Tuesday, December 02, 2008

"With all due respect to the highway lobby, this MPO board is a public board. I think public focus should always have priority over private interests"

Transportation board denies seat to industry firm


Patick Driscoll
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2008

HNTB Corp., good enough to hire for advice on the planned U.S. 281 toll road, has been thwarted from filling a "citizen" seat on a local transportation board.

The non-voting position on the Metropolitan Planning Organization board has been coveted by toll-road critics in recent years but they failed to get an invite.

Industry officials, though, have had better luck.

As controversy raged over MPO toll plans, the board appointed, in order, a bicycle advocate, a Union Pacific official and a traffic engineer to the ex-officio seat. The engineer, Pape-Dawson Vice President Steve Bonnette, stepped into the post a few months ago and will serve through the end of next year.

On Monday, an MPO committee recommended the board appoint HNTB's San Antonio director, Kevin Young, as the 2010 "citizen" member. HNTB, an international consulting firm, advises the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority and helped the Texas Department of Transportation put together the latest U.S. 281 environmental study.

Agenda item

Board member and toll critic Tommy Adkisson wouldn't have it, and after some speechifying was able to get everybody else, including the three selection committee members, to agree to consider someone else for the seat.

But he put his foot down as gently as possible.

"With all due respect to my very dear friends who are in the highway lobby, I think that this MPO board is a public board and I think public focus should always have priority over private interests," he said.

The committee will report back next month, but with three top picks instead of just one.

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