Member Newsletter June 3, 2007
Senate Bill 792
Governor Perry Has Been Forced by the Legislature to Accept Compromises Limiting Private Toll Roads
SB792 represents the first meaningful legislative action to reverse the dramatic transportation policy shifts made by HB3588 in 2003. This is just the first step, but it sure is a big step. Here are some of the gains:
The legislature intends SB792 to keep TxDOT from signing any construction contracts for the Trans Texas Corridor for the next two years.
Public Policy Study
SB792 creates a formal legislative study committee to research and report on public policy implications of private partnership toll projects. This will provide the public a substantive opportunity to participate in the discussion of future public-private partnerships (PPP) including how they might be used to accomplish the Trans Texas Corridor.
CDA Sunset Provision
SB792 requires comprehensive development agreements (CDA) to come under review and reauthorization. This 'sunset provision' will effect all CDAs including all of TTC-35 and TTC-69. This provides another opportunity to stop or limit the use of CDAs after 2009.
50 Year CDA Limit
SB792 limits CDA agreements to 50 years, including toll road agreements which had been previously authorized to extend to 70 years. This session TxDOT wanted limits removed altogether.
SB792 provides greater public access to information and more disclosure with regard to the Trans Texas Corridor and other toll related contracts and details.
SB792 invalidates the TxDOT north Texas 'protocol' that had the effect of limiting the number of projects that public authorities could participate in, opening the door for PPP agreements.
SB792 prohibits non-compete clauses that limit or stop construction, reconstruction, expansion, rehabilitation, operation, or maintenance of a highway - anywhere.
SB792 prohibits compete penalties or compensation payment agreements for a wide range of highway projects. This will include SH121 and any other private toll road agreement that is not already signed.
CDA Penalty Limits
SB792 limits compete penalties or compensation from extending to competing projects more than four miles either side of a CDA project. This will include SH121 and any other private toll road agreement that is not already signed.
SB792 requires that any compete penalties resulting from a PPP deal approved by a county will come out of that district's funding, thereby creating a local incentive against bad deals.
SB792 reduces the potential of excessive buyout penalties by preventing the use of future revenue projections that were not part of the original deal.
State Auditor Review
SB792 requires the state auditor to verify the traffic and revenue estimates of concessions.
SB792 requires members of a RMA created by a city to be residents of Texas.
SB792 prohibits gifts to toll authority directors.
For More About SB792
For more detailed information about SB792 [click here]
Together we have made a great deal of progress but our work is far from over. We must continue to educate others about the Trans Texas Corridor.
Our legislators have begun to recognize the hazards of private control of public infrastructure. They have begun to understand the financial cost and risks to the state, local transportation, and the Texas motorist. They have begun to question the process by which TxDOT has advanced toll roads, public-private partnerships, and the Trans Texas Corridor.
During the next year we will have several important opportunities to communicate with our elected officials. CorridorWatch looks forward to helping our members participate in the process at every opportunity available.
The legislative session is finally over. On the first day of the session TxDOT had an agenda and high hopes of expanding their authority and encouraging new laws to speed construction of the Trans Texas Corridor. By the end of the session they were hanging on the power of the Governor's office just to hold on to the authority that they had at the start of the session.
The dramatic backlash in Austin has turned Governor Perry's transportation policy on its head. As a result we are expecting to see lots of changes during the next year. If the Governor and TxDOT don't make sweeping changes before the next session it's very likely that the next Legislature will make the changes for them.
And changes are already starting to take place. Immediately after the session ended, Michael Behrens, the executive director of TxDOT announced his retirement. News reports say that Behrens had postponed his retirement at the request of Governor Perry and Commission Chairman Williamson who asked that he stay on through the session so they could benefit from his good relations with legislators. By now it must be readily apparent that there was very little Behrens could do to smooth over the ill will created by his boss Williamson and Perry's new autocratic transportation policies.
To make any progress towards reforming TxDOT Chairman Williamson must be removed. The culture of arrogance he has created in TxDOT cannot be reversed as long as he remains at the helm.
CorridorWatch Day at the Capitol
CorridorWatch members had an opportunity to visit with Senator Nichols and and ask questions about his concerns and how they were addressed by SB792.
Thank You to all our members and friends who joined us in Austin for the last day of the session.
We all had a great opportunity to see our state government in action, including the good, bad and ugly. This is the place where we address our concerns and issues about the Trans Texas Corridor; and, these are the officials who can and will make the changes.
During the day CorridorWatch members were able to ask questions of Sen. Nichols, meet Rep. Kolkhorst, and visit the staff of their own elected officials. For many it was their first experience seeing the legislature in session. For others it was their first time in the Capitol building. For all of us it was an opportunity to share the significant progress we have made during the prior five months.
David & Linda Stall
Work to increase public awareness and understanding of the Trans Texas Corridor and its impact on Texas; provide a statewide network of communication for citizens and local government officials with shared concerns; and, provide resources to assist the public and local government officials to identify and address potential negative impacts (economic, social, political and ecological).
CorridorWatch.org is FOR -
Open and responsive government.
Full public participation in the decision making process of transportation planning and finance.
Improved transportation systems, including the expansion of highways and new highway construction.
Focusing transportation resources on traffic generators (urban centers).
Responsible growth, development and economic expansion.
Full public disclosure of all state transportation projects.
Local government participation in transportation planning.
Reducing air pollution.
CorridorWatch.org is AGAINST -
The overall concept of the Trans Texas Corridor as proposed.
The use of transportation and transportation related projects as general revenue generators.
Taking any land (or thing of value) without just compensation, diverting local government revenues, or otherwise causing adverse economic impact to local government (cities, counties, school districts, etc.).
Conversion of existing free highways into toll ways.
Use of general transportation revenues in support of toll road projects.
Private control of public infrastructure, whether direct or indirect.
Taking private land and/or using state land, for non-public purpose use.
State subsidized or sponsored competition to private enterprise.
Combining critical infrastructure elements into a single site (corridor).
Creating 'soft targets' for terrorist threats.
Redistribution of air pollution as a goal (moving traffic patterns).
CorridorWatch.org is NOT -
Opposed to growth or economic development.
Opposed to the Texas Department of Transportation.
Opposed to toll roads.
Opposed to rail.
Operated nor sponsored by any political subdivision of the state.
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