Tuesday, March 03, 2009

"In their hurry, TxDOT is pushing through a number of bad, highly controversial projects."

Activists Tell TxDOT to Slow Down


Reeve Hamilton
The Texas Observe
Copyright 2009

A varied coalition of activist groups—including Sierra Club, Citizens’ Transportation Coalition, Independent Texans, Environment Texas, Houston Tomorrow, and Texans United for Reform and Freedom—gathered at the Capitol this morning to encourage TxDOT to take its time with the incoming federal stimulus money.


TxDOT plans to allocate its remaining $1.7 billion in stimulus funding on Thursday.

“There are a lot of good projects on the list,” said Robin Holzer, board chair of CTC. “But, in their hurry, TxDOT is pushing through a number of bad, highly controversial projects. We want TxDOT to slow down, fix it first, and do the right thing with our stimulus money.”

“There should be no money going into toll roads,” said TURF director Terri Hall.

Hall’s sentiment is shared by some members of the select committee examining the stimulus funds. In last night’s committee meeting, chairman Jim Dunnam said, “If we get a toll moratorium on the floor, and I hope we do, I bet you it will pass.”

If TxDOT’s current proposals are passed, $840 million would go toward toll-related projects.

One of the more controversial proposed items on the verge of approval that those assembled addressed is Segment E of Houston’s Grand Parkway project—15.2 miles of highway through environmentally sensitive land with low population density.

Jay Crossley of Houston Tomorrow described the Grand Parkway as “a vision from the 1960’s for a very different Houston” with very little public support.

Holzer said, if unsatisfied by TxDOT’s handling of the funds, the organizations would pressure President Obama to make good on his promise to, upon hearing of agencies wasting stimulus funds, “call them out on it, and put a stop to it.”

“This agency is out of control. It’s been so for years,” said Linda Curtis, director of Independent Texans, who also illustrated some of the variety in the coalition by saying, “We will be neutering some of these legislators if they try to get in our way.”

© 2009 The Texas Observer: www.texasobserver.org

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