs to be built now," he said.

The next step is for the agencies' financial advisers to use the agreed-upon business terms to determine by Jan. 18 how much the toll contract is worth. State law then gives NTTA and TxDOT 90 days to accept the figure or agree upon a new one. Once a figure is accepted, NTTA will have another six months to decide whether it wants to build the road.

But yesterday's deadline was the critical step in ensuring that the road will be tolled – even if NTTA ultimately decides against operating it itself.

Michael Morris, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, mediated the talks, which stretched over 23 meetings since Nov. 15 – and over 13 hours on Friday alone.

On Friday night, he said he hopes the project will produce as much as $910 million – far less than the nearly $4 billion, counting construction, that NTTA agreed to pay in return for the Highway 121 contract. But the money from Highway 161 is critical to other projects, including adding six new tolled high-occupancy vehicle lanes to the LBJ Freeway, Mr. Morris said.

There are more than 20 other potential toll projects in North Texas, and three more – including the Trinity Parkway – that will be negotiated relatively soon, Mr. Morris said.

Mr. Morris and the leaders of TxDOT and NTTA said they were hoping the next discussions proceed more smoothly.

"It's got to be easier next time," Mr. Figueredo said.

© 2007 The Dallas Morning News Co

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Friday, December 21, 2007

"We have a real shot at stopping the use of taxpayer money to promote the TTC.”


AG admits more taxpayer money to be spent on ad campaign

TxDOT attorney admits ad campaign is ongoing


by Terri Hall
Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF)
Copyright 2007

Austin, TX, December 20, 2007 – Today in Travis County District Court, Judge Orlinda Naranjo did not sustain TxDOT’s objection to the requested material’s merits to the case, but ruled TURF’s document request was worded too broadly and needs to be resubmitted as part of the discovery phase of TURF's lawsuit against TxDOT for illegal lobbying and use of taxpayer money to sell the public on toll roads.

“After tweaking the wording of the request a bit, we’ll be back in business. The Judge clearly agreed we have a right to get access to this information. She wanted to be sure we weren’t buried in piles of irrelevant documents,” notes a positive Terri Hall, Founder of TURF.

The court also granted TURF another 30 days to give them time to reword the document request and to depose witnesses based on the information discovered.

The most significant admission from the State was that the Keep Texas Moving ad campaign does have multiple phases (as the documents we presented to the court show that the State tried to deny), and that TxDOT is obligated to hand over any new documents related to any current lobbying or that relate to spending public money to promote toll roads.

“That’s HUGE! We went from a sworn affidavit saying the ad campaign is over therefore the case is moot, to an admission the campaign has multiple phases and is ongoing. We believe TxDOT is in the midst of rolling out Phase II or III of the Keep Texas Moving campaign since the public hearings for Trans Texas Corridor (TTC) 69 project start in February and are the target for the next phase of the campaign. The State admitted it MUST turn over any current information related to these allegations. It keeps the case alive and means we have a real shot at stopping the use of taxpayer money to promote the TTC!” Hall predicts.

The Attorney General Counsel representing TxDOT, Kristina Silcocks, tried to attack the merits of the case once again stating there is no ongoing lobbying of Congress and argued the Forward Momentum report sent to Congress in January that asks for legislation to allow them to buy back and toll existing interstates is in the past and cannot be explored in this lawsuit.

“Once again, TxDOT is wrong. An appropriations bill before the President RIGHT NOW includes an amendment PROHIBITING TxDOT from buying back interstates. There is CURRENT legislation pending as a direct result of TxDOT’s lobbying (in this case, as a backlash to TxDOT’s lobbying efforts). So for the State to tell the court TxDOT isn’t currently engaged in efforts to effect the outcome of legislation or support for toll roads, they’re quite mistaken,” notes Hall.

This lawsuit is brought pursuant to § 37, Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. TxDOT’s expenditure of public funds for the Keep Texas Moving campaign is illegal, and an injunction prohibiting any further illegal expenditures in this regard.

TxDOT has violated § 556.004 of the Texas Government Code by directing the expenditure of public funds for political advocacy in support of toll roads and the Trans Texas Corridor, and have directly lobbied the United States Congress in favor of additional toll road programs as evidenced in its report, Forward Momentum as well as the Texas Legislature when it tried to defeat HB 1892, a private equity toll moratorium bill.

October 18, 2007, Judge Naranjo granted TURF a 90 day continuance and allowed them to move to discovery and take depositions. On Monday, September 24, Judge Naranjo did not grant a temporary restraining order (TRO). TxDOT unearthed a law that says they can advertise toll roads (Sec 228.004 of Transportation Code) and the citizens invoked another that says they can’t (Chapter 556, Texas Government Code). The burden to obtain a TRO is higher than for an injunction.

“TxDOT is waging a one-sided political ad campaign designed to sway public opinion in favor of the policy that puts money in TxDOT’s own coffers. School Boards cannot lobby in favor of their own bond elections, and yet TxDOT cites its own special law to line their own pockets at taxpayers’ expense,” says Hall.

Hall also notes that TxDOT’s campaign goes beyond mere advertising, “It’s propaganda and in some cases, the ads blatantly lie to the public! In one radio ad (scroll down to radio ad “continuing maintenance”), it claims it’s not signing contracts with non-compete agreements in them and yet last March TxDOT inked a deal with Cintra-Zachry for SH 130 (read about it here) that had a non-compete clause (which either prohibits or financially punishes the State for building competing infrastructure with a toll road).”

On August 22, 2007, TURF filed a formal complaint with Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle to investigate TxDOT’s illegal lobbying and asked him to prosecute TxDOT for criminal wrongdoing. See the formal complaint here. The petition seeks immediate injunctive relief in a civil proceeding to prevent any further lobbying or expenditure of public funds to promote toll roads.

To read about TURF’s victory in court October 18 and to read TURF’s amended petition and supplemental affidavits go here. (Scroll to the bottom for links to the petition and affidavits)

© 2007 TURF

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"The best-laid plans of front-loaders may have backfired."

Ron Paul Will Surprise You

December 21, 2007

By: John Zogby
Copyright 2007

If we have learned one thing this year in American politics, it's that there is no such thing as an inevitable President. In my last column, I outlined my thoughts about the Democratic presidential candidates - now, the Republicans.

Rudy Giuliani: I believe Rudy had a flawed strategy right from the outset. The whole idea was that his name recognition and national numbers would turn him into the inevitable candidate and that he needn't spend time in or worry about Iowa or New Hampshire because his national numbers would just automatically lift him up. If for some reason they didn't, he would be a sure shot to win in Florida, and then proceed into the big states on February 5, where he would be automatically have the money on hand to be able to compete in the television markets of New York and California and umpteen other states.

I always thought that was a mistake, because Iowa is extremely important, and a loss there, particularly an embarrassing loss, would produce several days of negative stories. The primary system is all about momentum and I think everyone is beginning to see that. He can still win the nomination, but even he has begun to see that he might end up in fourth- or even fifth-place in Iowa, third- or fourth-place in New Hampshire. Now, he's even down in Florida, because someone else - Mike Huckabee - has gained momentum in Iowa and built on it nationally.

Mitt Romney: Romney, interestingly, had the exact opposite strategy of Rudy: to spend a lot of money in the early states and build a compelling lead, so he'd roll in Iowa and New Hampshire, and then carry that momentum with him. And for a while it looked like that was working. He can still win the nomination. I suspect he will end up doing well in Iowa and he continues to lead in New Hampshire and is among the leaders in South Carolina and Florida. What he did not count on was Mike Huckabee.

Mike Huckabee: In addition to Huckabee's numbers going up dramatically in Iowa, South Carolina and Florida, we've also seen a dramatic decrease in the numbers of undecideds among Republicans. Translated: Many conservatives have told us they were unhappy with the field of candidates and were looking for a conservative leader and winner. Frankly, they hadn't considered Huckabee because he just didn't look like he had a chance. You combine his strong numbers with conservatives and respectable showing among independents and moderates, because he appears to be so affable and rational, and the Republicans right now are experiencing a Mike Huckabee "boomlet." The key question, is, however, are these just Huckabee's few days in the sun, at a time of the year when daylight is at its shortest?

John McCain: Talk about a little boomlet. John McCain seems to be getting his now, too. His candidacy bottomed out several months ago for a number of reasons, including internal campaign disputes and overspending, as well as a redefinition of McCain that undefined the John McCain of 2000: the war hero, the maverick, the straight-talker. But for those Republicans who want to believe that the surge in Iraq is working, that issue is less on the table, no longer hurting McCain, and he's very much back to being the maverick warrior. McCain's numbers in Iowa are disastrous, because he never campaigned there and he opposes ethanol subsidies. But he may just do better than expected, moving into third or fourth place, then on to New Hampshire where he runs a respectable second for now. His biggest problem is he has no money.

Fred Thompson: I've never seen the point of his candidacy. I still don't get it. There are some who suggest that he's caught some fire and he could come in second or third place in Iowa, as Huckabee or Romney fades. But right now, his candidacy has all the qualities of Baltic Avenue in a Republican sea of St. Charles Places. (Note: If Thompson wins the nomination, my comments here are for entertainment purposes only.)

Ron Paul: He's going to do better than anyone expects. Look to Paul to climb into the double-digits in Iowa. Why? He's different, he stands out. He's against the war and he has the one in four Republicans who oppose the war all to himself. Libertarianism is hot, especially among free-market Republicans and 20-somethings. And he's an appealing sort of father figure. He's his own brand. All he needs to do is beat a couple of big names in Iowa, then New Hampshire is friendlier territory. After all, the state motto is "Live Free or Die."

Tom Tancredo, Duncan Hunter, and Alan Keyes are also running and they have no chance.

There is a real possibility that there will be no clarity on the Republican side after February 5. The best-laid plans of front-loaders may have backfired. Figure out that mixed metaphor.

© 2007 Newsmax.:

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"At this time it is uncertain as to how the final selection process for [advisory] committee representatives will be conducted in Austin.”

Cox likely choice for TTC group

December 21, 2007

Gainesville Daily Register
Copyright 2007

Though there have been many hearings and town hall meetings regarding a controversial toll road project, the Texas Department of Transportation hopes to make public input more official through the establishment of advisory committees.

Sheila Cox, a resident of southeastern Cooke County and a vocal opponent to the preliminary plans for Trans-Texas Corridor 35, said she is likely to be nominated as a county representative for Cooke County on a “segment advisory committee” of the project.

County Judge Bill Freeman said in an interview this morning he has “full intentions” of naming Cox to the committee to represent Cooke County. Freeman said he was only given one spot to fill on the segment committees, but could also make suggestions for appointees to a larger committee regarding the entire TTC-35 project.

TTC-35 is a proposed multi-lane toll road, railway and utility corridor to stretch from Laredo to Gainesville under current plans, which is part of a planned network of multi-modal roads, railways and hubs known as Trans-Texas Corridor. It would have limited on and off ramp access and would include various inland port areas to connect with other transportation systems.

The plans have drawn considerable protests in Cooke County and other counties along the proposed route, including a meeting in Woodbine which drew at least a thousand people. Some protesters say TTC-35 is part of plans to bolster the North American Free Trade Agreement and would increase illegal immigration. Supporters say the toll road is necessary to prepare for increased interstate highway traffic as the population increases.

On Dec. 14 TxDOT announced in a press release the Texas Transportation Commission recently approved rules establishing the committees which will not only make recommendations regarding an overall network of similar toll roads but also for individual corridor segments.

Committee members are expected to be formally named early next year. Cox said County Judge Bill Freeman appointed her.

“Last October, I sought the appointment to serve as the county representative for Cooke County on the segment advisory committee which will discuss issues facing the various segments of the larger corridors such as TTC-35,” Cox said. “Appointments are made by the county judge in counties where there will be an impact from the corridors and Cooke County Judge Bill Freeman has appointed me to serve in that capacity.”

Cox said she is of the understanding there would be a limit of 24 members on each segment committee.

“... So at this time it is uncertain as to how the final selection process for committee representatives will be conducted in Austin,” she said. “I certainly look forward to the opportunity to serve Cooke County in this capacity and to not only be a strong voice to share with them the concerns of our citizens in Cooke County, but also to offer suggestions for solutions to those concerns.”

Calls to TxDOT public affairs were not returned by press time.

According the press release from TxDOT’s central office in Austin, the advisory committees are being developed “to provide public input on where the Trans-Texas Corridor should be located and what it should look like.”

“The committees will enhance public involvement during on-going Trans-Texas Corridor environmental studies and provide guidance on how the corridor can be developed to best serve local communities,” the release said.

Ted Houghton, a member of the Texas Transportation Commission, said in the release the committees will have a significant impact in shaping the Trans-Texas Corridor.

“Through the advisory committees, local officials and citizens can be more involved in the planning process than ever before,” Houghton said.

Separate committees would be established for both the TTC-35 and Interstate Highway 69/Trans-Texas Corridor projects in general. Ideally, according to TxDOT, both the segment and the general project committees would include property owners, business owners, representatives of local governments, technical experts and other interested citizens.

I-69/TTC is being considered in a 650-mile long study area stretching from far south Texas to extreme northeast Texas.

All advisory committees will report their recommendations to TxDOT’s executive director, Amadeo Saenz, according to the release.

According to the Oct. 12 Texas Register, which chronicles rules passed by various state government bureaus, departments and commissions, TxDOT also seeks the input of economic development and chamber of commerce officials, “members of the environmental community,” TxDOT staff and professional consultants representing TxDOT.

The committees would be abolished by Dec. 31, 2009, unless the Transportation Commission deems otherwise.

“It is very encouraging for me to know that TxDOT is working with the Texas Transportation Commission to establish advisory committees for the TTC,” Cox said. “There has been a considerable amount of citizen complaints that advisory committees consisting of local representatives had not been part of the planning process for the corridors. Hopefully, this will be an effective remedy to those complaints and also that TxDOT and the Texas Transportation Commission will be attentive to the input received from the advisory committees.”

The Cooke County Judge’s office may be contacted at 668-5435.

Reporter Andy Hogue may be contacted at
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Texas AG's Office: "Some requested information is protected from disclosure."

Toll road critics' data request overruled

Judge says suit asking information from TxDOT casts too wide a net

Dec. 20, 2007

Houston Chronicle
Copyright 2007

AUSTIN — Toll road critics cast too wide a net in seeking information from the Texas Department of Transportation in a lawsuit, a state judge ruled Thursday.

Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, led by Terri Hall, of San Antonio, contends the Keep Texas Moving toll road campaign violates a state prohibition on state officers or employees using their authority for political purposes. The group also contends the agency has illegally lobbied elected officials.

The transportation agency has said it is acting legally and that Hall doesn't have standing to bring the lawsuit. It objected to a large part of the group's document request made by TURF in an effort to prove its case — as too broad and too vague.

State District Judge Orlinda Naranjo, of Travis County, agreed with the assessment by Assistant Attorney General Kristina W. Silcocks, representing the transportation agency.

But over state objections, Naranjo extended the time that TURF has to gather information after the group's lawyer, Charles Riley, said he wants to try again with a narrower request for agency documents.

A hearing on the heart of the case now isn't expected before early March, rather than late January.

In its original information-seeking effort, TURF asked the state agency for documents including "any effort by TxDOT to advocate in favor of toll road policy and/or any effort by TxDOT to seek, promote or encourage the passage or defeat of any legislative measure related to tolling."

The group also sought all documents "concerning any trips, meetings, meals and/or conferences where TxDOT promoted and/or discussed tolling policy," and all documents concerning an agency report to Congress saying that states should have the option to buy back parts of interstates and toll them. "That is so broad," Naranjo said of one request, adding of another, "That could be the kitchen sink."

Silcocks said " and that the agency already had given a large number of documents to TURF.

"We produced thousands of documents," including e-mail, she said.

Hall said after the hearing, "It was almost all just invoices and junk, and most of it was duplicate."

© 2007 Houston Chronicle:

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Judge sustains TxDOT's objection that TURF's request for information was too broad

Group Fights TxDOT in Court over Toll Roads


KLBJ News Radio
Copyright 2007

A group against toll roads and the Trans-Texas Corridor is fighting the state's transportation department for e-mails and letters that it says could prove political influence in advertising the benefits of toll roads in Texas.

"[We want to] stop the 'Keep Texas Moving' [advertising] campaign and any other similar effort to, for a political purpose, skew the information out there and skew the political debate in favor of a toll road policy," says Charles Riley, one of the attorneys for the group "Texans United for Reform and Freedom".

In the 419th District Court on Thursday, Judge Orlinda Naranjo heard arguments from Riley, as well as Christine Silcox, from the Texas Attorney General's Office, before ruling to sustain TxDOT's objection that TURF's request for information was too broad. TURF is asking for e-mails and records from TxDOT, alleging that they could prove political influence through the advertising messages on billboard, print and internet.

"I'm trying to get you two to sit down and narrow your request," Naranjo told Riley, before directing him to resubmit his request for information. Judge Naranjo has given TURF until January 18 to submit a revised and more pinpointed version of their request for TxDOT e-mails and letters.

© 2007 Emmis Austin Radio Broadcasting Company:

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“Their word is only as good as long as they stay in office.”

TxDOT: Six lanes for Texas 46 is key


By David Saleh Rauf
The Herald-Zeitung (New Braunfels, TX)
Copyright 2007

State transportation officials said Wednesday converting a portion of Texas 46 in Comal County into a six lane highway wouldn’t have much of an impact on the area.

The finding, which came from an environmental assessment, showed no significant social, economic or environmental impact and gives the Texas Department of Transportation the green-light to begin widening Texas 46 from Kerlick Lane to David Jonas Drive.

The project calls for transforming nearly six miles of the current two-lane road — from Loop 337 to just east of David Jonas Drive — to six lanes. One lane will be added to the segment of Texas 46 from Kerlick Lane to the loop, and the six lane-highway is expected to dwindle back down to two lanes just before David Jonas Drive.

A 1.4 mile stretch between Loop 337 and Farm-to-Market 1863 is expected to be built first at a cost of about $25 million. TxDOT’s schematics for the projects also include an overpass at the intersection of Texas 46 and Farm-to-Market 2722.

TxDOT officials have said they expect to begin construction on the $65 million widening and improvement project by this summer. Construction could take three years to complete and is expected to help alleviate congestion and improve safety on one of the county’s and the city’s main arteries.

TxDOT officials anticipate daily traffic on Texas 46 east of Farm-to-Market 2722 will increase from 14,000 vehicles in 2006 to around 40,000 vehicles by 2030. TxDOT engineers also calculated that the rate of crashes for this portion of Texas 46 far exceeded the statewide average from 1998 to 2001. Officials did not present more recent data regarding accidents.

About 75 people attended Wednesday’s meeting to see the future of Texas 46 west of the loop. Only six spoke during the public comment portion, including two elected officials who praised the deal. Most of the others voiced moderate concern for the project. TxDOT officials did not respond to the public’s questions at the hearing, citing policy that prevents them from doing so.

A portion of the Texas 46 improvement project will paid for by the county. Comal County officials entered into a pass-through agreement with TxDOT to expedite improvements to Texas 46 by about 20 to 30 years. The county will loan the state $16 million to widen Texas 46 and another $16 million for improvements to US 281. The state will pay back the county 10 cents for every vehicle mile traveled over the construction area in a given year.

“I don’t like using your tax dollars to subsidize the state,” Pct. 2 Commissioner Jay Milikin said. “But it will be the best money your commissioner’s court will have spent in a long time.”

During the public speaking portion of the hearing, Milikin addressed a hot-button transportation topic, re-emphasizing the commissioner’s court stance that no toll roads will be built on existing roads in the county.

“As commissioner’s we try to avoid using four letter words but that doesn’t always happen,” he said. “The four letter word you won’t hear on this project or the US 281 project is t-o-l-l.”

But anti-toll road activist Pat Dossey, of San Antonio, said the county’s pass through agreement does not guarantee that TxDOT won’t convert Texas 46 or US 281 in Comal into toll roads in the future. Dossey, a member of the outspoken anti-toll road group Texans Uniting for Reform & Freedom, said the agreement to not toll existing roads in the county is contingent on the current commissioners and their anti-toll road stance staying in office.

“You don’t know who will be in office five years from now,” he said. “Their word is only as good as long as they stay in office.”

© 2007 Herald-Zeitung:

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"This particular partnership is so one-sided it is an embarrassment to citizens as well as the users of the toll road."

Is an Australian Bank Fleecing Greenway Drivers?

December 19, 2007

By Nicholas M. Horrock
Loudon Connection (VA)
Copyright 2007

U.S. Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-10) last Thursday asked Gov. Tim Kaine (D) to urge the General Assembly to hold hearings "examining the operation of Greenway and the business practices of TRIP II and its parent company, Macquarie," as resistance to a forthcoming rate hike on the 14-mile Greenway toll road heightened.

Toll Road Investors Partnership II (Trip II) operates the Greenway, which runs from Leesburg to the Dulles Toll Road terminus at the Washington Dulles International Airport. The Greenway was conceived as a way to speed commuters from the fast growing Loudoun County to jobs in Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria and Washington, D.C.

It now charges on a weekday between $3.50 for a car each way to $12 for a large truck.

In 2005, the Macquarie Infrastructure Group (MIG), part of an Australian bank and manager of investment funds, bought the road and, in effect, retained TRIP II to run the operation.

Last fall, the State Corporation Commission (SCC) gave TRIP II the right to increase the tolls to $4.80 at peak times in 2012 for cars and $14 for large trucks. At a hearing by the SCC June 28, of 59 witnesses, 58 opposed the rate increase, the SCC’s report said.

WOLF SAID he was "skeptical of the financial data that TRIP II may have submitted to the State Corporation Commission to justify raising the toll for cars to $4.80 each way on the Greenway by 2012." Wolf said the State Corporation Commission "approved the rate hike in September despite heavy opposition."

Wolf also said he was successful in getting Attorney General Bob McDonnell to launch an investigation and to spark the interest by several members of the state legislature.

The controversy over the Greenway has grown since the rate was approved last September. Its outcome may become crucial to road construction in Virginia as the state is about to sign contracts with two other firms, one also out of Australia, to build and operate toll collecting "Hot Lanes" on the Beltway and I-95.

DURING HIS CAMPAIGN as a Republican for state delegate in the fall election, Lynn Chapman, 54, an engineer and computer expert, analyzed the Greenway operations. His conclusion was that Macquarie was the beneficial owner of the Greenway, but the SCC had only analyzed the profit and loss of TRIP II in determining to grant a toll increase. Indeed, the Greenway toll road has never made a profit, according to state records.

"I have found evidence that the beneficial owners of the Greenway, Macquarie Infrastructure Group (MIG) and its affiliates, have used a combination of interlocking financial schemes to extract profits from the state-granted concession to own and operate the Dulles Greenway toll road," he wrote the attorney general.

He wrote the head the SCC and suggested that instead of analyzing the books of TRIP II, which showed the losses, the SCC should examine the books of Macquarie, the actual owner of the road. The chairman of the SCC wrote back and said that was "absurd," since Virginia’s only interest was in the operator. This would mean, Chapman said, that any firm, even a failing one or one based on criminal activity could take control of a road if it could mask its involvement with a front organization.

MACQUARIE’S WEB page designed for potential investors carries a description of the Greenway and said it is owned by TRIP II, a limited partnership.

A call to Macquarie’s New York office found that its public affairs officer was in Australia. Thomas Sines, the chief executive officer of TRIP II, called at the request of Macquarie. He said Chapman’s charges were incorrect and that disbursements to TRIP preceded Macquarie buying into the firm.

But the critics, Wolf, Chapman and others, say the problem is that Virginia’s process to regulate this relationship is flawed.

"In principal I’m not against public-private partnerships," Chapman said. "I believe that they are very, very difficult to regulate to a balanced interest of the public and private partner. Right now this particular partnership is so one-sided it is an embarrassment to citizens as well as the users of the toll road."

He said "there seems to be no self-correcting mechanism in the state of Virginia to deal with this problem and that is outrageous."

© 2007 Connection Newspapers:

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"I think we're at a very good place,"

NTTA confident Highway 161 toll deal will beat deadline

As deadline with state nears, agencies work on details for toll road plan

December 19, 2007

The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2007

The North Texas Tollway Authority's executive director said Wednesday that he expects his agency and TxDOT to reach an agreement on State Highway 161 before the state-imposed deadline of Friday at midnight.

None of the remaining issues appear to be deal breakers, said Jorge Figueredo, NTTA's executive director. "I really do expect us to agree and move forward," he said. "But still, it's not something I can guarantee."

That upbeat assessment was shared by Michael Morris, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments who has acted as a facilitator for most of the negotiations.

"We've had some 20 meetings, and I think we're at a very good place," he said. "They are down to two or three cost issues that together maybe are worth less than 5 percent of the total value of the project."

State Highway 161, a 10-mile road that runs from State Highway 183 to Interstate 20 in Dallas County, has long been touted as the next big toll road project in North Texas. Though it is not expected to generate anywhere near the $3.2 billion NTTA paid for the State Highway 121 contract, area officials have predicted the toll contract for Highway 161 could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. That money would be spent almost entirely in Dallas County.

Finding out how much the road is really worth involves deciding hundreds of details, ranging from traffic forecasts and revenue predictions, all the way down to expected costs for litter removal.

It is over those terms that NTTA and the state Department of Transportation's Dallas staff have negotiated for weeks. Last month, the NTTA announced that the lengthening negotiations could imperil the construction timetable for the highway, prompting Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Ric Williamson to abruptly set a deadline for Dec. 21. If an agreement is not reached by then, he said, Highway 161 will not be built as a toll road.

Mr. Morris' staff has since moved ahead with design elements of the road to ensure that, with or without tolls, Highway 161 is built on time. Contracts will be let in March, he said. Portions of the road will open in 2009, and the full road will open in 2011, he said.

Mr. Williamson said in an interview last week that the deadline is "absolutely" firm because the state has more than 80 other toll-eligible projects throughout Texas, and TxDOT can't afford to get bogged down in protracted negotiations over the first one on that list. His staff in Austin confirmed that on Wednesday.
For its part, NTTA says the deadline is not in keeping with the spirit of the law passed this year by the Legislature giving NTTA the right of first refusal for any toll projects in North Texas. Mr. Figueredo said if negotiations are not completed by midnight Friday, he and his staff will be willing to negotiate into next week and beyond if necessary.

"But we are fully committed to trying to meet this deadline," he said.

If the road does not proceed as a toll project, the region would probably have to dip into the reserves provided by NTTA's $3.2 billion payment for Highway 121.

© 2007 The Dallas Morning News Co

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Unpopular Texas Governor banks on collective amnesia in future bid for president

Perry's long-term strategy in presidential campaign

December 19, 2007

The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2007

COLUMBIA, S.C. – After watching Gov. Rick Perry gallivant around Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina these past weeks, the conclusion is unavoidable: Our governor is running for president.

Stop laughing; it's true.

Why else would he play to small crowds in small towns, talking to people who have never heard of him and, in some cases, care less about the candidate he represents?

He's not running for president now, of course. For 2008, he'll be happy to be mentioned as a vice presidential contender.

What Mr. Perry wants is consideration for a White House run in 2012 or beyond.

For the record, he says he's only thinking about getting former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani elected. But what else is he going to say at this point?

"I have no idea what I'm going to do in 2010," he said after a campaign stop in Columbia, referring to the year his current term expires. "The good news is I don't have to make a decision."

One Republican who watched him speak in Columbia couldn't help but point out the obvious, as Mr. Perry continued making sudden gestures with his arms and hands.

"He's very Bush-like with that," said Scott Malyerck, South Carolina's deputy state treasurer.

Better than Arnold

Mr. Perry's foray into the national spotlight began as summer concluded. He addressed a convention of California Republicans, receiving better applause from the grass-roots activists than Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger by telling them to stay true to their conservative values and ignore soothsayers who contend the GOP must become more moderate.

Months later, he made a mildly surprising endorsement of Mr. Giuliani for president. Mr. Perry's support was based on Mr. Giuliani's ideas about fighting the war on global terrorism and his record as a fiscal conservative.

On the social front, Mr. Giuliani differs from Mr. Perry by supporting abortion rights and gay marriage.

After the public endorsement, Mr. Perry began making trips to Iowa, meeting Hawkeye State voters who marveled at his boots and striking hair.

After a couple of trips, his conversations often would veer off the subject of Mr. Giuliani. A few weeks ago he told Iowa voters that President Bush was not – and had never been – a fiscal conservative.

On Tuesday, Mr. Perry was in South Carolina meeting Giuliani supporters.

"I'd rather be in Texas," he told a small band of mostly Giuliani Republicans. "I'm here because I believe in this guy."

Proxy candidate

That Mr. Perry supports Mr. Giuliani and is willing to campaign for him in early primary states is not that unusual.

But it's clear that Mr. Giuliani is not investing his campaign resources in Iowa or South Carolina.

These are states where Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Fred Thompson and John McCain are slugging it out.

Last week, when most other GOP candidates were in Iowa, South Carolina or other early primary states, Mr. Giuliani was in Dallas for a day of multiple fundraisers.

In essence, Mr. Perry is helping the former New York mayor make the rounds in states he doesn't expect to win.

He's preaching to a choir that's being led by another minister.

So what does Mr. Perry get out of it?

Well, if Mr. Giuliani's strategy of winning the nomination by holding on until Feb. 5 and then cashing in on the big delegate states like New York and California works, Mr. Perry could see a payback.

He'll get mentioned as a possible running mate, though most analysts say the Bush years have tired the nation on another Texan on the presidential ticket.

But it's the mention and subsequent discussion that Mr. Perry wants.

He'll take that and run with it, particularly when the 2012 presidential sweepstakes begin. That's when he'll return to Iowa and South Carolina with his boots and that hair and hope that the party faithful remembers how charming, thoughtful and conservative he was when stumping for Mr. Giuliani.

Mr. Perry knows it takes years for an outsider to build relations in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Yes, he says he's in those states for his man Rudy.

In reality, he's also looking out for himself.

"I'm very impressed with him," said Craig Wall, a 38-year-old Columbia developer. "I'll keep an eye on him. You never know."

© 2007 The Dallas Morning News:

Perry takes swipe at Bush

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2007

AUSTIN -- What a difference 900 miles and 30 percentage points in the approval ratings make.

When President Bush was governor of Texas and backed by nearly 70 percent of the voters, Rick Perry could not say enough nice things about him on the campaign trail in the Lone Star State. But now that Bush's approval ratings are in the tank, Gov. Perry took something of a potshot at his fellow Texan while talking up the presidential prospects of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani during a recent stop in Iowa.

"Let me tell you something," a casually dressed and relaxed Perry told a small gathering in what appeared to be a living room, "George Bush was never a fiscal conservative. Never was. ... Wasn't when he was in Texas.

"I mean, '95, '97, '99, George Bush was spending money."

Then the governor who got his job when Bush left Austin to assume the presidency in late 2000 turned to press secretary Robert Black, himself a former Bush aide, and asked, "Do you agree?" Black nodded his approval.

The remarks, delivered without notes during a Dec. 6 question-and-answer session with Iowa Republicans who will hold the first caucus of the 2008 campaign on Jan. 3, were posted on the popular Internet site YouTube. Perry contrasts Bush's fiscal policies both in Austin and in Washington, D.C., with Giuliani's during two terms as mayor of the nation's largest city.

Giuliani, Perry said, was a tight-fisted devotee of President Reagan while Bush assented to the free-spending ways of the Democrats who controlled the Texas Legislature during much of his governorship.

Democrats in Austin delighted at pointing out that Perry never had the nerve to thump Bush back in the days when both served in Austin.

"Rick Perry could not have been more attached at the hip with George W. Bush back in 1998," veteran Democratic strategist Kelly Fero said. Back then, Fero was a top aide to Democrat John Sharp, who was running against Perry for lieutenant governor. While the Perry-Sharp race was an election-night nail-biter, Bush cruised to re-election with 69 percent of the vote in 1998.

"Without George Bush's coattails, Rick Perry might never have been in position to become governor when Bush became president," Fero said.

Amber Moon, spokeswoman for the Texas Democratic Party, said: "Sounds like the Rick Perry we are seeing in Iowa is not exactly the same Rick Perry we see in Austin."

The YouTube posting of Perry in Iowa was first reported Friday in the Austin American-Statesman, and Perry stood by his remarks when asked about them on a local radio show that morning.

"He was a great governor," Perry said on the air. "Cutting the budget isn't one of the things he focused on and did."

During his six years as governor, Bush won praise for working well with Democratic legislative leaders. Perry suggested that Bush should have taken a tougher approach.

Again, Fero chided Perry for having a short memory.

"It's my recollection that he was lieutenant governor [who holds the powerful post of president of the Texas Senate] in 1999," he said. "If he was so concerned about spending, he could have cut the budget himself."

Not everything Perry told the Iowans about Bush, whose approval ratings nationwide are stuck in the middle 30 percent range and in the 40s in Texas, was unflattering.

"Look, he was better than Al Gore," Perry said with more than a tinge of sarcasm about Bush's opponent in 2000. But he did not remind them that when Perry was a Democrat in 1988, he was a Texas co-chairman for Gore's short-lived presidential bid.

Perry's remarks

See Gov. Rick Perry's remarks in Iowa at
John Moritz reports from the Star-Telegram's Austin bureau. 512-476-4294

© 2007 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

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Primary challenger attacks Republican incumbent on the Trans-Texas Corridor

Sibley comes out swinging in announcing he filed for Anderson's Legislature seat

December 19, 2007

By David Doerr
Waco Tribune-Herald
Copyright 2007

Jonathan Sibley lost no time attacking fellow Republican Charles “Doc” Anderson on Tuesday while announcing his campaign to win the Texas Legislature’s District 56 seat.

Sibley, 27, son of former Waco Mayor and former state Sen. David Sibley, talked glowingly about his father in his announcement, praising him for his “resolve” in finding solutions for Waco and the state of Texas.

He also sharply criticized Anderson, a local veterinarian and longtime Republican who has held the House seat from Waco for two terms.

In a move separating him from many Republicans who support vouchers that would use public money to cover private school tuition, Sibley attacked Anderson on the issue. He called mandatory school vouchers a “bear in the woods” that threatens the quality of public education and local control over schools.

“I firmly believe that vouchers should not be forced on a school district, and I firmly believe that what may be good for a big city urban school district may not be good in McLennan County and vice versa,” he said.

He also challenged Anderson to six debates before the March 4 primary election.

Anderson could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.

Sibley also aligned himself with issues high on the Republican Party platform, such as cracking down on illegal immigration and opposition to abortion rights, except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother.

NAME: Jonathan Sibley.

PARTY: Republican.

OFFICE SOUGHT: State House District 56.

OPPONENT: State Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson, a Waco veterinarian.

AGE: 27.

OCCUPATION: Insurance lawyer with Thompson, Coe, Cousins & Irons, L.L.P.

EDUCATION: Midway High School, Baylor University, Baylor Law School.

FAMILY: Father is David Sibley, former Waco mayor and state senator; wife is Suzanne Sibley, a public school teacher.

PLATFORM: Against mandatory state school vouchers, for “zero tolerance for illegal aliens,” against the Trans-Texas Corridor.

GLOVES ARE OFF: Sibley on Tuesday attacked Anderson’s support for mandatory school vouchers, which he called a “bear in the woods” that threatens the quality of public education and local control over schools. Anderson could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

CAMPAIGN ACTIVITIES: Block walking, mailed out a 50-point “action plan,” challenged Anderson to a series of six debates before the March 4 primary.

QUOTE: “Anybody can be against something bad, and my opponent echoes a lot of our commonly held sentiments against bad things threatening our community. But leadership requires more. Real leaders require resolve to find solutions to make things better.”


Speech transcript: Click here for the text of Sibley's campaign announcement

© 2007 Waco Tribune-Herald:

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"The second assault against the people of Texas has already begun. "

A (Partial) Victory in the Battle Against Globalization:

The NAFTA Corridor Initiative Suffers a Setback


by Richard D. Vogel
Monthly Review
Copyright 2007

Good News!

Opponents of the I-69 NAFTA corridor in the Midwest and the South can take heart from the partial victory of the corridor opposition in Texas. There are valuable lessons to be learned from this skirmish between grassroots citizen groups and the forces of globalization.

In the face of widespread public opposition, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) announced on November 13 ( that it is revising its grandiose plans for the construction of the I-69/TTC corridor through East Texas, one of the primary routes in the U.S. NAFTA corridor system (the NAFTA corridors in Texas were dubbed the Trans-Texas Corridor system, or TTC, by TxDOT).

The I-69/TTC corridor, like the I-35/TTC corridor that is to run south to north through the center of the state, was originally proposed as a 1,200-foot-wide, grade-level right of way with traffic lanes for passenger vehicles sandwiched between truck lanes, high-speed passenger and freight rail lines, and a 200-foot-wide multi-use utility zone. Constructed according to the original specifications, the corridors would have consumed 146 acres of land per mile, irreversibly damaging the environment and dividing or displacing scores of families and communities along its path. (For an in-depth analysis of the impact of the corridors, see "The NAFTA Corridors: Offshoring U.S. Transportation Jobs to Mexico," Monthly Review 57.9, February 2006: 16-29. )

Though promoted by TxDOT as part of a state initiative to deal with regional traffic needs, I-69/TTC is really the Texas link of a planned transnational corridor that would run the length of Mexico, span the American Midwest, and cross into eastern Canada. The primary purpose of I-69, like that of I-35 and the yet unnumbered Ports-to-Plains corridor planned for West Texas, is to transport cheap commodities manufactured in the maquiladoras in Mexico and in the Far East (and imported through Mexico) to markets in the U.S. and Canada and to facilitate the movement of cheap labor from the South to the North (for background on the labor issue see, "Transient Servitude: The U.S. Guest Worker Program for Exploiting Mexican and Central American Workers," Monthly Review 58.8 January 2007: 1-22).


There are two distinct aspects of globalization driving the TTC/NAFTA corridor projects. The first is the transportation demands of global production and supply chains, and the second is the development and operation of transportation corridors as private enterprises under the auspices of the state. The privatization of a historically public service like highway transportation relies on the confederation of big capital and the states through which the corridors pass. This is the side of globalization that was challenged by activists in Texas.

Privatization: The Confederation of Big Capital and the State

This aspect of globalization involves the expansion of the power of big capital through the active sponsorship of the state. That I-69/TTC was an integral part of a globalization scheme from the very beginning is verified by the related actions taken by the State of Texas:

  • The State signed an exclusive development agreement with an international private-sector developer of transport infrastructures (Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A.) to build and operate the TTC as a private toll transportation system. According to the contract, the company is entitled to the lion's share of all toll and concession revenues generated by the project and obligated to pay only a nominal sum to the State.
  • The State exempted Cintra from most state and local control and taxes, depriving Texas and local authorities of substantial current and future revenues. At the same time, the State assigned the un-funded liability of providing transportation emergency services to local authorities for the sections of the corridors in their jurisdictions.
  • The Texas Legislature facilitated construction of the TTC system by passing a "quick-take" eminent domain law to expedite the expropriation of private land.
  • Both elected officials and bureaucrats of the State of Texas actively promoted an amendment to the state constitution to allow the use of public money to finance the relocation of existing rail lines to the corridors.
  • TxDOT restricted access to the mandated environmental impact statement that disclosed the negative social and environmental consequences of the TTC project.
  • TxDOT officially committed substantial financial and human resources to promote the TTC project to the citizens of Texas.
  • The TxDOT/Cintra contract was underwritten by the State of Texas by providing "bail-out" provisions by which taxpayers would assume financial liability for the project if the toll roads failed to produce satisfactory profits.

In sum, the TxDOT/Cintra deal was a typical privatization scheme in which big capital, underwritten by the state, was to be the winner and the citizens of Texas were slated to be the losers.

The contract, the full terms of which have never been made public, has not been voided.

The Opposition

The TTC plan drew opposition from a wide range of individuals and grass-roots organizations that included landowners and local communities in the path of the corridors, property-rights advocates, environmental organizations, and anti-globalization activists who saw the project as an attack on working people and their communities by international profiteers aided and abetted by federal, state, and local politicians.

Opposition actions ranged from rural "surveyor watches" manned by networks of ranchers and farmers, some of whom posted warning signs on their property and conducted armed patrols, environmental impact education projects hosted by local and state environmental groups, the production and distribution of educational videos, websites and weblogs dedicated to the issue and aimed at fostering effective political networks (see, for example,, numerous lawsuits against TxDOT and the State, and a variety of independent political actions, such as challenging TxDOT officials and leafleting attendees and at public meetings. In response to the outcry and organizing, Texas lawmakers eventually passed legislation aimed at restricting TxDOT's ability to expand the privatization of Texas highways.

Globalization Goes to "Plan B"

The struggle is far from over. Global production and supply chains continue to develop at an increasing rate and the drive to expand and privatize transportation systems is unabated. The head of the I-69 Alliance, the foremost corridor advocacy organization in East Texas, summed up the situation quite succinctly when he recently forecasted "a tsunami of freight coming this way."

Chart 1 offers a preview of the tidal wave of freight containers coming from the South:

Chart 1

Chart 1 shows the official number of truck containers that crossed into Texas through the lower Rio Grande Valley area (Laredo, Hidalgo, and Brownsville) for the years 2001 through 2005, and preliminary figures indicate that the skyrocketing trend continued through 2006 and into 2007. TxDOT and U.S. DOT projections indicate that this number will likely double within the next ten years. The fact that the vast majority of this truck traffic is presently routed up I-35 explains the mounting pressure for a more direct route to the Midwest and beyond.

Following the defeat of the original I-69/TTC proposal, the forces of globalization have introduced a backup plan to accommodate the flood of freight from Mexico. TxDOT's alternative scheme is to build I-69/TTC in the footprint of existing US 59 through East Texas, the most densely populated area of the state, with a major by-pass to be built around the western edge of the sprawling Houston metropolitan area.

The social and environmental problems created by routing massive transportation corridors through cities and suburbs are already well documented: extensive displacement and disruption of communities, local traffic gridlock, and dangerously high concentrations of ground, air, water, and sound pollution in areas of dense population. A contemporary tour through San Antonio, Houston, and Beaumont along I-10, a major highway in the TTC system, offers stark testimony to the blight caused by massive transportation corridors in urban areas.

In terms of human health and social impact, the I-69/TTC backup plan is worse than the original proposal.

I-69 is still slated to be a private toll road, but that contentious aspect of the plan is being kept in the background this time around. The new official spin promises faster construction, increased cost effectiveness, and less impact on property owners. The heart of the current proposal is to create a high-speed, high-volume transportation corridor by rebuilding the existing roads with toll lanes in the center of established right-of-ways and converting existing lanes into frontage roads to re-route local traffic. Expensive crossovers, which will have to be funded by local authorities, will be few and far between. Under the revised I-69/TTC plan, the partition of cities and suburbs will be extensive, while the cleavage of small towns in East Texas will be complete. The resulting concentration of traffic will aggravate existing pollution hotspots and spawn new ones.

New Strategy/New Response

TxDOT has introduced a new community-level strategy for promoting the alternative I-69/TTC plan. While TxDOT officials held public meetings across the state to manufacture consensus for the original TTC plan (it failed!), the main thrust of political action to promote the new I-69/TTC is preemptive.

TxDOT's new approach is to form local organizing committees that will be required to mobilize community support for the project. Each committee, recruited by TxDOT officials and steered by TxDOT staffers, will have a maximum of 24 members including local government leaders, port authority heads, economic development advisors, chamber of commerce members, and representatives of local and metropolitan planning organizations. Committee members will have to sign confidentiality agreements before they can participate. Under the new TxDOT strategy, public meetings will be held only after the organizing committees have done their work.

The neocons have obviously learned from their past mistakes -- the democratic process that stalled the original TTC/NAFTA corridor plan could be subverted this time around. This second assault against the people of Texas has already begun. Organizing committees are currently being formed and 10 town hall meetings in key cities are scheduled for January 2008. TxDOT will continue the campaign with 46 public meetings along the route of the corridor in February.

Forewarned is forearmed. The fact that the new strategy is already underway suggests that the new response, utilizing the successful tactics of the past and embracing new ones discovered through practice, should begin immediately. Fortunately, most of the opposition organizations and networks are still in place.

The coming contest promises to be tougher than round one; success this time will depend on a strategy that confronts the issue of globalization head-on.

Confronting Globalization

Because of its geographical location, Texas is the key state in the NAFTA corridor initiative and the outcome of the struggle over I-69 and the TTC system will shape the future of globalization struggles across the nation (the outcome of the I-69 struggle in Texas could be repeated along the route in Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, and Michigan). The Texas experience shows that ongoing opposition to global transportation schemes is important but the threat of social and environmental damage caused by massive global production and supply chains will persist as long as governments, at all levels, continue to sponsor the offshoring schemes of big capital.

The launch of the second campaign for the expansion and privatization of transportation by the forces of globalization in Texas makes it clear that the populist challenge to big capital must be expanded to target the central tenet of global capitalism -- the tyranny of the free market. The principle of sustainable economic growth, not shortsighted profit maximization schemes, must become the new global standard of governance. Nothing short of that revolutionary standard is sufficient to meet the escalating threats of globalization to the health and welfare of the nation.

Richard D. Vogel is a political reporter who monitors the effects of globalization on working people and their communities. Contact:

© 2007 The Monthly Review: To search TTC News Archives click HERE

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Dawnna Dukes' campaign finance reports are not in compliance with the law."

Austin lawmaker's campaign finance reports in question

December 18, 2007

Copyright 2007

State Representative Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, says she is amending her campaign finance reports to comply with state law after an analysis of her reports showed more than $89,000 in unitemized credit card expenditures.

The Texas Ethics Commission requires reports of credit card charges to include explanations as to what the cards actually purchased.

Dukes has had a seat in the Texas House since the mid nineties, representing East Austin and parts of Pflugerville.

Every member of the House collects campaign donations and is required by law to report them to the ethics commission.

But Dukes' reports, compared to other Austin lawmakers, show unusual vagueness in how her donations are spent.

A total of $89,697 in spending was charged on 19 separate credit cards, including $32,247 in payments to American Express.

Dukes' reports describe what she purchased -- flowers, food, gas for example-- but they do not attribute the charges to particular vendors.

"Her reports are not in compliance with the law," said campaign finance watchdog Fred Lewis. "The problem isn't having the credit card, the problem is, if you don't itemize it, you can hide things. I'm not saying she's hiding anything, I'm just saying, you could hide things."

Dukes says she simply wasn't clear as to the details of how she should report her expenses.

"Everything on our reports is going to be restructured, redone, to bring about all the clarity to make sure the reports are done right," Dukes said.

She calls the misreporting an honest mistake, for which other lawmakers, like State Rep. Rick Noriega, D-Houston, were fined.

"We're just going to go back and clarify because I feel it's important to do so," Dukes said.

As she goes back, Dukes is also looking forward. She's running for another term against a new Democratic challenger.

On Tuesday, Austin attorney Brian Thompson announced he will challenge Dukes in the March primary.

©2007 KVUE Television, Inc.:

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Red Light Camera Manipulation Boosts Crashes and Revenue

Investigation: City Shortens Yellow Light Timing, Cites Thousands of Red Light Runners


By Paul Adrian
Fox News Channel 4 (Dallas-Fort Worth)
Copyright 2007

The drive seemed like any other until Wes Bullock jumped off the highway and drove through an intersection. He says the light flicked too quickly from yellow to red. “I said to my daughter that was a short yellow light, I hope they didn't have cameras or something," Bullock told FOX 4.

Two months later, when that same light turned yellow, Don Endsley decided there wasn't time to stop and went for it. “All of the sudden the light turned red,” Endsley exclaimed. “I say that is way too short. That's too quick."

A camera at Richland Hills’s one monitored intersection recorded both men sailing through red. The intersection is where Glenview Drive meets Booth Calloway Road. The men could see the evidence on the web. But what Bullock saw led him to conclude, “I believe they tricked me into running that red light."

Bullock demanded city evidence to defend himself from the ticket. Richland Hills eventually sent handwritten light timing documents. A note explained that on the day of Bullock's ticket, the yellow stayed lit 3.6 seconds. That didn’t match what he’d seen on the city’s web site. FOX 4 timed the web video used by the city to prove Bullock had run the light. In the video, the yellow is lit exactly three seconds. Bullock contends that if he’d had 3.6 seconds, instead of just 3, he’d have made the light.

Don Endsley successfully made that argument at his hearing and got his ticket thrown out. “She just said that she was dismissing it," Endsley said.

Richland Hills Police Chief Barbara Childress says the city's hearing officer warned her that the yellow light was too short. “We had received some complaints that the light was short,” Childress said, “possibly anywhere from 2.8 to 2.9 seconds."

Childress says she ordered the light changed to three seconds - thinking she was lengthening it. But says she later discovered that the video used to cite the drivers could not be trusted. "What we found was the video that you are watching is not real time,” Childress said. “It's called MPEG, which was explained to me was a compressed format so what you're viewing is a bit faster than real time."

MPEG is a compressed video format used by millions of people, but according to Dr. Leonardo Chiariglione, who created MPEG and heads the Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG), it does not speed up time. He wrote that MPEG standards contain all the information needed to “preserve a perfect reproduction of time."

When asked who told her that MPEG compression sped up time, Chief Childress responded, “I contacted the company that provides the cameras to see if that's an accurate way to determine the yellow light timing, and they said no, it would be more of an estimate."

Redflex Systems runs the camera program for Richland Hills and 35 other cities in Texas. Vice President Chris Weeks explained, "The video may run faster or slower depending on a person's web browser," but admitted, "it’s imperceptible to the human eye."

While 'imperceptible' doesn't sound like losing half-a-second., the Chief says it was her reaction to the Redflex video that created the only yellow light timing problem. "I had actually reduced the time,” Childress said. “They were already set at 3.5 or 3.6, and when I learned that, I had the company called to reset those at the 3.5 which is a standard set by the State of Texas."

The Chief changed the light to 3 seconds on August 15th. Before that date, when Endsley, Bullock and thousands of others got tickets, Chief Childress contends the light was set at 3.5 seconds. But there was something she didn't know. Endsley says he'd videotaped the intersection before August 15th.

"This is where I got the ticket through the light here," Endsley recorded on his home video. He shot the light on August 14th and the yellow timed 3 seconds. He also shot it on August 11th and once again found just 3 seconds of yellow.

Plus, the city's video of Endsley running the red light on July 28th matches the home video; the light stayed yellow three seconds. And on Wes Bullock's red light video shot June 9th, the yellow is 3 seconds long. So four videos, shot in June, July and August, all before the chief's action, show the yellow staying lit three seconds.

Yet, the city gave FOX 4 two light timing documents, one recorded in March just before the camera started ticketing folks, another a year before, showing the yellow was set at 3.5 and 3.6 seconds

The Texas Transportation Institute found shortening yellow times by one second increased crashes between 125 and 225 percent at studied intersections. TTI spokesman David Willis says cities have to pay attention to details when creating a red light camera program. "Some municipalities have played the game of revenue maximization by reducing the yellow interval when you put the cameras in and of course that drives revenue up,” Willis said. “And people have been very unhappy about that."

Willis was speaking in general, but Police Chief Childress said she was surprised by the success of her city's program. "There were more violations than I anticipated,” Childress said “The numbers were much greater than we anticipated, although I had heard that from talking to other cities that you may be surprised."

In June, July, and August, when the video tape showed the yellow light at three seconds, the camera cited 4738 people for running a red light. But after the city lengthened the yellow to 3.5 seconds, citations dropped 88%. Only 569 people got cited in September, October and November.

Wes Bullock is still trying to get his June ticket dismissed, but he missed his hearing while waiting for the city documents. The chief says he missed his chance.

Red Light Camera Citations at Glenview Drive and Booth Calloway Road

  • Before the camera went live on April 29, 2007, Richland Hills’ city records show the yellow light set at 3.6 seconds.
  • Videotape shows the yellow light at 3 seconds in June, July and August.
  • City records show the yellow was reset to 3.5 seconds on August 28, 2007.
  • After the light was lengthened, the number of red light running citations plummets.

Citations by Month

May 2007 -- 1,905
June 2007 -- 1,440
July 2007 -- 1,911
August 2007 -- 1,387
September 2007 -- 321
October 2007 -- 201
November 2007 -- 47


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