Sunday, March 08, 2009

"The level of mistrust of TxDOT is as high as it has ever been–thanks to Commissioner Ted Houghton..."

The Week in Review

Fodder for the coming battle over TxDOT's sunset

Houghton: "I'm just going to make sure people know what you and your group really are. you are a bunch of bigots is what you are." (Footage courtesy of "Truth Be Tolled").


Paul Burka
Texas Monthly
Copyright 2009

The transportation stimulus package.

This is one area where the stimulus package can produce real jobs and have real economic benefits. So why is the amount so small–just $2.5 billion overall, and $1.2 billion in the first installment? One of the reasons is that Obama wants to invest in high-speed rail. I think this is a boondoggle.

I’d like to see more of the money go to highways and less to high-speed rail. High-speed rail requires total grade separation.

For rural Texas, it will make the Trans-Texas Corridor battle look like a walk in the park. I ran some numbers back in the early nineties, when the idea of a bullet train was first floated, and to break even on the project’s then $6 billion cost, trains had to run 97% full between Houston and Dallas 24 hours a day.

Like it or not, the most efficient method of getting people from point A to point B is one lane of freeway. In an hour, it carries six times the number of people as rail, and the cost is approximately the same.

Politically, the most important aspect of the transportation funding battle was the continuing hostility between TxDOT and the Legislature.

TxDOT froze lawmakers out of the discussion of which projects should be funded, with the result that 70% of the money will go to toll roads. Legislators did not cover themselves with glory either, as some took the opportunity to lobby for projects in their districts.

The level of mistrust of TxDOT is as high as it has ever been–thanks to Commissioner Ted Houghton, who decided to do a little bomb-throwing of his own at the March 5 meeting of the Texas Highway Commission, calling one of the witnesses and the organization he represents “idiots.” Senator Hegar fired off a letter to Houghton, which included the following observations:
  • I am … compelled to strongly denounce your comments to Mr. Hank Gilbert at the … meeting as completely out of line and wholly unacceptable.
  • Regardless of the criticism you may have received over the last few years in your duties as a commissioner and regardless of your thoughts about Mr. Gilbert or the group he represents, he is a Texas taxpayer, and it is extremely inconsiderate for you to dismiss him and the organization he represents as “idiots.” Anyone who holds the prestigious position of Texas transportation commissioner must take both the good and the bad that comes with that position and treat our fellow citizens with respect; the same respect that he paid you in politely expressing his thoughts and opinions.
  • [I]ncidents like this one only underscore the problems of the past and retard future progress. They certainly do nothing to change the perception of many of my legislative colleagues that TxDOT remains arrogant and unresponsive to the people it serves….

Lots of fodder here for the coming battle over TxDOT sunset.

© 2009 Texas Monthly:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE