TxDOT plans to use more than HALF Prop 12 bonds on I-35 in Central Texas

Link to article here.

This is punishment for Texans daring to slay the Trans Texas Corridor, TTC-35 project. As retaliation, Rick Perry’s Transportation Commission is going to use more than half of the Prop 12 bonds to expand I-35 (the parts that aren’t even the most congested as they are in Austin and DFW) since he can’t get his Trans Texas Corridor built. The Legislature passed the Prop 12 bonds to help give urban areas relief without needing toll roads. Now, as usual, that’s not what TxDOT is doing….
State transportation officals recommend more than a billion dollars for widening Interstate 35 in Central Texas

Friday, October 30, 2009

Calling Interstate 35 the most important corridor in Texas, state transportation officials took an important step Thursday toward paying to widen several four-lane stretches of the highway in and around McLennan County.

At a meeting in Fort Worth, Texas Department of Transportation staffers recommended the Texas Transportation Commission put $2 billion toward road construction statewide. More than half of that total would go to widening portions of I-35 in McLennan, Bell and Hill counties from four to six lanes.

The recommendations aren’t final, and the five-member commission won’t vote on the projects until a Nov. 19 meeting in Austin. But Commissioner Bill Meadows made an oral demonstration of the importance of the highway.

“We all know it: I-35 arguably is the single most important travel corridor in the state of Texas,” Meadows told The Dallas Morning News.

Though plans for the Trans-Texas Corridor, a proposed network of toll roads running parallel to I-35, have floundered, Meadows said that “does not negate the fact that it is a critical problem we have to face every day.”

The portions of I-35 listed for widening in the recommendation and the estimated costs of the projects are:

* About 13 miles between North Loop 340 and West ($212 million).

* About nine miles between Farm-to-Market Road 2063 in Hewitt and Woodlawn Road near Bruceville-Eddy ($192 million).

* Another $679 million for four projects widening the interstate from West to Abbott; from Bruceville-Eddy to Troy; from Troy to north Temple; and through much of Salado.

The projects would be financed with Proposition 12 bonds. Proposition 12 was approved by voter referendum in 2007, allowing the state to borrow up to $5 billion for road projects. The money is to be paid back using general state revenue, not gas taxes.

For Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization director Chris Evilia, the development came as a relief after several rounds of belt-tightening forced local planners to cut back a series of construction projects.

“It’s excellent news, and we’re very pleased to hear it,” Evilia said.

He said he’s hopeful the Transportation Commission follows its staff’s advice and approves the widening projects, noting that “obviously the recommendation will carry some weight with the commission.”

Chris Lippincott, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation who was at the Fort Worth meeting, said the chances the commission will move forward on the I-35 widenings, while not certain, are “pretty good.”

“The commission understands the urgency of advancing these projects,” he said.