Friday, April 24, 2009

New legislation would "eliminate expensive federal subsidies that now flow to privatized highways."

ATA Applauds the Introduction of Anti-Privatization Legislation


American Trucking Associations
Copyright 2009

ARLINGTON, Va.-- The American Trucking Associations (ATA) applauds U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) for their introduction of the "Transportation Access for All Americans Act," (S. 885) and the "Transportation Equity for All Americans Act" (S. 884) on April 24.

The legislation will eliminate expensive federal subsidies that now flow to privatized highways. When a state or city leases a highway, it receives significant compensation, but taxpayers always end up paying higher tolls to the private operator.

"I would like to thank Senator Bingaman and Senator Grassley for their leadership," says ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. "We look forward to working with both gentlemen on this critical issue," he added.

Privatization is dismantling the nation's interstate highway network. The United States cannot maintain a national highway network if key segments are leased to the highest bidder. More than money is at stake. Leasing roadways allows states only to postpone, not solve, their budget problems -- and without understanding the long-term implications.

The American Trucking Associations is the largest national trade association for the trucking industry. Through a federation of other trucking groups, industry-related conferences, and its 50 affiliated state trucking associations, ATA represents more than 37,000 members covering every type of motor carrier in the United States.

© 2009 PRNewswire:

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

"Cintra-Zachry’s chief executive officer told Perry and the other officials Loop 9 fit into the plans for the TTC."

Toll road part of TTC plans


Ellis County Press
Copyright 2009

AUSTIN - Gov. Rick Perry told a southern Dallas County transportation group that Loop 9, a proposed toll road for northern Ellis and southern Dallas counties, is designed to be 14 lanes.

"Under the old system of building roads, we divided up a limited pie of tax dollars that could never keep up with growth, let alone ongoing maintenance needs," said Perry.

"The fact is, Southern Dallas County has waited long enough for a southern connector to be built and relying upon the federal or state share of gas tax revenues to make that dream a reality has been nothing more than an exercise in futility."

Perry told a DeSoto transportation forum in 2007 that Cintra-Zachry, the Spanish corporation and construction conglomerate that will contract with the state for the Trans-Texas Corridor toll road revenue, will operate the tolls for Loop 9.

Cintra-Zachry’s chief executive officer, Jose Maria Lopez de Fuentes, told Perry and the other officials Loop 9 fit into the plans for the TTC.

"We believe it [Loop 9] can be financed with tolls," Fuentes said. "It is a candidate within our Trans Texas Corridor 35 [TTC35] agreement with [Texas Department of Transportation] as a connector road enhancing the corridor."

Perry announced earlier this year the TTC was "dead," but the TxDOT Web site shows a name change and the project still intact. The new name is called Innovative Connectivity.

The 14-lanes that are proposed for Loop 9 caught many residents in Glenn Heights, Ovilla, Cedar Hill and Midlothian off guard. A town hall meeting Thursday, April 23 in Cedar Hill is expected to attract 1,000 residents, organizers of the effort said.

Meanwhile, Cedar Hill’s Economic Development Director Allison J.H.Thompson is standing firmly by the project.

"Loop 9 will open the southern portion of Cedar Hill and the Best Southwest with a much needed transportation corridor and east/west connectivity," said Thompson.

"US 67 will intersect with Loop 9.The loop will provide an alternative route for truck traffic and reduce congestion on both the east and west corridors of I-35, it is a critical piece of infrastructure for the metroplex. Even more exciting is the probability that the section in the Best Southwest will be constructed first."

The Loop 9 corridor, which extends from Seagoville in eastern Dallas County and empties into the Midlothian area, was designed by state officials to alleviate Interstate Highway 20.

The toll road calls for an eventual 2×2 lane truck way in the center, 2×2 lanes for cars and other light vehicles, flanked in turn by 2×3 frontage road lanes, according to, the state’s official Web site for the project.

Eight expressway lanes for cars and trucks would have a design speed of 80 mph while the frontage lanes would be about 50 mph with signals at the interchanges.

There would be major interchanges at Highway 67 in Midlothian, I-35 in Red Oak, I-45 in the Wilmer/Ferris area and on I-20.

Town Hall meeting on Thursday, April 23 is located at Noble Champion Sport Horse Arena ,1302 S. Duncanville Road in Cedar Hill at 6:30 p.m.

View news articles about Loop 9 in TTC News Archives: [HERE]

© 2009 Ellis County Press:

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"It's anti-Texan and anti-American."

D-FW outer loop draws new criticism


Copyright 2009

CEDAR HILL – It's a serene setting when you can hear the wind coming.

"It's like a little bit of heaven," said Janie Haga as she described her home in a rural part of Cedar Hill.

Problem is, she said, her place might not be so peaceful much longer.

TxDOT's long-planned Loop 9 is getting closer to reality. The current proposal puts it right through Haga's five acres, which is something she recently discovered.

"I feel like I live in Russia because what TxDOT always said is, 'Well, we've had this on the website for years,'" she said. "So, I'm supposed to sit at home and surf the web looking for who's going to take my property away from me?"

Loop 9 will be the outermost circle around the Dalls-Fort Worth area, and eventually will be a 240-mile road around the cities.

The first 40 miles, a toll road, are proposed to stretch from Interstate 20 near Seagoville to Highway 287 in Midlothian.

Unfortunately, 400 homes, including Haga's, and businesses stand in the way, TxDOT said.

But neighbors want Loop 9 built further south on an existing right-of-way through Waxahachie, Ennis and Kaufman.

Haga fears her community will be bought out while property values are at recession level lows.

"It's anti-Texan and anti-American," she said.

TxDOT said planning this tollway was like threading a needle. Designers have had to gerrymander the road around a cement plant, neighborhoods, a radio tower and other obstacles. The state said the plan is still incomplete.

"This project remains a proposed project," said Tim Nesbitt, TxDOT’s Loop 9 project manager. "The design we have now is a preliminary design. We have no federal approval to take this project to a public hearing."

TxDOT said the east-west corridor is needed for future growth in Dallas and Ellis counties.

"Ideally, in a perfect world [and] I guess if the funding is available, we would like to start the right of way acquisition in the next five years,” Nesbit said. “Hopefully start construction in the next ten years."

But precisely where Loop 9 will eventually go remains the residents concern.

Nesbitt accepted an invitation to meet with residents and explain the project’s status. Haga said the public meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Equestrian Arena at 1302 S. Duncanville Road.

Five-hundred to 1,000 people are expected to attend.

Related links:
  • View news articles about Loop 9 in TTC News Archives: [HERE]
© 2009 WFAA-TV, Inc.:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


"The explanation is simple: Our governor is a goober. "

What's Up With the Governor of Texas?


Jim Hightower
Copyright 2009

Texas politics has long been a source of great amusement for the people of our state, but it's often a source of bafflement for people beyond our borders. So, sometimes there's a need to explain what's going on here, and this is one of those times. In this case, the explanation is simple: Our governor is a goober.

Texans have known this for some time, but Rick Perry — whose chief claim to fame had been that he has a spectacular head of hair — was unknown outside the state, so he was our little secret. Now, however, Perry's gooberness has gone viral. He's a YouTube phenomenon and a new darling of the GOP kingmaker, Rush Limbaugh.

He broke into national consciousness on April 15, when he spoke at one of the many "teabag" rallies that Republican operatives set up around the country to protest Barack Obama's deficit spending. Appearing in Austin before a boisterous crowd of about a thousand people who were fuming about everything from gun control to the Wall Street bailout, the governor opened with this shot: "I'm sure you're not just a bunch of right-wing extremists. But if you are, I'm with you."

Then came the thought that earned him YouTuber-of-the-Day and a favorable mention from Lord Limbaugh: Texas just, By God, might secede from the union if Washington keeps messing with us.

No doubt many people in the other 49 states burst into applause at this notion, but it caused quite a bit of consternation among home folks, who rather like being both Texans and Americans. Was he serious? Apparently so. When reporters asked afterward about the legality of such a rash move, Perry pointed out that Texas had entered the union under a unique agreement that gave us the right "to leave if we decided to do that." Good line, but utterly untrue. No such agreement ever existed.

Facts aside, what's going through Perry's perfectly coiffed head is that polls presently show him losing his re-election bid in next year's Republican primary.

Thus, he's scrambling to excite the most rabid of the Texas GOP fringe by posing as a courageous defender of Texas sovereignty against meddlers from Washington. His chief target is $555 million in federal money that would come to our state under Obama's economic stimulus program. This is desperately needed money that would go straight into our nearly broke unemployment compensation fund, but he asserts that he will reject it, claiming that the federal dollars come with strings attached.

The "strings" are actually simple and sensible threads of reform that would help the hard-hit workaday people of our state. For example, the federal stimulus program requires that part-time workers also be eligible for unemployment comp. In today's harsh economy, when part-time work is all that many people can get, they ought to be covered, too. But common sense has never met Perry, much less befriended him, so he continues to posture: "We think it's time to draw the line in the sand and tell Washington that no longer are we going to accept their oppressive hand in the state of Texas," he recently spewed.

Yes, comandante, but what about that other $16 billion or so in Obama's stimulus money that you are going accept? For example, while you slap away funds to help working folks, you're eagerly reaching out with your other hand to grab $1.2 billion of those filthy federal dollars to put into your pet project of saddling Texans with a network of privatized toll roads. If it's a matter of principle, why not reject all federal money? Indeed, you used to be a cotton farmer who benefited from Washington's crop subsidy programs — how oppressive was that for you?

OK, our governor has not quite attained the Blagojevichian level of gubernatorial gooberness, but he's a striver, and he's only one bad haircut away from getting to the top. Illinois, we feel your pain.

© 2009 Creators Syndicate Inc.:

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"The two best bills with protection against eminent domain are still stuck in committees."

Action AGAINST eminent domain needed now!


Susan Ridgway Garry
Copyright 2009

NOW is the time to contact the House and Senate committees where the two best bills with protection against eminent domain are still stuck. HB 1483 by Pitts is left pending in the House Land and Resource Management Committee. SB 18 by Estes is left pending in the Senate State Affairs Committee. Both of these bills are endorsed by the Texas Farm Bureau as the best protection for rural landowners.

Below is information, including contact information, from several groups.


Important eminent domain bills stuck in committee with only a few days left to get them passed and still have time to override a Perry veto. CALL NOW!

Forcibly taking OUR private property and handing it to foreign corporations like Cintra or ACS, are the centerpiece of Perry's Trans- Texas Corridor and network of tollways.

Landowners need protection and Perry vetoed a good bill last session.

We MUST get this passed in time to override him.Tell these committees we want HB 1483 AND SB 18 voted OUT of committee NOW!

Email them here: - Senate State Affairs Committee- House Land & Resource Committee


What can we do? Help get the eminent domain reform bills out of committee! We need to hammer the Committee offices (don’t be mean, but be firm) now!!

Easy Steps!

1. No matter where you live in Texas, call the Committee offices below and urge them to get House Bill 1483 and Senate Bill 18 out of their respective committees right away!

Senate State Affairs Committee: 512-463-0380 (Senate Bill 18)
House Land & Resource Committee: 512-463-1623 (House Bill 1483)

2. Call the Committee chairs and vice chairs no matter where you live in Texas.

SENATE State Affairs Committee (C 640)
Clerk: Kelsey Erickson Tel: (512) 463-0067 Sam Houston Building - Room 445

Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, Chair (512) 463-0128 & Fax: (512) 463-2424, *call regardless of where you live

Robert Deuell, R-Greenville, Vice-Chair (512) 463-0102 & Fax: (512) 463-*call regardless of where you live

HOUSE Land & Resource Management Committee (C360)
Clerk: Trey Burke Phone: (512) 463-1623 Room: EXT E2.136

Chair: Rep. Dennis Bonnen #25 (R)
512-463-0564 & Fax (512) 463-8414, Brazoria County * call regardless of where you live

Vice Chair: Rep. Jessica Farrar 148 (D) 512-463-0620 & Fax (512) 463-0894, Houston, * call regardless of where you live

3. Forward this link to all you know in Texas.

4. Optional, but can be VERY helpful. Write a very brief letter to the editor of your favorite or local newspaper!

Get after it y’all!
Linda CurtisIndependent Texans


ACTION Alert: SUPPORT Eminent Domain BILLS

WHY NOW? The URGENCY grows greater as the days in this session grow shorter… making an effort to OVERRIDE the expected PERRY Veto impossible. PERRY played the stall game and won in 2007 when HB 2006 was PASSED with massive support and KILLED by his Veto.

© 2009 ACRE:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


“As long as the authority remains in law to construct the TTC, it is merely dormant—like a weed waiting for the right conditions to grow again."

Dierschke: Time to terminate Trans-Texas Corridor

Ellis County Press
Copyright 2009

(AUSTIN) – The state’s largest farm organization is in favor of legislation that would terminate the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) in both name and concept.
Texas Farm Bureau President Kenneth Dierschke expressed support for HB 11 by State Rep. David McQuade Leibowitz (D-San Antonio), which repeals the authority for the establishment and operation of the massive transportation project.

“We hope you will agree with us that it is finally time to kill the Trans-Texas Corridor,” Dierschke testified before the House Transportation Committee on April 21.

Although the farm organization recognizes the need to build and maintain Texas’ infrastructure, Dierschke said Texas Farm Bureau policy clearly opposes the TTC due to potential losses of agricultural land and the loss of access to rural communities and private property.

“If new highways are needed, landowners should have reasonable access to their property where farms and ranches have been divided,” Dierschke said, criticizing TTC’s model of limited access. “Or, they should at least be compensated where their property is devalued due to loss of access.

“Of course, as we have learned through the debate on eminent domain, TxDOT does not compensate property owners for diminished access,” he added. An announcement in January by Texas Department of Transportation Executive Director Amadeo Saenz concerning the name change—from “TTC” to “Vision 2009: Innovative Connectivity in Texas”—does not mean the massive transportation project is dead.

“As long as the authority remains in law to construct the TTC, it is merely dormant—like a weed waiting for the right conditions to grow again,” Dierschke said. If the TTC is in fact “dead,” Dierschke said there would be no further need for the authority under Chapter 227 of the Transportation Code for the establishment, designation, construction or operation of a system of multimodal facilities, including toll roads, rail facilities and utilities.

“The sensible course of action is to repeal these laws,” he suggested. “There are adequate financing tools for new highways and other roadways found in other chapters of the Transportation Code.”

© 2009 Ellis County Press:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Monday, April 20, 2009

"I think that the governor should not have absolute power. "

Override bill earns a hearing


By Enrique Rangel
The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
Copyright 2009

AUSTIN - Like the chairmen of other legislative panels, state Sen. Robert Duncan has the final say on the fate of all bills that land on his Senate State Affairs Committee for screening.

So the Lubbock Republican has agreed to hold a hearing for some legislation that didn't go anywhere in the 2007 session mainly because he was against it: Two bills that would allow the Texas Legislature to return for a special session to override governor's vetoes after the regular session ends.

That's all Rep. Gary Elkins, R-Houston, and Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, say they needed - a hearing. "There is broad support for my bill and I think that in the Senate it will pass as easily as it did in the House," said Elkins, whose House Joint Resolution 29 overwhelmingly passed in the House recently.
Wentworth's bill, Senate Joint Resolution 14, is similar to Elkins and the two bills - which are expected to eventually merge - are now waiting for a hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee.

If the proposed legislation clears the Senate, as Elkins and Wentworth expect, in November Texas voters would have the final say on whether state lawmakers can return to Austin after the 140-day regular session ends just to override governor's vetoes. Texas voters have historically approved most constitutional amendments. If the Senate and Texas voters approve the proposed legislation, the lawmakers could call a special session starting in 2011. Currently, only the governor can call one. What changed this year

Duncan said last year that he didn't like Elkins' bill in 2007 because "in my view this diminishes the checks and balances system that we have."

Moreover, neither Gov. Rick Perry nor any of his predecessors have abused the veto power, Duncan stressed.

However, he said in a recent interview that he agreed to give the bills a hearing because Elkins' proposal specifies that the lawmakers can return for a special session only if there is a major outcry about a governor's veto.

Elkins said the House took care of Duncan's concern the day his bill passed thanks to an amendment by Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman. And as examples of a major outcry, Elkins cited the $152 million for health insurance funding for community colleges that Perry vetoed after the 2007 session ended and an eminent domain bill of Rep. Beverly Woolley, R-Houston, that the governor also axed two years ago.

In the end, facing tremendous pressure, after four of months of negotiations between Perry and legislative leaders - including Duncan - both sides reached a compromise and the funding for the entire community college system was restored. But the experience left many people emotionally drained, particularly the presidents of the state's 50 community colleges. However, the veto of Woolley's bill stood.

"If my bill had been law, we would have come back for a special session and override those vetoes," Elkins said.

He and Wentworth said that the legislation they filed is not a reflection on Perry.
"This is not about Gov. Perry or any other governor," Wentworth stressed. "It is about the separation of powers." Based on the 131-16 vote Elkins' bill received in the House, most lawmakers agree with such assessment.

"I've been here 24 or 25 years and I don't believe that I even participated in an override of a governor's veto," said Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo, who voted for Elkins' bill. "Because of the separation of powers, the protection that we have in the Constitution, I think that the governor should not have absolute power. The framers intended for an override to take place.

"Unfortunately, most or all legislation, especially complicated or important legislation passes at the end of the session when there is no way that the Legislature can override because the governor doesn't veto until after the Legislature is gone," Smithee explained.

But Rep. David Swinford, R-Dumas, one of the 16 House members who voted against Elkins' bill and even blasted the previous bill on the House floor in the 2007 session, said the majority of his colleagues are wrong.

"The founders of our Constitution said 'we want the power divided up three ways' and that is why we have the judicial, executive and legislative branches," Swinford said. "I do not believe in eroding what the constitutional founders did.

"I think it's worked wonderful over the years," Swinford added. "I would not have voted for that when it was (Democratic Gov.) Ann Richards, I wouldn't vote for it when it is the next Democratic governor whenever that happens and I wouldn't vote for it on this governor."
Perry's office is not pleased with Elkins' and Wentworth's bills either.

"We think the system works well the way it is and we think that the legislators ought to concentrate on passing good bills," said press secretary Allison Castle.

To comment on this story: l (512) 673-7553 l 766-8706

© 2009 The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal:

For the fiscal note click: [HERE]

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE

TURF Bill Tracker for 2009 session

Texans Uniting for Reform & Freedom:

Bad Bills:

SB 855/HB 9 - (Carona/Truitt) "Local option" tax hike bill with a whole menu of transportation taxes (congestion tax, charge by mile tax, and even a tax on parking spaces!), which has a trigger that hijacks the Constitutional Amendment to END gas diversions so this tax bill automatically takes effect if the voters vote to end diversions...the epitome of sneaky government...give us something we don't want (litany of new taxes on everything that moves) to get what we do want (ending diversions from the gas tax)

SB 404/HB 1557 - (Carona/Smith) NO WAY! Extends private toll contracts that sell-off our highways to the highest bidder.

SB 220 - (Nichols) Would create a NEW loophole to convert existing freeways to tollways & legalize the theft of 281, 1604, 290, 59 and more.

SB 17/HB 2929 - (Nichols/Smith) Window dressing as an excuse to re-authorize private toll contracts (PPPs), allows non-compete agreements to guarantee congestion on free roads, and the steps can be waived by all the parties to pass go and jump precipitously to PPPs (Sec 373.057). The way this is structured, if the public toll entity like an RMA cannot get the financing together (or the bonding capacity together which is already happening all over the state), they'd have to pass a toll project to TxDOT and then TxDOT could hand it to the private developer, especially to use private funds to subsidize a toll project that can't stand on its own feet (that isn't 100% toll viable) (Sec 373.054). So this section ultimately doesn't give the public protection, but shows TxDOT they can just wait it out, until they get possession of the project and then they can hand it to the private companies.

SB 1669 - Allows RMAs to sell bonds (borrow money) to pay back other debt (borrowed money) Sec 370.071 & Sec 370.113 (4). It also allows them to steal from one segment/corridor (ie - 281) and use the proceeds to fund another a segment that can't work on it's own (ie - 1604)...we shouldn't EVER subsidize a LOSING project! It allows them to participate in the state travel program (which the Attorney General states has been habitually abused by TxDOT), to form a corporation to "promote and develop transportation projects" (to fund toll projects & invest in these private toll sweetheart deals). Sec 371.051 (a) allows them to use motor vehicle registration and license plate info to "develop" a toll project which crosses the line from travel demand modeling into raiding people's personal information and is tantamount to government data-mining!

SB 216 - throws in the creation of an infrastructure bank (defeated last session) into a gas tax diversion bill (which he knows will pass), that would "encourage public and private investment in transportation facilities both inside and outside the state highway system....and maximize private investment participation in financing projects"

SB 882 - Then, Carona lifts the $250,000 cap on payments to LOSING BIDDERS on toll road projects in a bill on toll collection! They say there's no money for roads, and yet they've got money to pay road contractors even when they DON'T build the road! He may have stripped this out with a substitute, but I haven't seen the final version.

SJR 9/HJR 9 - (Carona/Truitt) This started as a bill to increase the gas tax by indexing it to inflation, and it was also to end diversions from the gas tax, now this bill is tied to the local option tax hikes in SB 855. The original version doesn't specify what index would be used, which would likely mean the highway cost index (which is highly manipulated by the industry) instead of the lower Consumer Price Index. Indexing the gas tax is an automatic tax hike for infinity!

HB 1815 - (Isett) Creates a WHOLE state agency to just write public-private partnership contracts! ABSOLUTELY NOT!

SB 502 - (Carona) Skirts federally required steps in the environmental review process to expedite toll roads over public opposition

HB 300/SB 1019 - (Isett/Hegar) The TxDOT Sunset bill needs to be changed. Abolishes the current appointed Transportation Commission and replaces it with a SINGLE APPOINTED commissioner instead of a SINGLE ELECTED commissioner. It also MANDATES TxDOT enhance it's own revenues through "private investment" (ie - selling off our public roads) and tolling.

Good Bills:

HB 11 - (Leibowitz) To repeal the Trans Texas Corridor

HB 15 - (Leibowitz) To mandate only ELECTED officials cast votes on toll roads on local transportation boards

HB 13 - (Leibowitz) To truly end tolls on existing roads (not Nichols' counterfeit bill,SB 220, that actually opens a new loophole)

HB 4205 - (Harper-Brown) To stop TxDOT's taxpayer-funded lobbying and marketing campaigns

HB 4514 - (Coleman) To ensure non-toll options are studied fully

HB 565 - (McClendon) Single ELECTED commissioner to head TxDOT

HB 2557/SB 2158- (Harper-Brown/Shapiro) Ends mandate to do tolls first

HB 1047 - (Deshotel) End diversions from the gas tax (without the added tax hikes like HB 9/HJR 9)

HB 1483/SB 18 - (Pitts/Estes) To protect landowners from eminent domain abuse (requires good faith offers from the State, gives compensation for diminished access to a landowner's property, and a prohibition on eminent domain for economic development)

We support bills to prohibit toll/traffic offense databases & govt data-mining

© 2009 TURF:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE