EL PASO – The Texas legislature moved closer to blocking the Trans-Texas Corridor last week with a bill that would place a two-year moratorium all public-private partnerships that would involve the construction of new toll roads financed and operated by private foreign investment groups.
Last Thursday, the Texas Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1267, requiring the study of long-term partnerships such as the Texas Department of Transportation recommended in the construction of TTC-35, a four-football-fields-wide NAFTA superhighway financed and operated for 50 years by the Cintra investment consortium in Spain.
The Texas Senate action takes place less than two weeks after the Texas House passed by a 137-2 margin House Bill 1892 that includes virtually identical language to the anti-TTC bill passed by the Senate.
The wide margins by which both measures passed assured seasoned observers of Texas politics that the anti-superhighway, two-year moratorium will likely pass both houses of the Texas legislature with more than enough votes to override a likely veto by Governor Rick Perry, a stalwart supporter of the Trans-Texas Corridor concept.
This measure follows a hotly contested Texas gubernatorial race in which Governor Perry faced anti-TTC competition from all three rivals – Carole Keaton Strayhorn, a Republican-turned-independent, a former comptroller of the state who fashioned herself as “One Tough Grandma”; Kinky Friedman, an outspoken independent with a characteristic mustache and limited goatee known for his country-and-western troubadour style and his ever present cowboy hat and cigar; and Democratic candidate Chris Bell.
Perry won re-election with 41 percent of the vote, which was widely interpreted by superhighway opponents as a 3-2 vote against the foreign-financed toll road concept.
In the hotly contested summer round of public hearings throughout Texas, strong local opposition was voiced to Perry’s plan to build a 4,000-mile system throughout Texas over a 50-year period, removing in the process some 580,000 acres of land from public tax rolls and displacing an estimated 1 million Texans from their ranches, farms, businesses, and homes through eminent domain.
The moratorium vote by the Texas legislature also comes as a strong rebuke of the Bush administration, under which the Federal Highway Administration has devoted a section of the agency’s website devoted to teaching state governments how to implement “PPP” projects designed to lease public highways to investment consortia desiring to run the roads a toll roads under long-term leases.
In March 2004, the city of Chicago leased the Chicago Skyway to an investment syndicate that included Cintra of Spain and Macquarie, an Australian private investment group.
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