Highway Collision Looms in Austin!
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
May 7, 2007
The very essence of democracy or a republic is that we have government by, for and of the people. The influence of big private money and the current no-holds barred campaign spending experience however, suggests that much of our government is by, for and of the few who are rich. I call it the world's greatest "Economocracy".
So it is that for the past two years or so, we have seen the highway lobby (contractors, engineers and businesses associated with highway building) working through the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and creating a huge hullabaloo over the mega billion dollar need for more highways. This is done to bolster our need to lunge forward into toll roads that cede over our Texas roadways to a foreign consortium and build an impervious corridor through some of Texas' most precious lands with the most un-Texan, Trans-Texas Corridor.
Interestingly enough, the State Auditor is now weighing in on our true highway needs. "In its July 2006 strategic plan, the Department of Transportation (Department) reported that there was an $86 billion "funding gap" between transportation needs and available transportation funding. Auditors determined that the $86 billion amount includes:
- $8.6 billion in costs for metropolitan regions that should not have been included because (1) there were additional costs outside of the agreed-upon cost elements or (2) a mathematical error was made. Excluding these costs reduces the amount of the reported funding gap to $77.4 billion (a 10 percent reduction).
- Undocumented costs, including:
- $27.92 billion in undocumented costs for metropolitan regions.
- $9 billion in undocumented costs for urban regions.
The accuracy of the estimated costs for metropolitan and urban regions cannot be determined because of the lack of supporting documentation."
The Texas Senate recently voted 30-1 and the Texas House of Representatives 139 to 1, to declare a two-year moratorium on private toll contracts called comprehensive development agreements (CDA's) between Texas and its highway developers. These CDA's have been the subject of great contention because they have been shrouded in secrecy by their proponents, Governor Rick Perry and TxDOT.
The real collision looms however: the Governor has refused to appoint a clerk to receive the moratorium bill from the Legislature. As a result the ten days he has to sign or veto the bill cannot begin to run. The legislative session ends on May 28 and time is flying. The Legislature appears poised to override the veto, but it can't over-ride the veto if the Governor will not technically accept the bill.
As a former member of the Texas House, I always reposed a great deal of confidence in TxDOT and am still holding out hope for this agency's independence and expertise. No one doubts the growth of our State and of Bexar County. It seems like every possible area of our roadways is under some form of construction. This is what puzzles me about the highway lobby's persistence in "the mother of all highway full employment acts" in Austin. Surely we can take a more measured and visionary approach.
Stay tuned to your Legislature!