Allard: TxDOT gone too far

Link to article here. We could all use some laughter over this toll road fight, and Col. Ken Allard gladly delivers. Let the insurgency begin!

Ken Allard: Give TxDOT red light before it goes too far
San Antonio Express-News

Forgive me, fellow Texans, but I’m just a newcomer who looks ridiculous in a cowboy hat and doesn’t even own an SUV. Quickly recognizing Eastern transplants, tourist shops try to sell me bumper stickers: “Wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here just as soon as I could.”So can you help me connect these dots while we wait for the daily Boerne-Loop 410-airport-Seguin-San Marcos traffic jam to clear up?

News item No. 1: Pleading a funding shortage, the Texas Department of Transportation announced it will cut $1.8 billion in road construction, including at least $57 million (apparently earmarked in a weak moment) to widen clogged San Antonio highways.

News item No. 2: Today, Travis County District Judge Orlinda Naranjo will decide if TxDOT officials acted illegally in spending taxpayer funds to drum up political support for toll roads (TxDOT’s preferred solution to the state’s transportation crisis).

News item No. 3: A private contractor received more than $750,000 from TxDOT to send road condition surveys to 150,000 presumably startled motorists whose license plates were “randomly recorded” by TxDOT surveillance cameras hidden in orange barrels on Interstate 35 from Laredo to Dallas.

As a one-time regular on his MSNBC simulcast, I would often hear radio shock jock Don Imus exclaim, “You just can’t make this stuff up!” Indeed you can’t when it comes to TxDOT, which gives an entirely new meaning to the phrase “out of control.”

Has no one in the Lone Star State ever heard of “checks and balances”? (Hint to local high schoolers about to endure new rounds of standardized testing: This term does not refer to financial matters!)

Had TxDOT somehow been cast as a character on “The Sopranos,” the only question would be: How long before Paulie Walnuts takes ’em out to get whacked?

While the arrogance of government agencies and personalities is the hardiest of all perennials, there is always the inevitable downside.

A powerful congressman such as Wilbur Mills winds up cavorting with stripper Fanne Fox in the Tidal Basin. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover is eventually revealed to have had a fondness for basic black, apparently accessorized with really nice pumps and pearls.

So just how far can TxDOT push its luck before somebody wakes up and gives the agency its long overdue comeuppance?

Had anything like the trifecta of excesses outlined above occurred in Washington rather than Austin, the offending agency director would have been instantly summoned to appear before investigating committees, with the usual tiers of media mavens and photographers-in-waiting. With cameras scrutinizing every flinch, the tough questions for the TxDOT director would begin.

Who decides which road improvements are funded by your agency — and with whose concurrence? What public input is solicited, and why should the public believe TxDOT when you say you’re running out of money?

What gives you the idea that a taxpayer-funded public agency has any business using those tax dollars to lobby for its own interests? And why waste almost a million dollars on a “Big Brother” survey about road conditions that your department should have understood to begin with?

Until such questions are asked and answered, simply think of TxDOT as a state agency being gradually auctioned off to a hot-bidding coalition of builders, developers, heavy equipment contractors and construction magnates.

One thing is certain: We are quickly losing much of San Antonio’s special character to chaos — unbridled expansion, high-density housing and utterly unplanned growth. Despite growing questions about its transparency and competence, TxDOT acts as an obliging accomplice while fields, forests and the last remnants of an irreplaceable frontier culture are bulldozed into 24 lanes of privatized, toll-bearing concrete, complete with access roads.

Know what San Antonio will look like if these guys win? Houston!

Know what we are if we let that happen? Stupid!

Reasons enough to demand that our political leaders bring TxDOT’s antics to a screeching halt before it starts putting up toll booths at the end of your driveway.

(Got here just as soon as I could to warn you.)

Editorial: Allard takes on TxDOT-induced congestion

Link to article here.

Mr. Allard and his buddy, Will, use humor to demonstrate what is obvious to your average San Antonian (but apparently not to the bureaucrats at TxDOT)…we live under the rule of King TxDOT and the politicos and highway lobby that pulls its strings. Oh, and Mr. Allard, rest assured, the San Antonio Toll Party is the “insurgency.”

Ken Allard: ‘Pardon our dust’ doesn’t cut it
San Antonio Express-News

There are tougher issues ahead, but we need to reconsider a nagging question: What do we do about the Texas Department of Transportation?It’s hard to live in San Antonio without being affected by certain oddities in highway construction that occur nowhere else. Just last month, while fighting my way past dozers and airport barricades to leave on a business trip, I spotted highway crews apparently constructing an off-ramp right into the second-story lobby of a nearby bank building. Was this another TxDOT planning fiasco, the latest innovation in drive-through banking or was Donald Rumsfeld now in charge?

Certain lifestyle adjustments have been required during the past 18 months as an adopted Texan, like using fighter-plane tactics as a routine traffic survival tool or paying exorbitant auto insurance rates.

Even better: learning to admire the “Sea Island oblique” — the fearless way natives exit restaurant parking lots and cut across access roads to enter the interstate by the most direct route.

When local issues get too tough for the newcomer, my designated Texas cultural adviser, Will From Hondo, Aggie-born and -bred, dispenses sage advice unencumbered by the broken winds of political correctness.

Ken: Who really controls TxDOT — assuming anyone does?

Will: On paper, the governor. But mostly the contractors just do what they think best, same as when their ancestors worked for Santa Anna.

Ken: Is the road network here really “Santa Anna’s revenge”?

Will: No, San Antonio was already several centuries old before the actual invention of roads. Paving over creeks and cow paths saved earth-moving dollars that would later be needed out at the airport.

Ken: OK, but why does TxDOT build these elaborate “sky-ramps to nowhere” in some places while in others they don’t even bother connecting major highways like U.S. 281 and Loop 1604? Haven’t they ever heard of cloverleafs?

Will: It’s technically true that you have to go through three lights and Pastor Hagee’s parking lot to re-enter Loop 1604 from U.S. 281. Of course, some folks find it simpler just to go to Blanco (the town, not the road) and then turn around. Either way, it’s a good opportunity to pray for patience.

Ken: I’m not letting you off that easy about those insane skyways into the ionosphere. Isn’t the connection between I-10 and Loop 410 higher than most thrill rides out at Sea World?

Will: We like to pay tribute to ancient Mayan architecture and their tradition of human sacrifice. Didn’t you see “Apocalypto”? Just bring along some oxygen and quit whining, rookie.

Ken: Speaking of human sacrifice, why do some exit signs vanish, lanes just disappear and whole highways suddenly come to an unexplained halt?

Will: Survival of the fittest for one thing budget cuts for another. While Texas doesn’t have an income tax, our gas tax mostly goes for building roads. But a few years ago, the folks in Austin decided that growth was stagnating so they “reallocated” the highway funds back to the general treasury. Just like when a burglar reallocates your stereo.

Ken: With growth going sky high, that actually sounds like most CIA predictions. But is this when TxDOT started talking about toll roads?

Will: Yup. Kind of a Ponzi scheme, though nobody has had the guts to admit it. But I think Austin actually got the toll road idea from those strip clubs down on Sixth Street where there’s a $20 cover charge but they still want 10 bucks for a beer. Be brazen, act normal, and some people will be happy to pay twice for the same thing.

Ken: Brazen is one thing, but toll roads? They would cause pollution and even more tie-ups and accidents than we have now.

Will: True but irrelevant. Texans hate taxes but will reluctantly pony up for “fees” — even though the money comes out of the same pockets and winds up in the same state treasury. And after so many years, Texans are used to TxDOT. Maybe they even think of it as an employer of last resort if their kid flunks the TAKS.

Ken: Appalling. Is anyone considering an insurgency?

Will: Are you volunteering to lead one?

When not stuck in TxDOT- induced traffic, retired Col. Ken Allard is an executive in residence at UTSA.

How to drive in San Antonio

This was forwarded to us…too funny!


How to drive in San Antonio-

1. You must first learn to pronounce the city name. It is: “San Tone”.

2. The morning rush hour is from 5:00 am to noon. The evening rush hour
is from noon to 7:00 pm. Friday’s rush hour starts on Thursday morning.

3. The minimum acceptable speed on most freeways is 85 mph. On Loop
1604, your speed is expected to at least match the highway number.
Anything less is considered “Wussy”.

4. Forget the traffic rules you learned elsewhere. San Antonio has its
own version of traffic rules. For example, cars/trucks with the loudest
muffler go first at a four-way stop; the trucks with the biggest tires
go second. However; SUV-driving, cell phone-talking moms ALWAYS have the
right of way.

5. If you actually stop at a yellow light, you will be rear-ended,
cussed out, and possibly shot.

6. Never honk at anyone. Ever. Seriously. It’s another offense that can
get you shot.

7. Road construction is permanent and continuous in San Antonio. Detour
barrels are moved around for your entertainment pleasure during the
night to make the next day’s driving a bit more exciting.

8. Watch carefully for road hazards such as drunks, skunks, dogs,
barrels, cones, cows, horses, cats, mattresses, shredded tires,
squirrels, rabbits, crows, vultures, javelinas, roadrunners,
rattlesnakes, and the coyotes feeding on any of these items.

9. If someone actually has their turn signal on, wave them to the
shoulder immediately to let them know it has been “accidentally

10. If you are in the left lane and only driving 70 in a 55-65 mph zone,
you are considered a road hazard and will be “flipped off” accordingly.
If you return the flip, you could be shot.

11. For summer driving, it is advisable to wear potholders on your

12. True San Antonians ALWAYS seek to park in a shady spot, even before
the sun has risen, and no matter how far the parking space is from the
office/store/restaurant. This is why you will see cars widely scattered
around a parking lot instead of clustered in one place; these people
arrived early to park in covered spaces or under trees.

13. If the driver stopped in front of you at a red light suddenly opens
his passenger door, it is advisable to quickly avert your eyes before he
spits out his chewing tobacco.

14.  Last but for sure not least, when you are heading East on I-10 from
Boerne you are actually heading (driving) South on an interstate that
goes East & West?  Go figure…

This takes the eminent domain fight to a whole new level…

Link to story here.

News photos from the week of March 16-22, 2007
Chongqing, China, March 21, 2007—No man is an island. But developers in China have made one couple face an unusual type of island living after the homeowners refused to sell.

Wu Ping and her husband were the only family of 281 to reject a 2004 offer of a new house or financial compensation for their property. So the developer initiated construction around the building, leaving an island of land amid the excavation, as seen in this photo taken on Wednesday. A deadline to move out set by a local district court ran out on Thursday, and authorities are not sure what steps they will take next.

The conflict coincides with new laws adopted this week in China that grant legal protections for private land ownership for the first time since the Communist Party nationalized land in 1949.

“I’m not stubborn or unruly, I’m just trying to protect my personal rights as a citizen. I will continue to the end,” Wu reportedly told the state-run newspaper Legal Daily.

Stinson column shows toll hogs can't stand citizens having representation

Link to article here.

Oh, my sides are splitting with laughter! TxDOT and the highway lobby cozy up at Bill Miller’s across from the MPO (and a whole lot of other places) as a matter of practice, and what gets their goat? The ONE occasion they witness a public official hearing from a citizen on their turf! Methinks they doth protest too much! Isn’t this a bit like the pot calling the kettle black? What hypocrites! The toll hogs at the trough and our politicians and bureaucrats who lap up the perks and wining and dining by lobbyists 24/7 get themselves all tied up in knots over an engaged and active public who might spoil the good ol’ boy party they’re accustomed to.

This engaged and active public isn’t about to let the toll hogs steamroll their DOUBLE TAX, overreaching toll roads to benefit foreign companies and to grow government at the expense of the taxpayer. FYI, I don’t write “talking points” for ANYONE (in fact, I do my best to avoid it at all costs even when people ask for them, precisely so that no one can accuse us of spoonfeeding people…our folks aren’t sheep, they educate themselves and speak the truth of their own volition).

Commissioner Adkisson is his own man, an advocate for the PEOPLE, who speaks from the heart, seeks to understand all sides of an issue before making policy decisions, and fights for what’s RIGHT no matter if its popular with special interest lobbyists or not. Someone needs to tell TxDOT and its highway lobby cronies that that’s how government and a good public representative are supposed to function!

High dollar subdivisions like Dominion get their road fix while folks along 281 languish under toll road fight

Note later in the column, Stinson reveals a pricey project to benefit Dominion residents over on I-10 where TxDOT money presumably dropped out the sky to pay for this non-toll project to improve a few peoples’ “mobility” while the rest of us underlings wait for our crumbs…guess those over in the 281 corridor need more high dollar campaign donors, eh?

Ranger: ‘What is going on here? Something doesn’t smell right’
By Roddy Stinson
San Antonio Express-News

Roddy’s Rangers never sleep …RANGER: “Roddy, at last week’s Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting, County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson was 20 minutes late because he was at the Bill Miller’s restaurant across the street in conference with San Antonio Toll Party regional director Terri Hall.

“At the last several meetings, he has been speaking from talking points prepared by her.

“Not a lot of toll roads are being proposed for the precinct he represents in East Bexar County.

“What is going on here? Something doesn’t smell right.”

RODDY: Your insinuation that Adkisson is a puppet for the anti-toll road crowd didn’t sit well with the Precinct 4 commissioner.

His verbal jabs in response:

“If I believed I needed to hide my meeting with Terri Hall, I would have never visited with her where there was no lack of highway lobbyists lunching.”

“Your (informant) is no ordinary citizen. He or she is likely a card-carrying member of the local highway lobby.”

“As we speak, plans are being made to toll I-35 and 1604 East in my precinct … to say nothing of the Trans-Texas Corridor, which is planned to run right through my precinct.”

“What ‘smells’ is the fresh air of citizen — not-lobby-driven — public policy!”


RANGER: “Much publicity attended the decision to put a cable barrier on I-10 West to reduce fatalities, and it seems to have helped. However, there is a gap in the barrier that extends over a mile in front of the entrance to the Dominion.

“I keep thinking this will be corrected, but a year has passed, and nothing has been done.”

RODDY: TxDOT officials felt that a barrier in that area would interfere with a recently initiated project to build an I-10 bridge in front of the Dominion entrance.

“The $20.3 million project was requested by the City of San Antonio as an extension of Dominion Drive under I-10 to allow emergency vehicles faster access to both areas on either side of I-10 West,” a TxDOT spokeswoman said. “Once the project is completed in spring 2009, a cable barrier will be placed.”

Not that anyone cares (and merely for the sake of doing a mathematical exercise) …

The $20.3 million that will be spent to provide faster access to the Dominion and nearby high-dollar subdivisions would pay for curbs and sidewalks on 25 miles of the South Side’s dilapidated, dangerous and too often deadly third-world streets.

Sample ad Perry could run in his effort to sell Texas to the highest bidder

Well, it’s official. TxDOT has approved its first public-private partnership concession agreement (read about it here) with a foreign-owned company to build, operate, and maintain the southern leg of Hwy 130 as a toll road. They weren’t kidding when they said “Texas is Open for Business” (read about this obscenely crass workshop for the benefit of private industry to encourage the sale of our public highways to the highest bidder here)

Here’s how an ad for the lucrative sweetheart monopolies should read:

Texas is for sale to the highest bidder
Public infrastructure that belongs to Texans can be yours for the taking.
You, too, can get in on the toll road slush fund. All sweetheart deals are negotiated in secret. The public doesn’t know a thing until after the deal is signed. So no messy public input. The icing? We grant 50 year monopolies over our public highways, complete with non-compete agreements so there are no other efficient alternatives, and we even offer concession agreements where you can lease PUBLIC right of way to whatever gas stations, hotels, and businesses you want without competition. C’mon partners, learn the Texas way…it’s taking the country by storm. Foreign companies preferred. American companies need not apply. Get your piece of the pie before it’s all gone!

For more information, contact Transportation Commission Chairman and “Sell Out” Extraordinaire, Ric Williamson.