"The Minute Order was merely a repackaging of familiar statements that are already in state law."
The Huntsville Item
State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst said it’s time for Texas transportation officials to talk about real reforms to address the public outrage over the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor.
The Brenham Republican’s reaction followed Thursday’s actions taken by the Texas Transportation Commission.
The panel adopted a set of guiding principals and policies which will govern the development, construction and operation of all toll road projects on the state highway system and the controversial Trans-Texas Corridor.
Bob Colwell, Texas Department of Transportation public information officer for the Bryan district, said the adoption of the guidelines does not reflect the final approval of Interstate 69 or the Trans-Texas Corridor.
The guidelines were adopted to reaffirm the state laws in place regarding current and future toll road projects.
The Trans-Texas Corridor is opposed by numerous Walker County landowners and residents.
“We should welcome any effort by TxDOT to address the concerns so many Texans have about the Trans-Texas Corridor,” Kolkhorst said in a prepared statement.
“What I hope to be hearing from TxDOT is that they’re willing to change,” said Kolkhorst, who represents four counties, including Walker, in the state Legislature. “The Minute Order that was passed this week offers nothing new and does not offer any real reforms or serious changes from the current atmosphere.
“It was merely a repackaging of familiar statements that are already in state law. I’m glad to see that the new TxDOT leadership is reaching out, but it’s time to roll up our sleeves and talk about real reforms to address the public outrage over the Trans-Texas Corridor.”
Colwell said the adopted guidelines are “just principals and guidelines we are to follow on all toll road projects on the state highway system. This release does not mean we will or will not build the Trans-Texas Corridor.
“Rather, if the Trans-Texas Corridor were to go through, these would be the guidelines followed during its development, construction and operation,” Colwell said. “Those same guidelines will now be followed for the construction and operation of all toll road projects on the state highway system.”
Colwell said the commission adopted the guidelines in order to reaffirm the policies and requirements of state law regarding toll projects.
The commission’s adoption of the guidelines reaffirmed its commitment to meet or exceed the requirements of state law on five key issues, he said.
• “All state highway facilities, including the Trans-Texas Corridor, will be completely owned by the state of Texas at all times;”
• “All Comprehensive Development Agreements will include provisions that allow TxDOT to purchase or ‘buy back’ the interest of a private developer in a CDA at any time if buying back the project would be in the best financial interest of the state;”
• “The Texas Transportation Commission shall approve, in a public meeting, the initial toll rates charged for the used of a toll project on the state highway system and the methodology for increasing the amount of tolls. All rate-setting actions will come after consultation with appropriate local metropolitan planning organizations;”
• “Only new lanes added to an existing highway will be tolled, and there will be no reduction in the number of non-tolled lanes that exist today;” and
• “Comprehensive Development Agreements will not include ‘non-compete’ clauses that would prohibit improvements to existing roadways. The department and any governmental entity can construct, reconstruct, expand, rehabilitate or maintain any roadway that is near or intersects with any roadway under the CDA.”
Colwell said TxDOT is still in the process of reviewing more than 27,000 comments before making any further decisions about the construction of the I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor.
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