Saturday, March 15, 2008

"All of the meetings were dominated by overwhelming opposition to the state's plans."

Final days for commenting on the Trans Texas Corridor

March 15, 2008

The Nachodoches Daily Sentinel
Copyright 2008

The first round of public comments on the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor will end Wednesday, March 19, when the Texas Department of Transportation will stop receiving input on the draft environmental impact statement. That document, consisting of hundreds of pages of maps, policy and proposed routes for the superhighway, was the subject of 46 public meetings in February up and down the corridor route, which runs from Texarkana and Shreveport, La. to Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley.

The meetings provided the public opportunities to learn more about the planned 1,200 foot wide corridor of roadway, rails and utility lines that have outraged thousands of Texans. All of the meetings were dominated by overwhelming opposition to the state's plans, which transportation officials say are necessary to hedge against a growing population and outdated infrastructure. Citizens, including over 700 from Nacogdoches who attended a meeting at the Fredonia Hotel, spoke for hours against eminent domain, foreign developers and other elements of the multi-billion-dollar project.

After all "substantive" public comments — received at meetings, through the mail or online — are evaluated by TxDOT, the agency will incorporate them into a final environmental impact statement, to be evaluated by the Federal Highway Administration, which can advance the project, edit the project or cancel it outright.

Though public input on the first draft of the document will end Wednesday, TxDOT officials have said the public will have the chance to weigh in on a Tier Two impact statement if the project advances to that level.

Many have argued against the construction of a new highway in favor of expanding existing roads, like U.S. Hwy 59. TxDOT policy, officials say, is to consider that option first, in spite of many challenges involved in upgrading existing facilities.

The complexity and divisiveness of the issues have bred grassroots uprisings and several sophisticated organizations set on halting the TTC project. Corridor Watch, a group claiming members in 199 Texas counties and 44 states, published citizens' guides to the public hearings that provide interesting if decidedly anti-corridor information to citizens.

Founders of the group, David and Linda Stall, hosted a meeting in Nacogdoches County Saturday, in the small community of Libby. At the quaint community center decorated with pale blue walls and lace curtains, David Stall criticized the TTC on multiple counts. Stall said a highway that does not connect any major urban centers could not effectively reduce traffic congestion, and he said the lack of frequent exits would make the highway both inconvenient and unsafe to everyday traffic.

"This is not your father's interstate," he said.

Some who attended the meeting were interested in bringing more national media attention to the issue, and asked for suggestions. Linda Stall said in addition to writing letters to local officials, citizens should pressure newspapers and TV stations to expand their coverage. Citizen activism, too, she said, is an effective tool as well.

"Meetings like this help all you connect with each other," she said. "They help you spread the word."

Corridor Watch is not alone in galvanizing local efforts against the project. On Monday, TexasTURF, American Land Foundation and Stewards of the Range will host an all-day workshop in Lufkin about sub-regional planning groups, a form of local government the groups say will help bring greater weight to public outcry over the highway.

TexasTURF organizers are also planning a thousands-strong march on the state capitol in April, with horses and tractors to demonstrate rural solidarity and discontent.

Comments on the draft environmental impact statement may be submitted online at or by mail to I-69. TTC P.O. Box 14228 Austin, TX, 78761.

© 2008, Nachodoches Daily Sentinel:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

“If the comments are technical in nature, then they have to respond by law... Also state clearly that you are not in favor of the corridor."

Deadline looms for ‘corridor’ comments

March 15, 2008

Brenham Banner-Press
Copyright 2008

Time is almost up for Texas residents who wish to submit a comment on the proposed Trans Texas Corridor, which must be received by the Texas Department of Transportation by Wednesday.

Submissions of comments would have to be made either by mail or online at this point, and can be sent to I-69/TTC, P.O. Box 14428, Austin, TX 78761, or go to, then click on “question or comment” on the left side of the screen.

Previously, throughout February and March, TxDOT held 47 well-attended hearings at which oral comments from the public were taken into account.

The TTC has been the subject of much controversy because it would involve the state using its eminent domain powers to take as much as 600,000 acres from private property holders to build the road and rail system, which is envisioned by proponents to be one quarter-mile wide and run from the Rio Grande all the way north to the state line.

The method of funding its construction, which would involve a foreign company putting up the funds in exchange for a 50-year lease on the corridor and the right to charge tolls on vehicles traveling on it has also been a subject of concern for many Texans.

The project is in what is being called the Tier One Phase, in which comments directed toward a Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS) of the general proposed corridor route are being accepted for study.

Washington County has not been proposed as an area through which the corridor will pass, but TxDOT plans do have it passing through Waller County in the vicinity of Hempstead.

Bob Colwell, TxDOT’s Bryan district media contact, said “we encourage the citizens of Texas to please send us their comments on this. This is a way to continue to have your voice heard.”

He said that “any comment you want to make on the Trans Texas Corridor, whatever it is, will be accepted,” even something as basic and simple as “I hate the TTC will be accepted.”

Colwell said that after the comment period, TxDOT officials “will go through all of the comments and look at narrowing the proposed corridor, or possibly the no-build option.”

Corridor opponents such as Don Garret, president of Citizens for a Better Waller County, agree that it’s very important for people who feel strongly about this to make their voice heard. But Garret is of the opinion that general anti-corridor comments are going to get short shrift.

“They really don’t want to hear about how long you’ve occupied your land or other teary stories,” he said.

Instead, he recommends challenging the corridor by way of pointing out technical points in the DEIS, being sure to clearly say that you are not in favor of the corridor.

“If the comments are technical in nature, then they have to respond by law,” he said, which in addition to possibly having more weight with TxDOT, would be time consuming and drag the process out, hopefully taking some corridor proponents, zeal for the project away in the process.

The DEIS itself is several hundred pages long, but Garret said his organization has done a lot of work going through it, and developed a synopsis of the report and how to cite technical objections to it in comments to TxDOT.

Garret said that information is available on his Web site,

© 2008, Brenham Banner-Press:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

Friday, March 14, 2008

"Do we live in Texas or 'Taxus'?"

TxDOT/Traffic Control

Mar 14, 2008

by Paul Perry
Dallas Blog
Copyright 2008

Everyone’s favorite agency, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), has found yet another path to your wallet. The same agency that is quarterbacking the great Texas land and personal rights grab, the Trans-Texas Corridor, has been and is granting money to local enforcement groups in order to focus enforcement on speeders.

Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) grants are given to local law enforcement agencies, including the Waxahachie Police Department among others in Texas and the Metroplex, in order to pay overtime to officers to write more traffic tickets.

Grants are being targeted, just in time for family vacations, during spring break.

No job is more thankless than pulling over drivers for speeding infractions. Officers know that a traffic stop is potentially dangerous; maybe not on par with a "domestic violence" call, but surprises do happen. Most experienced police officers don’t like traffic duty, but we all know it is necessary. How and why it is done is where a good discussion can be had.

The mere presence of a marked squad car will cause almost all drivers to check their speed, if not slow down, sometimes unnecessarily. Seeing a marked squad is a reminder of the power of enforcement. Retired and long-time veteran officers generally will tell you that most people do not need to be issued a ticket or pay a fine in order to be encouraged to drive within some reasonable range of the speed limit. A few might need a verbal or written warning from an officer, and some folks need an occasional ticket. A few drivers will not slow down short of a fatality accident.

Where most thinking people have a problem with the enforcement process is when it is being used to generate revenue, unless you are TxDOT. Tickets that are written in order to deal with those who, in an officer’s judgment, will not slow down otherwise are one thing; marginal tickets – tickets written to folks who might otherwise get a warning or tickets written to those who are running slightly over the speed limit in good road conditions – are another.

The agency that is behind legislation to infringe on your rights by shortcutting the normal eminent domain process in Texas law in regard to the Trans-Texas Corridor Project doesn’t primarily judge the success of its grant-giving by how many traffic accidents are reduced, even though that data is available on its website in spots. What the state agency seems to be more concerned with is how many more tickets are being written. Section 8 of its grant application indicates that a city’s or county’s past "performance" on enforcement will be considered in future grant requests from this organ of your state government. Interesting – anyone care to venture a guess why?

Most taxpayers aren’t aware that almost all of the first hundred dollars paid by an individual who is cited for a speeding infraction goes to the state. The remainder goes to the city or county. So an organ of the state, TxDOT, gives a grant to a local law enforcement organization to cover overtime pay for officers in order to write more speeding tickets, and the state receives the lion’s share of the first hundred dollars collected on each and every speeding ticket. That grant sounds more like a business loan to me. This deal becomes quite a potential moneymaker for the state as well as the ticket-issuing cities and counties.

Couple this with the fact that the enabling legislation for the Trans-Texas Corridor contains language that could result in a special police organization being formed to regulate traffic and enforce law in the corridor, and TxDOT’s foray into influencing local departments becomes more interesting. Is this a window into how a new TTC special police would be run? It appears TxDOT and your state would like to extract money from motorists coming and going. Do we live in Texas or "Taxus"?

Due to the pressures inherent in these grants law enforcement might issue more marginal tickets than are really needed, in order to justify their TxDOT grant-financed overtime pay. Who is policing the police? Well, everyone is supposed to be able to have their day in court in our nation, but if your cities’ courtroom is run like Waxahachie city judge Sylvia Lopez-Beaver runs hers, as an example, who knows? Judge Beaver is known for regularly setting bonds in the $5000-$10,000 dollar range and up for jailable misdemeanors. I hope her traffic court is not run like her bail hearings, to date. I hope some common sense prevails in the courts of your city and county.

We need leadership in local law enforcement that first and foremost has the interests of average citizen and taxpayers in mind when it comes to evaluating offers of "help" form the state and federal government as well as enforcing the law. Every Sheriff and police chief candidate around the state should be evaluated with those concerns in mind.

© 2008, Dallas Blog:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

Thursday, March 13, 2008

"Federal dollars are used to subsidize private investors."

Spanish firm using loan from U.S. to build segments of Texas toll road


By David Tanner, staff writer
Land Line Magazine
Copyright 2008

Officials with the Spanish toll road operator Cintra have announced that the company has secured $430 million in loans from the U.S. government to build and operate two segments of a toll road in central Texas.

Cintra officials announced the company’s financial plan for the $1.36 billion Highway 130 segments on Monday, March 10.

OOIDA Senior Government Affairs Representative Mike Joyce told Land Line that the Association does raise red flags when federal dollars are used to subsidize private investors. Officials with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association are not, however, categorically opposed to a state using future toll revenue to pay off bonds.

“I’m skeptical of any funding schemes that involve the private sector,” Joyce said.

Truck tolls on Segment 5 and Segment 6 of Highway 130 are contracted to be 50 cents per mile when the road opens. The 50-year contract includes a formula for increases. Tolls for cars will start at 12.5 cents per mile.

Cintra and its partner in the project, Texas-based Zachry American Infrastructure, signed a contract a year ago to design and build a 40-mile portion of Texas Highway 130, a tolled bypass of Austin running parallel to Interstate 35 in the Austin-San Antonio corridor.

The first four segments of the Highway 130 project, totaling about 50 miles, are part of the Central Texas Turnpike System constructed from 2002 through early 2008 with bonds issued through the Texas Transportation Commission. Tolls on those sections are being used to pay the bonds on the first four segments.

The Cintry-Zachry consortium, formed in 2005, expects to begin construction next year on Segment 5 and Segment 6 of Highway 130 on rights of way leased from the Texas Department of Transportation. The 40-mile section is scheduled to open in 2012.

A similar Cintra-Zachry partnership is designing the first leg of the Trans-Texas Corridor, a proposed 4,000-mile network of toll roads and railway lines to increase the flow of freight and people from South Texas to the U.S. heartland.

Cintra also has a 55-percent share of the lease for the Indiana Toll Road and a 50-percent share of the Chicago Skyway lease. The company partnered with companies affiliated with Macquarie Bank of Australia for those deals.

For the Highway 130 segments being built by Cintra-Zachry, TxDOT has agreed to provide and pay for “back office” functions including toll collectors, other staff, call center, equipment, transponders and maintenance for the roadway.

Cintra’s financing will come from a 35-year, $430 million loan from the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 1998 – a U.S. Department of Transportation program for jump-starting construction – along with a $686 million private bank loan and $197 million in shareholder equity. Cintra will also draw on other equity accounts, officials stated in a press release.

The TIFI Act program is designed to match a certain percentage of the cost for a road built using private sector money. U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters stated in a press release that the TIFI Act loan will give Highway 130 “the push it needs.”

OOIDA’s Joyce points to the comparison between Cintra’s 35-year loan from the federal TIFI Act program and the 50-year concession agreement for Segments 5 and 6.

“We know that they’re looking to turn a profit,” he said.

Click here to read some quick facts and figures posted by Cintra about Highway 130.

Click here to read contractual documents on the project posted by the Texas Department of Transportation.

© 2008, Land Line Magazine:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

"The project would virtually wipe the city of Palmer off the map.”

Trans-Texas Corridor to cut 8,400 acres in Ellis County

BLUE TUBE – The blue on the map shows the proposed area for Gov. Rick Perry’s Trans-Texas Corridor for Ellis County, a move that would swipe an estimated 8,400 acres of land. The towns of Palmer, Garrett, Avalon and pockets of Ennis and Waxahachie are in the trajectory of the proposed route.


The Ellis County Press
Copyright 2008

PALMER – The revised route of the Trans-Texas Corridor could consume 8,400 acres of the eastern part of the county, according to maps obtained through, the statewide group opposed to Gov. Rick Perry’s proposed network of tollways.

The portion of the corridor set to transverse Ellis County is referred to as TTC-35, with four priority routes planned to be operating with traffic by 2014.

Designated as the “preferred alternative route,” TTC-35 consists of 4,000 miles of “priority corridors,” according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

The project would virtually wipe the city of Palmer off the map if successful, according to an analysis by The Ellis County Press.

An estimated 500,000 acres of Texas land would be consumed to build the primary corridors, according to TxDOT. That equates to one mile for every 146 acres of land.

Although denied by TxDOT Commissioner Ted Houghton, the corridors are believed to be extended from Mexico to Canada. Houghton made his remarks at a public forum when the question was posed, followed by laughter.

“They [TTC-35 and TTC-69] stop at Brownsville,” Houghton said. “Let’s get the facts straight.”

The forum of over 800 Texans who packed an east Texas high school public forum continued to laugh.

More than 14,000 Texans have attended more than 50 TTC-35 hearings regarding numerous issues ranging from eminent domain to national security.

Hearings resulted in the Texas Legislature passing a two-year moratorium regarding the super-highway-rail-utility project.

However, according to The Official Trans-Texas Corridor Plan, “…acquiring property for all components must begin as soon as possible.”

According to Phillip Russell, director of the Texas Turnpike Authority,”…we are very aggressive, we’re very serious about it [TTC] and we are going to move forward on it.”

Several elected officials in Ellis County dismissed the concerns raised by Palmer-area residents by referring to the date of the TTC maps (2006) and how the project has been put on 'hold.'

In parts of Ennis, some residents have erected anti-TTC billboard-like yard signs in protest.

Currently, no public hearings are scheduled for Ellis County.

Citizen “HOW TOs” for the TTC-69 HEARINGS & COMMENTS

KEY IDEAS: As IMPORTANT as the Hearings are in expanding opposition to the Trans-Texas Corridor projects AND submitting Comments in OPPOSITION, the most IMPORTANT battle remains in the Texas Legislature in 2009. Transportation policy and funding in Texas must be reformed. The key to waging that battle is to stay in contact with and pressure members of the Texas Senate & House of Representatives. Send them & County Officials a copy of your comments to remind them that it remains a top priority and one that will determine who you support in office.

KEY PHRASES: To OPPOSE the TTC-69 project, use the phrases.. “I oppose the TTC-69” and “I support the NO Action Alternative” at the beginning of ALL Comments for the Record.

Ground Rules: You do NOT need to live, work, or own property in the path of TTC-69 to participate in these Public Hearings. You are NOT limited to attending ONLY one meeting OR only a meeting where you live. You CAN attend & Comment at as many of the Hearing locations as you wish. You CAN submit Comments for the record in any OR all of the 3 Forms below.

3 WAYS : Official Comments about TTC-69 “for the record” are allowed in 3 Forms (and will be taken until March 19th).

Important in all 3: The present Online Form does not include a box to check to indicate that you don’t support any TTC route with the “I Oppose the TTC-69” and “I Support the NO Action Alternative”. If citizens are properly informed they may simply include those phrases prominently at the opening of all Comments. Those key phrases should then be followed by your personal reasons for opposition to the Trans-Texas Corridor 69. In ANY of the 3 formats give your NAME, ADDRESS, etc.

COMMENTS may be submitted in ALL three ways, if you wish. In ALL formats give your NAME, ADDRESS, etc., so that the Comments are included in the official record.

Remember: The present Online Form does not include a box to check to indicate that you don’t support any TTC route with the “I Oppose the TTC-69” and “I Support the NO Action Alternative.”

© 2008, Ellis County Press:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Trans-Texas Corridor opponents saddle up for March and Rally April 5th, 2008

No TTC March:
Download Flyer HERE
Order 'Come and Take It' flags HERE
Order 'Come and Take It' shirts HERE



Tammis Sherman
The Navasota Examiner
Copyright 2008

Hank Gilbert of is organizing an I-69/Trans Texas Corridor March/Rally in Austin to be held April 5th.

In the coming days, they will provide a printable flyer that everyone can distribute throughout their communities, as well as the local media.

We need 10,000 people to attend. We also need as many tractors, horses, etc. as possible.

There will be national media at this event - so we need it to be huge!

More details will be provided in the coming days: For more info., please contact Hank Gilbert at or 903-871-2424. We We all need to be there- to be seen and heard!

© 2008, The Navasota Examiner:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

"Perry has no interest, at least for now, in more debt of this kind."

Borrow more for roads, legislators urge transportation department

Perry rejects Dewhurst/Craddick suggestion as a 'two-year stopgap.'

March 12, 2008

By Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2008

Go borrow some money and build some things, legislative leaders told the Texas Department of Transportation in a letter Tuesday.

The short letter — signed by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, House Speaker Tom Craddick, Senate Finance Chairman Steve Ogden and House Appropriations Chairman Warren Chisum — recommends that TxDOT borrow another $1.5 billion against future gas tax revenue to bridge a temporary financial tight spot. The Legislature, the letter promises, will make sure that some of the gas tax money now diverted to other, nonhighway-construction needs will be returned to the agency to back the bonds.

TxDOT issued a statement that in effect punted the ball to Gov. Rick Perry's office. Spokesman Robert Black said Perry has no interest, at least for now, in more debt of this kind.

"What this letter is asking TxDOT to do is a two-year stopgap, two years of going further into debt," Black said. "A long-term solution comes first. Last year the Legislature came in and all they did was say 'no.' With the rate this state is growing and the needs and challenges we have in transportation, we can't afford to say 'no' anymore."

The Legislature has authorized TxDOT to borrow up to $6 billion against the gas tax; the agency so far has issued just $2.9 billion. Agency officials and Perry, citing slowing gas tax revenue, have resisted issuing more bonds backed by gas taxes.

The state budget for the 2008-09 biennium, according to TxDOT's count, uses almost $1.6 billion from gas taxes and vehicle fees for agencies other than TxDOT. About three-fourths of that, $1.25 billion, pays for operations of the Department of Public Safety and the state troopers who patrol the state highway system.

The agency has said it ceased pursuing many new construction projects as of Feb. 1 because it wouldn't have the money in later years to pay for them. So, if the agency in the current fiscal year spent the $1.5 billion suggested by Tuesday's letter to begin a series of projects, it could have trouble paying the rest later on.

But the legislative letter to Hope Andrade, Texas Transportation Commission chairwoman, says TxDOT should expect more help from the Legislature.

"This action will allow transportation construction to return to reasonable levels in the short-term, but this is just the beginning of the conversation," the letter says.

In Central Texas, where this year's engineering budget was cut from $45.2 million to $19.6 million, road projects were put on hold or became candidates for local funding. Those projects included adding lanes to MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1) and the widening of FM 1460 between Round Rock and Georgetown, RM 2338 in Williamson County, and Texas 195, which runs from Interstate 35 in Williamson County to Killeen.

It also forced Central Texas' local toll authority to carry more of the cost of the design and construction of a second wave of toll roads approved in October

TxDOT had announced the construction slowdown in November, citing inflation in construction costs and cutbacks in federal grants. In early February, at a hearing called by two Senate committees, TxDOT revealed that it had double-counted $1.1 billion in scheduling construction projects. That mistake, officials said at the time, had a lot to do with the crunch.

The state auditor is now looking at TxDOT's finances., 445-3698

© 2008, Austin American-Statesman:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

"The public hearings are over, but the battles now continue with on line comments and mail in forms until March 19, 2008."

County residents attend I-69 corridor hearing in Bryan


The Navasota Examiner
Copyright 2008

TxDOT reported 274 people attended the public hearing for Brazos County held on March 3 at the Bryan Civic Auditorium. The crowd consisted mainly of concerned citizens from Brazos, Waller, Walker and Grimes counties interested in Brazos County's final positioning, which will greatly affect its neighboring counties on the Trans Texas Corridor.

Unlike public hearings held in Trinity, Harris, Montgomery, Angelina, and Grimes counties, the Texas Department of Transportation heard words of encouragement for Rick Perry's I-69/Trans Texas Corridor vision from elected officials of Bryan and College Station.

Both city mayors testified in favor of the Trans Texas Corridor, but unlike previous statements hailed at numerous town hall meetings, they emphasized their need for a “freeway” connection and not necessarily a “corridor”, but they both ended their comments on an affirmative note which garnered them a negative response from the crowd. As quickly as each mayor spoke they left the building, not staying to hear what the attendees from their cities and county had to say.

Brazos County commissioners Wasserman and Peters also spoke, but Commissioner Peters stood alone with a differing view from the other officials in the room.

“He represented his constituents and neither he nor they could see any good from a road that would take so much private land, he understands the need for new roads but it didn't appear this ‘corridor' was the way to attain them,” Peters said.

Both Commissioners stayed through the entire testimony period, listening to the comments from Brazos County citizens as well as the citizens from their neighboring counties.

The Brazos Valley Council of Governments was represented by Assistant Executive Director, Michael Parks. His testimony represents Brazos, Burleson, Leon, Madison, Robertson, Washington and Grimes counties.

Grimes County's members to the Council of Governments are County Judge Shiflett, commissioners Melcher and Finke, along with members from the City of Navasota.

Mr. Parks' testimony did not agree with the action Commissioners Court has taken in their recent resolution, which is to support “The No Action Alternative” for Grimes County, but he testified that all members to the COG were in agreement and that if the corridor was to be built that it should divide Grimes County horizontally at the north end.

Many citizens from Waller, Walker and Grimes counties spoke to have their comments recorded as testimony against the Trans Texas Corridor.

The public hearings are over, but the battles now continue with on line comments and mail in forms until March 19, 2008. Grimes County has organized to continue the fight. If you are interested in joining, please contact Grimes County Get Organized at

© 2008, The Navasota Examiner:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

Monday, March 10, 2008

"The details were all done and the champagne was brought out..."

Cintra/Zachry complete legal work on $1,360m financial close with TxDOT on SH130


Peter Samuel, Editor
Tollroads news
Copyright 2008

SH 130 Concession Company LLC finalized the legal details of a financial close with Texas DOT on a $1,360m toll concession to build SH130 segments 5&6 Thursday and Friday last week in bankers' offices in New York City - at Orrick, 666 Fifth Avenue. The actual money flows should occur on Thursday or Friday (Mar 13 or 14) this week, Jose Maria Lopez de Fuentes, president of Cintra North America, told us this morning.

Hundreds of documents and over 20 lawyers were involved last week representing TxDOT, private equity people, banks, mostly European, the TIFIA loan group from FHWA, and Cintra and Zachary. SH 130 Concession Company LLC is the special purpose company is owned 65% Cintra, 35% Zachry.

Lopez told us: "The details were all done and the champagne was brought out (by Friday afternoon). It was hard work. But it was good. Everyone was there wanting to be helpful. There are now two or three business days for due diligence (before the money moves)."

Despite "constriction" in financial markets

In a statement Lopez is quoted: "This is an exciting milestone in the development of a much-needed roadway in Central Texas. This financial achievement on the part of our team is especially noteworthy given the current constriction in the financial markets. We now look forward to developing a state-of-the-art expressway system that will provide drivers congestion relief and greater safety."

The concession contract was signed in June 2006. However it could not be brought to financial close until permitting was complete.

The concession company has paid TxDOT the $25.8m upfront concession fee for the right to collect tolls on the new road for 50 years. It has a contract with associated companies Ferrovial Agroman and Zachry Construction for construction of the 40 mile (64km) 2x2 lane expressway which will extend the TxDOT constructed SH130 segments 1 thru 4 from the the interchange with TX45 South, on southeast edge of Austin to I-10 at Seguin. Seguin is not far outside San Antonio in a northeasterly direction.

Final design and land acquisition is under way and construction work should start early 2009, Cintra says. Completion should be by 2012 or earlier.

The road will be an all electronic tollroad - no cash collected.

On completion segments 5 and 6 will turn SH130 into an alternative route to I-35 for traffic between Georgetown and San Antonio - constituting a bypass of the Austin metro area and many other settlements that have clustered along the old interstate.

Cintra says the new expressway will "serve not only regional traffic but also offer an alternative to Interstate Highway 35 (I-35) between San Antonio and north Austin, making it possible for medium- and long-distance drivers to avoid the bottlenecks that are becoming increasingly common in Central Texas. This new high-capacity expressway will also help absorb existing and expected growth in long-distance truck traffic, further relieving congestion on I-35, Texas’ primary north-south route."

Skeptics say the new tollroad will not even attract 5-digit - let alone viable 25k+ - daily traffic volumes for many years and that it is too dependent on congestion on I-35 and on development occurring close-by it. Only on the northern end of the new tollroad will there be much local traffic oriented for trips into the rest of the Austin region and that traffic will have free alternates.

The road does seem to make most sense as part of a longer route from the Dallas area to San Antonio and beyond - to the Trans Texas Corridor 35 (TTC35). In any case the investors are putting their money, as the saying goes, where their mouth is. Central Texas gets a valuable new highway without expense to taxpayers.

Speed/concession fee tradeoff

An innovative aspect of the TX130/5&6 concession is the arrangement for higher concession payments if higher posted speeds are approved by the legislature. Details of the concession were posted in these articles:


Concessions may follow from TTC master contract

Cintra has a right of first refusal to negotiate any new concessions for Trans Texas Corridor 35 (TTC35) from near Georgetown north into the Dallas area and onto the border. Cintra was selected in December 2004 to work toward concessions on 509km (316mi) of TTC35 tollway that was said to involve a possible $6 billion worth of work. This was called a Master Development comprehensive development agreement (CDA). CDA is the unique TxDOT umbrella term for a variety of contracts that range from small consulting jobs through design-build, project development work and large multistage concessions.

The TTC35 Master Development CDA was only firmed up into a <$10m project development contract with TxDOT for studies and planning of the first part of TTC35 extending from the Oklahoma border through Dallas area to San Antonio, though it gives Cintra a kind of right-of-first-refusal to negotiate actual concessions.

SH130 is not formally part of TTC35 yet, but it is logically part of it, and no one has suggested any separate road would be viable.

BACKGROUND: Cintra, one of the world's largest private-sector transportation infrastructure developers, is a publicly traded company whose majority stockholder is the 100k employee Ferrovial Group. Cintra manages and operates more than 2,800km (1740 miles) of toll road, which represents a managed investment of more than $24 billion. With this project, Cintra will have a stake in companies managing 23 toll roads, in Spain (7), Ireland (2), Greece (2), Portugal (3), Chile (5), Canada (1) and the United States (3). Additionally, Cintra is Spain's leading parking lot operator and manages more than 266k parking spaces, a Cintra statement says.

© 2008, TOLLROADSnews:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

Loans backed by tax dollars fuel private consortium building SH 130 segments of the Trans-Texas Corridor

Spain's Cintra gets financing for Texas toll road

Mar 10, 2008

Elizabeth O'Leary; Editing by Joe Ortiz
Copyright 2008

MADRID- Spain's Cintra on Monday said it had closed financing to build segments 5 and 6 of its SH-130 toll road between San Antonio and Austin, Texas in the United States in which it will invest $1.36 billion.

In a statement to Spain's stock market, Cintra said $197 million of the investment came from consortium partners and the rest from a bank loan and debt from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The concession company is 65 percent owned by Cintra, it said in a statement

Related Posts: 'Privately funded?' Cintra-Zachry asks Uncle Sam for a loan click HERE

© 2008, Reuters:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

"It would not be impossible for Camp Allen to survive the building of the corridor or the aftermath of the project.”

Episcopal Bishop Protests Trans-Texas Corridor Alignment

Mar 10, 2008

by Will Lutz
Volume 13, Issue 29
The Lone Star Report
Copyright 2008

This month’s Texas Episcopalian, the newsletter for the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, contains a Page One story headlined “TxDOT Plans Threaten Camp Allen.”

The story explains that one of the proposed alignments for the new Trans-Texas Corridor-69 through Grimes County is a Farm-to-Market road that goes right past the entrance to the camp, which is owned by the diocese and is considered one of the best camping facilities in the Episcopal Church. The diocese has started an online petition calling for the road’s alignment to be moved. (Camp Allen has existed since 1921 and has been located in Grimes County since 1977.)

“We want the project moved off of FM 362,” wrote the Rt. Rev. Don Wimberly, Episcopal Bishop of Texas. “There are 6000 school children alone who attend our Discovery Program each year, not to mention the 1,620 children who attend summer camp. Our guests represent every major university in the state, major healthcare facilities, and more than 170 churches from every denomination. People come to Camp Allen for retreat and renewal. It would not be impossible for Camp Allen to survive the building of the corridor or the aftermath of the project,” he added.

Wimberly has written to Gov. Rick Perry expressing his concerns on the issue. LSR has filed a public information request with the governor’s office to get a copy of both the letter and the governor’s response, and we’ll post it when we get it.

Chris Lippincott, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation, explained the process to LSR. Right now, the department is seeking public comment on its Tier I Draft Environmental Impact statement, which is required by federal law.

Lippincott told LSR that issues such as the effect the alignment would have on landowners can be discussed in this process and is considered by the Federal Highway Administration. The public comments are submitted to the Federal Highway Administration, which then makes a final recommendation to the state.

After the Tier I environmental impact statement has become finalized, then the department has to begin working on a Tier II environmental impact statement, which is much more specific, as the proposed route for the road has been narrowed down.

A link to the Texas Episcopalian story is posted HERE.

© 2008, The Lone Star Report:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

"We are fighting the hierarchy at TxDOT, and we’re fighting the governor of this state. If they can be controlled, this issue will be solved."

Does public opinion on I-69 matter?

Texas transportation officer says it does, but opponents not so sure


The Victoria Advocate
Copyright 2008

Carl Bedgood doubts anything he or anyone else said about the proposed Interstate 69/Trans-Texas Corridor will make a difference in the long run.
“I really don’t think they are listening to the public,” said Bedgood, who owns land in Victoria and Goliad counties that the highway project could affect. The highway department has “made up its mind and doesn’t care what the public says.”

Bedgood, who spoke at two of the highway department’s public hearings last month on the project, thinks the only recourse to challenge proposed routes or stop the project altogether is through the state legislature.

But Bryan Ellis, public information officer for the Texas Department of Transportation’s Yoakum District office, said public comments are indeed part of the decision-making process.

“In Victoria, for instance, the majority of the comments we received were not in favor of the northern route. Most people said stay on the existing highways 59 and 77. That is an example of how the public involvement process can shape how the route eventually looks. The public does have a huge part in determining where the route is intended to go,” Ellis said.

Others who attended and spoke at the public hearings in the area also offered opinions on how much impact their statements might make.

“We hope they take what we had to say into consideration. That was the purpose of the hearing,” said Edna attorney and business owner Dennis Simons. “Our hope is that it didn’t fall on deaf ears. Whether it did or not, we’ll probably never know.”
Ganado’s Donald Egg was a little less optimistic.
“It was just a dog and pony show so they can say the public had input,” said Egg,who not only spoke at the public hearing in Edna but also has written letters to federal and state legislators about the project. “If the decision is being made in Washington, D.C., it makes no difference what we say and do in Texas. It’s more of a trade issue than a transportation issue.” If the highway expansion becomes a reality, Egg stands to lose his homestead in Edna, which has been in his family for five generations, and property in Ganado, where he has retired.

Others are hopeful that public input can make a difference.

“If you have the idea that you can’t fight Texas, then possibly we aren’t being heard. If you have the understanding we aren’t fighting Texas –Texas is a piece of dirt – we are fighting the hierarchy at TxDOT, and we’re fighting the governor of this state. If they can be controlled, this issue will be solved,” said Charlie Faupel, a seventh generation owner of Reeves Ranch that would be affected by both the northern or southern I-69 route in the Victoria area. “I’m glad they had the meetings and so many people turned out for them.”

“There was a lot of participation. We had six hearings in our district and every one was very well attended,” Ellis said.

Statewide, the highway department held 46 public hearings – including seven in the Victoria area – on the draft of the proposed project’s environmental impact study. Public comments can continue to be made through March 19 via the highway department Web site. People who took comment cards at the meetings also have until March 19 to get those in.

“All substantive comments will be addressed,” said Ellis, explaining that highway department staff, along with consultants hired to conduct the environmental impact study, will review the comments.

“I think, for example, one of the main things we were hearing at all the meetings in the Victoria area was ‘keep it on existing 59.’ We heard it over and over and over. Certainly that’s going to be something that’s going to carry a lot of weight,” Ellis said.

Sonny Long is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6585 or

© 2008, The Victoria Advocate:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

Sunday, March 09, 2008

"The dire warnings of eminent domain apologists are not to be believed."

Let's not forget just whose domain it is


Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2008

Property owners across the Lone Star State have a Texas-sized problem on their hands: eminent domain abuse, in which the government takes private property not for public projects (like the construction of a courthouse) but for private gain (such as the creation of big box stores or high-end homes).

For example:

  • The city of El Paso is determined to wipe out acres of downtown businesses -- including Asian and Jewish merchants -- for a fad-driven shopping and entertainment district.
  • Mere hours after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its infamous Kelo decision allowing eminent domain for private gain under the U.S. Constitution, Freeport officials condemned two successful shrimp companies so that a wealthy developer could build a private marina.

Thanks to vocal beneficiaries of eminent domain abuse, Texas passed only nominal reform, leaving open a loophole large enough to lasso entire neighborhoods with bogus "blight" declarations.

Eminent domain enthusiasts defend their position by predicting economic doomsday if their power is in any way restrained. Despite countless examples to the contrary, people such as Bart Peterson, who testified before Congress on behalf of the National League of Cities, insisted: "If [eminent domain] vanishes, the redevelopment experienced in many communities in recent years would literally come to a complete halt."

That kind of hyperbole has led local government officials across the state to use eminent domain for the private gain of politically connected developers over hard-working, taxpaying Texans.

New research released earlier this year, however, demonstrates that the dire warnings of eminent domain apologists are not to be believed.

Using rigorous statistical methods, the Institute for Justice examined three indicators closely related to economic development: construction jobs, building permits and property tax revenues. IJ compared those data from states that passed reforms with data from states where no reform has taken place. IJ also compared the trends in the economic indicators before and after reform.

Because jobs, permits and tax data are closely tied to development, one would expect to see early negative effects of eminent domain reform if, in fact, there were some. But there weren't.

The data reveal that even strong post-Kelo reforms have provided greater protection to homes and small businesses without sacrificing economic health. Strong property rights and healthy economic development can coexist.

Despite universal public opposition to the taking of homes and businesses for a private developer's profit, no national political candidate has embraced the issue, even though studies demonstrate that racial minorities and the poor (key Democratic constituencies) are disproportionately affected by eminent domain abuse and Republicans are supposed to value property rights.

With no ill economic effects -- and with the substantial benefits that strong reform provides to the rightful owners of property and society as a whole --legislators in Texas and nationwide should ignore the apocalyptic hand-wringing of eminent domain abusers and reform their state's laws to curb its use for private development.

Today, it is businesses from Freeport to El Paso that are under threat of eminent domain abuse. Tomorrow, it could well be your home that is targeted for a private development project.

Dick Carpenter II is director of strategic research for the Institute for Justice ( and co-author of the report "Doomsday? No Way: Economic Trends and Post-Kelo Eminent Domain Reform."

© 2008, Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE