Sale of Texas roads to foreign entities dies

In one of the best developments Texas taxpayers have had all year, the authority to enter into contracts that sell-off Texas freeways to foreign corporations, called Comprehensive Development Agreements (CDAs or PPPs), expired August 31. Spoiling the good news is the fact that about a dozen CDAs were removed from the moratorium placed on CDAs in 2007, so many are at risk of being signed despite the grassroots victory that KILLED CDAs during Rick Perry’s special session of the Texas Legislature in July.

CDAs would charge Texans extremely high tolls to access public roads. The published figures for toll rates on two such deals in Dallas-Ft.Worth are 75 cents PER MILE, totaling $13 daily or over $3,000 a year in new taxes to get to work. One of the most insidious provisions include non-compete clauses that forbid the state from expanding or building roads within a certain mile radius of the toll road as a means to guarantee congestion on the free routes. CDAs also guarantee the private toll operator profit (one proposed amendment by Senator Robert Nichols tried to guarantee they’d never lose money), and they authorize toll hikes for more than 50 years.

In other words, CDAs equal government-sanctioned monopolies and wreak of sweetheart deals and cronyism. The Texas Attorney General, Greg Abbott, held up several contracts during the 81st legislative session, only to move them along since. Perry fondly refers to CDAs a “innovative financing,” but they’re more aptly called taxpayer rip-offs.

CDAs are also the mechanism through which the Trans Texas Corridor will be built. Two such contracts have been signed, and a third has been awarded but still not signed. In March of 2005, Perry inked a deal with Cintra for the development rights to the Trans Texas Corridor TTC-35, a super-sized toll road projected to be 1,200 feet wide, taking 146 acres of private farm and ranch land per mile of corridor for auto and truck lanes, commuter rail and freight rail lanes, telecommunications, and more. It’s been dubbed the biggest land grab and eminent domain project in U.S. history.

In March of 2008, Cintra snagged the CDA to build SH 130 segments 5 & 6, which is part of TTC-35. Cintra is a consistent player vying for many other Texas toll roads. ACS of Spain was awarded the development rights for TTC-69, but the CDA has yet to be signed. In fact last week, in spite of claims by Perry and lawmakers that the Trans Texas Corridor is “dead,” Perry-appointed Transportation Commissioner Ned Holmes just asked TxDOT to accelerate the TTC-69 CDA through the Attorney General’s office in order to ink the deal as quickly as possible.

Attorney General Abbott has a fiduciary duty to Texas taxpayers to hold-up these remaining CDA contracts indefinitely. Perry and pro-toll lawmakers have promised to re-authorize CDAs in the next legislative session. It’s Texans’ job to ensure that NEVER happens.