Saturday, May 24, 2008

"TxDOT wanted to tell US what should be built in Texas. It doesn't work that way."

TxDOT tries to bridge rifts with Texans in Congress

May 24, 2008

Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau
Copyright 2008

WASHINGTON — The Texas Department of Transportation, long viewed as hyperpartisan and arrogant by some members of the state's congressional delegation, has been trying to soften its image by reaching out to lawmakers of both parties in the nation's capital.

But while state transportation officials are having some success in easing the personal animus, they still face a stiff challenge in selling their policy agenda to the state's elected officials in Washington.

Many Texans on the Potomac cringe at the agency's embrace of toll roads, the controversies surrounding the Trans-Texas Corridor and TxDOT's resistance to many of the highway earmarks they deliver to constituents.

"I think it's a marriage that's on the rocks," said Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, who sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "TxDOT has burned some bridges with the Texas delegation."

The charm offensive comes as Congress begins work on the reauthorization of the massive transportation legislation that expires in 2009. The reauthorization effort will chart priorities for federal highway spending and for programs into the next decade.

Transportation officials in Texas, who have been warning of highway funding shortfalls, hope to increase their share of federal dollars, which amounted to $3.6 billion in 2006. But they also want the flexibility to tap other sources of revenue, such as toll roads and private leasing of highways.

TxDOT has a lot of animosity to overcome. Democrats hold a grudge against the agency for ignoring them during the years of GOP dominance in the House and for using state taxpayer dollars to hire a lobbyist linked to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land.

"They bought the Kool Aid and thought Republicans would be in the permanent majority," said Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, referring to the GOP lobbyists hired by TxDOT. "It is no secret they didn't talk to Democrats."

Thawing relations

Lawmakers say the thaw in relations with state highway officials began last fall when the late Ric Williamson, the hard-charging and very partisan chairman of the state Transportation Commission, flew to Washington to make peace with the delegation after Democrats regained control of Congress. That effort continued after Williamson's death in December.

"There may be hard feelings about things that happened in the past, but we have significant challenges in the future," said Deirdre Delisi, appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to lead the five-member Transportation Commission, which oversees TxDOT and the state's extensive highway and bridge system,

TxDOT also has taken action that appears to be aimed at placating Texas Democrats and acknowledging the party will likely remain in control of Congress for the near future.

In February, the agency quietly ended outside lobbying contracts, worth $117,692 a month, including one held by the Federalist Group, which is run by Drew Maloney, DeLay's former chief of staff.

Democrats had been miffed at the contract in part because Maloney had contributed $15,500 to Republican congressional candidates — including $5,500 to DeLay — since 2003, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Maloney also gave $750 to an opponent of Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, the top Texas Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.

The same month it canceled the outside contracts, the transportation agency hired Rebecca Reyes, the daughter of Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, as one of its two staffers in its Washington office. Silvestre Reyes is an ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, who named the Texan to head the House Intelligence Committee.

The moves, said Chris Lippincott, a TxDOT spokesman, were not taken for political reasons. He said that the outside contracts were terminated because of budget cuts and that Rebecca Reyes was hired because she has a background in lobbying.

Silvestre Reyes defended the hiring of his daughter, saying she "went through the same rigorous hiring process as every other applicant who applies to work for the state of Texas."

Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Stafford, said it was "probably true" that TxDOT had experienced problems adapting to the new Democratic congressional leadership.

"There has been an expression of interest in coming here and building relationships," he said, "but I (still) haven't seen that happen at this point."

Lawmakers from both parties have a litany of grievances about the transportation agency's approach to Congress.

Edwards complained that agency officials "have been instructed to blame Congress for the inability to improve highway projects." In reality, he said, federal spending for highways in Texas has risen faster than state spending.

The friction with state highway officials came about, Poe said, "when TxDOT wanted to tell us what should be built in Texas. It doesn't work that way."

The Trans-Texas Corridor

Many lawmakers do not support plans for the Trans-Texas Corridor, envisioned by Perry as a project stretching from Texarkana to Mexico that would be operated by a private consortium. The corridor would include toll lanes for cars and trucks; tracks for freight and passenger trains; and space for pipelines, power lines and communications.

Landowners and local governments whose property would be affected by the project have angrily protested the routes in a series of town hall meetings.

"It is public enemy number one in my district," said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands.

Some lawmakers have signaled a willingness to meddle with plans for the corridor.

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, has introduced a bill that would prohibit federal funding for the project. The proposal is backed by Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, whose district runs from Austin to western Harris County and is a hotbed of opposition to the corridor.

As a pre-emptive move, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, inserted a provision in an appropriations bill that barred the state from putting tolls on existing highways for a year. The bill subsequently became law.

Texas' other senator, Republican John Cornyn, who is up for re-election, said he doesn't believe the corridor is a good idea.

"Obviously, we need more transportation infrastructure in Texas," he said. "But I don't think we need to plow up a bunch of new ground on private property across the state to get there."

Earmarks criticized

Another area of dispute has been the willingness of lawmakers to insert earmarks — orders funding projects — into transportation bills.

Lippincott said the earmarks, totaling $208 million for the state, often force the delay of other projects.

But some Democrats, such as Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas, believe the earmarks are necessary to ensure a fair distribution of state highway funds.

"I'm going to support earmarks as long as I am here breathing," Johnson said.

Ned Holmes, a transportation commissioner and Houston businessman, said he believes the rift between TxDOT and the Democrats can be repaired through better communication.

Although he is a Republican, Holmes said he has remained on good terms with congressional Democrats and noted that he contributed $2,000 to Edwards' re-election campaign in March.

For years, Holmes said, "TxDOT was one of the most respected state agencies.

"I think it will be again."

© 2008 Houston Chronicle

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Friday, May 23, 2008

"His cronyism would make the Fergusons envious."

Postmarks Online

Considering Gov.Perry as Texas CEO

May 23, 2008

Austin Chronicle
Copyright 2008

Dear Editor,

If Gov. Perry wants to be considered the CEO of Texas, let us look at what he has done for his shareholders, the citizens of Texas.

Texas ranks at the top in the number of people without health insurance, at the top in the number of high school dropouts (due in part to the necessity for more paychecks in households). He has sold off one of our most valuable assets – land – to foreign interest.

He has pushed for the Trans-Texas Corridor, which will benefit Wal-Mart and China far more than most Texans.

His plan to privatize help for Texas' neediest citizens has been such a failure that even he couldn't ignore it.

He has attempted to privatize government services even though he knew cost would increase.

He has stated that Texas citizens who don't agree with his fanatical Christian beliefs should find somewhere to live.

His fixation on funding for the Boy Scouts would make a Freudian blush.

His cronyism would make the Fergusons envious. If he had been a CEO, he would have been given his walking papers, not a golden parachute, long ago.

Charles Waldrep

© 2008 The Austin Chronicle

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"Perry's modus operandi: Waylay legislators after the heavy lifting of writing legislation has been done and then surprise them with a veto."

The governor takes off on a charm offensive

Schmoozing with the legislators shouldn't be big news, but for Rick Perry it is.


Corpus Christi Caller-Times
Copyright 2008

Gov. Rick Perry is on a charm offensive. The Associated Press reported that the governor has been meeting with state legislators in informal get-togethers, chit-chatting about family and common interests, asking about their kids. And there's talk about state issues, too, whenever it seems appropriate, observers and participants in the meetings say.

Politicians schmoozing with each other ordinarily isn't news. But it says a lot about Perry's past history of relationships with members of the legislature that the wire service felt moved to write a news item about the governor's recent round of socializing. In fact, if the governor is trying to get the legislators to warm up to him, he has a lot of ground to make up. Perry's modus operandi has been to waylay legislators after the heavy lifting of writing legislation has been done and then surprise them with a veto.

His veto of community college funding after the 2007 session aroused community college officials and students and their supporters all over the state. Legislators who had worked on the funding legislation were angry that he had given no indication that he would use his veto pen.

Perry said his staff had passed the word, but that served to underscore the arms-length communication style has employed with legislators. Even on initiatives that had merit, such as his executive order mandating vaccination of school-age girls with the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine against cervical cancer, Perry surprised legislators, giving them little reason to defend him when conservatives in his own Republican Party pushed back.

Border sheriffs, after backing Perry for reelection in a campaign in which border security was made a high priority, were surprised when only a few million out of a $100 million border security funding went their way. The pattern was set after Perry's first legislature as governor in 2001 when he ambushed legislators by vetoing more than 80 bills with little warning. There wasn't much schmoozing then.

But Perry would have been a better governor if he had worked as hard then at establishing working relationships with legislators and political leaders as he seems to be now. The political writer for the AP, Kelly Shannon, wrote that Perry has traveled across the state to meet with legislators, often in their hometowns.

The trips are done in conjunction with promoting his book on Boy Scouts, "On My Honor," or to make an appearance at a local event, such as the groundbreaking in Fredericksburg for an expansion for the National Museum of the Pacific War.

In Fredericksburg, he met over lunch with Rep. Harvey Hildebran, a Kerrville Republican, and Doug Miller, a New Braunfels Republican running in November for a House seat. In Laredo, Perry attended a merienda hosted by State Sen. Judith Zaffrini and ate burgers with legislators in San Antonio. He's managed to work in discussions about higher education funding, about border security, the state budget, and roads and water. These conversations are all to the good ahead of what some consider a coming tough session. But there is also political context here.

Perry has already announced he's running for a third term. It is possible that Perry would find himself in a high-powered Republican primary race in 2010 against U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, or Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, or both.

That means that Perry, who was elected with about 39 percent of the vote in a six-candidate race in 2006, would find it helpful to have a legislative success that he could claim as his own. That kind of success means schmoozing with other politicians, establishing relations and setting up lines of communication. In other words, the kind of things that a governor who wants to be effective should have been doing.

© 2008 Corpus Christie Caller-Times

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Perry plots special session to quash Sub-Regional Planning Commissions

Governor Reportedly Pondering Special Session To Curtail Power Of Sub-Regional Planning Commissions

Related Link: Texas 391 Commission Alliance

by Vince Leibowitz
Capitol Annex
Copyright 2008

There are rumblings in the Capitol that Texas Governor Rick Perry is looking at the possibility of calling a Special Session of the Texas Legislature to curtail the power of Regional Planning Commissions.

Why? Because Sub-Regional Planning Commissions have become the latest weapon in the arsenal of opponents of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

Perry is reportedly considering calling a special session on transportation issues with altering Chapter 391 of the Texas Local Government Code being the session’s number one priority.

Chapter 391, the codification of the Regional Planning Act of 1965 codified by the 59th Texas Legislature, has a proviso that has become particularly nettlesome to proponents of the Trans-Texas Corridor, Chapter 391.009(c):

In carrying out their planning and program development responsibilities, state agencies shall, to the greatest extent feasible, coordinate planning with commissions to ensure effective and orderly implementation of state programs at the regional level.

Because these commissions are considered political subdivisions of the state, they are on equal footing with state agencies like TxDOT.

One Sub-Regional Planning Commission in particular, the Eastern Central Texas Regional Sub-Regional Planning Commission, has become a particularly nettlesome thorn in the side of TxDOT. They have demanded, in a 28-page missive, that TxDOT conduct another Environmental Impact Study specific to their region. TxDOT, of course, is required under the National Environmental Policy Act, to conduct an EIS, and the current Draft Environmental Impact Study for TTC-35 is, according to the ECTRSRP, “deficient in issue analysis.”

Whether Perry will call the special session or not remains to be seen, but Austin sources tell Capitol Annex that the issue has been discussed between TxDOT and the governor’s office.

The funny part, however, is that the existing sub-regional planning commissions would be grandfathered, but legislative action could severely clip their wings and possibly stop new SRPCs from either forming or acting so boldly.

Of course, if Perry does call the special session, conventional wisdom says he will extend the call to include a GOP pet issue: Voter ID. This, of course, will be in part to usurp Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, who has been carrying the Voter ID banner of late.

© 2008 The Capitol Annex

Related Link: Texas 391 Commission Alliance:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Blackout: DPS keeps Rep. Krusee's Roadside Olympics tape in the lurch

DPS withholding video of Mike Krusee's arrest

May 22, 2008

KXAN-TV (Austin)
Copyright 2008

The Texas Department of Public Safety is withholding trooper dashboard camera video taken during the arrest of Texas representative Mike Krusee.

Using the Texas Public Information Act, KXAN requested the video after the state lawmaker from Williamson County was arrested for DWI earlier this month. A state trooper pulled him over after he noticed him driving erratically in northwest Austin. The license plate on his vehicle also had expired last December.

Elected state officials all have personalized license plates. Therefore, the trooper would have known he was pulling over a state official before asking for identification.

A spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Public Safety said Krusee failed a field sobriety test. When asked if he had been drinking, Krusee said he had had one glass of wine.

DPS is using a section of government code that allows law enforcement entities to withhold information regarding an ongoing investigation, if they choose.

Krusee who, before his arrest, announced he planned on not running for reelection, helped pave the way for major toll road projects and stiffer drunken driving penalties.

Krusee sponsored House Bill 3588, which opened the door for the state's toll road system and the Trans-Texas Corridor. It also included a provision to create the driver responsibility program, which charges a $1,000 surcharge for first-time offenders convicted of driving while intoxicated, with additional penalties for repeat offenses.

The Capitol had buzzed that Krusee would be a candidate to serve on the Texas Transportation Commission once he resigned his seat in the House. Paul Burka, senior executive editor of Texas Monthly, speculated on his blog Thursday that the DWI did not help Krusee, mainly because it gave new ammunition to toll road opponents who oppose Krusee's appointment.

"Krusee has made himself a bigger target than he would have been otherwise," Burka said.

The second strike against Krusee's appointment to the Texas Transportation Commission -- if Gov. Rick Perry were to choose to appoint him -- is that he would follow Perry's former chief of staff Deirdre Delisi onto the commission. Perry named Delisi chair of the commission this week. One Perry appointee completely committed to toll roads and the Trans-Texas Corridor might be expected; there might be natural opposition to two such appointments, Burka said.

Under state law, Krusee's license is automatically suspended for 180 days for refusing a breath test. He was released from Williamson County Jail in Georgetown Thursday morning after posting a $1,000 bail. First-offense DWI is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by probation to 180 days in jail and fines of up to $2,000.

Krusee has served in the House since 1993. He's a close ally of Perry on transportation issues and stood as the sole House vote against a bill that would rein in toll roads last session.

© Copyright 2008 KXAN-TV

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"Balfour Beatty Infrastructure ... in combination with Balfour Beatty Capital, is very well placed to play a major part in the future."

Balfour Beatty JV wins $330 mln U.S. road project

May 22, 2008

Copyright 2008

LONDON - British construction and engineering group Balfour Beatty (BALF.L: Quote, Profile, Research) has been awarded a $330 million road building contract in Texas, in joint venture with U.S. engineering firm Fluor Corp (FLR.N: Quote, Profile, Research).

The design and build contract for the 281 North Toll highway project, awarded by the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority, involves the construction of 7.9 miles of non-toll lanes and a total of six new toll lanes near San Antonio.

"There is a very substantial forward road building programme in Texas using a range of financing techniques, and Balfour Beatty Infrastructure, where appropriate in combination with Balfour Beatty Capital, is very well placed to play a major part in the future," Balfour Beatty Chief Executive Ian Tyler said in a statement on Thursday.

The group, which has already worked with Fluor to deliver the $1.1 billion State Highway 130 project near Austin, said it has won $460 million in other road infrastructure projects in Texas over the last four years. (Reporting by Marc Roca, editing by Will Waterman)

©2008 Reuters

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“This was just snuck in on us. But everyone here should band together to stop it.”

Seeking answers

Holliday residents attend right-of-way project forum

May 22, 2008

By Lara K. Richards
Witchia Falls Times Record News
Copyright 2008

HOLLIDAY — T. Boone Pickens’ ears must have been ringing Thursday night.

The billionaire oil tycoon got called every name in the book by Wichita and Archer county residents who attended an open house about his right-of-way project last evening.

Two Pickens’ companies — Mesa Power LP and the Roberts County Fresh Water Supply District No. 1 — plan to build a water pipeline and electric transmission lines that run smack dab through several North Texas counties.

Joyce, an Archer County resident who requested her last name not be used, fanned herself furiously with a leaflet as she tried to calm herself down.

“This is not the government doing this. This is a private business taking my land,” she said as she wiped sweat from her brow. “(T. Boone Pickens) already has millions and billions and trillions of dollars. Why does he need to mess up our lives?”

Joyce was dejected to learn that the project runs directly across a tract of land she and her husband own about six miles south of Wichita Falls off Texas 79.

“We just built a home. We moved in in December,” she said of their 4,000-square-foot, quarter-million-dollar investment. “Me and my husband built the home ourselves. It took us four years to finish it.”

A ring of sweat collected on the neckline of her red shirt.

“I’m so furious, I can’t see straight. They want to run it right through my property,” she said.

About 100 landowners packed the Archer Community Center in Holliday last night to get information about Picken’s plans. Representatives from various facets of the project — from the environmental impact to the timeline to land contracting — were on hand to meet one on one with residents.

Attendees were stacked up a dozen deep behind two areas where homeowners could see on an interactive map exactly where the lines would cross their property.

Thune Cannon, chief of staff for State Rep. David Farabee of Wichita Falls, said his office has received around 30 calls so far about the project.

“People are calling just wanting answers right now,” he said. “The good thing about this (open house) is hopefully they’ll get their answers tonight. If they need more information or help, hopefully then we can help them dig into things if they ask.”

Cannon said he understood the concern and worry that many people have about the project.

“I think there’s the fear of the unknown,” he said. “And quite frankly, people want to protect their property.”

The project runs east through Hardeman and Wilbarger counties before turning southeast and traveling through Wichita, Archer, Clay and Jack counties.

Mesa Power intends to transport wind-generated power from the Panhandle to customers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area through transmission lines that run across the area. The water district plans to pump water from the Ogallala Aquifer eastward to the Dallas-Fort Worth area as well.

The two companies sent out letters about a month ago to around 1,100 landowners in 11 counties in the Texas Panhandle and North Texas informing them of the project. The companies have piggy-backed their plans to obtain the right of way for the project.

In the packet landowners received, many were shocked to find a copy of the Texas Landowner’s Bill of Rights, which explains in detail the concept of eminent domain.

Those are not words that landowner Francis Mackey ever wants to hear, she said Thursday at the open house.

“The thing that hit me (with this project) was eminent domain,” she said. “I hate those words. They’re not considering anything except them making money. It’s unfair.”

Mackey said her land just off FM 1954 had been in her family for more than 100 years.

“We have land that we could sell for lots, and this project will hinder that,” she said. “And if we have wheat fields planted and they come in with their big equipment, it will mash everything down. It’s got me upset.”

Mackey said she could fuss all she wanted, but the end result was that she couldn’t control what the Pickens’ companies did with her land.

“And then they’re like, ‘If you don’t want to take (the money) we give you, we’re gonna take your property anyway,’ “ she said, flailing her arms. “Is this America or Russia?”

Steve Zerangue, a project spokesman with the issues management firm of Harris Deville & Associates, which is working with Pickens on the project, stressed that eminent domain was a last resort.

Typically in projects of this nature, only around 5 percent of the negotiations between company and landowners end up in court, he said.

“We are optimistic we’ll be able to get most of these negotiations done without resorting to that,” he said.

Don’t be so sure, Mr. Pickens, Joyce said.

“He doesn’t have enough money to pay me. I don’t want it on my property, period,” she said. “I don’t want this, at all.”

Joyce said she felt like the entire project, including the passage of legislation last session that enabled Pickens’ to do the joint right-of-way project, hoodwinked rural landowners.

“This was just snuck in on us,” she said, still mad. “But everyone here should band together to stop it.”

© 2008 Witchita Falls Times Record News

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Ex-General Barry R. McCaffrey, now Chairman of HNTB Federal Services Corporation, pushes Trans-Texas Corridor


Transportation infrastructure is critical for Texas

Related Link: HNTB is lead consultant for Trans-Texas Corridor

May 22, 2008

Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2008

One of the greatest issues facing Texas' border and transportation systems is the ongoing challenge to enhance border security while providing safe and efficient movement of people and goods through the border.

The volume of activity along the U.S.-Mexico border is enormous and expanding each year. Trade with Mexico has more than quadrupled in the past 15 years from $81 million in 1993 to nearly $350 billion in 2007. Projected to reach at least one and a half times that number by 2020, Mexico is our fastest growing trade partner.

Nearly 80 percent of the trade between the United States and Mexico is transported via roads or rail. In Texas alone, that equates to 3.1 million inbound and 2.7 million outbound trucks each year.

Border transportation and inspection infrastructure have not been able to keep pace with this growing trade volume. Texas is home to six of the 10 busiest commercial border crossings, including the top two: Laredo and El Paso. The high volume of trade focused on these few border crossings and the U.S. reliance on Texas' already overwhelmed transportation infrastructure to move goods across the state and the country are causing a bottleneck for economic growth. Delays at the border are getting longer and more frequent, averaging 20 minutes in El Paso and 40 minutes to one hour in Laredo. Major choke points along the border pose a significant threat to security and trade.

But with every challenge comes great opportunity. Texas is taking center stage as a hub of North American trade. It shares more than two-thirds of the U.S. border with Mexico and for the sixth consecutive year, the Lone Star State has ranked first in the nation in export revenues. Proposed "mega ports" on Mexico's Pacific coast are slated to supplement U.S. port capacity in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles to allow expanded trade volume between Asia and the United States.

I commend Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, lawmakers of both political parties and Texas Department of Transportation Executive Director Amadeo Saenz for the progress of major transportation corridors, especially the expansion of Texas 130 and Interstate 69 that will help reduce congestion and increase freight throughput.

Texas is showing that America can enhance border security while enhancing border trade and transportation. Still, additional investments at ports of entry and strategic corridors are required to expand Texas' role as the southern U.S. trade corridor. This investment must focus on expanding the volume of trade across multiple modes of transportation, specifically rail.

Local and federal governments must work together to identify incentives that will provide private capital opportunities to invest in transportation through Texas. There is no single solution; it is a complex and integrated system that requires investment and focus from government officials, private industry and citizens.

McCaffrey, a retired Army officer, is in Austin today as the keynote speaker at TxDOT's 2010 Summit Conference. He serves as a security analyst for NBC News and is chairman of HNTB Federal Services Corp. and an adjunct professor at the U.S. Military Academy.

Related Link: HNTB is lead consultant for Trans-Texas Corridor

© 2008 Austin American-Statesman

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"TxDOT has failed to comply with the federal law and federal implementing regulations."

Commission formally requests TxDOT prepare a Supplemental Environmental Study for TTC-35

Related Link: Texas 391 Commission Alliance

May 22, 2008

North Texas E-news
Copyright 2008

Holland, Texas –The Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission (ECTSRPC) has unanimously approved the first formal demand that development of the Trans-Texas Corridor -35 be stopped and corridor be restudied. On May 13, the ECTSRPC approved a 26-page formal demand that the Texas Department of Transportation conduct a supplemental environmental study.

The ECSTSRPC was formed under Chapter 391 of the Texas Local Government Code, which requires TXDOT and other state agencies "coordinate" their planning and projects with local planning commissions.

In releasing the demand, Mayor Mae Smith of Holland, president of the ECTSRPC, said; "Until we organized this Commission, TxDOT had not discussed with us the damage a 1,200-foot wide superhighway would have on our towns and school districts. During the meetings following our formation, TxDOT admitted they had not studied the local impacts resulting from geographically dividing our emergency services and school districts, disrupting school bus routes and adding utility costs to our citizens."

The formal demand sets forth issues critical to local citizens of the towns of Holland, Bartlett, Little River-Academy, and Rogers and their respective school districts. ECTSRPC member Ralph Snyder pointed out that the current study ignored the economic impact of destroying the highly productive farm ground known as the Blackland Prairie through which the corridor runs. He said, "The current corridor will ruin the rural economy of our area. TxDOT says it plans to study that impact later when they decide on a specific highway route, but that’s too late. No matter where the specific pavement is laid, the Prairie will be destroyed, so they need to study this impact now."

ECTSRPC Treasurer, Mayor Ronnie White of Little-River Academy, explained that the Commission believes "TxDOT should follow their own study and expand the existing Interstate 35 rather than pursue a superhighway that will take 146 acres of land for every mile of highway."

The formal demand points out how the corridor will force school districts to use scarce education funds for re-routing bus lines and dividing award-winning school districts, and how the limited-access superhighway will require at least a doubling of all emergency services – fire, police and medical – in order to serve both sides of the superhighway. ECTSRPC Secretary Arthur White, Mayor of Bartlett, said that the increased local costs " will result in loss of residents, loss of businesses and economic crisis that we may not survive."

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires TxDOT to engage in a thorough "hard look" analysis of the environmental and economic impacts of a proposed highway project like the TTC. The ECTSRPC’s demand alleges that TxDOT has failed to comply with the federal law and federal implementing regulations.

The ECTSRPC has been supported in its Chapter 391 coordination process by Stewards of the Range and American Land Foundation, both having offices in Texas. They are private property protection organizations involved in a national campaign to help local governments exercise their authority.

Stewards President, Fred Kelly Grant, complimented the ESTSRPC on its strong stand on the law, stating, "We believe the Commission makes a reasonable demand that TxDOT start now to prepare a supplemental draft environmental study that includes the economic and environmental harms which the proposed corridor will cause in rural Texas. It is possibly the only way to avoid major lawsuits that could hold up this project for years."

A copy of the Commission’s Formal Request can be found at:

© Copyright 2008 by North Texas e-News, llc

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To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Monday, May 19, 2008

"The TTC is a boondoggle of Biblical proportions!"

Trans Texas Calamity

The Trans-Texas Corridor is far and away the most expensive construction project in Texas history!

Environmental Defense Fund
Copyright 2007

Governor Rick Perry envisions the Trans Texas Corridor as a 4,000-mile-long, 1200-foot-wide swath of land containing 10 auto and truck lanes, six railroad tracks for high-speed freight and commuter trains, and right-of-way for electric power lines and gas and water pipelines.1 The $183 billion TTC would require nearly a thousand square miles of right-of-way.2

While proponents tout the Trans Texas Corridor as an answer to traffic congestion, the TTC is first and foremost a massive system of tolled highways designed to ensure the fast flow of goods from Mexico and South America through Texas to the Midwest, the Northeast and Canada. Bypassing major cities, it will gobble up more than 900 square miles of valuable land to create straightaways for trucks to sail through Texas at 85-95 miles per hour.

But as the Christian Science Monitor editorialized, “Ensuring the flow of goods and services from trade agreements remains a valid concern, but not at the expense of more enduring values.” 3

The TTC is a boondoggle of Biblical proportions!

After carefully analyzing the TTC master development plan, travel data, environmental impact statement, economic impact study and other public documents, Environmental Defense has compiled a substantial list of objections to the TTC:
  • It’s an environmental disaster. The TTC will change the landscape of Texas by disrupting approximately a million acres of land and negatively impacting 600,000 acres of terrestrial and aquatic habitat. It will destroy vast tracts of prime farmland, harm water quality, air quality and human health, and literally bisect rural communities. It will promote greater sprawl, more miles driven, greater dependence on imported oil and increased greenhouse gas emissions.
  • It doesn’t address Texas’ most critical transportation needs. As the governor’s own Business Council agrees, Texas’ most serious transportation problems are within our major urban areas: “The largest transportation problem for Texas, now and well into the foreseeable future is the movement of people, goods, and services from point to point within the urban area [sic]. Transportation improvements are needed to maintain the competitiveness of the Texas metropolitan regions.”4
  • TxDOT’s economic impact analysis of the Trans Texas Corridor is flawed. It has major shortcomings which should motivate lawmakers to either pay for a legitimate economic evaluation of the TTC or subject the report to extensive peer review before relying on it to make the case for the Corridor.5 For example, the economic analysis relies upon input-output modeling to quantify the indirect effects of the TTC on the economy, but it doesn’t compare the TTC investment to other potential transportation investments.
  • Promises of reduced congestion are vastly overstated. New roads will generate more travel (so-called "induced travel") which will absorb a significant portion—about 40-50% as a rule of thumb—of the new capacity. This induced travel shows up on existing, connecting roads, too, increasing the levels of congestion on them.6 Thus, the benefits of the new capacity are significantly overstated; it is conservatively estimated that an additional annual 5.4 billion vehicle miles will be induced by the TTC over the long run.
  • TxDOT has ignored feasible alternatives that would perform better and cost less than the TTC. TxDOT has failed to consider how cost-effective urban mobility improvements would increase the efficiency of existing infrastructure. For example, in the TTC-35 Draft Environmental Statement, TxDOT asserts a fixed 132 percent forecast for growth in freight vehicles on Texas roads by 2025 to justify the proposal. It fails to consider the significant role that transportation investment and pricing policies have in shaping the growth and character of freight traffic.
  • The TTC plan has moved forward without serious legislative debate or discussions with County Courts, other local officials and local and regional planning agencies.So far, more than 30 county commissioners courts on the TTC-35 route have passed resolutions against the TTC. Organizations representing millions of Texans have publicly denounced it, including the Texas Republican Party, the Texas Democratic Party, the Texas Farm Bureau, the Texas League of Women Voters, environmental organizations, many local citizen groups, and newspaper editorial boards. The autocratic process steamrolling the TTC over and through a surprised citizenry is simply bad policy, and it undermines any notion of local planning. It has deprived communities of any substantial say in the type of communities they envision in 10, 20 or 30 years.7
  • Where’s the accountability? There are major unanswered questions about the TTC and the public-private partnership agreements to build and maintain the TTC and to set toll rates and collect the tolls. Texans deserve full public disclosure of all the agreements and contracts with private entities. What are the transaction costs, including fees to investment banks, financial advisors, lawyers and other professionals retained by the public sector to analyze and craft the partnerships? What are the allowable toll rates, both at startup and into the future? What is the possibility of variable tolling? How much potential revenue will we give up to the private partners? What are the agreed-upon operation and maintenance benchmarks for the TTC? What environmental protections and labor standards are included, and what enforcement mechanisms will ensure that these standards are met?8 Where does the money come from for the eminent domain compensation?
  • If we build it, will they come? The major purpose of the TTC is to provide quick movement of goods through Texas, but major questions remain unanswered. What percentage of long-haul truckers will opt for a toll road instead of a freeway? (The American Trucking Association has opposed the TTC.) What are the prospects for—and impacts of—rail freight. Has TxDOT considered the role that transportation investment and pricing policies have in shaping the growth and character of freight traffic?

For more information: Contact Mary Sanger at 512-478-5161 or

1 The TTC was authorized by HB 3588 in 2003.

2 This excludes the property needed to provide road and rail connection systems.

3 Christian Science Monitor, February, 2005

4 “Shaping the Competitive Advantage of Texas Metropolitan Regions,” prepared by the Texas Transportation Institute for Governors Business Council’s Task Force on Transportation, December 2006.

5 “Moving Toward Prosperity Report, The Potential Impact of the Trans Texas Corridor on Business Activity in Texas: an analysis of the Effects of Key Trans Texas Corridors and the State of Texas relies upon input-output modeling to quantify the indirect effects of the TTC on the economy, but it doesn’t compare the TTC investment to other potential transportation investments. Prepared by the Perryman Group, October, 2006

6 Ronald W. Holder and VergilG. Stover at the Texas Transportation Institute in 1972 (An Evaluation of Induced Traffic on New Highway Facilities, Research Report 167-5). Based on the work of Cervero ("Induced Travel Demand: Research Design, Empirical Evidence, and Normative Policies", Robert Cervero, Journal of Planning Literature, Vol. 17, No. 1, August 2002, pp. 3-20),

7 Communities across the state have experienced the dictatorial style of the Texas Transportation Department

8 “Proceed with Caution on Public Private Partnerships: Ground Rules for PPP,” Regional Planning Association, January 8, 2007. Environmental Defense’s Director of Transportation Projects, Michael Replogle, was a principal contributor to the Report

© 2007 Environmental Defense Fund

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The 'T' is for 'Taking'

Mesa: Picken's rep said mogul's ‘desire to be fair'

May 19, 2008

The Pampa News
Copyright 2008

CHILDRESS - Boone Pickens has a public relations problem.

About 120 people crowded into the Childress Fair Park Auditorium here this month for a town hall meeting with a handful of state legislators in response to a series of meetings Pickens' Roberts County Fresh Water Supply District No. 1 and Mesa Power are holding in connection with their plan to buy up a right-of-way from the Texas Panhandle to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex for a water pipeline and power transmission lines. But significantly, Ray Floyd of Collingsworth County voiced a comment at the Childress meeting that others mentioned while waiting for the meeting to start.

“The way it was presented to me was very offensive,” Floyd said.

He said if Pickens had approached the people here differently, it could have helped everyone.

“It looks like it is for his benefit only,” Floyd said.

A number of people commented that when they went to one of Mesa's meetings, Pickens wasn't there.

When State Sen. Robert Duncan asked the people crowded into the auditorium here if the legislators present should support Mesa's project, nary a hand was raised. When he asked if the lawmakers should oppose it, almost everyone raised their hand. Some raised two hands.

The other problem at the meeting was that while most everybody agreed that the wind power project was good, transporting water from the Texas Panhandle was outrageous. No one wanted to talk about eminent domain. They only wanted to talk about sending Panhandle water to Dallas.

Mike Boswell with the Mesa Group said there were a lot of misconceptions about the project as he watched from the back of the auditorium.

Not the least of the misconceptions was that many of the speakers talked of their wells going dry and wanting to keep the water in the Ogallala Aquifer in the Panhandle. The problem in most cases was that the speakers farmed or ranched southeast of the Panhandle and do not get their water from the Ogallala.

In April, Mesa Power, a limited partnership formed by Pickens to produce electricity from the world's largest windmill farm, sent letters out to landowners in counties through which the proposed transmission lines will pass, inviting them to one of five open houses.

At the open houses, Mesa officials could check their computers and tell landowners if the right-of-way is targeting their land.

Mesa and the freshwater district are proposing a $3.5 billion joint project that will require a right-of-way of more than 250 miles. Construction is expected to begin in 2009, according to Ron Bassett, president of Roberts County Fresh Water Supply District No. 1.

State Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, said he and neighboring State Sens. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, and Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, were getting numerous calls from their constituents concerning the Mesa project and hastily scheduled their town hall meeting here to listen to constituents.

Duncan, Seliger and Estes were joined at the meeting by State Rep. David Swinford, R-Dumas, and Delwyn Jones, R-Lubbock.

Duncan said Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, House Appropriations Committee chairman, had expressed interest in the meeting but had a scheduling conflict as did Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo.

The meeting was cast as a discussion of eminent domain, a hot topic in Texas since the Supreme Court's Kelo decision, in which the court said a local government could take over private property and give it to developers if it would improve the value of the property, and since Gov. Rick Perry's proposed the Trans Texas Corridor, a toll road from Oklahoma to the Mexican border, but most of the speakers spoke out against sending water from the Panhandle to the Metroplex.

Through two changes in state law during last year's Texas Legislative Session, Pickens formed the Roberts County Fresh Water Conservation District No. 1 on eight acres of his Mesa Vista Ranch in Roberts County. The five directors include his ranch manager and ranch manager's wife and three Mesa associates in Dallas.

The fresh water supply district, under Texas law, has taxing authority, condemnation authority under eminent domain and the authority to sell bonds.

The first was a bill that was amended was initially intended to solve some problems in the Houston area. That bill changed the operation of governance of a fresh water district to allow only property owners in fresh water districts to serve a directors, but it also said property owners do not have to reside in the district.

“In other words,” Duncan said, “you could create a district technically that didn't even have enough people to constitute a board - you have to have five - as long as you had property ownership with people outside the county, they could govern the fresh water district.”

He said that while the amendments to the law passed during the last session, there is another chance to amend the law when the legislature meets again, beginning in January.

The other piece of legislation was Senate Bill 3, the omnibus water bill.

Duncan said that in the Senate there was an attempt to put an amendment on the bill to allow electrical transmission lines to follow water lines.

“In other words,” Duncan said, “if you wanted to develop transmission lines you could piggyback on a fresh water district's pipeline and use that fresh water district's authority of eminent domain to run that transmission line down that right-of-way.”

Duncan said Seliger fought successfully to defeat that in the Senate, but in the House and ultimately in the final bill that amendment was added back and passed in the waning moments of the legislature. But while seemingly everybody at the Childress meeting appeared to support the wind energy initiative, it was the water they were worried about.

About 10 years ago, Pickens established Mesa Water in what he said was an effort to protect the water beneath his Roberts County ranch from being sucked out by the City of Amarillo and the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority, who were buying up water rights at the time. Pickens said at the time, he would develop the water resources and sell the water to thirsty cities downstate.

Duncan said he believes that there are more viable and economical water alternatives available to Dallas and other major metropolitan areas than a multi-billion dollar pipeline from the Panhandle to Dallas.

“This is not an attack on Mesa,” Duncan said. “It's not an attack on Boone Pickens, and I don't think that would be appropriate for us to do that.”

The meeting in Childress, he said, was a discussion of the issues.

“I disagree with Mesa with regard to the procedure that they're going through in using this fresh water district in a way it wasn't designed,” Duncan said. “That's my position as a member of the Texas Senate.”

But Ron Harris, a former County Judge for Collin County for 16 years and now a consultant for Mesa, pleaded with those present to have patience. Harris took to the podium to ask landowners only for a chance for Mesa's land staff to make an offer before they said no.

“We're fair in compensating all of you for your land and any damages,” Harris said. “Mesa is not here to steal your land.”

Harris said Pickens' desire is to be fair as he moves on the right-of-way issue. Harris said he is not aware of anyone who has gone to the length that Mesa has to be fair in their dealings.

© 2008 The Pampas news:

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

"Is paying to take Texas 130 to save time a good bet? Only for high rollers."

The Great Race: Texas 130 loses to I-35

In unscientific experiment, your columnist pays $6 to get there 20 percent slower

May 19, 2008

Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2008

Uh, maybe we just hit a light traffic day.

Based on a highly unscientific experiment conducted last week by your transportation columnist and accomplice Andrea Ball, taking the Texas 130 tollway as an alternative to Interstate 35 might not be such a good idea. At least not all the time, at least not yet. But I get ahead of myself.

Texas 130, if you don't know, branches off southeast from I-35 north of Georgetown, swings past Hutto, Manor and the Austin airport and then connects to U.S. 183 near Mustang Ridge. After a slight jog northward, you can get back to I-35 via FM 1327. In about a year, another toll road, Texas 45 Southeast, will in effect replace the seven-mile-long FM 1327 leg of that loop.

The tollways have been sold as a speedier alternative to the ravages of I-35 rush hour traffic. Toll road proponents have said that truckers, in particular, will flock to Texas 130 (and, eventually, Texas 45 Southeast) because time is money to them. Even with a $24 cash toll for truckers ($6 cash for passenger cars and pickups, $5.40 with a toll tag), the argument goes, it's worth it to save the time.

So I decided to test that claim. I'd drive the tollway during rush hour and recruit a colleague to drive I-35 at the same time, then compare notes.

The hardest part, it turned out, was getting a volunteer.

However, Andrea, who writes a philanthropy column among her other duties, graciously agreed (well, maybe not so graciously, as you'll see below) to be my transportation lab rat.

So last Monday morning, after synchronizing our watches on a frontage road just north of Texas 130's departure from I-35, and agreeing that both of us would drive no faster than 70 mph in unrestricted traffic, we headed off, me to the tollway and Andrea on I-35. Who got to the intersection of FM 1327 and I-35 first?

Andrea's account

(Based on copious notes she somehow took while driving at highway speed):

Early morning on I-35? I should still be sleeping. Maybe I am sleeping.

Awake or not, I am well prepared for my journey into the bowels of Austin traffic.

Nutz Over Chocolate Luna Bars? Check. Bottle of water? Yep. US Magazine to entertain me during the inevitable standstill traffic? Of course.

It's 7:15 a.m. I reset my trip odometer at the Texas 130 overpass. Traffic is light, and my 1997 Saturn clips along at a speedy 70 mph.

At 7:27 a.m. I hit my first patch of traffic at Exit 252 in Round Rock. Drivers slow down to 25 mph. Red brake lights dot the still-gray morning. I'm irritated. Bad traffic already? I hate Ben. Hate him.

By 7:29 a.m., the knot has unsnarled itself. Drivers hit the gas, quickly climbing to 50 mph or so. Not bad. Maybe I don't hate Ben as much as I thought I did.

The brake lights are back at 7:35 a.m., just as I hit the Yager Lane exit. Then, a few seconds later, we are once again cruising.

By 7:39 a.m., I am questioning myself. Have I misjudged you, I-35? Are you, in fact, the interstate highway of my dreams? You are so welcoming that even the other drivers are pleasantly courteous. (Except you, White Nissan. You know what you did.) My love beats strong for this much-maligned stretch of blacktop.

Three minutes later, I-35 and I are on the rocks. I'm in standstill traffic near the Super 8 Motel just south of Cameron Road.

Suddenly, the jam loosens. The next 18 minutes are a driver's dream. Bye bye, Capitol. See ya, Riverside Drive. Later, Stassney Lane.

By 8 a.m., 43.3 miles from our mutual starting point, I am sitting on the I-35 frontage road near FM 1327, waiting for Ben to arrive. I am skeptical. Something stinks here, and it's not just my car.

Meanwhile, on the toll road

The drive on Texas 130 is predictably uneventful and stress-free. With only one car visible about a quarter mile ahead and none in the rearview mirror, I set the cruise control to 70 mph.

I will have to tap the breaks only once in the next 46.8 miles of toll road. Much of the time there are no cars within 100 yards of me, and I see less than two dozen 18-wheelers the whole trip. The view is mostly of cows, green fields and old farm buildings.

Because the southern 8.7 miles of Texas 130 opened only two weeks ago and is still in a free promotional period, my toll tag will get hit with only $4.05 rather than the $5.40 that it will cost starting later this summer.

At 8 a.m., I am turning west on FM 1327. I pull up to Andrea's car at 8:09 p.m. Taking the toll road cost me nine minutes. And the toll I paid. But that's not all it cost.

My total mileage: 54.8 miles, 11.5 miles more than the direct I-35 route. My Taurus tells me that I got 23.7 miles per gallon, so the extra mileage cost me a little less than a half-gallon of gas. That's another $1.75 or so. I averaged 60.6 mph, Andrea 57.7 mph.

So, at rush hour, I paid almost $6 to get there 20 percent slower.

OK, some caveats. Classes are done at most Austin colleges, which might take some student and staff traffic off I-35. The day we did our test drives, the KVET traffic guy called traffic "lighter than normal." Maybe we did our drive slightly too early to catch the worst snarls. Afternoon rush hour traffic is more concentrated (I plan to repeat this experiment soon in the afternoon). No tractor-trailer rigs happened to jackknife on this day. Texas 45 Southeast, which would have save me two or three minutes (but cost me another buck or so), isn't there yet.

And it's not 2015, or 2025, when traffic on I-35 might actually live down to Andrea's expectations every day of the year.

But for now, is paying to take Texas 130 to save time a good bet? Only for high rollers.

Getting There appears Mondays. For questions, tips or story ideas, contact Getting There at 445-3698 or

© 2008 Austin American-Statesman:

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Rick Perry's 'Highway Henchwoman'

Diplomacy key for transportation chair

Perry appointee already scrutinized by lawmakers

May 18, 2008

Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express-News Austin Bureau
Copyright 2008

AUSTIN — Deirdre Delisi once aspired to be a diplomat, and Gov. Rick Perry may have finally granted her wish.

As head of the Texas Transportation Commission, Perry's former chief of staff will test her diplomatic skills in an emotion-filled arena in which a state senator has already called her a "political hack."

In an early sign of her peacemaking potential, the 35-year-old Delisi scheduled one of her first meetings as chair with that senator, Transportation and Homeland Security Committee Chairman John Carona, R-Dallas.

"I was left with the impression that she genuinely wants a new and fresh start for the commission, and I can tell you the Legislature wants that, too," said Carona, who publicly tangled with the former chairman, the late Ric Williamson, as Williamson pushed Perry's vision of private investment in public tollways as a key to meeting mobility needs.

Department under review

The Texas Department of Transportation is under review by lawmakers who've sought to rein in new privately run toll roads and are distrustful of the agency's funding figures. There's also an outcry from many Texans incensed over toll proposals and the possible route of the Perry-pushed Trans-Texas Corridor.

"Drinking from the fire hydrant," is how Delisi described her first days on the job, with months to serve before the Senate next year decides on confirming her appointment.

Focused on meeting huge transportation needs, she describes private investment in toll roads as a tool, noting lawmakers are considering others. She's quick to emphasize the need to work with local officials.

Asked what role a gas-tax increase might play in the mobility picture, she gives an answer that may be diplomatic enough to please lawmakers who felt that Williamson pushed Perry's wishes too hard at the expense of their own.

"That's a decision that the Legislature is going to make," she said. "I don't get a vote."

'Whatever it takes'

Delisi was born in Montreal, grew up in Nashville, Tenn., became a U.S. citizen at 17 and wanted a diplomatic career after getting degrees at Duke and Stanford.

When a U.S. Foreign Service hiring freeze turned her interest to politics, she joined the GOP presidential campaign of Lamar Alexander and met the man who'd lure her to Texas, now-husband Ted Delisi.

Other jobs included a stint on George W. Bush's first presidential campaign, but since late 1997 she has mostly had political and policy roles with Perry, including managing his notoriously tough 2002 race for governor against Laredo Democrat Tony Sanchez.

Delisi resigned as Perry's chief of staff last summer when she had twins, born 10 weeks early and weighing less than 3 pounds each. They're healthy and nearly 1 now.

"I think it would be great for my children to grow up in that environment of understanding what the value of public service is," she said.

Ted, a political consultant, is juggling other complications in addition to being what he calls Mr. Mom when her schedule takes her away. To avoid the appearance of conflict, he ended a joint venture with Hillco Partners because the lobbying firm handles transportation issues, though he said he hadn't done such work himself.

"Any job that takes 95 percent of your time and pays $15,000 a year always makes for an interesting conversation inside the household," he deadpanned of the appointment. (The job pays her $15,914 per year.) "But it's an honor. She believes strongly in public service, and I think she feels strongly there is some new and needed enthusiasm and ... diplomacy."

The new chairwoman quickly plunged in with visits to transportation officials and lawmakers from Dallas to El Paso.

Delisi also will continue to advise Perry and do consulting with her husband through Delisi Communications. She doesn't know how many hours the commission job will take: "Whatever it takes," she said.

Long days aren't new to Delisi, a veteran of campaigns and legislative sessions, including last year's when, pregnant, she rebuffed her doctor's orders to stop work: "We still had a week of session, plus the whole veto-sign period," she said.

Will and David were born after the session adjourned.

"The governor called me and said, 'How's my girl?' " said Delisi's friend Jennifer Lustina, another 30-something political veteran. "I said, 'Governor, how do you think your girl's doing? She's doing how you know she's doing. She's just steady.' "

That's her hallmark, Lustina added: "Nothing rattles Deirdre. ... You can say she's tough. You can say maybe she's overly driven once she starts really pushing on something. But you can't say she's a hack. She's smart as hell."

'Highway henchwoman'

It's that other hallmark — her long history with Perry — that troubles critics.

"She has zero transportation experience. Maybe she drives to work, but that's about it," said Sal Costello, who founded to oppose the way tollways were planned under Perry.

"This is an agency that deals with billions of our tax dollars for transportation, and this person has no experience. That's frightening. What she does bring to the table is she's Gov. Perry's highway henchwoman."

Delisi calls her strongest asset her knowledge of the Legislature, though lawmakers' views on her run the gamut.

Some said they don't know her, and Carona (before their meeting) said she was known as difficult to work with. Others offered praise, including Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, House Ways and Means Committee chair, who said she's focused, capable and "no nonsense."

Politics may be an asset

As Delisi's home senator, Kirk Watson, D-Austin, a TxDOT critic, could have blocked her appointment. He said he didn't know her before, but she impressed him with her intelligence and support for more local decision-making and more TxDOT accountability.

"Some people have said she's too political. I frankly think that that ought to be one of her assets," Watson said. "She will be smart enough to know it ain't working right now."

Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, vice chair of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission reviewing TxDOT, heard from Delisi after dubbing her "a political 'yes man.' " They met, and "wait and see" is his mantra.

"Some people have suggested ... Delisi is the one person that can get the governor to change his mind," he said. "I don't know the answer to that."


• Age : 35

• Education : Duke University, bachelor's degree in political science, 1994; Stanford University, master's degree in international policy studies, 1995.

• Family : Husband, Ted, political consultant; two children, twins Will and David, nearly 1.

• Chief of staff, Gov. Rick Perry, 2004-07

• Deputy chief of staff, Gov. Rick Perry, 2000-01,


• Campaign manager, Texans for Rick Perry,


• Bush for President,


• Special assistant, Lt. Gov. Rick Perry, 1998-99

• Texans for Rick Perry (lieutenant governor's race), 1997-98

• Legislative assistant, Sen. Bill Ratliff, 1996-97

• Texas Department of Commerce, 1996

• Lamar Alexander for President, 1995-96

© 2008 Houston Chronicle:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE