All talk, no teeth as Transportation Commission attempts to quell opposition

Don’t believe the hype. Today the Texas Transportation Commission adopted a Minute Order designed to fool people into thinking they’ve changed their stripes. The reality? It’s all posturing. New Chairwoman Deirdre Delisi (who has no transportation experience only running political campaigns for Perry then becoming his Chief of Staff) wants the Senate to confirm her, and the Commission knows the Sunset Review will bring serious legislatively mandated changes they want to avoid. There’s nothing about a Minute Order that is even binding. TxDOT can change this at their whim and violate it anytime. Add to that, many of these provisions are already not allowed or required by state law.

Here’s a summary of the gaping holes and inadequacies of this Minute Order:

They don’t mention that a competing facility could require compensation (taxpayer payments to investors if TxDOT expands or builds a competing road), and there’s no mention of stripping non-competes from bond agreements (they only addressed CDAs or PPPs contracts here). Bond companies require non-competes and create the same guaranteed congestion on non-toll routes.

Also, there’s no prohibition against taking existing highway lanes and tolling them leaving the only non-toll lanes frontage roads (totally different in function and speed and stop light times can be manipulated to drive traffic to the toll lanes, etc.). That’s the crux of much of the angst on urban toll projects. They also failed to address their illegal ad campaign and lobbying. If they seriously wanted to build trust, they would have moved to cease those practices unconditionally.

Until the Legislature takes the power of decision-making of this type AWAY from an un-elected, unaccountable agency run amok and gives it back to the PEOPLE and their representatives, this whole exercise is a non-starter.


Associated Press Newswire

May 29, 2008

AUSTIN (AP) – Transportation Commission Chair Deirdre Delisi led
her first meeting today and expressed a desire to build public
trust in the transportation agency.
The commissioners adopted an order governing toll projects and
the Trans-Texas Corridor. They also set out to improve citizen and
legislative access to Texas Department of Transportation’s
financial data.
The commission unanimously agreed that:
– all Texas highways will be owned by the state, not private
– the state may buy back the interest of a private road
– only expansions to existing highways will be tolled and
existing free lanes won’t be reduced;
– and that “non-compete clauses” will be banned, meaning no
state contract will limit improvements to nearby existing roads.
Transportation Chair Delisi’s political ties to Gov. Rick Perry
drew criticism when he appointed her.