Tuesday, June 03, 2008

"Final Commission recommendations will be in September."

An end to the Texas Transportation Commission?


Michael Lindenberger
The Dallas Morning News
Copyight 2008

For months transportation reporters, and plenty of others, have been saying there could be sweeping changes ahead for TxDOT once the Sunset Advisory Commission finishes its stem-to-stern review of the agency.

Just how big those changes could be is becoming clear on the eve of the Commission staff report on how it'd like to see the sprawling agency change. The full report -- some hundreds of pages, and the product of five staffers' full-time effort over the past seven months -- will be released (here after 10 a.m. Tuesday).

It is expected to recommend that the five-member Texas Transportation Commission, which governs the sprawling agency, be replaced with a single commissioner who will be subject to a review by the Legislature every two years, according to people who have read the report. In addition, the report is expected to recommend that the Legislature create an oversight panel that will take responsibility for many of the policy-oriented decisions now made by the commission.

All five members of the commission -- including chairman Deirdre Delisi of Austin and William Meadows of Fort Worth -- were appointed by Gov. Rick Perry.

The recommendations would greatly reduce the governor's influence on transportation -- an area which the governor has said is among his most cherished policy priorities. It would likely signal a major retreat -- or at least recalculation -- on the governor's push for the Trans Texas Corridor, in particular, and private toll roads in general, two areas on which the commission has recently signaled a greater willingness to compromise than was evident previously.

Joey Longley, staff director of the Sunset Advisory Commission, said Tuesday's report is the staff's proposal for what should happen to TxDOT. The members of the Commission -- most of whom are legislators -- will hold public hearings in July on the staff suggestions. Mr. Longley said he expects a decision about what the final Commission recommendations will be in September.

Those suggestions will be redrafted into a bill and presented to the legislature, which meets again in January. It remains to be seen how many changes the commission makes before then, and how hard the governor will fight once it gets to votes in the chamber.

Mr. Longley said the commission staff has a good track record, however, typically seeing about 90 percent of its recommendations surviving in one form of another.

© 2008 The Dallas Morning News www.cityhallblog.dallasnews.com

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