Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More "Innovative Disconnectivity": TxDOT Throttles Public Input on Cintra toll road with Court Reporters

Shh! No Speaking at Toll Road Public Hearing TxDOT holds hearing on first private toll road in North Texas



NBC 5 TV (Dallas / Ft. Worth
Copyright 2009

The North Texas Express could make traveling along Loop 820 a lot better.

A public hearing Tuesday night into the first privately funded toll road in North Texas included no opportunity for members of the public to speak.

The hearing into the North Tarrant Express, a 13-mile toll road along northeast Loop 820 and Airport Freeway, was organized by the Texas Department of Transportation. It was held at the North Fort Worth Baptist Church.

Often, microphones are set up at public hearings so people can make public comments. But at Tuesday’s hearing, people instead were invited to make comments to three court reporters who would transcribe their comments.

Only one man chose to do so. But a TxDOT spokesman defended the meeting’s format.

"The input we get from the public will be important," Michael Peters said. "It will be on the record. We will respond."

State officials will summarize the transcribed comments and respond to them later on the Internet, he said.

The controversial toll road is being funded by private investors known as the NTE Mobility Partners. The group is led by a Spanish company.

Critics said Texas should build its own roads and that private companies shouldn’t profit from them.

"We can do it. We always have done it,” said Beverly Branham, of Fort Worth.

The toll road will charge a sliding toll based on the amount of traffic. The busier the traffic is, the higher the toll will be. Tolls for the entire 13-mile stretch will top out at $6.89 the first year and go up in future years.

Discounts will be offered for HOV drivers. Drivers will also have the choice of using existing free lanes.

The contract between the state and the investors was also released Tuesday and showed how the $2 billion project will be funded.

NTE Mobility Partners will leverage $458 million with $570 million in gas tax dollars plus $1 billion in financing, according to the contract.

© 2009 NBC Universal, Inc.:

Public Muted At Public Hearing On Toll Road

KJDL News Radio (Lubbock, Texas)
Copyright 2009

(North Richland Hills, TX) -- People who were expecting to talk to TXDOT about the proposed North Texas Express toll road on Tuesday say they found only a group of court reporters ready to listen.

TXDOT officials did not provide public microphones for a public hearing on the planned expansion of a 13-mile expansion of part of Highway 183 and Northeast Loop 820 in Tarrant County.

Instead, three court reporters were on hand to transcribe the public's input. TXDOT spokesman Michael Peters says the agency's intent was to transcribe public comments and have TXDOT officials post their replies on a web site.

Only one person decided to give their comments to the court reporters during the hearing.

© 2009 Walker Communications:

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