Opponents of the controversial Trans-Texas Corridor believe Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry is proceeding with toll road plans under the cover of a special session of the legislature.
Perry’s stated goals include extending the authority of the Texas Department of Transportation, TxDOT, to operate for two more years with an allocation of $2 billion in state funds that could be targeted for building toll roads along Interstate Highways 35 and 69 in what was previously called TTC-35 and TTC-69 under the Trans-Texas Corridor plan.
The Houston Chronicle acknowledged transportation would the main focus of the special session and that an emphasis will be on a measure that allows private companies to build more toll roads across the state – an idea that opponents have dubbed “the largest tax increase in history.”
TxDOT itself will be forced to cease operating under the state’s Sunset Act, unless the state legislature passes new legislation authorizing the agency to continue.
WND called Perry’s office for comment but received no return call.
According to the Austin Business Journal, five state agencies stand to be abolished without legislative action: Texas Department of Transportation, Texas Department of Insurance, Texas Racing Commission, Office of Public Insurance Counsel and Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation.
Since 2005 – when Perry-appointed Texas Transportation Commissioner Ric Williamson began pushing plans to build TTC-35 under a public-private contract with Cintra, a Spanish transportation infrastructure company – Texas voters have challenged the agency’s centralized authority.
Toll road opponents in Texas charged Williamson ignored widespread public objections to the development of private toll roads under public-private partnerships with foreign companies that would collect tolls under long-term leases.
Williamson died unexpectedly of a heart attack Dec. 30, 2007.
“Gov. Perry wants to get the legislature to reauthorize through 2013 the ability of Texas to enter into Comprehensive Development Agreements, or CDAs, with foreign developers to develop Texas highways under public-private partnerships,” Hank Gilbert, a board member with TexasTurf.org, or Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, told WND.
The Houston Chronicle concurred, reporting Perry wants the special legislative session to end a state legislature-imposed moratorium on new toll road CDAs by obtaining new legislation that would extend authorization for CDAs through 2013.
“We are fighting to defeat any attempt by Gov. Perry to extend CDAs,” he said. “Without CDAs, TxDOT will have a difficult time getting foreign development companies to come into Texas to convert our freeways to toll roads.”
Gilbert told WND the Trans-Texas Corridor program in Texas was “alive and well.”
“When Gov. Perry came out and said the Trans-Texas Corridor program was dead, all TxDOT did was to get rid of the name,” he said. “It was all a lie.”
WND has reported Gov. Perry has taken steps to engage in a public relations effort designed to distance TxDOT from the Trans-Texas Corridor.
WND has been reporting since 2006 that the TTC project planned by TxDOT over a 50-year period involved a 4,000-mile network of new four football-field-wide “NAFTA Superhighway” truck-train corridors and pipelines for oil, gas and water.
“Our big push right now is to get enough support in the Texas House of Representatives to kill any CDA legislation in this special session,” Gilbert said.
The CDA with the Spanish company Cintra called for expending billions to develop TTC-35 parallel to I-35 from Laredo, Texas, at the Mexican border, to the Texas border with Oklahoma, north of Dallas-Fort Worth.
In exchange, TxDOT agreed to allow Cintra to collect tolls on I-35 for 50 years after the highway is completed.
The current TxDOT website also affirms that a public-private partnership proposal for developing I-69 has been submitted under a public-private partnership structure by ACS Infrastructure Development Inc., a highway infrastructure company headquartered in Madrid, Spain.
“As far as I know, the CDAs signed with Cintra for TTC-35 and with ACS for TTC-69 are still in place, despite what Governor Perry and TxDOT say,” Gilbert charged.
The current TxDOT website substantiates Gilbert’s accusation.
KeepTexasMoving.org, the official TxDOT website, continues to devote a section to making clear that while the name “Trans-Texas Corridor” has been phased out, the corridor construction projects continue, typically under their original designations.
The TxDOT website identifies the following components of the original TTC project remain active: TTC-35 and I-69/TTC environmental studies, the “Ports-to-Plains Corridor” intended to extend the original TTC corridor design into Colorado, and a new project called “La Entrada al Pacifico Corridor,” or “The Entrance to the Pacific Corridor,” intended to connect Texas with ports in Mexico along the Pacific Ocean.