Link to article here.
We testified against the policy to pay LOSING bidders on toll projects citing that even BIG TIME pro-toll Transportation Commission Chairman Ric Williamson called the practice as “nutty as fruitcake.” But as usual, the unelected appointees did the bidding of the highway lobby over the interests of the public. Once again, all we’re told is there is no money for roads, yet they continue to spend money on advertising, $10 million rest stops, and special “pay-offs” to highway contractors who won’t even be building the project. Board member Christina Rodriguez had it right when she said, architects spend $250, 000 or more to bid on government projects all of the time and NEVER get reimbursed for it. So why should highway engineers get special treatment? Welcome to Texas where the highway kings reign supreme!
Then, after consulting with a bond attorney, we found that the RMA’s intention to reimburse itself from capital improvement project bonds on 281 is illegal! They cannot reimburse themselves for salaries and operating expenses from capital improvement bonds.
Of course, when questioned, they said they could. Once again, looks like a court will have to decide. But if you take the RMA’s logic to its conclusion, the City of San Antonio could float bonds for street improvements and then use those bonds to pay City employees salaries and operating expenses. That’s not the purpose of public bond debt for a tangible capital project like a road. Not to mention, the RMA is relying on financial advice from a former City finance official who was reportedly fired from his job having been found in a drunken stupor at his desk. Gives you great confidence that the government is lookin’ out for us, eh?
Paying the losers
By Pat Driscoll
October 11, 2007Just one vote made the difference Wednesday to let San Antonio’s toll agency to pay losing bidders on a U.S. 281 tollway project.
Alamo Regional Mobility Authority board voted 3-2 to pay losers either $200,000 or 0.1 percent of the project’s cost, whichever is lower, for their detailed proposals.
- Bill Thornton
- Jim Reed
- Reynaldo Diaz
- Maria Cristina Rodriguez
- Jesse Jenkins
Officials say the payments encourage more bidders to take a shot with projects such as the U.S. 281 tollway, in which design and construction phases are combined, by reimbursing them for their work. The mobility authority will own the losing plans and can implement any good ideas.
The stipends are sore spots with critics, who call them give-aways that would be better spent on actual construction. The Texas Department of Transportation is paying millions of dollars worth of stipends for toll projects around the state.
Texas Observer reporter Eileen Welsome said in a December story that Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Ric Williamson called the stipends “nutty as a fruitcake” and said they might be a holdover from an era of big government. But it was an omnibus transportation bill passed by the Legislature in 2003, giving TxDOT tolling and privatization powers, that ushered in the payments.
Not just any company can submit a detailed bid. They have to be invited after first showing their qualifications.
The mobility authority is accepting credentials from companies through Oct. 19 for the U.S. 281 project. The agency will shortlist proposers Oct. 24 and begin seeking detailed bids Nov. 29. Final bids are due Feb. 28.
Construction to rebuild U.S. 281 into a tollway with non-toll frontage roads from Loop 1604 to Marshall Road or beyond could start soon after and be open by 2012. Toll fees could start at 17 cents a mile.
Also Wednesday, the mobility authority board voted to use upcoming bond funds to reimburse itself up to $250 million for development of the U.S. 281 tollway.
The board also agreed to exempt $42,000 a year in U.S. 281 toll fees for VIA Metropolitan Transit, enough to allow buses and vans to ride free. Adding in other VIA vehicles such as vanpools would cost, but the transit agency gets to choose how to divide the exempted fees among its various vehicles.
Other recent news about the mobility authority: