Friday, October 09, 2009

Is the Trans-Texas Corridor dead? is mortally wounded..."

TxDOT Recommends the "No Build Alternative" for their TTC-35 FEIS

You might have seen the headline, but what exactly does that mean?

Copyright 2009

Is the Trans-Texas Corridor dead?

No it is not dead. But it is mortally wounded and expected to die.

Criticism of the TTC has recently developed into a high profile campaign issue (again) making the timing of this “No Build Alternative” announcement highly suspect as being politically motivated.

The problem is the TTC can’t die soon enough.

Highways developed using federal funds are required to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Because of the extensive legal process involved, the final decision called the Record of Decision, can’t be issued until sometime in 2010 at the earliest. In any case it just can’t happen before the March primaries next year, and maybe not even before November general election.

Running for reelection in 2010, the Governor who devised, championed, and made every effort to force the construction of the TTC now needs voters to forget about it.

Has the contract with Cintra-Zachry been cancelled?

No, it has not been cancelled. It won’t be cancelled until a “No Build Alternative” ROD is issued.

The “No Build Alternative” recommendation – forced, not volunteered.

Overwhelming public and legislative opposition to the TTC has forced TxDOT to act. [letter]

It is a common misconception that the required environmental impact study (EIS) is limited to endangered species and pollution. It is not. NEPA requires an examination of the project to include economic, social and community impact as well. Public opposition is a specific element of the EIS. The number of negative comments received on the TTC created a tremendous obstacle to overcome.

Add to that a dramatic lack of support in the legislature and a pending Sunset review.

Also consider the long list of issues related to TxDOT’s handling of the NEPA process. CorridorWatch and other organizations have filed numerous comments and complaints that are yet unresolved. Several of those issues would likely lead to legal action if the TTC move forward.

And, there may be even more significant problems hidden from public scrutiny.

Apparently TxDOT still does not believe honesty is the best policy.

TxDOT would have us believe that they are being genuinely responsive to public comment. New information now contradicts that and indicates that the Federal Highway Administration itself motivated the “No Build Alternative” recommendation.

In a notice filed yesterday (10/8/2009) by Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A. (Cintra) with the Comisión Nacional del Mercado de Valores (market regulator) in Spain, Cintra reported that TxDOT’s “No Build Alternative” recommendation is the result of comments received from the Federal Highway Administration. That was omitted from what TxDOT said at their press conference. Either Cintra has it wrong or they know something that TxDOT has avoided disclosing to the public.

Commissioner Houghton just doesn’t get it!

Transportation Commissioner Ted Houghton participated in Wednesday’s “No Build Alternative” press conference. At the podium he introduced himself as “the most arrogant commissioner of the most arrogant state agency in the history of the state of Texas.”[video clip] Anyone seriously concerned about the public perception of TxDOT would never had stood in front of an assembly and uttered those words, joking or not.

The more Houghton spoke the more he demonstrated the vast disconnect between the Transportation Commission and the message TxDOT management was trying to present.

TxDOT executive director Amadeo Saenz said their announcement shows that the process works. Houghton said it was the result of TxDOTs failure to market the project.

Saenz said citizens performed their civic duty by participating in hearings and voicing their concerns. Houghton divided citizens objecting to the TTC into four broad groups and proclaimed that only those in the landowners group had valid concerns.

Houghton continues to build the case for dismantling the Commission and adopting some other form of accountable leadership.

© 2009

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