Monday, March 02, 2009

TxDOT pushes toll road projects as the most favored recipients of stimulus money for Texas highways.

Jim Dunnam scolds TxDOT plan to target 70% of stimulus funds on toll-type projects


Robert T. Garrett
Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2009

Jim Dunnam, head of a House panel looking at the federal stimulus package, criticized TxDOT for pushing toll road type projects as most favored recipients of much of the stimulus money for highways.

Under questioning by Dunnam this evening, TxDOT official John Barton said that of $1.2 billion being spread across new road projects statewide, $841 million would go to "toll related projects." Those include either roads that are entirely tolled and ones with a mix of toll and free lanes, a TexDOT spokesman explained.

The list will be voted on by the Transportation Commission on Thursday, said TxDOT executive director Amadeo Saenz.

Rep. Vicki Truitt, R-Keller, defended use of toll roads, saying Texas is a growing state and something must be done to ease congestion.

Dunnam also blasted the Transportation Commission for already approving use of $500 million of the state's stimulus money for maintenance. He said TxDOT didn't comply with the stimulus bill's requirement that states first look to whether funds could be used in economically distressed areas. Saenz said in response that department officials "worked with the local communities to find out where they have the need."

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