Monday, March 30, 2009

Self-dealing deadbeat developer and tolling authority chair Bob Tesch leaves CTRMA

Tesch leaving behind well-oiled toll agency


Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2009

You may not have heard that Bob Tesch is stepping down.

As a matter of fact, you may not have any idea who Tesch is.

For someone who for the past six years has been the titular leader of a Central Texas toll road agency, being little known is probably not such a bad thing. There are top officials at Capital Metro, for instance, who would probably prefer that their identity factor was way lower about now.

Tesch, a Cedar Park developer, announced he won't seek another two-year appointment from Gov. Rick Perry as board chairman for the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. Actually, he said this right after Perry's office had submitted his name to the Texas Senate for another term, then quickly pulled it down. The decision had more to do with the geopolitics of Central Texas than it did Tesch.

The authority umbrella includes Travis and Williamson counties, you see, with a seven-member board consisting of three appointees from each county and a gubernatorial- appointed chair. The Republican governor, with the agency's first road to be built in Republican Williamson County, appointed Tesch in January 2003 to head the two-month-old agency.

People familiar with the inner workings said there was always an understanding that Travis County would get its turn in the majority. And the next five tollways on the authority's plate are in Travis. A change at the top was overdue, they say, and Perry's office was made to understand that.

But the awkward turn of events takes away nothing from Tesch and what has occurred with him holding the gavel.

When he chaired his first meeting, the agency had no staff, no written policies, no money and no offices. It was basically a couple of consultants. What it did have was powerful politicians supporting it, a clear mission to build the 183-A toll road in Cedar Park (along with the right of way bought long ago and advanced engineering plans) and the vast resources of its big brother, TxDOT. Those advantages can't be overstated.

But Tesch and the board still could have screwed up. They didn't.

With a staff in place that seems to run the agency professionally, and within four years and two months of that first meeting, 183-A opened precisely when officials, more than two years earlier, said it would. Contrast that with 24-year-old Capital Metro, which four years and five months after the election authorizing commuter rail — and after four postponements — cannot say for sure when MetroRail will open.

The toll authority has had some bobbles, including an ill-advised tolling setup on 183-A that confused drivers, but that was quickly rectified. And the toll road is making a profit.

"We had to build the engine, then we had to drive it," Tesch said. "We know how to get things done."

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© 2009 Austin American-Statesman:

Read more about Robert Tesch and the CTRMA:

From Eye On Williamson: "The Crooked Get Richer"

From The Muckraker: Related posts about Bob Tesch

From TTC News Archives: CTRMA Toll Road Schemes on the Verge of Implosion

Related Articles from TTC News Archives: [HERE]

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