Saturday, August 15, 2009

"Using toll roads as a permanent tax raise is not good public policy. A 50-year lease on a toll road is never meant to be a free road."

Kay Bailey Hutchison lambastes governor's transportation policies


The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2009

IRVING – Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison called the transportation policies of Gov. Rick Perry and the Texas Department of Transportation "arrogant" Friday, arguing they are not in the best interest of the state's property owners or taxpayers.

Hutchison, who next week will formally announce her candidacy for governor, said she disagreed with the 1,500-mile Trans Texas Corridor proposal, once the centerpiece of Perry's transportation vision.

"It is the biggest land grab that we have had since the beginning of our state," she told participants at the Transportation & Infrastructure Summit in Irving.

The Trans Texas Corridor project was 'killed' last year, but parts of it remain, and Hutchison's campaign has used it as an example of Perry's bad judgment.

"Using toll roads as a permanent tax raise is not good public policy," she said. "A 50-year lease on a toll road is never meant to be a free road. That is Governor Perry's transportation strategy, and I disagree with it."

Hutchison added that development agreements with private companies for toll roads must protect "local sovereignty and state taxpayers."

Earlier this week, the head of the Texas Transportation Commission, former Perry chief of staff Deirdre Delisi, gave the same group a forceful defense of the role of privatization in transportation policy. Delisi also challenged Hutchison to come up with a better idea. On Friday, the senator did not directly address the criticism.

But that didn't stop the barbs from the Perry campaign.

Perry spokesman Mark Miner said that the senator had been in Washington too long and that she didn't fully understand the need to build more roads.

"It's easy to be critical when you're being driven around Washington," Miner said. "What are her ideas? She's been in Washington for 16 years and doesn't have a full grasp of the state of transportation in Texas."

Miner acknowledged that Perry also has aides to drive for him, but he said that the governor can feel commuters' pain because he can see the state's traffic problems firsthand.

Hutchison, the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, has been involved in numerous transportation-related issues from her Senate perch.

She told the group in Irving that she was pushing legislation that would allow Texas to keep 100 percent of the gas tax it collects here.

Currently Texas gets back 92 cents for every dollar Texans pay.

"It doesn't make sense for Texas to be required to send money out of state at this rate," she said.

For much of her speech, Hutchison contrasted her position on the development of toll roads with Perry.

She said, for instance, that she didn't mind using private companies to build roads, as long as local sovereignty and taxpayers were protected.

She said a $3.6 million payment by the Regional Transportation Council to the Spanish firm Cintra to cover cost it incurred before ultimately losing a bid for the State Highway 121 toll project was not good business. The company had been given the project on a conditional basis, until Dallas-area leaders objected.

"I would call it a tax on arrogance," Hutchison said of the episode.

© 2009 The Dallas Morning News:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Friday, August 14, 2009

"I don’t think you should take private property except for a public purpose that is very clear."

Hutchison blasts Perry on transportation issues


Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2009

IRVING — Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison attacked Gov. Rick Perry’s transportation strategy Friday, calling his once-favored Trans-Texas Corridor plan "the biggest land grab" since the state’s formation.

"It is the Big Kahuna of toll roads," Hutchison told people attending the Transportation and Infrastructure Summit in Irving. "Using toll roads as permanent tax raise is not good public policy."

Hutchison spoke at the summit two days after the head of the Texas Transportation Commission, Deirdre Delisi, made the case to the same audience for privatization. Delisi is Perry’s former chief of staff.

Perry’s spokesman Mark Miner dismissed Hutchison’s comments Friday, saying it is "easy to criticize when you’ve been in Washington for 16 years." He said Perry continues working to create the infrastructure needed to support a fast-growing state.

"People in Texas are looking for results when it comes to transportation issues," Miner said. "Criticizing from Washington is not a solution."

Hutchison, who is expected to formally announce her candidacy for governor Monday, called the Trans-Texas Corridor "ill-conceived" and criticized taking private land "to that extent."

The Trans-Texas Corridor plan was to build a $184 billion network of toll roads over the next 50 years. The grand vision of the plan died, though some aspects have not.

"I believe in private property rights," she said. "I don’t think you should take private property except for a public purpose that is very clear."

She also railed against turning federal highways already built with taxpayer dollars into toll roads, saying it amounts to double taxation.

"It’s a contract broken with the people of our state," she said.

Perry’s office has criticized Hutchison for a lack of leadership on transportation, pointing to a recent bill she introduced that would have allowed states to opt out of a federal transportation program that reimburses a certain percentage of every dollar in federal gasoline tax.

Hutchison later said she voted reluctantly to extend the federal highway trust fund because Congress refused to adopt a more comprehensive transportation fund.

Hutchison denied Friday that the bill was a "throwaway" or offered just "for show."

She concluded with a pitch for her to be elected governor, saying the summit was likely the last time she would address attendees as a U.S. senator.

"I hope that I will be able to address you again at this summit . . . as a leader for Texas," she said.

ALEX BRANCH, 817-390-7689

© 2009 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Hutchison: “I am going to focus on transportation and not as a top-down dictatorship from TxDOT."

Hutchison says 15 years too long for Gov. Perry


by Glynis Crawford Smith
The Burnet Bulletin
Copyright 2009

Speaking to a crowd of about 200 people in Horseshoe Bay Thursday afternoon, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison lambasted Gov. Rick Perry on almost every aspect of government as she laid the groundwork for her own campaign for the office.

“Fifteen years is too long to be governor,” she said, “Having every board and commission appointed by one person is not good for the state.

“It creates loyalty and fealty to the governor and not the state.”

Hutchinson said education was her number one concern for Texas and she would like to see property taxes taken out of the public school equation. The property of Horseshoe Bay has been one of the biggest factors in turning local school districts into “property rich” districts when it comes to returning money to other districts through Chapter 41 or “Robin Hood” legislation.

Asked her opinion of a system to achieve equalization of Texas school funding, Hutchison said she wanted property taxes appraised, tax rates set and taxes collected, all at the local level.

“That means we will have to come up with $3 to $5 billion that now goes toward equalization and put that at the state level,” said the former Texas state treasurer. “That is my goal.

“We have not had, since Robin Hood was put in place, a governor that has tried to make Robin Hood temporary, which is what it was supposed to be 20 years ago.”

Undaunted by funding problems, Hutchison said she was staunchly in favor of education in Texas that is not kindergarten through 12th grade, but pre-kindergarten through 14.

“We should have as our goal to encourage every child to go to college, but if they are not going to go, they should have at least have a community college degree or certification that gives them the good jobs,” she said.

Reminded that districts like the Marble Falls Independent School District would find schools immediately filled with a mandate for so much as pre-kindergarten, she drew the line at mandates, especially federal mandates, and promised prospective voters that she would expand her ideas as her campaign progresses.

Transportation was second on Hutchison’s list of priorities for the state.

When asked about diverting the gas tax from road construction, she said, “I am going to focus on transportation and not as a top-down dictatorship from TxDOT.

“The Texas Department of Transportation is the most arrogant state agency in the history of America. I want to expand the highway commission so there is more representation from all over the state and multilevel planning.”

She said unequivocally that she was against tolling highways that are already built and in favor of ensuring private property rights.

“That would include lost access,” she said. The Trans-Texas corridor is the biggest land grab in the history of our state.

“It would see a half million acres of land given to a foreign company to put in a toll road that would not have allowed any private ownership on the access roads and that would have kept local governments from building highways or even increasing speed limits nearby.

Third on Hutchison’s list of priorities was healthcare and she said she planned to stay in the Senate as long as possible to promote “carrots” or incentives to create healthcare options rather that “sticks” or fines for business owners to provide them. As in all cases, she put the concerns of businessmen first.

“We are the best because we had visionary leaders in the past that put Texas in the position to be pro-business,” said Hutchison. “The economic engine of America is business and we understand that in Texas.”

She listed the state’s lack of a personal income tax and its status as a right to work state as a protection of business and again criticized Perry when it came to a business margin tax.

“(Margin tax) is the largest tax increase in more than 20 years and it is a tax you will pay even if you don’t make a profit.”

© 2009 The Burnet Bulletin:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


The World According to Rick Perry: Israel is to Gaza as Texas is to Mexico

Texas gov. compares Gaza to Mexico

Rick Perry foriegn policy


The Jerusalem Post
Copyright 2009

Besides the lone star that sits boldly on both of their flags, Texas and Israel have much in common, and a sturdy relationship that should continue to grow, according to Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is in the country on a visit aimed at strengthening economic ties between the Jewish State and his own.

"I come from a pro-business, pro-prosperity point of view," Gov. Perry told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, "And the first goal of this trip was to further some of the economic development that already exists between Texas and Israel, and to recruit some of the Israeli businesses we visited here to expand and come to Texas."

Perry also recalled the Texas-Israel Exchange - a body that supports the trade of agricultural know-how between Texan and Israeli scientists - which he established in 1991, while serving as the Texas Agriculture Commissioner.

"We have a connection that goes back many years," he said. "And Israel has a lot that we can learn from, especially in the areas of water conservation and semi-arid land - Israeli technology has helped us a lot in dealing with drought."

"But also," the governor continued, "when I was here for the first time some 18 years ago and I was touring the country, the comparison between Masada and the Alamo was not lost on me. I mean, we're talking about two groups of people who were willing to give up their lives for freedom and liberty." Beyond the comparisons, Gov. Perry said another point of his trip here was to show other people "what was really going on", with regards to the military threats facing the country, and in particular the IDF's recent Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip.

"We went to the border with Gaza and received a briefing from the army there, and we went to Sderot and saw the police station with all the Kassam rockets piled up, we saw playgrounds that had to be covered from rocket fire. It's a powerful place." In that vein, the governor said he was also interested in learning more about security aspects while in the country, as Texas has a large, porous border with Mexico, and the recent violence in that country had unnerved many Texans.

"Israel is a leader in security technology, and another reason for our visit to the Gaza border was to see some of the security measures being used there," said Perry.
"Kassam rockets have killed 28 Israelis over the last eight years. Well, 1,000 people have been killed in Juarez [Mexico, on the border with El Paso , Texas] since the beginning of the year [in drug-related violence]. So we're trying to find ways to secure that border, because just like it's important to Israelis to keep heavy security on their border with Gaza, it's important to citizens of Texas to keep out the illegal activities that are going on with drugs [in Mexico].

Gov. Perry went on to describe his support for Israel from a religious point of view, saying, "I'm a big believer that this country was given to the people of Israel a long time ago, by God, and that's ordained."

The Obama administration's pressure on the Israeli government unnerved the governor, saying he felt that, "Israel does all the giving and the other side does not reciprocate."

"What I don't understand, is this administration's hesitancy to recognize the sovereignty of Israel," he said.

And while he said he was bringing back a message for Texans to "strengthen their support for Israel and keep Israel in their prayers", the governor also said he believed that economics, at the end of the day, would prove to be the watershed that brings peace and prosperity in the region.

"I was in the Old City today, and I saw these young Arab men selling Israeli products," he said. "And I think it goes to show that they are going to be less likely to harm Israel, when they're prospering from Israel." That said, the governor also made it clear that Texas would be a happy home for Israeli businesses looking to expand, and vise versa.

"And I want more Israeli companies doing business in Texas," he said. "And more Texan companies doing business in Israel."

© 2009 The Jerusalem Post:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


"With diversions of the gas tax still alive and well and a highway department that’s run amok, our elected reps clearly need a reality check."

Congressman: "Transportation about PEOPLE, not projects"


by Terri Hall (TURF)
Copyright 2009

“Transportation should be about people, not projects,” advised Congressman John Carter, who addressed the 12th Annual Transportation and Infrastructure Summit in Irving today. I couldn’t agree more. However, when I asked him afterwards what his position was on toll roads and the sale of our infrastructure to foreign entities through these public private partnerships (or PPPs), his impassioned speech ended-up just that, a speech.

Anyone with a pulse knows Rick Perry’s push for privatizing public roads just got soundly defeated during the special session in July. Carter repeatedly called himself a Texan first. Congressman Carter, Texans DO NOT want their roads sold to Spain! It’s breathtakingly UN-Texan! While he was quick to disavow the Trans Texas Corridor (which affects his district), he was more than happy to stick it to urban commuters with 75 cent a mile toll taxes or $13 a DAY to get to work through PPPs. It’s the “not in my backyard” syndrome that pro-tollers routinely use to pit rurals against urbanites.

When billions in gas taxes and public money are pouring into these PPP deals, the sale of Texas highways impacts EVERY Texan. This urban-rural divide has got to STOP. We're running out of money for ANY free roads in this state (if we're not there already), and rural lawmakers have the most to lose. They're facing the very real possibility that NO funding will trickle down to their areas as urban areas gobble up ALL available funds for highly leveraged toll roads.

Carter noted the summit wasn’t about adopting European or Pan-American transportation policies, but about Americans creating a uniquely American concept of transportation. Newsflash: road privatization started in Europe, and it’s failing in Europe. Now they’re transporting their risky leveraged debt, pension-raiding schemes overseas to spread the misery around! Investors write themselves sweetheart deals, thanks to their willing accomplices in government, at the expense of the taxpayers.

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson fared even worse on the taxpayer index. She said: “Nobody wants to do anymore taxes. There are taxes and there are tolls, We have to do one or the other. We can’t build roads without tolls and public private partnerships.”

Whoa, oh yes we can build roads without tolls. Dust off the Texas Transportation Institute’s report that said precisely that! To summarize, it stated we could raise the gas tax 8 cents and index it to inflation or simply index the gas tax and we wouldn’t need to do a single toll road in the state of Texas.

Toll are taxes. They think we're stupid and can't figure that out. Politicians tell you with a straight face that they’re NOT raising taxes when they charge you a toll to access public roads (built with gas taxes, stimulus funds, and heaps of public money), and many of which are existing roads you’ve already built and paid for! I’m sick and tired of the mentality in Austin and Washington. They won’t fight for something that’s politically tough, so instead they shove the most EXPENSIVE transportation tax down Texans throats like it’s somehow a more palatable solution.

Congressman Ralph Hall and Pete Olson fleshed out the panel, both pro-toll. Most surprising of the bunch was Olson’s support for Perry’s “innovative financing” schemes when he’s from Fort Bend County where there is tremendous opposition to both the Trans Texas Corridor (or TTC) and the Grand Parkway, which is being considered for privatization and likely a leg of the TTC.

The keynote speaker, Congressman John Mica of Florida, ranking member of the House Transportation Subcommittee, floated a proposal to abolish the federal gas tax and levy a sales tax on the total sale price of gasoline each time we fill-up at the pump. He, too, noted that any straight gas tax increase is a non-starter. Are you beginning to see it’s because they want to find excuses to enact new taxes that charge you much higher transportation taxes?

Even more frightening is the reality that the road building industry is seeking to raise a whole litany of taxes in order to fund roads. Judging by the plethora of sessions dedicated to financing options (code for taxes), taxpayers are about to be hit with a tidal wave of higher taxes. With diversions of the gas tax still alive and well and with a highway department that’s run amok, our elected representatives clearly need a reality check.

Perhaps another front in the heated tax revolt brewing all over the country is necessary to help them get the message that taxpayers first demand accountability with the money they already take from us, then a curb on tolling, and lastly that they properly fund roads with the MOST AFFORDABLE solution, like indexing the gas tax.

© 2009

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Thursday, August 13, 2009

The toll of corporate welfare: Commuters in North Texas cover Spanish toll road builder's 'loss'

Spanish firm to receive $3.6 million after losing road project


By Gordon Dickson
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2009

The Regional Transportation Council agreed Thursday to pay Spanish firm Cintra $3.6 million to cover costs the Spanish firm incurred before losing its bid for the Texas 121 toll road project, despite objections from some Denton County officials.

The road is now known as Sam Rayburn Tollway, and connects cities north and east of Grapevine such as Coppell, Carrollton and Plano.

Cintra, a publicly held firm known worldwide for building toll roads with private investment dollars, was conditionally awarded the toll project in Denton and Collin counties by the Texas Transportation Commission in February 2007. But under pressure from Dallas-area leaders, the state commission terminated that award in August 2007, allowing the Plano-based tollway authority to take the project.

During the seven months it held the project, Cintra incurred costs related to the federal TIFIA loan program, a stipend for unsuccessful work and other, unidentified post-bid costs, North Central Texas Council of Governments transportation director Michael Morris said.

Denton County Commissioner Andy Eads spoke against the payment, noting that Denton County wanted Cintra to keep the project. "For Denton County to now be looked at to remedy this is, in our opinion, inappropriate," Eads said.

Even so, the 40-member RTC approved the $3.6 million payment on a split voice vote.

The money will come out of toll revenues generated on the tollway in these counties: Denton County, $1,961,063; Collin County $1,446,086; and Dallas County $253,065.

Tarrant County won't have to pitch in to pay Cintra, even though about 4 percent of tollway traffic is from greater Fort Worth. State law prohibits the transfer of toll revenue from the Texas Department of Transportation Fort Worth district to the Dallas district, where the tollway is.

© 2009 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Aggie Governor busted in homestead exemption tax dodge

Perry gives up claim of residency in College Station


Jay Root,
The Associated Press
Copyright 2009

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry gave up his claim of residency in College Station on Wednesday – and the tax break that went with it.

Perry has lived in Austin for nearly two decades, but owns a house in College Station.

In a prepared statement, Perry spokesman Mark Miner says the governor has withdrawn his homestead exemption in College Station. Although Perry lives in a state-provided mansion in west Austin, he began claiming the Brazos County home as his primary residence in 2007.

Miner said Perry will refund a $183.16 school tax break he got in 2008, the year he became eligible for the homestead exemption. Perry's school taxes for 2009 haven't been assessed yet, but the Republican governor will no longer get the tax break, Miner said.

"Although approved by the Brazos County Appraisal District, Gov. Perry today has chosen to withdraw the homestead exemption for his house in College Station," Miner said. "The governor plans to reimburse Brazos County $183.16 in tax savings for the year 2008."

The decision to withdraw the homestead exemption came a day after The Associated Press reported that Perry, who is seeking re-election, had claimed College Station as his primary residence on his application for a homestead exemption there.

Perry's daughter, a Texas A&M student, lives in the College Station home and has roommates that pay rent to the family, officials said.

Where Perry actually lives has never been in dispute. He has made Austin his official home since 1991, after he was elected agriculture commissioner, and he has voted in the state capital since 1992.

After becoming governor in 2000, Perry moved into the Texas governor's mansion. In 2007, Perry took up residence in a posh Austin suburb so the historic downtown building could be renovated. Taxpayers are footing the $9,000-a-month tab for that rental home.

Perry faces a rough-and-tumble Republican primary battle against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. She is starting a five-day campaign announcement tour Monday.

In his statement, Miner said Perry "believes transparency is critical for open and honest government, which is why throughout his career he has always released his tax returns and other financial information."

Perry provided his 2007 tax return this week to the AP and his campaign has called on Hutchison to release her tax records. The Hutchison campaign said the senator would release them but hasn't specified when.

© 2009 The Associated Press:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


"Perry told reporters [The Trans-Texas Corridor Project] is alive and well, but the project's name has changed."

Hutchison Pressing Hot Button Issue in Latest Jab at Perry


NBC (Dallas Fort Worth)
Copyright 2009

Kay Bailey Hutchison's gubernatorial campaign is hoping the Trans-Texas Corridor will lead her to the Governor's Mansion.

Hutchison's campaign is asking GOP rival Governor Rick Perry if he still supports the Trans-Texas Corridor. Perry has been an vocal proponent of the TTC in the past.

The TTC was a multi-billion dollar plan to build toll roads, rail lines and highways across Texas. The TTC was also a hot button issue with conservative voters, many opposing the project for various reason. The Texas Department of Transportation said the project is dead, but Perry told reporters it's alive and well, but the project's name has changed.

Hutchison now has a clock on her campaign Web site, counting the time it takes for Perry to denounce his support for the TTC. But Perry's campaign staff brushed off Hutchison's latest barb, calling it "another Washington gimmick".

"The Trans-Texas Corridor was done away with in January. If you're asking is the Governor is going to continue building roads in Texas, the answer is yes." said Mark Miner, a member of Perry's re-election campaign." Does the Senator want to stop building roads?" asked Miner.

Hutchison is sure to bring up the point again, when she'll be in Irving on Friday at a transportation summit.

© 2009 NBC Universal, Inc.:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Perry's political hack from the Delisi Family goes back on the attack

Former Perry aide Delisi derides Hutchison over toll road plan

See Dierdre Delisi's crony connections [HERE]


The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2009

If U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison doesn't like how Gov. Rick Perry and the state transportation department are building highways, then she should come up with a better idea, the state's top transportation official – and former Perry aide – said Wednesday.

Deirdre Delisi, Perry's former chief of staff whom he tapped last year to oversee the 13,000-employee transportation agency, defended one of her old boss's most controversial legacies – his push for private toll roads – as necessary if Texas is to build the roads its growing population requires.

And in an interview after her speech to a transportation conference in Irving, she hit back at Hutchison's criticisms of Perry and the department.

Every day this week, staffers from Hutchison's campaign to end Perry's record-setting run as governor have hammered him and his efforts to crisscross Texas with 1,500 miles of highways and rail, part of a mostly defunct project known as the Trans Texas Corridor.

That project was 'killed' last year, but remnants remain and Hutchison's campaign has called it an example of monstrously bad judgment on Perry's part.

The senator, who is set to formally announce her campaign Monday, "needs to bring some proposals, and I mean real ones," Delisi said in an interview. "What are her big ideas? ... She has said that she wants to take Texas out of the federal highway program. Well, that is not going to happen. She knows that: She said it wouldn't pass at the time she filed the bill. So filing a bill you know won't pass is not a solution. What else does she propose?"

Hutchison filed federal legislation this spring that would have allowed Texas to keep federal gas taxes it collects here. But the bill went nowhere.

A departure

Since her appointment last year, Delisi has been given positive marks by many for tamping down the politically charged rhetoric that was common under her predecessor, Ric Williamson.

So her comments Wednesday about Hutchison, and her forceful defense of private toll roads in general, were a departure.

They also were highly out of order, said a former Hutchison aide who has clashed with Delisi before.

Matt Mackowiak, who quit as Hutchison's Washington spokesman two months ago to launch a career as a political strategist, said Delisi should never have called out the state's senior senator.

"It's entirely inappropriate," Mackowiak said. "Deirdre Delisi is a political operative," and is too close to the governor to offer the kind of objective opinion Texans should expect from those charged with leading its agencies.

On Friday, Hutchison will address the same forum Delisi spoke to Wednesday. A senior aide said she will lash out again at the corridor project, and continue to propose that Texas be allowed to withdraw from the federal highway system.

Hutchison campaign spokesman Jeff Sadosky said Perry refuses to say whether he still supports the corridor. Citing recent remarks by Perry that the Legislature had killed the plan, Sadosky accused Perry of hiding the fact that he continues to support the controversial measure.

"Rick Perry has absolutely no problem misrepresenting his record and trying to rewrite his own history to suit his political needs today," he said this week.

Perry is in Israel, and unable to be reached, spokeswoman Allison Castle said.

Support for both

But far from shying away from the corridor and private toll roads, Delisi said Wednesday that her department continues to support both, even though most legal authority for private toll deals will expire next month. Lawmakers will discuss renewing that authority in 2011.

Meanwhile, Delisi said the commission will support private toll roads wherever it can.

One such place is in South Texas, and on a segment of the Trans Texas Corridor that remains active.

A $5 million design contract with a private toll developer recently cleared hurdles in Austin, and work will begin soon on a plan to patch together private toll roads and free roads south of Corpus Christi, Delisi said.

First leg

To make the project work, the state is working with Corpus Christi officials to create an entity akin to the North Texas Tollway Authority. The idea is to use revenues from the higher-traffic roads in Corpus Christi to enable the private firm to pay for the construction of free segments of the highway in rural areas south of the city.

"It's going to be the first leg of [the long-proposed] I-69," Delisi said. "How else is it going to get built? That has been a federal project for 25 years. [Hutchison] has been in Washington, what has she done to make that project move, besides announcing $5 million for an earmark here or there? That's like using a water gun to put out a four-alarm fire."

Hutchison's campaign declined to address Delisi's complaints about her efforts on I-69, but said her comments encapsulate Perry's overly political approach to government. Meanwhile, Delisi said her old boss is relishing the campaign.

"He loves this," she said. "It energizes him. It's what he wants to do. He is enjoying it."

© 2009 The Dallas Morning News:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"Perry intentionally misleads the public into thinking the Texas Legislature killed the TTC last session when, in fact, it did not. "

Perry dodges question on the Trans Texas Corridor


Terri Hall
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2009

The Victoria Advocate asked a simple question of Rick Perry August 6, but this video shows a long-winded "dodge" to the reporter's question (because he's still pushing the Trans Texas Corridor, or TTC, and knows it's political suicide to admit it).

In fact, he intentionally misleads the public into thinking the Texas Legislature killed the TTC last session when, in fact, it did not.
  • The TTC-35 contract was signed in 2005 and has not been revoked or bought out.
  • The entire TTC-69 was excepted out of the moratorium so segments of it can go under contract with foreign entities through 2011.
  • The bill to repeal the Trans Texas Corridor (introduced by Rep. David Leibowitz) never made it out of committee, and it was later attached to a bill that died.
© 2009 San Antonio Express-News:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"Rick Perry has never disavowed the Trans-Texas Corridor...he has never apologized or retreated from his position..."

Hutchison jabs Perry again over Trans Texas Corridor; will speak Friday on transportation


Michael Lindenberger
The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2009

Here at the Transportation Blog, we all know that transportation is our favorite subject. But, dear readers, I wonder how important you think our obsession will be in the big dance between Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, as they scrum for the GOP primary nod in 2010.

Hutchison's campaign team is betting that it will be an issue. They've been sending out messages in the past couple days highlighting what they say is Perry's stubborn support for his Trans Texas Corridor idea. (Remember that?)

Apparently, the Governor hasn't sufficiently disavowed the program. (Last year, we were first to report that TxDOT killed the project. But the agency gave it a new name and swore to advance it piecemeal wherever it could, though it dropped the idea of a massive highway that would criss-cross Texas with thousands of miles of roads and rail.)

Still, the Legislature left town this year without extending the state's authority to make private contracts for toll roads. Without the ability to partner with private companies to build and operate toll roads, the TTC -- whatever it is called -- is as worthless as last year's bets on the Derby. Right?

Texans For Kay Launches Perry Trans-Texas Corridor Clock

Do You Still Support The Trans-Texas Corridor?

I asked TxDOT yesterday whether the demise of private contract authority means the TTC, under any name, is now truly dead. Agency spokesman Chris Lippincott responded:
We still have limited CDA authority to develop portions of I-69 south of Refugio, thanks to SB 792. The folks down there want it built. We have no intention to call it TTC.
SB 792 is the bill from 2007 that grandfathered some CDA -- or private toll road contracts -- projects. Some toll roads in south Texas may still be advanced, in other words. But building a few toll roads in the southern part of the state are hardly equivalent to the massive vision Perry had for the statewide TTC.

Where Hutchison's team is on firmer footing is in questioning whether Perry has ever truly disavowed the TTC. He never has. He bowed to the political reality that it wouldn't fly, but he has never apologized or retreated from his position that it was a good idea.

What he has done, in an interview with me in January, is say that he and TxDOT made mistakes in the way they presented the idea, essentially scaring the holy business out of farmers and ranchers who saw on the early corridor maps huge expanses of lands subject to eminent domain.

That was never actually going to happen -- the maps identified a wide area for study, but never envisioned actually building a corridor that wide. It was a preliminary map, and purposely many times wider than the ultimate right of way would be. But ranchers and others revolted, and Perry and his highway chiefs have since told me and others that it was a major blunder.

My guess, it is exactly those folks -- the landowners, and not so much the toll road opponents -- that team Hutchison is attempting to reach with its latest barrage of thrusts at Perry and the Trans Texas Corridor. After all, big landowners are a more reliable vote in the GOP primary than especially vocal toll road opponents.

My question to you, dear readers, is: Will transportation play a big role in your vote for governor next year? If so, are you sufficiently mad about tolls to hold Perry accountable? Or would you rather hear what Hutchison has in mind instead, before you make up your mind?

So far, her big idea has been to pull Texas out of the Federal Highway program. As reporters, we're cautioned against making conclusory statements, but in this case I'll make an exception: That, friends, is not going to happen.

Still, Hutchison speaks Friday at the Irving transportation summit. She may weigh in with more specific ideas about what she'd do as governor to meet Texas' transportation needs.

It might make a nice one-two approach: attacks on Perry on Monday and Tuesday, and policy solutions on Friday. What do you think?
Perry is critical. They are watching and we are counting the time.

In case you are wondering, here is the gist of the Hutchison attack on Perry, from campaign spokesman Jeff Sadosky:

"Texans deserve a straight yes or no from Rick Perry on whether he still supports his controversial Trans-Texas Corridor plan to confiscate nearly 600,000 acres of land. His refusal to say is just another attempt by Rick Perry to cover-up his record of doing what's right for himself but wrong for Texas."
They've started a clock on the web site counting down till they get an answer. Clever.

© 2009 The Dallas Morning News:

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Truckers ditch privatized toll roads in United Kingdom

First-class driving makes little economic sense


By John Kay
The Financial Times (UK)
Copyright 2009

You may be planning to take the motorway north from London towards the Lake District or Scotland in this holiday period. If so, you have a choice of routes as you approach Birmingham. You can stick to the original M6. Or you can pay £4.70 and use Britain’s only modern toll road.

The M6 (toll) takes a more northerly but no more direct route and rejoins the main highway 27 miles farther north. There is not much to distinguish the M6 from the M6 (toll) except the toll. And that makes a big difference. The toll road carries barely a quarter of the traffic of the old motorway, and almost no trucks. Driving on it is a considerably more pleasant and relaxing experience at all times, and especially when the roads are busy. Even the motorway service station seems more congenial. And travellers stop there: they are not using the toll road because they are in a hurry.

We are used to first- and second-class services on trains and aeroplanes; but we are unaccustomed to first- and second-class roads. Even on cramped short-haul air services, there is some attempt to offer business-class passengers a better service, if only a plated lettuce leaf.

There are other opportunities in the world to pay a toll and travel on a faster road – around Dulles Airport in Virginia and on the Toronto Lakeshore, for example. But in these places the free route is inherently inferior. The alternative at Dulles takes you through a dozen sets of traffic lights. On the M6 toll road you pay for the sole privilege of sharing the road only with other people who have paid the toll – without even a business class-style salad and cheese platter. This is a price most Financial Times readers are likely to think worth paying.

It is not obvious this outcome was intended. In fact, it is not obvious what outcome was intended. As is the way of these things in Britain, the road took 20 years to build, with more time spent in public inquiries than in construction. These lengthy investigations confirmed the self-evident fact that motorway capacity in the Birmingham area needed to be expanded. But not much other illumination was cast.

When the road opened in 2003 the toll for cars was a more modest £2. At a £10 toll, almost no trucks used the new road, and the character of the two routes was immediately established; and when the charge for trucks was cut to £6, nothing much changed. Hauliers will pay very little to save their drivers time and hassle, as other operators of private travel utilities, such as Eurotunnel, have discovered.

The benefit of road improvements is principally the reduced time and strain on private motorists, not the economic advantages to road transport operators: that lesson should influence the way we plan our road networks. Fast roads for light traffic are much cheaper to build than superhighways.

The curious conjunction of first- and second-class motorways on the M6 is unlikely to be repeated. The project is a hangover from the heyday of the Thatcher era, and no other toll road proposal has reached the stage of serious planning.

The road cost about £700m to build, and yields net revenue today of less than £50m ($82.5m, €58m). The unregulated toll is probably at around the profit-maximising level. Traffic levels have recently fallen and, at 13 euro cents per km, the charge for a car is high. In France, where autoroutes do not face direct competition from similar roads, the average charge is about eight cents per km.

So the economics of the project, even on the busiest stretch of the long-distance road network, are marginal. With hindsight, an investor might choose to build it, but without great enthusiasm. The valuation implied by the accounts of Macquarie Infrastructure Group, owners of the road, suggests a much higher figure, but the discount to reported asset value on which that company’s shares stand implies a justifiably sceptical view of the valuation methodology.

So enjoy your 30 minutes of privatised motoring. You are not likely to have another opportunity in Britain in the near future.

© 2009 The Financial Times:

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