Sunday, January 18, 2009

Houghton: "True, the name 'Trans-Texas Corridor' has been retired....Nevertheless, many things remain the same."


Keep transportation at the top of the state and national agenda

See TxDOT Commissioner Houghton, TxDOT brass perjure themselves in 'Truth be Tolled'


Ted Houghton, Texas Transportation Commission
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2009

Much has been said about the "death" of the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) — most of it true, some of it not. Though the Statesman's editorial board might have you believe otherwise, the decision to transform the vision of the TTC was based upon the feedback of Texans.

In the course of researching the feasibility of the 1,200-mile multimodal plan to relieve congestion along Interstate 35 and construct Interstate 69, the Texas Department of Transportation has spent more than $131 million.

These funds were prudently spent and would have been necessary even without the creation of the TTC concept.

True, the name Trans-Texas Corridor has been retired. Large projects have been broken into smaller, related ones. TxDOT has committed to reduce the width of the corridors where possible and work with committees of local residents to make key decisions about the projects. Nevertheless, many things remain the same.

Congestion along I-35 is set to worsen. An interstate highway connecting ports of entry in the Rio Grande Valley is needed to connect freight traffic with destinations in Texas and across the country. TxDOT remains committed to addressing each area's needs. Not only do Texas taxpayers need a safe, reliable transportation system — they deserve it.

Toll roads compromise safety on adjacent roads [LINK]

NTSB: "The most dangerous place on the highway is the toll plaza." [LINK]

Several other projects have benefitted from innovative thinking. In North Texas, the $3.2 billion Texas 121 and $458 million Texas 161 concession payments by NTTA will finance a variety of highway enhancements throughout the region in addition to supporting those projects' development. In Central Texas, Texas 130 segments five and six, a $1.3 billion asset, will yield a ten-fold return on investment.

Behind all of these toll road agreements, both public and private, is billions upon billions in debt [LINK]

Toll Roads Mean Billions in Extra Costs for Motorists [LINK]

Austin toll road schemes paved with bad projections [LINK]

Make no mistake, TxDOT will continue to pursue a series of related, multimodal transportation projects to develop I-69 and to address congestion along I-35. The preliminary work we completed and paid for on these projects is essential to solve our state's mobility problems.

"The mobility authority has confined itself to a 'unimodal' system consisting exclusively of toll roads." [LINK]

TxDOT's own projections show TTC-35 will not relieve congestion on I-35 [LINK]

So what have we paid for? The funds primarily supported planning and engineering work and environmental impact studies in each corridor. The environmental impact studies include an intensive public involvement process as well as an examination of the cost to communities and our environment of constructing a roadway through an area. This included town hall meetings and public hearings which resulted in tens of thousands of public comments and, in the end, spurred changes to the TTC vision.

Tax dollars pay for TTC developer's lobbying campaign [LINK]

Texas Commisson on Environmental Quality not involved in TTC-35 plans [LINK]

In all, expenses of $131 million toward the development of an estimated $50 billion in transportation assets for the state aren't bad. That work has tremendous value. TxDOT and local project advisory committees will depend on it to build segments of each corridor. And that isn't the end of spending on these projects.

Some portions of the projects may be operated by the private sector. All of the projects will be owned by the state. Every day we delay the development of I-69 or additional capacity along I-35, the construction cost grows.

Noncompete clauses ensure toll operators will be richly rewarded [LINK]

TxDOT hasn't always done the best job of explaining what it is doing and why. But with the department's announcement about major changes to the way the projects that comprised the TTC would be developed, we did the right thing. We listened to the concerns of Texans, reassessed our original plans and made some changes. We were responsive to both the needs of Texas taxpayers and the needs of the state.

Contractor sues to keep Trans-Texas details hidden [LINK]

Auditor questions TxDOT development pacts [LINK]

It is imperative to the continued economic prosperity of our state and nation that transportation, and the development of necessary and innovative projects, stay at the forefront of the public agenda for all of our leaders.

Houghton, who lives in El Paso, is a member of the Texas Transportation Commission.

© 2009 Austin American-Statesman

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