Saturday, June 25, 2005

TxDOT, Cintra-Zachry file suit to keep documents secret

Lawsuit filed to keep documents private

Jun. 25, 2005

Gordon Dickson
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2005

The Texas Transportation Department and private companies that it hired to build the Trans-Texas Corridor toll road sued Friday to keep part of their agreement confidential.

The toll road, proposed by Cintra-Zachry, would connect the Dallas-Fort Worth area to San Antonio, running roughly parallel to Interstate 35.

Cintra-Zachry contends that the release of financial and other information would give an advantage to competing companies for future projects.

The petition, filed in state district court in Travis County, seeks to overturn a ruling by Attorney General Greg Abbott this month that the documents should be public.

Abbott issued the ruling after the Houston Chronicle in March requested all documents related to Cintra-Zachry's proposal to build toll roads from the Dallas-Fort Worth area to San Antonio. A Houston law firm made a similar request in April. The Star-Telegram also has a standing open-records request for all documents related to the project.

Cintra-Zachry has offered to build the toll road, which is estimated to cost $6 billion, with private funding. In exchange, the company would keep all tolls collected on the road for 50 years.

Cintra-Zachry has also pledged to give $1.2 billion to the state for other improvements along the route.

Many documents in the development agreement between the Transportation Department and the firm have been released, but conceptual and financial plans have been kept secret.

According to the lawsuit, Cintra-Zachry and other contractors would be more reluctant to compete for state construction projects if they knew that such information would be released.

© 2006 Fort Worth Star-Telegram