Link to story here. I find it hypocritical that TxDOT claims it’s out of money yet creates two new high level jobs for pro-toll bureaucrats. Not only does TxDOT have misplaced priorities, it looks like a big pay-off for those willing to push toll roads on a public who doesn’t want a new toll tax to drive on what we’ve already paid for!
Local TxDOT official promoted to new job in Austin
By Patrick Driscoll
San Antonio’s toll road guru, David Casteel of the Texas Department of Transportation, is getting promoted to the agency’s Austin office.The 45-year-old Casteel, named director of TxDOT’s district office here in November 2003, will fill a newly created job as assistant director for district operations.
Starting Feb. 1, he’ll oversee TxDOT’s 25 district engineers.
“I want to make sure that our TxDOT districts have all of the resources we can provide them to work with local officials to solve local mobility problems,” TxDOT Director Amadeo Saenz said in a statement.
Another new position, called assistant director for innovative project development, will be handled by Phil Russell, who has been in charge of the Texas Turnpike Authority Division since 1998.
And Beaumont District Engineer John Barton will take over as assistant director for engineering, which Saenz vacated in September when he replaced Michael Behrens, who retired.
Casteel arrived in San Antonio just as the first studies for toll roads were wrapped up and Bexar County commissioners were seeking board members for their new Regional Mobility Authority to oversee tollways. Seven months later, he unveiled a startup toll plan for U.S. 281 and Loop 1604 that has since morphed through several variations.
Currently, more than 70 miles of toll roads are planned in San Antonio. Construction could start this year on an 8-mile tollway along U.S. 281 north of Loop 1604, with fees starting at 17 cents a mile in 2012 and rising with inflation.
Talk for years was that Casteel would move on to bigger and better roles within TxDOT. Such speculation didn’t wear down even after toll critics organized in 2005 and began turning up the heat on elected and appointed officials.
“If someone does a good job and they’re respected by everyone, there’s usually professional growth that follows,” Mobility Authority Chairman Bill Thornton said. “I view this as positive for David, and I view this as positive for us.”
Toll critic Terri Hall, founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, said she wasn’t surprised either but questioned why TxDOT leaders would create two high-level positions when they’re running out of money to build new roads.
“I just think it highlights what’s wrong at TxDOT,” she said. “They’ve got a really bad case of misplaced priorities.”
Casteel, an engineer with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas A&M University, joined TxDOT in 1983 as a summer hire in Graham. He worked in Bowie, College Station, Vernon and Big Spring and has been a district engineer since 1997, working in Childress, Corpus Christi and San Antonio.
Asked for his parting words for San Antonio, Casteel said the city should think big about its highways, freight rail and public transportation.
“We’re a big city, we’re going to be a big player in the state and national economy as years go by and we need to not let our transportation system go lagging,” he said.