TxDOT caught in deception, hid docs from the feds that prove violation of the law

Link to article here. This violation of federal law is much more than a “snag,” it blows a hole right through the 281 toll project. TxDOT was caught in willful deception, so this story is the understatement of the year!

Planned U.S. 281 tollway hits another bump
By Pat Driscoll
San Antonio Express-News
August 7, 2008
A federal lawsuit blasted as frivolous has dug up some documents that throw yet another curve at San Antonio’s planned U.S. 281 tollway.

The documents were uncovered in a discovery process for the lawsuit, which challenges the thoroughness of the tollway project’s environmental study.

The Texas Department of Transportation, which did the study, won’t say what the documents are but is handing them over to the Federal Highway Administration, which approved the study last year.

“We wanted to take the cautious advice of the attorneys and give the FHWA another opportunity to review this project,” TxDOT Director Amadeo Saenz said in a statement.

TxDOT asked the court’s judge to delay the lawsuit for two months to give federal officials time to review the documents and decide whether to amend the environmental study or reconsider approval. Pulling the clearance would delay the toll project even more.

Widening eight miles of U.S. 281 north of Loop 1604 has been on hold for years, first as TxDOT waited to build it as a freeway and then converted to a tollway plan, and then after activists filed a 2005 lawsuit to force a redo of the environmental study.

The more recent lawsuit, filed in February by Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom and Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas, is similar to the 2005 suit in that it calls for a closer look at impacts to motorists, water and wildlife.

One of the documents missing from the latest environmental study is a report on how the 10- to 20-lane tollway could affect the Edwards Aquifer, which supplies most of San Antonio’s drinking water, said TURF founder Terri Hall.

“They have withheld information from the Federal Highway Administration that could blow a hole in the middle of the 281 project,” she said.

The Alamo Regional Mobility Authority, which took over the $472 million toll project from TxDOT, hoped to sell bonds in October and planned to start opening new lanes in three years, now must push its schedule back at least two months.