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Trans-Texas Corridor paved
with campaign contributions?
Posted By -NO AUTHOR- On 07/12/2006 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled
The contractors building the Trans-Texas Corridor – a massive statewide transportation network critics claim is an important part of the controversial proposed integration of the U.S. and Mexico – have made large contributions to the campaigns of Texas politicians, including Republican Gov. Rick Perry.
As WND has reported, opposition is mounting to the little-publicized efforts by the Bush administration, aided by corporate and political elites of the U.S., Mexico and Canada, including the Council on Foreign Relations, to push North America into a European Union-style merger. Critics of the Trans-Texas Corridor see the massive project – ironically funded by Spain – as part of this movement to integrate the U.S., Mexico and Canada.
Terri Hall, director of a taxpayers’ group called the San Antonio Toll Party, told WND, “there is not a single politician in our entire Bexar County delegation that has not taken money form H. B. Zachry, Jr.” Zachry Construction Corporation, headquartered in San Antonio, has entered into a limited partnership with Cintra, a capital consortium based in Spain to undertake the TTC construction.
“Zachry owns San Antonio,” Hall told WND, “and he has spread his money inside and outside Bexar County [where San Antonio is the county seat] to make sure he drives the highway lobby.” The San Antonio Toll Party is grass roots movement and political action committee opposed to the Trans-Texas Corridor.
Although WND could not confirm Hall’s charge that every local politician has accepted money from Zachry, she and others are naming quite a few names.
“The politicians in Austin are listening to the highway lobby rather that the citizens who put them in office,” Hall told WND, adding, “you will not understand the politics of the TTC until you track down Zachry who has a long and distinguished money trail to offices of our state politicians.”
The non-partisan Institute on Money in State Politics provides data that support Hall’s contention. Analyzing 39 records of campaign contributions made by H.B. Zachry, Jr., the Institute concludes Zachry contributed $112,112 in campaign contributions – 92.2 percent to Republican candidates. The largest of these contributions went to Gov. Perry, two contributions totaling $35,000.
Perry is currently running for re-election against Democratic challenger Chris Bell, a former congressman from Houston, and two independent candidates.
When WND contacted Perry’s campaign organization for comment on campaign contributions by Zachry and other contractors who stand to benefit from TTC construction, Perry’s campaign spokesman Robert Black said: “Gov. Perry got lots of campaign contributions from contractors who got nothing in the TTC bidding. If a contributor was giving money to Gov. Perry for any other reason than that Gov. Perry’s policies are best for Texas,” Black emphasized, “then they should keep their money.”
Another group opposing TTC construction, Campaigns for People, a 501(c)(3) organization in Austin, argues that between Jan. 1, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2004, the Texas Department of Transportation, or TxDOT, awarded over $14.3 billion in contracts to build and maintain roads in the state. More than 40 percent of this total – over $6 billion – went to the “Top 10″ TxDOT contractors, who gave $1.1 million in political contributions.
In 2003, House Bill 3588 in the Texas Legislature amended the Texas Transportation code to give the state the broad, new powers needed to build the Trans-Texas Corridor. According to Campaigns for People, top contractors who sought to benefit from the TTC construction contributed heavily to the campaign to pass House Bill 3588:
The TxDOT Top 10 and TTC Bidders gave generously to legislators who ultimately had a say over the content and passage of HB3588. These interests made over $2.7 million in campaign contributions from January 1, 2001 to December 31, 2004. These special interests steered more than half of this money to elected officials who either held statewide leadership positions in 2003 or who sat on key House or Senate Transportation committees.
Simply stated, according to Campaigns for People, contractors who sought to benefit when TTC was built contributed to the political campaigns to achieve their objective.
It’s to be built with extremely limited public oversight. Except for the corridor east and roughly parallel to Interstate 35 (TTC-35), it’s a road system most Texans can hardly imagine will ever be built. But road builders and toll bond financers from around the world are lining up to participate. These interests contributed $166,000 to amend Texas’ Constitution and more than $2.7 million in Texas’ last two elections to turn the nation’s largest toll road project into a reality.
Black resists any insinuation of collusion. “The TxDOT contracts were awarded on an open bid process,” Perry’s campaign spokesman told WND. “These TTC opposition groups are typically ‘conspiracy theorists’ who think we’re giving Texas land away to Spain. The State of Texas will still own TTC highways, even if Cintra has the right to lease them and collect tolls.”
WND could find no reference on the websites of either the San Antonio Toll Party or Campaigns for People that TTC highways were going to be ceded to Spain.
Today, there are some 50,000 miles of interstate highway in the U.S., yet TxDOT has proposed building 4,000 miles of Trans-Texas Corridor superhighways in Texas over the next 50 years. The TTC project at full development will involve the removal of as much as 584,000 acres of productive Texas farm and ranchland from the tax rolls permanently, while displacing upwards of 1 million people from their current residences.
“We may not need to build all 4,000 miles,” Black asserted. “But the population of Texas is going to double in the next 40 years and our Texas interstates are already strained. The days of building a 50-year old Eisenhower interstate system are over. TTC is a new model for America.”
A close reading of the 4,000-page Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, posted on the Trans-Texas Corridor website reveals on page 3 the NAFTA purpose of the TTC-35 project, which generally runs parallel to Interstate-35. Under the subtitle “enhance economic vitality,” the EIS notes that “approximately 75 percent of America’s commerce with Mexico travels through Texas. Increased access and mobility within the study area would improve the movement of people, goods, and services and potentially lead to new employment and business opportunities.” This, contend critics, makes clear that the TTC-35 project is not “just a highway needed for anticipated Texas growth,” but rather a NAFTA-inspired highway, intended to grow Texas by vastly increasing NAFTA commerce with Mexico.
The 11 separate corridors planned will permanently cut across some 1,200 Texas roads, with crossover unlikely for much of the nearly quarter-mile-wide corridor planned to be built. Dozens of small towns in Texas will be virtually obliterated in the path of the advancing Trans-Texas Corridor behemoth. While supporters, like Perry’s administration, call it a necessity, critics says the TTC appears to be the test case for future development of a NAFTA superhighway that would extend north through Oklahoma City, Kansas City and Duluth into Canada, largely parallel to I-35.
“I don’t know if the TTC is going to extend to Oklahoma,” Black commented. “I can only speak for Texas.”
Nor does Black have any insight into the plans of investment bankers and international capital funds that are unlikely to allow a four-football-fields-wide highway just end at the Texas border, without first approaching Oklahoma, and the other states on the anticipated I-35 path north, to consider accepting their capital to extend the road.
Posted on TxDOT’s Trans-Texas Corridor website are contracts signed by TxDOT that indicate Cintra has paid over $1 billion for the right to negotiate a final construction contract with the state. Cintra Concessions de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A. of Spain plans to recover through tolls an investment that is estimated to exceed $180 billion for the full 50-year build-out of the TTC 4,000-mile network.
Cintra won the contract with TxDOT as a result of a competitive bid, said Black. “Cintra promised the State of Texas the best bang for the buck. Besides, they threw in to the deal over $1 billion that the State of Texas could use however we want to.” WND can find no description of the competitive bid process on the Trans-Texas Corridor website, nor any identification of the losing bidders.
Last month, the Cintra-Zachry limited partnership stepped in to provide the $1.3 billion TxDOT needed to complete a toll segment of TX-130. In return, Cintra-Zachry obtained the concession to operate the toll segment of TX-130 for over 50 years.
Even though large segments of the Cintra-Zachry contracts have been archived on TxDOT websites, TxDOT has withheld key sections have from the public. TxDOT argues that revealing all details of the TTC transaction would compromise the release of information proprietary to Cintra-Zachry.
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