Thursday, March 06, 2008

Perry considers Vice Chairman of NTTA for Texas Transportation Commissioner

NTTA official may serve on Texas Transportation Commission

March 6, 2008

The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2008

Fort Worth businessman and NTTA board member William Meadows confirmed Thursday that he has been approached by Gov. Rick Perry’s office as a possible successor to Ric Williamson on the Texas Transportation Commission.

Mr. Williamson, a close friend of the governor, died in December, leaving four members on the five-person commission, which sets policy for the Texas Department of Transportation.

“The answer is yes, I have had some conversations (with Gov. Perry and his staff) about the transportation commission appointment,” Mr. Meadows said Thursday. “Given the importance of the transportation issues that we face, I am very interested this issue. I don’t think I should talk specifically about those conversations, but what I do know is that if I am asked to serve in this capacity, I would welcome the challenge. But it’s entirely up to the governor.”

Mr. Meadows said the possibility that he could be named to the commission prompted him to recuse himself Wednesday from closed-door discussions at NTTA involving the agency’s current negotiations with TxDOT over the value of State Highway 161 toll road contract.

If Mr. Meadows is the governor’s choice for the vacant spot on the commission, the appointment would carry no small amount of irony. TxDOT has clashed frequently over the past year with the North Texas Tollway Authority, where Mr. Meadows currently serves as vice chairman.

Mr. Perry has named all of the members of the current commission, and through them has set the transportation department upon a stormy path toward expanded toll roads. The Texas Legislature reacted strongly, and passed legislation last year that greatly empowered regional toll authorities like NTTA.

As a result, NTTA wrested the multi-billion-dollar contract for State Highway 121 away from Cintra, a private firm whose bid for the road contract had been strongly supported by TxDOT and Gov. Perry.

Mr. Meadows was appointed to NTTA by the Tarrant County Commission in 2004.

It is not clear whether the new appointee — Mr. Meadows or someone else — would also be named chairman, though a spokesman for the governor said Thursday that the governor has the authority to handle that anyway he wishes.

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