Saturday, May 17, 2008

"TxDOT has been prostituted by high-level state politicians with agendas directed toward providing for wealthy corporate benefactors."

Taking the low road

May 16, 2008

Larry Jones
The Weatherford Democrat
Copyright 2008

Just over 40 years ago my life took a quite dramatic turn. At this time I left the comfort of home and family and embarked on an all-expense paid tour of the world — courtesy of the United States Navy. Having lived my entire life in Parker County, I had a quite limited knowledge of any place other than Texas, and typical of most young men with whom I grew up, I was quite proud to be a Texan. Additionally, I wasn’t a bit bashful about letting the rest of the world know what they had missed.

During this time, one of the things we Texans treasured most was our wonderful highway system throughout the state. We had seemingly endless miles of wide and open roads that were as smooth as a baby’s behind. Our state highways, along with an excellent network of rural farm-to-market and ranch roads, were the envy of the nation. These roads were maintained like the Pebble Beach Golf Course, and plans were on the drawing boards to expand this system to even greater dimensions.

When you crossed the state line into Louisiana, Arkansas or Oklahoma, you felt like you’d blown a tire, lost control of your car and were driving in the bar ditch. This was the Texas Highway Department I recollect that day in 1967, when I crossed over into Louisiana at Shreveport en route to Pensacola, Fla., to begin Navy flight training.

What happened during the time I was gone from our great state? When the Highway Department became the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), did they staff the head office in Austin with Okies, Hillbillies and Cajuns?

By the time I returned to my Texas roots, the roads were in a chaotic state, both in physical condition and congestion. Taxes had skyrocketed during my absence, and yet our roadways had been allowed to rot. I could not have imagined how road conditions would continue to deteriorate in subsequent years.

With the continuing influx of newly-minted Texans, many of our major thoroughfares are becoming parking lots.

The solution for fixing our failing highway system that keeps echoing out of Austin is to build toll roads. Wow, how could it get any better than that? Oh wait, I just thought of a way! Let’s allow private companies, even foreign owned ones, to take over our existing roads, build a few new ones, and charge us “little people” to drive on them. That sounds just like a passage out of the book of Revelations.

I read recently TxDOT announced due to funding shortfalls, it was diverting $5 billion from maintenance funds to use for badly needed new construction. Why does this reek of deception?

From my back porch it looks like the bureaucratic weasels are softening us up to the idea of more toll roads.

Potholes can do terrible things to a person’s mind. I understand one rationale for toll roads is to make the ones who drive on them pay for them. This is true, but state gas taxes, which incidentally haven’t been raised in 15 years, accomplish the same thing. However, they do not necessitate massive profits for foreign investors, Zachry Construction Co., or buying on credit. If additional funding is needed for highway infrastructure, state officials should budget for it and it is incumbent that lawmakers provide it. TxDOT has been prostituted by high-level state politicians with agendas directed toward providing for wealthy corporate benefactors.

Until more transparency is achieved within state government we can expect even greater cronyism in Austin, and the “chug-holes” still won’t get filled.

Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy Commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to

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