Friday, June 27, 2008

"TxDOT is doing a little better job working... legislators."

TxDOT moves forward on Trans-Texas Corridor 69

Jun 27, 2008

by Will Lutz
Volume 12, Issue 43
The Lone Star Report
Copyright 2008

Both the Republican and Democratic platforms oppose it vigorously, with the former going so far as to demand an investigation into why it continues.

The Legislature revolted against it, forcing a compromise with the governor.

Candidates for Texas House and Senate either run from it as fast as possible or run against it.

Yet the Texas Department of Transportation is continuing full-speed ahead.

It’s, of course, the Trans-Texas Corridor. The Texas Transportation Commission voted June 26 to take the next step toward building an addition to the corridor (the Interstate 69 Corridor), and — believe it or not — the political fallout may be muted.

The commission awarded a Comprehensive Development Agreement to Zachry American Infrastructure and ACS Infrastructure to plan Interstate 69 from the Brownsville area to Texarkana. The commission action does not actually authorize construction of the road, only the production of a plan for the road’s segments, including the financing.

As usual, TxDOT put on a dog-and-pony show about the joys of the contract. And the long-term consequences of TxDOT’s actions remain to be determined. Here’s what we know so far:

TxDOT is doing a little better job working with some legislators. Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Carona (R-Dallas) told LSR he was briefed in advance about TxDOT’s actions. That’s a dramatic improvement for an agency whose board chairman, less than two years ago, wouldn’t even meet with Carona until he was confronted about it in public at the House Transportation Committee meeting.

The action follows the letter of the moratorium. There is an important fact about the moratorium, passed in 2007 as part of SB 792 that many do not realize. It is not a moratorium on the Trans-Texas Corridor. It is a moratorium on “permitting the private participant to operate the toll project or collect revenue from the toll project.” TxDOT can plan. It just can’t toll.

Additionally, all of the I-69 project south of Refugio County is exempt from the moratorium. That means the Texas Transportation Commission could issue a comprehensive development agreement for a privately operated toll road from Brownsville to Corpus Christi, even with the moratorium.

“I do not believe it violates the spirit of the moratorium,” said Carona on the agency’s action.

TxDOT is trying to build the most popular segment of the road first. Brownsville has long wanted an Interstate Highway of its own — even if that means tolls. South Texas leaders expressly asked for their region to get an exemption from a moratorium and have long wanted US 77 improved to Interstate standards. A quorum of the Cameron County Commissioners Court was present at the meeting and endorsed the proposal.

Additionally, most of I-69 between Brownsville and Corpus Christi will not be tolled. Only seven loops or by-passes are subject to tolling, according to the proposal. US 77 is four lanes, so raising it to Interstate quality does not necessarily involve adding lanes, and TxDOT officials said the current proposal does not call for tolling existing lanes.

South of Refugio County, there is substantial support for the proposed project. North of Refugio County many locals are skeptical of the Trans-Texas Corridor. Additionally, what happens to I-69 in Houston is yet to be determined. This could be politically dicey, as there is a popular local toll authority there that has right-of-first-refusal.

TxDOT’s prior concessions have been noticed. Transportation Commissioner Ted Houghton invited representatives of the Farm Bureau up to the podium to discuss their views and concerns. The Farm Bureau was treated respectfully. The department instructed the contractor to use existing right-of-way whenever possible, including US 77 and US 59.

“That was a big concession on the part of TxDOT and the Commission,” said Carona.

Cintra didn’t get this contract. At the post-meeting press conference, the director of TxDOT’s Turnpike Division Mark Tomlinson verified that this is the first Comprehensive Development Agreement (CDA) awarded that hasn’t gone to Cintra. It went instead to a coalition led by Zachry Construction, a Texas company.

Never fear, however, the Spanish Company ACS is a partner with Zachry in this CDA, so all the people (like former Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn) who don’t want foreigners doing anything with Texas roads still object to this proposal. Former Democratic agriculture commissioner candidate Hank Gilbert testified against the proposal, saying he supported the building of I-69, just not the “loss of sovereignty” associated with the CDA process.

“Today’s I-69 announcement means that South Texas will finally get an interstate quality highway to expedite traffic, job creation and hurricane evacuation. The TxDOT-approved I-69 comprehensive development agreement is a very efficient and cost-effective process for building new roads, without raising taxes,” counters Bill Noble, executive director for Texans for Safe Reliable Transportation. “This allows the state to partner with private companies to get much-needed roads built much sooner.”

Cintra was civil in defeat. “We want to commend the Texas Department of Transportation and wish them the very best as they embark on this critical project to improve highway infrastructure,” said Jose Lopez, Austin-based president of Cintra’s United States operations.

The June 26 action is limited in scope. Additional commission action is needed to build the road. The amount of money spent under the contract will be about $5 million . And — per a provision in the appropriations bill — this CDA will not get issued at all unless the Legislative Budget Board approves it.

Additionally, the approved proposal minimizes the use of tolls in South Texas to the new by-passes. It does this, in part, by using toll revenue from the by-passes to pay for the rest of the construction. It also relies on Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones to finance part of the project. That means, for any increase in property value attributed to the project, the property taxes go into that project. TxDOT officials estimated the entire planning process should take 12-18 months.

While the I-69 project in South Texas may have widespread public support, it’s anybody’s guess what happens beyond that. Some lawmakers and Texans oppose the operation of state highways by private firms. And the battles of the past are still raging.

But for now, TxDOT is still pressing ahead with the Trans-Texas Corridor.

© 2008, The Lone Star Report:

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To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Republican platform committee calls for an investigation of elected officials who support the Trans-Texas Corridor

Words Not to Live By

Rick Perry toll roads

Since 2004, the party platform has called for repeal of Gov. Rick Perry’s toll road plan known as the Trans-Texas Corridor. This year, the committee went even further, calling for investigation of elected officials who support the corridor. One delegate told the committee it should terminate the root cause of the Trans-Texas Corridor and repeal NAFTA.

© 2008, The Texas Observer:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


"Despite the interstate name, the highway would be a piece of Gov. Rick Perry's Trans-Texas Corridor."

State names developer for Trans-Texas Corridor leg

Zachry to team with another Spanish company on corridor plan from Valley to Texarkana.

June 27, 2008

By Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2008

The next leg of the Trans-Texas Corridor, this one to be in South and East Texas, now has a developer. Or at least a planner.

On Thursday, the Texas Transportation Commission unanimously approved hiring a partnership headed by ACS Infrastructure Development Inc., a Spanish company, and San Antonio-based Zachry American Infrastructure Inc. to craft a plan for Interstate 69. Despite the interstate name, the highway from the Rio Grande Valley to Texarkana would be a piece of Gov. Rick Perry's Trans-Texas Corridor.

TxDOT will pay up to $5 million for the master plan, which Zachry/ACS should deliver in a year to 18 months, officials said.

In its proposal to TxDOT, the partnership suggests upgrading U.S. 77 to interstate freeway standards (it is interrupted by stoplights in some communities) from Refugio County to the Rio Grande Valley. There would be tolls on only a couple of short sections, bypasses around towns, and most of the road would be free to drive. The partnership also proposes to build and operate five other South Texas toll roads, three in the Corpus Christi area and two in the Valley.

Under state law, none of I-69 north of the San Antonio River can be a private toll road. The master plan will address how to finance that northerly 500 miles or so.; 445-3698

© 2008, Austin American-Statesman:

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To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


"This removes any requirement for competitive bidding, which on its face is an absolute failure of the state's fiduciary duty."

Toll road team awarded Trans-Texas Corridor project

June 27, 2008

Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2008

AUSTIN – State officials awarded a contract Thursday to a private toll road team that has promised to put the remaining pieces in place for Gov. Rick Perry's expansive vision for the Trans-Texas Corridor, a network of superhighways stretching 1,140 miles.

The $5 million contract approved by the Texas Transportation Commission gives the team led by Texas construction powerhouse Zachry American Infrastructure and another firm, ACS of Spain, responsibility for planning billions of dollars' worth of new highways, rail lines and other projects. The team will have 18 months to add details to a plan that will begin with construction on 10 new toll roads – including eight in South Texas – by 2015.

Those roads could cost close to $3 billion, and seven of them will be clustered near U.S. Highway 77 in South Texas. Whoever builds those roads will use the toll revenues to pay for an additional $1 billion in improvements to Highway 77, making it the first interstate-quality highway in the Rio Grande Valley.

"The proposal includes innovative plans that would finally extend the interstate system into South Texas," said Transportation Commission Chairwoman Deirdre Delisi.

The Trans-Texas Corridor is the centerpiece of Mr. Perry's proposal to stretch highways, rail lines and utilities from top to bottom of the Lone Star State. The contract awarded Thursday involves half of that project. It's the 600 miles that will become Texas' portion of one of the largest federal highway programs in the country, the southern extension of Interstate 69. That interstate now runs from Canada to Indianapolis, but will eventually stretch to the Mexican border.

The other half of the corridor, a 540-mile north-south stretch running roughly parallel to Interstate 35, is already under development by Cintra, another large Spanish-based toll road operator. Cintra has already expanded its role beyond that of master planner and has moved ahead with plans to build the first private toll road near Austin, extending State Highway 130.

Under the terms of Cintra's initial $3.5 million planning contract, similar to the one awarded Thursday for the I-69 segment, the company was able to win TxDOT approval to build the Austin toll road without having to compete against other toll road developers. It is covering the entire cost of the road, and in return will collect escalating tolls there for 52 years.

Toll road critics, who have loudly denounced the Trans-Texas Corridor for years, reacted bitterly to the contract, which one group called a "monopolistic sweetheart deal."

"If this isn't a wake-up call to the Legislature that it's business as usual at TxDOT until they forcibly restrain them via state law, we don't know what is," said Terri Hall, founder of Texans United for Reform and Freedom. Her group opposes Mr. Perry's continued push to pay for Texas transportation needs through privatization and toll roads.

"This removes any requirement for competitive bidding, which on its face is an absolute failure of the state's fiduciary duty,"she said.

Lawmakers had attempted to slow down the state's rush to private toll roads during the 2007 session, though they've also refused to raise taxes to provide funds for the road-building that TxDOT is running out of money to pay for.

When they return in January, they're expected to weigh whether to rescind TxDOT's authority to enter into the private toll contracts at all. TxDOT officials said they hope to compromise with lawmakers.

© 2008, The Dallas Morning News:

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To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


"TxDOT and their buddies continue to steamroll a plan the majority of Texans don't want."

Commission picks developer for I-69 project

Plan would build toll road loops around Corpus Christi, other cities

June 26, 2008

Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau
Copyright 2008

AUSTIN — The Texas Transportation Commission on Thursday selected San Antonio's Zachry Construction Corp. and a Spanish toll road developer to plan a superhighway from Texarkana to Brownsville.

The $5 million contract calls for Zachry American Infrastructure and ACS Infrastructure to create a financial plan for the Interstate 69 segment of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

"This team represents the best in the balance of local and global expertise necessary to complete a project of this scope," said David Zachry, chief operating officer of Zachry Construction Corp.

The private developers' plan calls for seven new loops around Corpus Christi and other cities to be constructed as toll roads. Revenue would pay for bringing existing stretches of U.S. 77 up to interstate standards. U.S. 77, however, would not be tolled.

They also propose 60 potential infrastructure projects, including commuter rail along U.S. 90 northeast of Houston, a bridge to Bolivar Peninsula, a container facility at Freeport and a desalinization plant in Brownsville. Transportation commissioners said, however, that there was no guarantee any of those projects will be built.

Houston route unknown

The final decision on the route for the corridor will be made by the Texas Department of Transportation through an ongoing environmental study. It is expected to roughly follow U.S. 59 through East Texas and south of Houston, and U.S. 77 south of Victoria.

Earlier this month, TxDOT said it had abandoned plans to build part of the I-69 corridor through rural areas north and west of Houston. Instead, it said it would stick to major highways for most of the route.

The way through or around Houston has not been determined, although it could stay on U.S. 59 or go on Loop 610 or the planned Grand Parkway.

The developers' financing ideas boosted their proposal over one submitted by a joint venture led by another Spanish company, Cintra, which is developing a master plan for the segment of the Trans-Texas Corridor slated to run from Oklahoma to Mexico, east of Interstate 35.

Zachry is a Cintra partner on the project paralleling I-35.

"We feel (this proposal) is the best value to the state," said Mark Tomlinson, director of TxDOT's turnpike division.

An anti-toll road group called the method of financing a "Robin Hood scheme."

"TxDOT and their buddies at Zachry/ACS found a way to follow the bare minimum of the law to sign this (Comprehensive Development Agreement) and continue to steamroll a plan the majority of Texans don't want," said Hank Gilbert, a board member of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom.

Toll roads operate locally

South Texas political leaders applauded the decision to move toward a longstanding goal of having the Rio Grande Valley served by an interstate highway.

"It's like getting indoor plumbing. We've waited that long for it, and it's really important," said Bill Summers, president of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, a chamber of commerce group.

The I-69/TTC corridor is part of Gov. Rick Perry's vision for a network of broad corridors linking major cities, with toll roads for cars and trucks, rail tracks for freight and passenger trains, and space for pipelines and power lines.

The corridor plans have been met with controversy due to opposition to tolls and concern that family farmland would be lost to development.

Corridor supporters say the routes would make the highways safer and improve the flow of goods by directing commercial traffic to designated lanes. Revenue from the state's gasoline tax is insufficient to fund improvements, they say.

The developers plan to work with local authorities to operate $1.5 billion worth of toll roads. TxDOT spokesman Chris Lippincott said that arrangement would meet the requirements of a law passed last year that forbids private companies to operate toll roads.

© 2008, Houston Chronicle:

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To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


"If they don't end this public fleecing, there won't be enough political cover for the consequences at the ballot box."

Commission picks developer for I-69 corridor


The Associated Press
Copyright 2008

The Texas Transportation Commission approved a development proposal Thursday for Interstate 69, a segment in the Trans-Texas Corridor toll road superhighway.

Commissioners agreed to pursue a proposal by Zachry American Infrastructure and ACS Infrastructure that would develop the southern section of U.S. Highway 77 to interstate standards without tolling that part of the road.

The companies want to build and operate $1.5 billion worth of toll roads in South Texas to generate money needed to develop the existing highway. The contract also would include the right of first negotiation for the joint company to perform some of the highway projects.

More commission action is needed before construction can begin.

A separate environmental study is ongoing for I-69, which is to run from the northeast corner of the state into the Rio Grande Valley. The environmental study will determine the highway's exact route.

Thursday's decision allows the state transportation department to negotiate a contract with the company, then a master plan and master financing plan would be worked out.

Zachry American Infrastructure is part of the San Antonio-based Zachry Construction Corp. ACS Infrastructure Development Inc. is a Spanish firm.

The I-69 development proposal is innovative and would extend the interstate system into South Texas, Transportation Commission Chair Deirdre Delisi said.

"This proposal moves us closer to building I-69/TTC," she said. "For two decades, (I-69) has been nothing more than a line on the map and a promise."

Delisi said the road is important to the state's economic development. The private companies' proposal shows the project can be built "while minimizing the need to purchase additional land and only limited, innovative tolling," she said.

The proposal calls for coordinating with local authorities in the Rio Grande Valley and the Corpus Christi area to develop South Texas toll roads. Those would help finance the initial segments of I-69 without requiring tolls to be collected along long stretches of highway extending north from Cameron County, Delisi said.

Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, a critic of the transportation agency, issued a statement blasting the commission's decision as "a total slap in the face to the people of Texas." The group took issue with several provisions of the I-69 development proposal.

"If they don't completely clean house at TxDOT (the transportation department) and end this public fleecing, there won't be enough political cover for the consequences at the ballot box. Enough is enough," said group founder Terri Hall.

State transportation department officials recommended to the commission that it select Zachry American Infrastructure and ACS Infrastructure over a proposal by Bluebonnet Infrastructure Investors.

The transportation department also says it will continue plans for upgrading U.S. Highway 281, which, along with U.S. 77, has been designated by the federal government as a possible future route for I-69 in Texas.

Transportation department executive director Amadeo Saenz said the I-69 portion of the Trans-Texas Corridor will be developed using existing highways wherever possible.

Earlier this month, state transportation officials said they would only use existing corridors, such as U.S. Highway 59 in East Texas from Texarkana to Houston and U.S. Highways 77 and 281 in South Texas, in their environmental studies for the project. If existing roadways need to be expanded, only the new traffic lanes would have tolls.

© 2008, The Associated Press:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


TxDOT chooses Zachry and Actividades de Construcción y Servicios (ACS) Infrastructure of Spain to develop TTC-69

Developer selected for TxDOT contract that will push Trans Texas Corridor forward

Document: Map of proposed route of Interstate 69

Link: Details on the winning bid

June 26, 2008

The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2008

AUSTIN — The Transportation Commission has selected a master developer of the Interstate 69 segment of the Trans Texas Corridor. The winning bid was submitted by a team consisting of a Texas-based construction company, Zachry American Infrastructure, and ACS Infrastructure, a subsidiary of a Spanish firm that is one of the largest toll road operators in the world.

The action allows TxDOT staff to negotiate a $5 million development contract with the team that will lead the way building the 650-mile network of super-highways.

"This proposal gives us the best path to developing the long-awaited upgrades to U.S. 77 in South Texas and ultimately the I-69/TTC project," said TxDOT executive director Amadeo Saenz. "The ZAI/ACS team's proposal would use existing road alignments and engage local leaders to help direct this project with minimal cost to the state."

The other bidder was led in part by Cintra, the Spanish firm that is developing the other segment of the Trans Texas Corridor, running the length of Texas roughly parallel to Interstate 35.

The contract approved today does not directly authorize the winning consortium to build any part of the super highway. But it gives the group a position of power for winning the much larger construction contracts -- almost certainly to be worth billions of dollars – for the toll roads that will make up the super highway.

The contract gives the winning team 12 to 18 months to flesh out a master development plan for the project, which is expected to largely follow the path of the proposed southern extension of Interstate 69.

Cintra last year won the design contract for the segment of the corridor that will run north to south, roughly parallel to Interstate 35. It is also the firm that was initially slated to build State Highway 121 in North Texas.

Since winning a $3.5 million design contract, Cintra has been working to develop plans for the massive network of toll roads that will stretch from the northern tip of Texas to Laredo.

Although that deal did not authorize the building of any aspect of the road itself, it did allow the firm to fast-track a proposal to build and operate a toll road on one of the most lucrative segments of the project, the State Highway 130 extension outside of Austin.

The extension of SH 130 had long been planned by state transportation officials as a gas-tax road, and then was considered as a publicly operated toll road. But officials of the Texas Department of Transportation said Wednesday that future toll revenues would not have been high enough to allow the state to borrow the full price of the project -- well over $1 billion -- in order to build it itself. Instead, it would have had to spend $600 million or more of scarce tax dollars on the project, said assistant executive director Phil Russell.

After winning the design contract last year, Cintra focused on that project and offered to pay the state $25 million for the right to build and operate the toll road. It also will cover all construction costs. Private operators are often able to borrow more money against future toll revenues because they accept far more riskier projections than the more conservative projects required by bond markets in which state or other public entities borrow.

Under the terms of its design contract, any proposal to build a toll road that does not require state tax dollars can be negotiated with Texas without competitive bids from other potential toll operators. Mr. Russell said the state accepted the proposal from Cintra because doing so fast-tracked the development of the badly needed toll road and allowed the state to save well over a half billion dollars in tax money.

The same kind of arrangements could flow from the contract announced today. Mr. Russell said, however, that the development agreements do not obligate the state to accept the winning firms' proposals to build the more profitable aspects of the road. It can still reject those proposals, or require that the firms enter a competitive bidding process.

© 2008, The Dallas Morning News:

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To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Thursday, June 26, 2008

ACS of Spain wins 50 year right to develop TTC-69: Preferential contracts without competitive bidding

Actividades de Construcción y Servicios to participate in the development of a great transportation infrastructure corridor in Texas

Iridium and the North American Zachry have been chosen by the State of Texas as strategic partners for 50 years to design, plan and develop a great infrastructure corridor of 1,000 kilometres in length


Press Release
Actividades De Construccione Y Servicios (ACS)
Copyright 2008

Iridium and the North American Zachry have been chosen by the State of Texas as strategic partners for 50 years to design, plan and develop a great infrastructure corridor of 1,000 kilometres in length.

The estimate project investments, involving the construction of road and railway infrastructures, exceed 30,000 million dollars, 5,000 million during the first seven years.

The I-69/TTC (Trans Texas Corridor) will connect the Mexican border with the Gulf of Mexico coastline, Houston and major industrial and logistics centres in Texas with the north of the country.

This is the second concessions project awarded to ACS in North America in seven days, after last week being awarded the A-30 highway in Canada.

MADRID- ACS Infrastructures Development, the North American branch of Iridium, the concession development company of ACS, and the Texan concessionaire Zachry American Infrastructure have become the successful bidders for the design, planning and development, as strategic partners of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), of the I-69/TTC infrastructure corridor for the next 50 years.

The I-69/TTC will be a great road and railway infrastructure corridor that will cross the State of Texas from north to south. Specifically, it will start in the Rio Grande valley to Houston offering new exits towards the centre of the Union from large industrial and logistics centres in the south of the State, including a branch towards the Gulf of Mexico and the port of Corpus Christie. The estimate investment for the entire project is around 30,000 million dollars, of which 5,000 million shall be invested during the first 7 years.

With the award of this project, ACS and Zachry, the largest construction group in theState of Texas, have become strategic partners of the Texas Department of Transportation and shall propose the development of specific projects and activities for which they will have a preferential negotiation option without public tender. In fact, the consortium is already considering the renewal of a first route whose concession will be negotiated with the Texas Department of Transportation, the US 77, which shall include the construction of a series of highways under concession regime connecting to it and which shall require an investment of 2,500 million dollars.

The I-69/TTC development project includes, in its initial design, the construction of a 1,000 kilometre network of highways and roads as well as railway lines. Based on this, ACS and Zachry will draft a Master Plan with the Texas Department of Transportation to establish the priority activities as well as the form and deadlines for their execution.

The winning consortium for the project, led by Iridium and Zachry, and which has UBSas its financial advisor and SDG as infrastructure planning consultant, also enjoys the involvement of Dragados, the parent company of the ACS construction area, and SICE, company belonging to its Industrial Services area and which has extended experience in the installation of traffic control systems, as well as other engineering and construction companies in the State of Texas.

The I-69/TTC is one of the high priority transportation infrastructure corridors identified by the State of Texas, the first of which has already been set in motion. In total, it entails an infrastructure network of around 3,000 kilometres and investments of 150,000 million euros to improve State communications with Mexico, centre and north of the country and Canada. Eight States of the Union, including Texas, which is the developer, are involved in the project.

Second concession in North America in one week

The awarding of the I-69/TTC represents the consolidation of the presence of the ACS
Group in United States, where it already has considerable presence in civil works, and
is the second concession won by Iridium in North America in seven days. Last week the ACS concessions developer was awarded by the State of Quebec, together with Acciona, the project to finance, build and operate for 35 years the A-30 highway in Canada, a project with an investment of 1,000 million euros, which shall require theexecution of important civil works to connect the south of Montreal with the NorthAmerican border. The A-30 is also the first concession awarded to Iridium in Canada.

This way, ACS continues its expansion process in North America, a market it has
defined as strategic. Through Dragados, the parent company of its construction area, is already present in United States in its civil works activities since 2005, when it became the successful bidder for the first expansion of the New York Subway; a largeengineering project connecting the Grand Central Station in Manhattan to Queensunder the Hudson River, representing 400 million dollars. Later Dragados assumednew projects in the north east of the country to improve roads, dams and subways, andrecently was awarded the construction of a dam in Puerto Rico and the first contract for the expansion of Miami airport. In December 2007, it acquired 100% of Schiavione; a company specialized in construction in the north east of the country.

Iridium, the ACS concessions company, has been for the last ten years the greatest
private transportation infrastructure investor in the world, with promoted investments
exceeding 22,000 million euros. The infrastructure and public equipment company
participates in the management of more than 40 companies of these characteristics,
encompassing the entire concessional business value chain.

© 2008, ACS Actividades de Construcción y Servicios,

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To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


"Critics say moving ahead right now is a slap in the face to the Legislature."

Trans-Texas Corridor moves ahead

6 /26/2008

By Patrick Driscoll
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2008

The Texas Transportation Commission is poised to pick a developer and authorize a contract today for the latest ire-raising route of the gargantuan Trans-Texas Corridor.

The proposed route of toll lanes, rail lines and utility paths stretches 650 miles between the Mexico and Louisiana borders and skirts within 70 miles southeast of San Antonio. It's one of a network of corridors that could crisscross Texas this century.

Two private consortiums — one led by Cintra of Spain and the other by Zachry American Infrastructure and ACS Infrastructure Development — competed for a contract worth up to $5 million to come up with a financial and development plan within 18 months.

Critics say moving ahead right now is a slap in the face to the Legislature, which last year passed a two-year moratorium on leasing toll roads, the prime funding mechanism for the Trans-Texas Corridor. The law carved out numerous exceptions, including the part of TTC-69 south of Refugio County.

“Was the legislative intent so dim that they couldn't see that our lawmakers wanted them to wait another 12 months?” said toll-road skeptic David Stall of “On the face of it, it looks like you're completely snubbing the Legislature and doing whatever you want to do.”

Trans-Texas Corridor

The proposed Trans-Texas Corridor route through East Texas sticks to existing highway corridors.

Last year, as legislators debated the merits of tolling and privatization, TxDOT used a provision in a similar development contract for the TTC route paralleling Interstate 35 to let Cintra and Zachry start construction and later lease the Texas 130 tollway between Austin and Seguin.

The development contract for TTC-69 will also include such a provision, which will give the winning consortium rights to negotiate first on possibly $500 million worth of projects, according to TxDOT.

“We'll be very mindful of all laws and regulations,” said Mark Tomlinson, TxDOT's turnpike director.

Some 12,000 Texans flooded 47 public hearings on TTC-69 earlier this year, many of them blasting the plan. The Texas Department of Transportation responded by shriveling the study area to stick with existing highways and avoid new locations.

State Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, who authored the moratorium language, applauded the change but reiterated concerns about letting private companies operate TTC-69 toll lanes. He couldn't be reached Wednesday for comment.

State Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, who leads a legislative caucus called the Texas Conservative Coalition, said the change reverts to an older Interstate 69 plan and signaled the first death throes of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

But as far as the Transportation Commission authorizing TxDOT to negotiate a development contract for TTC-69, he said that seems to be in line with legislative intent.

“So I'm not alarmed by that,” he said.

© 2008, The San Antonio Express-News:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Only electronic toll booths will stay - forcing more drivers to buy a TaxTag (TxTag)

First 'cashless' toll road for Central Texas

Mobility authority to rely on toll tags and 'video bills' on 183-A by late this year.

June 26, 2008

By Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2008

The 183-A tollway in Cedar Park will go "cashless" late this year, the first of Central Texas' four toll roads to take payment through only toll tags and bills mailed to drivers who don't have tags. It won't be the last, however.

The Texas Department of Transportation, when it opens the Texas 45 Southeast tollway next year, will do so without tollbooths or other cash facilities. TxDOT also is studying whether to follow the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority's lead on 183-A and shutter the tollbooths on its three Austin-area roads to reduce costs.

The mobility authority, which is well along in planning what it is now calling the "Manor Expressway" on U.S. 290 East, says that road and any other future tollways operated by the agency will have no cash collection.

The tollbooths on 183-A could shut down as early as November; the exact timing will be dependent on installation of overhead signs alerting drivers to the change to all-electronic operation.

"I had to convince myself," Ron Fagan, the mobility authority's director of operations, said to the agency board shortly before it voted unanimously to eliminate cash collection on 183-A. "I was a huge nonfan of going cashless."

Before coming to Austin a few years ago, Fagan worked with a toll road agency in Orlando, Fla., where he said many of the drivers were tourists and only about 66 percent of customers had toll tags.

But about 80 percent of those driving on the 4.5-mile-long 183-A have toll tags, Fagan told the authority board. About 500,000 cars in Central Texas have the tags, according to TxDOT.

Since the agency began "video billing" in early May, 10 percent of 183-A drivers now pass under the electronic gantries on the Cedar Park road without a tag. The vehicle owners in those cases get bills based on photos of license plates, and even in the early stages of billing and collection efforts, Fagan said, the agency has been able to get payments from about 45 percent of those people.

That leaves 10 percent who have been paying with cash at the eight booths at the broad Park Street toll plaza — Fagan said typically only one booth in each direction is staffed at rush hour — and the cash collection baskets at the Brushy Creek ramps on 183-A. The agency is collecting about $1.7 million in cash annually, Fagan said, and spending about $1.1 million to do it, much of that on salaries and costs associated with handling money.

Fagan estimates that the agency would have to collect from at least 36 percent of video customers — he expects to do much better than that — to make up for the $600,000 netted annually from cash collections. And the agency would save in other ways, such as not having to build plazas and booths on future tollways.

The 183-A tollway opened 16 months ago at a construction cost of about $170 million, including the tollbooths. The board and Fagan discussed what might happen with those booths and other facilities at Park Street, including the possibility of a Starbucks Coffee or some sort of dry cleaning drop-off and pickup.

Fagan said the agency has already heard from companies interested in using the facilities, adding that it will take several months to decide what to do with the booths.; 445-3698

© 2008, Austin American-Statesman:

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"One alternative that doesn’t get support, toll roads."

Poll Shows Results of High Gas

Related: Read the full report.


KLBJ News Radio
Copyright 2008

A new poll from the non-profit Texas Lyceum Group shows a surprising amount of support for public transportation and a surprising lack of support for building a bunch of new roads, including toll roads.

University of Texas at Austin Professor Daron Shaw was on of the pollsters. He says you might not see this kind of support for mass transit options if gas weren’t at $4.00 a gallon. "Do gas prices and the hit people take in the wallet influence their priorities and willingness to explore alternatives, absolutely, no question."

Shaw says the poll shows strong support for new public transportation alternatives. "Mass transit, light rail, regional rail, all of these things have some appreciable level of public support." There is also support for more bus routes as long as these are clean busses.

One alternative that doesn’t get support, toll roads. Shaw says "What we find there is not much appetite for are toll roads, either tolling existing roads where there is tons of opposition, or building new tolls where there is significant opposition, not quite as much but still significant opposition."

© 2008 Emmis Austin Radio Broadcasting Company:

Survey reveals Texans' transportation concerns


By Brandi Grissom / Austin Bureau
El Paso Times
Copyright 2008

AUSTIN - If you've been eyeing a Prius, thinking about sticking close to home this summer and maybe even talking about a neighborhood carpool, you're far from alone in Texas.

As gas prices in El Paso continued inching toward $4 a gallon Wednesday, a newly released statewide poll showed more than half of Texans are rethinking their summer vacation plans. The wide-ranging poll conducted this month by the Texas Lyceum, a nonprofit, nonpartisan leadership group, also asked Texans their thoughts on paying for transportation and on the ever-controversial topic of cell-phone use in cars.

"The pinch of rising gas prices, increased congestion, and the costs of transportation projects are changing how people feel about transportation in Texas," said Daron Shaw, a University of Texas at Austin government professor and Lyceum pollster.

Suzanne Lozano, who lives in the Upper Valley, said her family cut their recent two-week vacation to California a day short to save money. Fill-ups for their Suburban totaled about $600.

In town, Lozano said, she tries to run all her errands in one trip and drives the family's smaller car whenever she can. "The kids don't like it, but we cram (into) the Volkswagen," Lozano said.

And, Lozano said, she's talking about starting a carpool with other families to take their children to and from school this fall.

According to the Lyceum Poll, which surveyed 1,000 Texans and had a 3-percentage-point margin of error, more than two-thirds of Texans would strongly consider buying a hybrid car, such as a Prius, or a more fuel-efficient vehicle because of gas prices.

Almost two-thirds said they would strongly consider carpooling, and more than half would strongly consider using public transportation to commute to work and school.

Eastsider Bill Lewis, an 86-year-old World War II veteran, bought a tiny Smart car in April. He said he's filled the Mercedes-Benz-made car's eight-gallon gas tank twice in two months. One tank, Lewis said, will last about 350 miles.

Plus, he gets plenty of approving looks in his zippy little silver-and-black car.

"Everyone that sees it is thrilled with it," Lewis said, "women and men both."

The poll may also provide some insight on the political bind facing lawmakers looking for ways to pay for new roads in Texas.

While a majority said they wanted more spending to reduce traffic congestion, few were willing to pay for those projects with tolls or with increased gas taxes.

"It captures the difficulties (lawmakers) have been having," said Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at UT Austin, who helped with the poll.

Lawmakers and transportation officials have said the state lacks funds to keep up with growing highway needs in Texas. But proposals to increase gas taxes or build toll roads to address those needs have caused public outcry.

When it comes to cell phones in cars, 60 percent of those polled said they would support a ban on talking and driving. At the same time, though, more than a third admitted to using their phones while behind the wheel.

Rosario Rivera, who lives in Central El Paso, said she would definitely support a ban on cell phone use while driving.

"Even if we want to be very careful, it is trouble-making," she said.

Lozano, of the Upper Valley, laughed as she admitted to using the phone in her car. She said she knows it's a distraction, and she would support a ban, especially now that her daughter is approaching driving age.

"We just need to get away from it," Lozano said. "It's more of a ball-and-chain than I realize."

Brandi Grissom may be reached at;


Poll findings

Texas Lyceum Poll results:

# 51 percent are strongly considering not taking a summer vacation.

# 66 percent would strongly consider buying a hybrid car or fuel-efficient


# 63 percent would strongly consider carpooling.

# 53 percent would strongly consider using public transportation to get to work or school.

# 49 percent said traffic congestion is a "very important" issue facing Texas; 35 percent said it was "somewhat important."

# 66 percent oppose tolls on new roads.

# 69 percent oppose tolls on existing roads.

# 60 percent strongly oppose increasing the gas tax; 12 percent somewhat oppose it.

# 44 percent said they use a cell phone while driving.

# 60 percent strongly or somewhat support a ban on cell-phone use while driving.

© 2008 El Paso Times:

New poll shows Texans want better roads, don't want to pay for them

June 25, 2008

The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2008

AUSTIN – Texans think congestion is a serious problem and want road improvements, but a solid majority is adamantly against paying at the toll booth or gas pump for bigger and better highways, a poll released today shows.

For state policy makers, “it shows the difficulty they’ve been having,” said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.

Of the 1,000 Texans polled, 60 percent said they strongly oppose a hike in the state’s gas tax, while 46 percent strongly oppose tolls on new highways. Meanwhile, 53 percent said they strongly oppose tolls on existing highways.

The poll by the Texas Lyceum, a nonpartisan public policy group, showed that most Texans want to improve existing roadways as opposed to building new ones. They also would like to see a strong commitment to mass transit systems, such as light rail. There was also strong support for high-speed rail to connect cities such as Dallas, Austin and San Antonio.

In addition, 44 percent of Texans copped to talking on cell phones while driving, while 60 percent said they would favor a ban on such behavior.

Texans were also asked what they strongly would consider doing in the face of high gas prices. The number one answer – 66 percent – was buying a hybrid or more fuel efficient auto. The next was carpooling and a little over half said they are thinking about taking public transportation.

Only 37 percent said they would consider moving closer to work or school so that the commute would not be so far.

© 2008, The Dallas Morning News, Inc.:

Poll: Build roads and rail without taxes, tolls

Mansion fire could hurt chance of ending DPS 'diversion'

June 30, 2008

Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2008

What's a legislator to do?

Texans, in a poll on transportation released last week, said they want money for nothing and their toll roads for free. Or words to that effect.

The grandly named Texas Lyceum, a Dallas-based nonprofit leadership group, asked 1,000 Texans about 30 questions on getting around. Should state and local governments spend more on highways, airports, passenger rail (including high-speed connections between metro areas), bus service and (even) ports, Texas Lyceum asked in different questions?

Oh, yes, Texans said, by healthy margins. Give us more of all of that, particularly because, according to 84 percent of those polled, "reducing traffic congestion" is either very important or somewhat important.

OK. Money's a bit tight these days. Should we raise the state's 20-cents-a-gallon gas tax to pay for those things?

Heck no, a thumping 72 percent said.

Well, how about toll roads then? Nope. Even for completely new roads, like Texas 130, 66 percent said they weren't interested. For existing highways, 69 percent said no.

So, to sum up, build us more transportation stuff, all kinds of it (including things like bus service and rail lines that operate at huge losses), but don't charge us for it. This will no doubt be a dose of courage when the Texas Legislature gets together in January and begins to toss around options.

The one thing lawmakers likely will do is fill in the dots on Proposition 12, allowing TxDOT to borrow $5 billion. Under a constitutional amendment voters OK'd in November, the state can issue $5 billion in bonds and repay it with general state revenue.

The state, according to the comptroller, does have several billion dollars of excess revenue to spend. The talk during the interim has been about ending the diversion from TxDOT of about $1.5 billion of gas tax revenue during the state's two-year budget cycle. The idea was that with the overall surplus, that money (or a large chunk of it) could go back to TxDOT and the Legislature could then replace it with general revenue. To borrow that $5 billion (with a 20-year payback) would require about $800 million every two years for debt payments.

So ending the $1.5 billion diversion would allow a $5 billion quick fix, with about $350 million a year left over for other stuff. With federal transportation funding plunging and costs going way up, this would only make a dent. But, hey, its something. And with no new taxes or Spanish-run toll roads.

One problem, though: Most of that $1.5 billion — $1.2 billion, to be precise — goes to operate the Department of Public Safety. You might have heard about a fire in an old state building recently that DPS failed to prevent, at least to some degree, because of short staffing, poor training and broken equipment. DPS will have its own claim for spending.

If you did a poll on that, Texans would no doubt support giving DPS more dough. Just don't tax us to get it.

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

© 2008, Austin American-Statesman:

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"Grimes County Get Organized (GCGO) members are continuing to urge local commissioners to form a 391 sub regional planning commission."

Grimes County GO group claims 391 Commission needed now more than ever

Related Link: Texas 391 Commission Alliance

June 25, 2008

BY ROSEMARY SMITH, Examiner editor
The Navasota Examiner
Copyright 2008

Even after the recent announcement by TxDOT to use existing highways for the Trans-Texas Corridor, Grimes County Get Organized (GCGO) members are continuing to urge local commissioners to form a 391 sub regional planning commission. During Monday’s commissioners court meeting, County Judge Betty Shiflett told GCGO member Reuben Grassl the commissioners are still working on obtaining more information before they make a decision.

Grimes County Attorney Jon C. Fultz told The Examiner, “The matter of the formation of a 391 Commission seems to be a relatively new concept, if not in authorization at least in relevant application. I want to talk to those who have seen the pros and cons of such. While I have talked to several individuals regarding the 391 Commission, there remain a couple of individuals who I have been told may have some insights that ought to be considered.”

Grassl told The Examiner that forming a 391 commission is even more important now, as he is not so sure that Grimes County is out of harm’s way, since Brazos County would like to be connected with the corridor.

“If that happens, it’s just us now. We don’t have the backing of 28,000 people,” he said, referring to the number of comments received from the public during a series of 47 hearings held in recent months.

During the announcement, TxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz said, "We're going to be focusing on (U.S.) 59 in Houston. Highway 6 could be a connecting road. We don't know whether it would be in Grimes County or Brazos County. The environmental study will determine that.”

Fellow GCGO member Joyce Floyd added, “As a group, Grimes County Get Organized is elated with the announcement from the Texas Department of Transportation regarding the decision to, at least for now, build the TTC along existing rights-of-way. We won a very important battle, but not the war. It is our contention that had Grimes County had a 391 sub regional planning commission in place, the wishes of the majority of the residents in the county would have been immediately relayed to TxDOT, as well as to any state agency with projects planned for our area.

“Conversation with the TxDOT office in Austin confirmed that they would welcome the input of a 391 sub-regional and work with the commission to become more effective and efficient in the future.

“We will continue to lobby our elected city and county officials to form a 391 sub-regional planning commission to assist Grimes County in planning for its growth now and in the future.”

© 2008, The Navasota Examiner:

Related Link: Texas 391 Commission Alliance:

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To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Monday, June 23, 2008

"The current system makes the commission entirely beholden to the governor. "

Corridor Watch: Elect our transportation leaders

June 23, 2008

By Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2008

CorridorWatch, a Fayette County-based group that has been active in opposing the Trans-Texas Corridor plan, wants to go beyond the Sunset Advisory Commission’s recommended shakeup of state transportation leadership. The group, led by David and Linda Stall, recommends that TxDOT answer to an elected six-member board led by a chairman appointed by the governor.

CorridorWatch makes it recommendation, along with various other reactions to the Sunset commission staff’s recent report on TxDOT, in written comments submitted as part of the sunset process.

TxDOT, like all state agencies, “sunsets” after 12 years unless the Legislature acts to keep it alive. As part of that process, the Sunset Advisory Commission staff studies each agency and makes recommendations, which are then accepted, rejected or amended by the Sunset board. The Legislature then passes a bill to sustain the agency, incorporating some, all or none of the recommendations. TxDOT’s turn in the 12-year rotation is next year.

The sunset staff early this month had recommended abolishing the five-member commission, all of whom are appointed to six-year terms by the governor and confirmed by the Texas Senate. The staff said that instead there should be a single transportation commissioner appointed by the governor and subject to Senate confirmation every two years.

CorridorWatch, in its comments, says the current system makes the commission entirely beholden to the governor. To give the public genuine input into state transportation policy, CorridorWatch recommends dividing the state into six geographic districts (their comments even include specific boundary lines) that roughly speaking encompass the Rio Grande Valley, Central Texas, Southeast Texas, North Texas, the Panhandle and West Texas.

The governor would appoint the chairman, with a four-year term and Senate confirmation. The chairman would also run the department, replacing the current executive director position.

© 2008, Austin American-Statesman:

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"On a nationwide basis, the added cost of toll collection would amount to $8 billion in administrative costs."

Toll Roads Mean Billions in Extra Costs for Motorists

Revenue collection with toll roads is twenty-five times less efficient than the gas tax.

Copyright 2008

With the promise of federal taxpayer subsidies, many states are rushing to embrace public-private toll road partnership deals as a means of boosting existing state transportation budgets. Our analysis shows, however, that when tolls are used to replace traditional funding sources like the gas tax, the out-of-pocket costs for motorists jumps by a factor of twenty-five.

Last year, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) conducted a survey to determine precisely how much it costs to collect a toll from drivers (view report, 120k PDF). The agency examined the budgets of the most high-tech toll roads in the country -- those roads that rely upon Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) for at least two-thirds of their transactions.

Electronic transponders minimize the expense of hiring employees to handle cash transactions and ensure costs are kept at a minimum. WSDOT documented only the direct expenses for the operation and maintenance of the transponder reading equipment and automated coin machines, salaries for human toll collectors and customer service staff, and the cost of toll violation processing. It did not include any costs that would have applied had the roads been open to free use by the public. On average, the roads selected for comparison by WSDOT spent $22 in collection costs for every $100 in toll revenue generated.

Denver, Colorado
47 miles
67% ETC
183-A (estimated)
Austin, Texas
4.5 miles$11,599,000$6,650,29557%
73, 133, 241, 261
Orange County, CA
51 miles
70% ETC
SR91 HOT Lanes
Orange County, CA
10 miles
100% ETC
Total112.5 miles$296,473,471$65,380,02122%


This compares unfavorably with existing methods of collecting revenue for roads such as the motor vehicle fuel excise tax. Each state levies this tax, which averages 19 cents per gallon, at the wholesale level tax. Although a few states like California also impose an additional sales tax at the gasoline station pump, collecting the tax from the fuel distribution point simplifies the administrative burden of the tax. According to figures maintained by the Federal Highway Administration, state governments, on average, spent just 88 cents in collection costs for every $100 in revenue generated from the gasoline excise tax last year. (View data, 28k PDF)

Tax Rate
22 cents
20 cents
18 cents
All 50 States
19 cents


As the price of gasoline continues to rise, toll road proponents have suggested that user fees based on tolls should eventually replace gasoline taxes entirely. If Colorado were to raise the $600 million currently generated by the gasoline tax with tolls, for example, motorists would have to spend an additional $100 million in administrative costs every year just to maintain the current level of revenue. Likewise, to replace California's gas tax, motorists would have to toss an extra $730 million in the collection basket before generating any new revenue for high-priority projects. On a nationwide basis, the added cost of toll collection would amount to $8 billion.

As gas prices continue to skyrocket, toll road proponents have suggested taxation of gasoline is no longer sustainable. Data from the state of Indiana show that sticker shock at the pump has actually had more of a negative impact on toll roads than it has had on gas tax revenue (view data).

© 2008,

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"Many of the states with the worst records on property rights have enacted ineffective legislation or none at all. These states include...Texas."

Property Rights Three Years After Kelo, Part II:

State of the States:


Ilya Somin
The Volkh Conspiracy
Copyright 2008

Since Kelo was decided exactly three years ago, a remarkable 42 states have enacted new eminent domain reform laws - a more extensive legislative response than that generated by any other Supreme Court decision. By my count, at least five state supreme courts have issued decisions limiting takings under their state constitutions, including two (Ohio and Oklahoma) which held that Kelo-style "economic development" condemnations are forbidden under their state public use clauses.

How much real progress has been made in protecting property rights in the states? Not nearly as much as many people hoped, but a lot more than probably would have occurred without Kelo.

I. State Legislation.

I have discussed state post-Kelo legislation in great detail in this article. The article covers all state post-Kelo reforms, except for California's recently passed Proposition 99, which I criticized here, and in several entries in this series of posts.

To briefly summarize my findings, 35 state legislatures have passed eminent domain reform laws since Kelo, and eleven states (including California's Prop 99) have enacted such reforms by referendum (a few states have done both). However, 21 of the 35 laws enacted by state legislatures only pretend to limit takings and don't impose any real restrictions Kelo-like condemnations. The same is true of four of the 11 reforms enacted by referendum. The most common subterfuge is to ban takings for "economic development" but allow them to continue under another name as "blight" condemnations, utilizing a definition of "blight" broad enough to cover virtually any property.

Moreover, many of the states that have enacted effective reforms are ones that rarely or never engaged in economic development takings anyway. For example, the state of South Dakota has enacted one of the strongest post-Kelo laws in the entire country. But in the years preceding Kelo, South Dakota did not initiate even one blight or "economic development" taking.

By contrast, many of the states with the worst records on property rights have enacted ineffective legislation or none at all. These states include California, New York, New Jersey, and Texas. For reasons I advance in the article, the most compelling explanation for this pattern is that most voters lack the knowledge necessary to tell the difference between effective reforms and purely symbolic ones. Survey evidence shows that no more than 13% of Americans both know whether their state has enacted eminent domain reforms since Kelo, and know whether those reforms are likely to be effective or not.

That said, a number of states with extensive records of eminent domain abuse have enacted strong reform laws, with Florida (which adopted the strongest reform in the entire country) and Indiana being the best examples. Moreover, as I explain in the paper, reforms enacted by citizen-initiated referendum initiatives have generally proven far stronger than those enacted by state legislatures (though Proposition 99 - drafted by pro-condemnation interest groups, is an important exception). Thus, the Kelo backlash has led to some important progress in state eminent domain legislation.

It is highly unlikely that any of these states would have moved to curtail eminent domain were it not for Kelo. In the decade prior to Kelo, only one state (Utah) had passed a reform law forbidding economic development takings.

II. Developments in State Courts.

Since Kelo, at least five state supreme courts have banned or limited economic development takings under their state constitutions. Two of these, Ohio and Oklahoma, held that Kelo-like condemnations are categorically forbidden under their states' constitutions. The Ohio case, City of Norwood v. Horney, is particularly important because it addresses blight takings as well as pure economic development condemnations. Significantly, no state supreme court has gone the other way in recent years, with the exception of the Connecticut Supreme Court's narrow 4-3 ruling in Kelo itself.

It is difficult to say whether these state court rulings are a reaction against Kelo or not. Unlike in the case of state legislative developments, recent state supreme court decisions forbidding or restricting economic development takings are a continuation of a preexisting trend. In then ten years prior to Kelo, the supreme courts of Michigan, Illinois, Montana, and South Carolina all held that economic development takings violate their state constitutions, with Kansas being the only state supreme court that ruled the other way during that time. The 2004 Michigan case (which I analyzed in this article), was especially significant because it overruled that court's notorious 1981 Poletown decision, which had upheld the forcible displacement of some 4000 people in Detroit so that General Motors could acquire land for a new factory.

All told, eleven state supreme courts now forbid economic development takings under their state constitutions, and nine of them reached this conclusion before Kelo. However, it is significant that the Supreme Court's ruling in Kelo did not influence state supreme courts to interpret their state constitutions in the same way. Back in the 1950s, the Supreme Court's decision in Berman v. Parker, which held that "blight" condemnations are permissible under the Fifth Amendment's Public Use Clause, helped convince state courts to rule the same way under their state constitutions (as nearly all did). As a result, hundreds of thousands of people were forcibly displaced by "urban renewal" and blight takings during the 1950s and 60s (a history summarized on pp. 268-71 here). By contrast, the Ohio and Oklahoma supreme courts have both repudiated Kelo as a potential guide in interpreting their state constitutions and no other state supreme court has embraced it.

© 2008, The Volkh Conspiracy:

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