The Texas Transportation Commission meeting this Thursday has an agenda item that shows the Commission will consider executing a private toll contract for the development of Trans Texas Corridor TTC-69 despite the moratorium prohibiting private toll contracts through September of 2009. Cintra is likely who had the most influence in the change in route for TTC-69 since Senator Steve Ogden let the cat out of the bag the week before our rally saying the TTC-69 new corridor was “dead.” This is because the new route for the corridor was deemed by the private bidders NOT to be toll viable (they weren’t getting any bites from the private sector to build it because it wouldn’t make enough money).
So they had to go back to existing footprint to toll the “competing” existing freeway so as to capture more toll revenue outside the Houston area (which was likely the only toll viable segment of the new corridor alternative). One of the reasons we objected to the moratorium bill, SB 792, was because it excepted out portions of TTC-69 from the bill allowing it to move forward.
The language of the moratorium seems only to block contracts allowing the private entity to collect tolls. There are many types of private toll contracts for the various phases of development. Since TxDOT may not be granting a construction contract that allows the collection of tolls yet, TxDOT may in fact be authorized to choose and execute a contract with a “developer” or “planning partner” for TTC-69. First they sign a deal for development and financing, then for design, construction, and collection of tolls of the individual segments.
See the agenda item for Thursday’s Transpsortation Commission Meeting below:
6. Toll Road Projects
a. Various Counties – Act on the recommendation of department staff concerning:
(1) the selection of the best value proposal for the planning, development,
acquisition, design, construction, financing, maintenance, and operation of the
element of the Trans-Texas Corridor System from Northeast Texas to the
Texas/Mexico border (I-69/TTC); and (2) the execution of a comprehensive
development agreement for I-69/TTC
Here’s the text of SB 792 that allows private toll contracts (called comprehensive
development agreement) to be executed for portions of TTC-69 (here referred to using the federal name of “high priority corridors 18 & 20”) :
(f) Subsection (b) does not apply to a comprehensive
development agreement in connection with a project:
(1) on the ISTEA High Priority Corridor identified in
Sections 1105(c)(18) and (20) of the Intermodal Surface
Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (Pub. L. No. 102-240), as
amended by Section 1211 of the Transportation Equity Act for the
21st Century (Pub. L. No. 105-178, as amended by Title IX, Pub. L.
No. 105-206), including land adjacent to the project needed to
widen the project for a transportation use, if the project remains
in a highway corridor designated by those laws; and
(2) located south of Refugio County.
Also, the moratorium on private toll contracts leaves out the word “develop” in its prohibition. It seems to allow TxDOT to sign a development contract for the TTC-69 corridor which is still allowed in Subchapter 223 of the Transportation Code and is different from a design and construction contract (directly involving the collection of tolls). Though the Commission’s agenda item for Thursday includes the whole enchilada (development, design, construction, etc.), their Request for Proposals so far involves just what they refer to as a “planning partner.”
SB 792 language with no reference to “development” and allows these contracts if it doesn’t involve collecting tolls yet:
(b) comprehensive development agreement entered into with
a private participant by a toll project entity on or after May 1,
2007, for the acquisition, design, construction, financing,
operation, or maintenance of a toll project may not contain a
provision permitting the private participant to operate the toll
project or collect revenue from the toll project, regardless of
whether the private participant operates the toll project or
collects the revenue itself or engages a subcontractor or other
entity to operate the toll project or collect the revenue.
Language of the Transportation Code giving the authority for comprehensive development agreements:
§ 223.201. AUTHORITY. (a) Subject to Section 223.202,
the department may enter into a comprehensive development agreement
with a private entity to design, develop, finance, construct,
maintain, repair, operate, extend, or expand a:
(1) toll project;
(2) facility or a combination of facilities on the
AND LATER…(it tells how the moratorium doesn’t apply to CDAs that don’t directly involve the collection of tolls)
(h) Subsection (f) does not apply to a comprehensive
development agreement that does not grant a private entity a right
to finance a toll project or to a comprehensive development
agreement in connection with a project:
(1) that includes one or more managed lane facilities
to be added to an existing controlled-access highway;
(2) the major portion of which is located in a
nonattainment or near-nonattainment air quality area as designated
by the United States Environmental Protection Agency; and
(3) for which the department has issued a request for
qualifications before May 1, 2007.
So at Thursday’s Commission meeting we’ll all see how TxDOT tries to wiggle around the citizens’ vehement objections to privatizing our public infrastructure and plowing ahead with the universally detested Trans Texas Corridor!