Sunday, March 27, 2011

"HB 3789 is a blanket re-authorization of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and resurrects the Trans Texas Corridor."

Phillips’ bill resurrects the Trans Texas Corridor



by Terri Hall
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2011

The Trans Texas Corridor (TTC) just won’t die.

State Representative Larry Phillips has introduced HB 3789 which resurrects the TTC, without the reviled name attached. It’s a betrayal of Texans who were promised by nearly every elected official in the state that the TTC was DEAD. I didn’t believe it, but many Texans did and voted to re-elect Rick Perry.

A little history is in order. The Trans Texas Corridor as originally envisioned was a 1,200 foot wide, 4,000 mile network of toll roads that would have criss-crossed the state. It was multi-modal including tollways, trucks lanes, commuter rail, freight rail, power transmission lines, telecommunications, pipelines of all sorts…a terrorist’s dream. It would have displaced one million Texans for just the first corridor alone. The concessionaire would also have the exclusive right to develop all the restaurants, hotels, and gas stations along its tollway.

The TTC was to heist 580,000 acres of land from Texas landowners and hand them over to private, for-profit global toll concessionaires in sweetheart deals that amount to government-sanctioned monopolies for a half century. Hence, that’s why it was dubbed the biggest land grab in Texas history, if not in the entire United States.

Now back to the 82nd legislative session we find ourselves in. First, the bill to supposedly repeal the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC), HB 1201, got hitched with a bad amendment to enrich the coffers of the Spanish-based company, Cintra, that is currently building the first leg of the Trans Texas Corridor TTC-35 project, called SH 130 segments 5 & 6.

This amendment allows TxDOT to raise the speed limit on Cintra’s tollway beyond the current legal limit up to 85 MPH for which TxDOT gets a bigger pay-off from Cintra (the theory is it would incentivize more traffic to take the high speed tollway so Cintra’s willing to pay the highway department for the anticipated bump in toll revenue).

The higher the speed limit, the greater the share of the toll revenues TxDOT splits with the foreign company, too (view Ex. 7 of the PPP contract with Cintra here). HB 1201 passed out of committee a few weeks ago. So even the repeal bill had to be tainted by the lobbyists.

Within days of hearing HB 1201, Phillips filed HB 3789 which is a blanket re-authorization of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and resurrects the Trans Texas Corridor. It would grant the private toll road developers control of not only the toll lanes/road, but also non-toll lanes, frontage roads, buildings on the tollway, parking areas, rest stops, ancillary facilities, etc. It’s eminent domain for private gain all over again, which is what caused a Texas-sized backlash against the TTC in earnest in 2007, when a moratorium on PPPs was put in place. With the exception of a few projects, the contracts expired in August of 2009.

The bill would allow these PPP contracts to be negotiated and signed in SECRET, without financial disclosures (like toll rates, whether or not it contains a non-compete clause that prohibits or penalizes the expansion of free roads, or public subsidies), and it grants sole authority to TxDOT or a toll entity to negotiate the contract removing oversight by the Attorney General, Legislative Budget Board, or any elected officials. The bill re-authorizes these PPPs and this time with NO sunset provision, so the authority is indefinite.

Phillips was appointed by Speaker Joe Straus to Chair the House Transportation Committee. Since the bill is authored by the Chair of the committee, it’s almost certain to pass the committee, unless Texans REVOLT! This bill will be heard on Wednesday.

Call Larry Phillips at (512) 463-0297 to oppose the bill and contact Speaker Joe Straus at (512) 463-3000 or (210) 828-4411 to ask him to bury the Trans Texas Corridor re-tread bill, HB 3789 and ensure the bill to actually repeal the TTC FINALLY becomes law.

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