Dallas Metroplex leaders hurl “Williamson-like” venom at their senators’ anti-toll stance

Link to article here.

Perhaps this explains why Senator John Carona, Chair of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee, held a public hearing to demonstrate the universal public opposition to Perry’s privatized version of tolling…with regional transportation folks as nasty as these guys, makes ya wonder if their mothers ever taught them to play nicely…or maybe it’s from spending too much time with Ric Williamson.

I’d turn the coin on these transportation leaders and say they’d rather endanger the long-term economic health of the region and risk state sovereignty issues by handing over public highways to foreign companies for the next 50 years all for a few near-term transportation projects ya want fixed! It makes no sense…they’re selling Dallas area residents down the road to the tune of $100 billion in profits going overseas for the next 50 years all so they can complete a 12 mile stretch of highway (for a lousy $2.5-5 billion up front payment)! It’s the Regional Transportation Council (RTC) that needs their heads examined not these courageous senators! C’mon, these RTC guys are essentially saying, “Anyone who dares to represent their constituents should pay a price with us, the elitists who know what’s best for everyone.”

2-year ban on toll roads sought
March 7, 07

FORT WORTH — Interstate 35W, Loop 820 and Airport Freeway would not be expanded until 2015 at the earliest if a two-year ban on toll roads is approved by the state Legislature, area leaders say.

A bill calling for a two-year ban was filed Tuesday and has strong support in the Senate.

North Richland Hills Mayor Oscar Trevino says it’s time to hold the Metroplex’s lawmakers accountable for jumping on the anti-toll road bandwagon and endangering Metroplex road projects.

The bill was filed by state Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, and cosigned by 25 of 31 Senate members, including Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, John Carona, R-Dallas and Royce West, D-Dallas.

“Any senator or state representative who gets on the bandwagon should be told we don’t appreciate it. It goes against the region’s mobility plan. We’re gridlocked,” Trevino, chairman of the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition, said Wednesday morning.

Noting that Shapiro walked out of a Senate committee meeting last week while Metroplex leaders were making a presentation in Austin, Trevino added: “If they don’t want to hear from the region, what are they doing down there?”

While anti-toll road sentiment has swirled statewide, particularly on the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor, Metroplex leaders have sought toll financing for projects that aren’t scheduled to receive sufficient gas-tax funding.

Texas Department of Transportation officials have already mapped out how to spend their gas-tax money through 2015 and the Tarrant County projects aren’t fully funded.

But the agency is currently seeking private bidders to come forward with investment money, and in exchange collect tolls on express lanes on I-35W, Loop 820 and Airport Freeway for up to 50 years.

Privately run toll lanes also have been proposed for the Texas 114/121 DFW Connector project in Grapevine, scheduled to be under construction early next year.

But Nichols’ bill could halt much, if not all, of that work.

“We must closely evaluate private toll contracts before we sign away half a century of control of our transportation system. Many provisions in recent toll contracts are alarming,” Nichols said in a statement. “These roads were built with public money for public use. Converting existing roads to toll roads would break a promise to taxpayers. No one should have to worry that the roads they drive on today will be tolled tomorrow. Tolling provides a valuable tool for expansion but should be reserved to add new capacity.”

Ironically, Nichols was a champion of toll roads and privatization during his term as a member of the Texas Transportation Commission from 1997-2006, when he resigned to run for the state Senate.

Hillwood executive Russell Laughlin said Metroplex leaders should ask senators to at least exempt the region’s plans from a two-year ban.

Dallas Morning News: CDA moratorium seeks to halt toll roads

Link to article here.
"The majority of senators have endorsed legislation to prevent the creation of new private toll roads for two years.
Two measures offered Tuesday by Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, also would prohibit conversion of existing roads to toll roads. At least two dozen senators have signed on as co-sponsors of the two bills, indicating that both should easily pass the chamber."

Measures take aim at toll roads
Legislature: Proposal halting creation of private routes for 2 years gains steam in Senate
Dallas Morning News
March 7, 2007

AUSTIN – The majority of senators have endorsed legislation to prevent the creation of new private toll roads for two years.

Two measures offered Tuesday by Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, also would prohibit conversion of existing roads to toll roads. At least two dozen senators have signed on as co-sponsors of the two bills, indicating that both should easily pass the chamber.

“We must closely evaluate private toll contracts before we sign away half a century of control of our transportation system,” said Mr. Nichols, a former state transportation commissioner. “Many provisions in recent toll contracts are alarming.”

Senate leaders have been increasingly critical of a series of private toll road projects approved in recent years by the transportation commission, including a $3 billion deal announced last week to make State Highway 121 the first privately operated toll road in North Texas.

Senators have warned that some of the projects might result in skyrocketing tolls for motorists in the future and could hamper the ability of the state and local governments to improve public roadways near the toll roads.

FW Weekly: Opposition to tolls & TTC mounting, getting lawmakers’ attention

Link to article here.

Brake Lights
A traffic jam of opposition is facing the Trans-Texas Corridor
Ft. Worth Weekly
March 7, 2007

The Trans-Texas Corridor, the Goliath of Texas road projects, is taking a real bruising from the slingshot crowd these days, with so many Davids piling up stones that critics and supporters alike are beginning to believe it may be stoppable.

In the last few weeks, more than a dozen bills have been introduced in the both the Texas State and House to either stop the project cold or put enough restrictions on it to chill the interest of private investors. In late February, a state audit report revealed that millions of public dollars have secretly been spent on the project and that hundreds of millions more might be needed. At least one legislator is considering calling for an investigation of the Texas Department of Transportation. And thousands of opponents from around the state showed up last week in Austin to march in opposition to the giant toll-road proposal and to testify against it at a public hearing.

Gov. Rick Perry, Transportation Commissioner Ric Williamson, and other top- ranking state politicos are still pushing to get ground broken on the 4,000-mile network of privatized toll highways planned throughout Texas in the next several decades. But with opposition growing on both sides of the aisle, critics are suggesting that supporters of the TTC may find they have a price to pay at the ballot box next time around.

“There’s no doubt there’s a huge groundswell of opposition to the TTC,” said Hank Gilbert, a businessman and rancher who organized a March 2 rally in Austin against the project. “We had between 3,000 and 4,000 people rallying against it. That is huge … . And when even people like State Sen. Steve Ogden, a co-author of the bill that permitted the privatization of roads, come out and say the Texas Department of Transportation is out of control with the TTC, well, I think that’s the point at which other politicians will realize that those of us who’ve been fighting this thing are not just lunatics.”

Ogden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is reportedly considering legislation that would eliminate tolls on all roads once the road is paid for — which generally takes 20 to 30 years — as opposed to allowing the private company that built and leased the road to keep charging tolls for a contract period of 50 to 60 years, as will be the case with the TTC if it goes forward as planned.

But while Ogden, a Republican from Bryan, hasn’t yet introduced a bill to rein in the TTC, others have. State Rep. Garnet Coleman, a Houston Democrat, recently introduced a bill to place a moratorium on all new toll roads in Texas for a period of two years “so that the issue can be studied, rather than rammed down our throats.”

State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham has introduced two bills that would effectively kill the TTC. One would “repeal … authority for the establishment and operation of the Trans-Texas Corridor”; the second would prohibit public pension funds from being invested in private toll roads — cutting billions in funding that private toll road builders would probably try to use to raise capital.

And powerful State Sen. John Carona of Dallas, chairman of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee, has introduced 10 bills that together would severely curtail private businesses’ interest in building toll roads. Among them is a measure requiring that the price paid for land taken under eminent domain be established by three disinterested voters who live in the county where the land is located, rather than by a judge. Another would limit the length of a toll-collecting contract held by a private entity to 30 years, after which the highway would become a free road. Other bills would limit toll rates rather than letting private companies set them at will, eliminate the “no compete” clauses in toll road contracts that many believe would hamper the state’s ability to maintain and improve other roads, and tie the state gas tax rate to the amount needed for highway building and maintenance, to ensure that tax funds rather than tolls could be used for those projects.

Carona admits he made a huge error in signing the measure that created the TTC. He told Fort Worth Weekly that he and nearly everyone else in the Texas Legislature were “deliberately deceived” by that bill, and that it’s time to put a halt to the TTC. At a hearing he held last week, he said, “About 1,000 people came, and the overwhelming majority were against the TTC.”

He believes an overwhelming majority of state Senate members now oppose the TTC as well, and that, as chinks begin to show in Perry’s armor, the senators are more willing to oppose him on this issue. “The fact is, the death of the TTC and other toll roads is just one gubernatorial election away,” he said. “The opposition to these things is growing daily.”

“I think the bills I’ve proposed will pass in the Senate,” Carona said. “The real question is whether they will get a fair hearing in the House Transportation Committee. I don’t know. [Chairman] Mike Krusee has the power to bury them there.

“On the other hand,” he added, “Krusee won his last election by a surprisingly narrow margin, and he will have public rage to deal with on this. Of course, if he intends to leave his position as an elected representative and enter the private sector, he may have another agenda. But if he wants re-election, he may realize that following the governor’s lead on the TTC hook, line, and sinker is not the best road for him to take.”

Krusee said he handles bills before his committee fairly. “But it’s up to every member to convince the committee that the hearing won’t be a waste of time, that there is some support and reason to listen to it.”

Coleman said he thinks the TTC can be stopped only if legislators in both houses “feel the heat and know it’s going to be an election issue.”

The recent state auditor’s report may provide plenty of ammunition for the election debates. Auditors concluded that millions of dollars in public funds had already been used for the TTC, in both direct and indirect costs, while Perry has repeatedly said that no public monies would be used to fund the project. And much of the money spent on the TTC was taken from funds set aside for other projects, the report said. At least $52,000 used to pay for TTC advertising — billboards and radio spots — was listed as “engineering” expenses.

The report also noted that Cintra Zachry LP, the partnership hired to develop a comprehensive plan for TTC-35, the 333-mile stretch of toll roads from San Antonio to Dallas, had not met all of its 2006 insurance requirements until October of that year. If Cintra Zachry can’t cover its liabilities under the contract, auditors noted, “it is possible that plaintiffs could seek recovery of these damages from the state.”

The report also noted other problems: Public money would pay for 55 percent, or $16.9 billion, of the rail projects touted as part of the TTC package. The state would be responsible for collecting from toll-jumpers. Under the contracts, the state could be forced to build some segments of the corridor that the private firms didn’t find profitable.

And auditors said TxDOT may have been seriously underestimating the cost of the corridor. The agency has put the price tag of the entire 4,000-mile network at $145 billion to $184 billion, but auditors said one 560-mile stretch alone —from Laredo to Oklahoma, paralleling I-35— will cost more than $105 billion.

“I think that auditor’s report is particularly damning,” said Carona. “The most damning thing, I think, was that the governor, when he announced the Trans-Texas Corridor, said that no public funds would be used for its development. And the auditor now says that $90 million in public funds have already been used, and that number is climbing daily.”

Gilbert said that in light of the auditor’s report, Kolkhorst may ask the attorney general to investigate TxDOT over the subterfuge on TTC spending. She could not be reached for comment.

Proponents of the TTC say it remains the answer to Texas’ current and future transportation problems. Williamson, the commissioner, has insisted, publicly and repeatedly, that with Texas’ population expected to double in the next 30 years and with the shortfalls the state is facing in highway funding, allowing private corporations to build and run toll roads is the only possible solution.

His sentiments were echoed by former Fort Worth Mayor Kenneth Barr, currently a member of the TTC advisory committee. “There’s just not money available to build all of the roads that we need,” he told the Weekly. “That means that goods will not move efficiently and people will not move, and there’s a cost associated with that.” However, he said, the transportation agency has done a poor job communicating that to the public. “There is an awful lot of dialogue that needs to be held that hasn’t been held,” he said.

Terri Hall, founder and director of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, a statewide group fighting the TTC, said the situation is worse than that. “TxDOT continues to operate in complete denial of the reality of the situation. The governor’s Business Council’s own report — done by the Texas Transportation Institute — says that toll roads are not necessary. The sky will not fall if we don’t build the TTC.”

Waxahachie Daily Light: Bill filed to halt CDAs

Bill filed to halt TTC
Waxahachie Daily Light
March 7, 2007

Gov. Rick Perry’s massive transportation project, the Trans-Texas Corridor, has encountered yet another speed bump.

On Monday, state Sen. Robert Nichols filed legislation that would immediately halt any further public-private partnerships or comprehensive development agreements from taking place, according to a press release from San Antonio Toll Party, an activist group in opposition of such measures.

Twenty-four other senators, including Sen. Kip Averitt, R-McGregor, have signed on as co-authors of the bill, which would provide the two-thirds vote necessary to put the bill’s provisions into immediate effect as well as indicate the votes necessary to override any gubernatorial veto.

The legislation, Senate Bill 1267, joins numerous other pieces of legislation filed this session relating to the Trans-Texas Corridor, tolling of public roadways and other transportation-related issues.

Nichols also filed SB1268, which would prevent any non-toll lane from becoming a toll lane, on Monday.

Complaints against the Trans-Texas Corridor have ranged from loss of farm and ranch land that has been in families for generations to loss of livelihood, as well as economic devastation for rural Texas. Many people have expressed fears their communities will be bypassed and or cut off by the transportation project that could - if built out completely - include 8,000 miles of roadway criss-crossing the state.

Perry’s plan would encompass not only lanes for passenger vehicles, but would also bundle lanes for large rigs, freight rail, passenger rail and other utility easements into a bundle that would be 1,200 feet wide. Opponents to the project say thousands of acres would be taken from property owners in eminent domain proceedings.

Nichols’ legislation comes on the heels of a very well-attended public hearing by the state Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security on Thursday and anti-corridor rally held on the steps of the state Capitol on Friday.

According to San Antonio Toll Party, Nichols is a former transportation commissioner. The Jacksonville senator’s bill would enact a two-year moratorium on comprehensive development agreements and create a study group to investigate the impact of those agreements on the public and its roadways, the group said.

“It’s noteworthy that every San Antonio senator signed on to the bill, the release reads. “This, too, is significant since it demonstrates the massive grassroots effort to gain the Legislature’s ear in the effort to beat back Perry’s toll proliferation and the privatization of our public highways.”

State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, filed an identical, companion bill in the House on Monday. She was joined by nine other representatives as immediate co-authors. Kolkhorst was one of three state representatives, including Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, and Nathan Macias, R-Bulverde, who spoke at the rally.

“This session will see more aggressive efforts to take the Trans-Texas Corridor out of the code,” she had told the crowd, noting the legislation being presented has bipartisan support. “This is just one of many things to take away our freedom.”

Giuliani’s law firm advised Cintra on Hwy 121 deal in Dallas!

Link to Bracewell & Giuliani press release here.
I think it’s pretty safe to say Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani is in favor of privatizing toll roads.

Firm Advises Cintra in First Privatization of Toll Road in Texas


DALLAS (March 1, 2007) Bracewell & Giuliani LLP advised Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A., a Spanish transportation company, in its successful bid to develop State Highway 121 into a toll road through Collin and Denton counties. The award to Cintra, approved by the Texas Transportation Commission, is the first privatization of a Texas toll road.

Bracewell is acting as project counsel to Cintra with respect to the 50-year concession from the Texas Department of Transportation. Cintra will pay a $2.1 billion upfront and annual lease payments totaling $700 million.

“Cintra was awarded this project because of its proven expertise and competitive proposal,” said Thomas O. Moore, partner with Bracewell & Giuliani. “This is the largest transportation deal of 2007. This is one of only five deals in the country.”

Three firms have competed for the Comprehensive Development Agreement for State Highway 121 since last summer. The proposals were reviewed and scored based on selection criteria set forth by the Regional Transportation Council, the metropolitan planning agency for the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

This CDA is a public-private partnership that allows the provider to handle all facets of developing the toll road, including completing construction and operating and maintaining the corridor.

Cintra, a subsidiary of Grupo Ferrovial specialized in toll roads and car parks, is one of the world’s leading private-sector developers of transport infrastructure.

Bracewell & Giuliani attorneys that advised on this matter include:

Partners: Thomas O. Moore, Roger D. Aksamit, Kevin A, Ewing, George Y. Gonzalez, Jason B. Hutt, Nancy Jo Nelson, Andrew M. Taylor and Jose Luis Vittor.

Associates: Todd G. Amdor, Eamonn K. Bakewell, Patrick A. Caballero, Erik E. Petersen, Lisa A. Smith and Trevor Wommack.

Breaking: Nichols/Kolkhorst file CDA moratorium bill…help is on the way!

Link to blog here.

While we’d prefer to see the Legislature KILL CDAs altogether, this is a HUGE step in the right direction, and with this kind of support, should become law very quickly. The trouble is in the House and the Governor. If the Legislature can pass it with two-thirds of each house (which they clearly have on the Senate side), it would become law immediately. Then the next roadblock becomes this Governor who could veto the bill. But his veto would likely be overturned if it’s passed with two thirds in each house since I believe that’s what’s needed to override a veto. Timing is everything and Carona’s hearing and our rally couldn’t have happened at a better time to give these legislators the “cover” they need from citizens to go head to head with this Governor!

The best news is that every San Antonio Senator signed onto this bill! Call your State Representative NOW (find out who represents you here) and urge them to support Kolkhorst’s CDA Moratorium bill, HB 2772, in time to save 281/1604 from being turned over to a FOREIGN COMPANY! While you’re at it, thank Kolkhorst for filing the bill as well as her bill to KILL the Trans Texas Corridor (HB 1881)!

Big-time toller says whoa
By Pat Driscoll
March 6, 2007

Robert Nichols supported toll-road plans when he served on the Texas Transportation Commission just two years ago, but as a new state senator he says it’s time to apply the brakes and look closer.

The Jacksonville Republican filed a bill today, SB 1267, that would slap a two-year moratorium on privatization of toll roads, including those in the Trans-Texas Corridor.

The bill calls for setting up a group to study the long-term impacts of the state enlisting private corporations to build and operate toll roads in exchange for collecting profits. The governor, lieutenant governor and the speaker of the House would appoint the group.

Nichols, who stepped down from the Transportation Commission in 2005 to run for the Senate, isn’t flying alone.

Twenty-five of the Senate’s 31 members are sponsoring the bill, including several from Bexar County. And Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, filed an identical bill, HB 2772, in the House.

“We must closely evaluate private toll contracts before we sign away half a century of control of our transportation system,” Nichols said. “Many provisions in recent toll contracts are alarming.”

Nichols said he’d like to ban agreements that restrict construction of state roads when they compete with tollways, and enact safeguards for reasonable toll rates and predictable buy-back costs of private toll leases.

Not wanting to stop there, he also filed SB 1268 to outlaw any conversion of an existing free lane to a toll lane, regardless of whether local voters sign off on such a switch.

Lone Star Report: Kolkhorst on audit report– “We can smoke and mirrors this Ric…but those numbers aren't real

Auditor questions TxDOT development pacts
by Christine DeLoma
Lone Star Report
March 5, 2007

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Transportation Commission chairman Ric Williamson, who has been publicly skewered by lawmakers over his agency’s handling of the controversial Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) toll road plan.

Adding to the agony, the State Auditor’s Office is raising serious questions about the corridor’s cost to taxpayers.

A Feb. 23 report on the Texas Department of Transportation’s Comprehensive Development Agreement (CDA) with private consortium Cintra-Zachry points to potential costs for state government if too few private investors step forward.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) signed a $3.5 million CDA with Cintra-Zachry to partner in the planning of the high priority projects, called TTC-35, which are to run 560 miles parallel to I-35 from Oklahoma City to Laredo.

Public funds used for toll roads
Whereas the master development plan indicates scant need, if any at all, for taxpayer dollars to build the seven planned road segments, the audit report shows otherwise.

To date, according to the report, TxDOT has spent $3.5 million on the master development plan and $28 million for environmental studies and preliminary engineering on two segments of the corridor. Since 2001, another $28 million has gone for legal fees.

Greg Adams, of the auditor’s office, told the House Appropriations Committee Feb. 27 a lack of private investors could result in the spending of public dollars to build portions of TTC-35.

There are seven facilities (or road segments) that Cintra-Zachry or another private developer could bid on to build. Should no bidders emerge in particular cases, TxDOT might have to take on the project, Adams said. The fragmented design concept of the corridor came as a surprise to Rep. Dan Gattis (R-Georgetown). “I didn’t realize that we were segmenting them out and that we were going to let people pick and choose which ones they wanted to go do.” Gattis said.

Williamson told Gattis the state might have to build portions of the toll road. “The problem the state faces is that there’s not enough free cash flow in the transportation system now to do these things,” Williamson said.

According to the audit report, the state could also pay up to 55 percent of project costs ($16.5 billion) for the construction of high-speed rail lines and freight rail for all of TTC-35. Private developers may fund 24 percent of the rail project. The rest of the money would come from interest earned on cash balances from raised but unspent project funds, the report says.

In addition, the audit report found that TxDOT is counting on private developers to seek up to $3.9 billion in limited federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loans. The auditors said TxDOT did not consider federal credit assistance as public funds.

State concession fees are not guaranteed
In exchange for allowing private companies to build, construct, and operate toll roads for the seven priority segments of toll roads, TxDOT may receive upfront concession fees estimated at $3 billion. The audit report, however, indicates that “concession payments could be reduced if factors such as cost of financing each road segment, inflation, and interest rates increase developers’ costs. Significant changes in the cost of financing each road segment could result in the Department foregoing any concession payment.”

The finding sat poorly with Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham). “There’s federal dollars being used, there’s state dollars being used, and there’s no guarantee on our concession up front?” Kolkhorst asked.

Keeping contracts secret
The audit report recommends the Legislature require TxDOT to provide all draft contracts worth more than $250 million to the Attorney General for review before signing on the dotted line.

In 2005, TxDOT kept its proposed comprehensive development agreement with Cintra-Zachry confidential for 18 months, despite an Attorney General’s ruling that the document be made public. Nonetheless, TxDOT sued the state to keep from disclosing the details of the agreement. The issue was so controversial it became a political football in the gubernatorial race. In the end, TxDOT dropped its suit when the CDA was finalized.

“As you put together future contracts, do you plan to follow the same model of holding the information and not releasing it?” asked Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon (D-San Antonio).

Williamson, however, maintains it is the agency’s prerogative to do so. “That has been the contracting history of TxDOT for 50 years,” Williamson replied. “And I suggest to you it’s the contracting history of every state agency.”

TxDOT assistant executive director Amadeo Saenz said that lawmakers wishing to view the draft contracts would have to sign a confidentiality agreement with TxDOT to ensure the plans would not be shared with the public.

Non-compete clauses
The audit report raised concerns over the non-compete clause in a draft agreement with Cintra-Zachry to complete the last two segments of the toll road, State Highway 130. Although SH 130 is not a part of the Trans-Texas Corridor, the auditors provided the draft contract as an example of the implications of non-compete clauses that protect the interests of private developers at the expense of the state.

The non-compete clause in the draft segment agreement requires TxDOT to compensate the developer for lost revenues if the state builds ancillary roadways near the toll road. “TxDOT could continue to make those expansions if they wanted to, but they may have to compensate the developer,” said assistant state auditor Sandra Vice.

The possibility of TxDOT’s including non-compete clauses in TTC-35 segment contracts appear to be giving several lawmakers heartburn.

“I feel like I’ve been kicked in the asphalt.” said Rep. Fred Brown (R-College Station). “I’ll tell you what, this non-compete clause has really got me worried because without seeing the contract, we don’t know what our real liability could be on this, especially when you’re talking about a 50-year contract.”

Brown suggested the Legislature impose a moratorium on non-compete clauses. Transportation Commissioner Ted Houghton, however, reassured the committee that no contracts have been signed so far that include non-compete clauses.”That’s [in] the planning document,” Houghton said. “That’s not what we are currently negotiating with the developer on (SH) 130 and the developer on State Highway 121.”Cintra-Zachry signed a contract with TxDOT Feb. 28 to build and operate SH 121 in North Texas.

However, the master development plan allows TxDOT to include non-compete clauses in any of the TTC-35 contracts. There are currently 21 projects in the planning stages.

How much will TTC-35 cost?
The auditors found that TxDOT lacked reliable information on projected toll revenue, operating expenses and developer profits; likewise that the TTC-35 master development plan lacked an estimate of the total cost of the corridor. The audit report, however, estimates the entire project at $105 billion. It says if Cintra-Zachry built and operated 330 miles of TTC-35, estimated gross profits could reach $523 billion.

TxDOT disputes the numbers. “There’s no way in God’s earth any of us know what their revenue or profits are going to be 50 years from now,” Williamson told lawmakers. “It is impossible to know that.”

When lawmakers asked Vice how she derived the numbers, she told them it came straight from the master development plan.

“We don’t disagree with the 523 [billions]. It’s a number that’s in that section for the purpose of negotiating the contract,” Williamson said. “It is unreal. It’s fiction. It’s fantasy. It’s a plug number to calculate how to do the mix.”

Yet Kolkhorst wasn’t buying it. “I do enough business deals to know you just don’t pull numbers from the sky. Aren’t these numbers based off of something, Ric?” asked Kolkhorst. “I can tell you the bond lawyers are not going to let Cintra-Zachry enter into a bad deal. We can smoke and mirrors this, Ric, all we want, and say those aren’t real numbers. They’re conceptual, whatever. When you hire people that good, then those numbers are pretty real.”

Increased oversight needed
The audit report recommends that before the signing of each contract an independent third party such as the Comptroller of Public Accounts prepare and provide a financial forecast that includes costs and toll revenue estimates to the governor, Legislature, Legislative Budget Board, and state auditor’s office. It also recommends that the auditor’s office annually audit the financial statements for each toll road segment.

TxDOT agrees more transparency is needed, but disagrees that revenue projections should be handled by the Comptroller. The Bond Review Board is more suited to handle those functions, Williamson told lawmakers.

With the possibility of private companies’ earning a five-fold profit on building toll roads in Texas, some lawmakers are questioning whether the state could do the job instead.

In order to make a profit on the tolls, the developer is allowed to raise the tolls each year in line with inflation. According to the Master Development Plan, initial toll rates are set at 12.5 cents for cars and 48 cents for trucks. The audit report, however, points out that TxDOT has no statutory authority to approve (or reject) actual toll rates.

Gattis expressed concern that private toll road operators have a profit motive setting toll rates and may not have the public’s interest in mind.

“I don’t have a problem with the need to build roads,” Gattis said. “In Central Texas, if I’ve got toll roads, my goal is to clear up congestion, and in order to do that I build a toll road. I want to set those tolls as low as possible and still take care of debt service and take care of operations. My goal is to pay them off, take care of them.

“That motive’s completely different under the Trans-Texas Corridor theory. If I’m the toll operator, I’d set them as high as possible as long as people will still drive on them to maximize my profit. And those are competing interests. And think there’s a definite conflict there.”

Kolkhorst, who has filed legislation repealing the Trans-Texas Corridor, told committee members the building of infrastructure was a basic function of government. “Do we need a middleman doing this for us?” she asked. “We can do it ourselves.”

Will Macquarie buy our next president?

Rudy Giuliani’s investment firm just got purchased by Macquarie. They’re showing up everywhere and buying political reach that could cost America her sovereignty. Macquarie is one of the bidders on the San Antonio toll contract for 281 & 1604 and was a losing bidder for the Hwy 121 CDA just signed in Dallas. Perhaps most frightening, they’re also buying up Texas community newspapers that happen to be in the path of the Trans Texas Corridor, and who recently called Texas a toll road “EL Dorado,” a place of “vast toll riches up for grabs.”
Link to news bite here.

Giuliani’s Investment Bank Is Sold
Published at Deal Book.com
March 5, 2007

Giuliani Capital Advisors, the investment banking arm of former New York City mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani’s consulting business, will be acquired by Macquarie Group of Australia, Macquarie said early Monday. The sale, which was expected, comes as Mr. Giuliani embarks on a run for the presidency, raising questions about the fate of his various business endeavors.

Financial terms of Monday’s deal were not disclosed. But analysts had previously estimated that the business, which advises on mergers and restructurings, could fetch $80 million to $100 million in a sale. Giuliani Partners, the consulting group founded by Mr. Giuliani, bought the business in late 2004 from Ernst & Young, the accounting firm, for $9.8 million.

Giuliani Partners decided to sell its investment banking unit to prevent its clients’ activities from being used against Mr. Giuliani in a presidential campaign, a source told The New York Times in January, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A source at Giuliani Partners, also asking not to be identified, disputed that suggestion Monday, telling DealBook that the divestiture will allow Mr. Giuliani to focus on his campaign.

After the deal closes, Giuliani Capital will become part of Macquarie’s broker-dealer unit in the United States. The deal will give Macquarie an additional 100 investment banking professionals in North America, for a total of about 450, Macquarie said.

While not a top player in the mergers and acquisitions business, Guiliani Capital has a strong restructuring practice and has played an advisory role in several large bankruptcies in recent years. The bankruptcy business has been slow lately, but some analysts expect the number of corporate defaults to increase as access to credit for refinancings tightens.

“GCA provides Macquarie with an opportunity to build upon and expand our existing U.S. capabilities, particularly in corporate restructuring transactions,” Murray Bleach, head of Macquarie’s investment banking group in North America said in a news release Monday.

Mr. Giuliani is also a name partner at Bracewell & Giuliani, a law firm based in Houston that represents many energy producers.

Waxahachie Daily Light paper had best coverage of citizen rally

Link to article here.

Protest at the Capitol
Daily Light Managing Editor
March 3, 200

AUSTIN - Protestors of the Trans-Texas Corridor capped two days at the state’s Capitol with a march up Congress Avenue and rally on the south steps Friday afternoon.

The event was a combined protest against not only Gov. Rick Perry’s massive transportation plan but also against a proposed mandate that would require animal identification and tracking.

“I stand here today with one message for our governor,” Peyton Gilbert said. “Help us with our education and health care, but don’t tag Texas.”

Gilbert is the teen-aged son of one of the rally’s organizers, former ag commissioner candidate Hank Gilbert of Troup.

At the conclusion of the three-hour rally, Gilbert said he was pleased with the turnout, estimating it at several thousand, and not including about 1,000 people he said had attended the previous day’s public hearing with the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security.

“I think between the Senate hearing and today, we’ll see some results,” he said. “If not, you can bet in the 2008 elections, we’ll see results.”

Participants staged south of the Capitol to march up Congress Avenue, with the march six blocks in length and including not only people, but a variety of farm animals and equipment.

“I think we had a good cross-section of the state here,” said Gilbert, noting he met with people everywhere from the Panhandle to South Texas. People also had come in from out-of-state, he said, because of their concerns as to what was happening in Texas. Linda Curtis of Independent Texans agreed that the people at the rally represented all walks of life.

“I think the legislators are getting the message,” she said. “But we can’t sit back and say that. The legislators do have a problem, and that is the governor.”

Acknowledging the governor’s veto power, Curtis said her organization would be prompting legislators to make sure their legislation is voted on in time to still have time left to override a Perry veto.

Independent Texans also has other “cards to be played,” she said, adding also that if officials don’t heed the concerns, they will “get un-elected.”

Throughout the rally, different speakers voiced their concerns on the two issues of toll roads and animal tagging, often drawing thunderous cheers and chants.

“We’re here from everywhere and we’re here to send a message,” Gilbert said in addressing the crowd. “And what’s that message?” “Don’t tag Texas,” yelled the crowd, several of who carried replicas of the Gonzalez flag bearing the words, “Come and take it.”

Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance spokesman Judith McGeary, who was among the event’s organizers, voiced her opposition to animal tagging and tracking mandate and thanked everyone for their attendance.

“You are making your voices heard by being at this rally,” she said.

Jimmie Vaughan of the Fabulous Thunderbirds said he was in opposition to the animal IDs and toll roads before singing a new song written especially about the issues.

“ ‘Down with Big Brother,’ I said, ‘Shame on Big Brother,’ always trying to track and trace me,” Vaughan said as many in the crowd joined in on the chorus.

Several legislators joined the list of those speaking, including state Reps. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston; Nathan Macias, R-Bulverde; and Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham.

“I want to thank you all for exercising your rights as citizens and telling the man (Perry) in that office right there that he’s wrong,” Coleman said, noting efforts in the previous session to make some changes and noting also legislation filed this session, several of which call for the outright repeal of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

“We can stop this because of your work,” he told the crowd, saying that Texas shouldn’t be a state where “you’re going to have to be rich to drive on our highways.”

Saying there is still “a long way to go in this process,” Coleman expressed his appreciation to state Sen. John Carona, who heads up the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security. “I want to thank him for going against the grain to make sure Texans are treated properly,” Coleman said of Carona’s holding of the public hearing. “We want to make sure that you won’t have to drive on roads that you’ve paid for twice.”

Kolkhorst discussed the legislation she has filed, and acknowledged lawmakers erred in passing the bill that enabled the Trans-Texas Corridor.

“This session will see more aggressive efforts to take the Trans-Texas Corridor out of the code,” she said. “This is just one of many things to take away our freedom.”

The issues are not Republican nor Democrat, Kolkhorst said, saying, “This is a Texas issue. It’s about the United States. ‘Don’t mess with Texas’ is right.”

She said she had met with the lt. governor and House speaker - and both were listening.

“I think you’re going to be amazed at some of the things that come out,” she said. “We’re going to take our roads back. We’re going to take our mistake back and take our nation back. No North American Union."

“You got it, baby,” Kolkhorst told the cheering crowd.

McGeary encouraged those in attendance to take the time to visit with their local legislators.

“Go in and talk to them,” she said.

Macias said it was an honor to speak at the rally.

“I stand before you here on Independence Day, and the winds of change are blowing again in Austin,” Macias said, adding, “You as Texans have chosen to stand up and speak your mind to your elected officials.”

Macias said he personally didn’t agree with the scope of the Trans-Texas Corridor or plans to toll other roadways in the state.

“Let’s work together with public, private and citizen input to solve our transportation issues, now and in the future,” Macias said.

A spokesman for Libertarian Congressman Ron Paul of Texas said the Capitol belonged to Texans.

“For those who live high on the low hill of character … we are here today to knock on their door because this is our property, too,” she said, saying the nine most terrifying words are, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.”

“When someone is stealing your rights, it’s time to follow the money,” she said. “It’s time to stop the highway robbery, it’s time to stop the Trans-Texas Corridor.”

The project has connections to NAFTA and the North American Union, she said, asking the crowd, “Are you going to pledge allegiance to the flag of the North American Union?” and urging people to contact their respective lawmakers.

During the rally, concerns were expressed by several of the speakers about possible far-reaching implications of the Trans-Texas Corridor and animal identification project, especially relating to the potential for a North American Union that would unite the United States, Canada and Mexico under one flag, currency, identification card and government, they said.

“Once you can ID something uniquely, you can track it. Once you can track it, you can monitor it. Once you can monitor it, you can control it,” said Liz McIntyre, author of “Spy Chips,” a book about the use of radio frequency identification computer chips.

“It’s all about ID-ing, tracing and controlling inanimate objects, animals and even us,” she said. “There are plans afoot to chip everything … and every highway will be a spyway if we let it happen.”

Terri Hall of Texas Toll Party noted some of the testimony given during Thursday’s Senate committee hearing, saying one expert testified that it costs the taxpayer 50 percent more to have a public/private partnership.

That expert noted it “is always better to keep these contracts in the public sector,” Hall said. “These are not a foreign country’s roads. These are our roads.”

Saying that opponents of the Trans-Texas Corridor are gaining the ear of legislators, Hall pointed out questions raised by the senators on the committee, especially in light of a recent audit released by the State Auditor’s Office.


“Perry is lying when he said there is no taxpayer dollars in the TTC,” Hall said. “The audit showed $90 million of taxpayer money has already been dumped into this project. A single law firm got $18 million.”

Noting questions about the Texas Department of Transportation’s coding of expenses - some of which could be illegal under law - Hall said an investigation by the State Attorney General’s Office should be conducted and any wrongdoing found should result in prosecution.

Corridor Watch co-founders David and Linda Stall said progress was being made in the fight against Perry’s transportation project.

“It’s about money, all of this is about money,” David Stall said. “It’s not about transportation. It’s about revenue-generating. We have to stop this, and we can’t stop now.”

Saying Carona had referred to TxDOT as a “rogue agency,” Stall said the Trans-Texas Corridor has become a “hot topic” and grown into a national issue.

“Texans can either stand up and show what we are about or we can become the laughingstock of the nation over the corridor,” he said.

“We have momentum,” Linda Stall said. “You have been heard. We have to keep pushing.”

Wharton County Commissioner Chris King said the Trans-Texas Corridor will change the face of rural Texas.

“It’s going to change the way we live in rural Texas, and I tell you right now, I’m not for it,” King said. “Rick Perry is not my governor.”

Former state attorney general candidate David Van Os told the crowd to “say no to corporate hogs at the trough.”

One-hundred-seventy-one years after Texas’ Independence Day, the government shouldn’t be talking about handing over commerce and transportation to private, foreign corporations, Van Os said, noting the “Come and take it” message of the several Gonzalez flags being displayed in the crowd.

“Say no to all of it,” he said. “We the people own this plot of ground. We the people own our beautiful state of Texas and we’re not going to let crooks and robber barons take our Texas away from us.”

In his closing remarks, Gilbert told those at the rally that they represent “thousands of people” back home and for each of them to have others who weren’t at the rally to also contact legislators to urge the repeal of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

Make the legislators commit their support to the repealing legislation, Gilbert said. “If they wont’ support it, let them know that you will make sure this is the last session they spend in Austin representing you.”

“Don’t Tag Texas” Rally HUGE success…more than 2,000 turn out

View pictures here and here.

On a beautiful sunny Friday in our State’s Capitol and on Texas Independence Day to boot, thousands of ordinary citizens from all over Texas gathered to send a clear message…”Don’t Tag Texas!” From Collin County up north down to Wilson County and everywhere in between, ranchers, farmers, and city dwellers marched on Congress Avenue to the south Capitol steps. When those at the front arrived at the Capitol, there were still crowds of protesters turning the corner at First Street onto Congress Avenue (roughly 10 blocks down). The sea of “Stop the TTC,” “Don’t Mess With Texas Freeways,” “Perry is selling us out,” and a host of other signs aimed at Governor 39% were wall to wall with folks chanting, “Don’t Tag Texas!”

The rally kicked off with Representative Garnet Coleman (see video here) speaking about HB 998, his toll moratorium bill, and the genesis of it that started last session in 2005. He thanked the grassroots for their efforts which give his bill a better chance of passing due to the massive growth of our movement since 2005.

Then Rep. Lois Kolkhorstsharedher bill HB 1881 with the crowd which will KILL the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC). She shared a bit of Texas history and thanked the people for the strength of their support which will help her bills get passed and free Texans from this boondoggle. She said this is about the next generation as she pointed to her daughter playing behind her on the Capitol steps. She’s absolutely right. My six children were with me at the Capitol as well; it’s a sobering thought to think they’ll still be paying tolls to a foreign company if this thing gets built and these contracts get signed all over Texas. It’s what keeps me in this fight!

Penny Langford-Freeman from Congressman Ron Paul’s office inspired everyone to stay in this fight to keep Texas FREE and independent, referring to the NAFTA connection and the formation of the North American Union, stating Congressman Paul is squarely and firmly on our side fighting for us in Washington (which got the crowd chanting, “Ron Paul for President!”).

We also heard from Rep. Nathan Macias, MY NEW STATE REP who took the place of “Toller” Carter Casteel who REFUSED to listen to her constituents on tolls, whom I had the privilege of introducing. He sits on Rep. Mike Krusee’s House Transportation Committee where Krusee is bottling up ANY bills that would help our cause. That’s why Kolkhorst and others are bypassing Krusee’s Committee and getting our legislation through other committees. Nonetheless, we have many allies on the House Transportation Committee, Macias (a native San Antonian) being the champion of our cause for the San Antonio region!

We also enjoyed a blues style song written about this issue by Jimmie Vaughan who referred to tolls and the TTC as “shackles” and the tagging of Texas as “Big Brother.” How true! Among the other speakers who stirred up the crowd and led them in a variety of chants like “No TTC,” “Impeach Perry,” and “Don’t Tag Texas,” were Eagle Forum’s Gina Parker, David and Linda Stall, Founders of Corridor Watch.org, and yours truly. Special thanks to Hank Gilbert for organizing the rally and being a terrific emcee.

The rally concluded just after 5 PM with a good crowd having stayed the full 3 hours! We had statewide news coverage (Dallas Morning Newx, Austin American Statesman, San Antonio Express-News, and TV coverage in every major market an smaller ones like Waco, as well as prolific coverage on radio in all the markets even down to Corpus Cristi!), and the BIGGEST news of all was the interview David Stall landed with Lou Dobbs of CNN! So we made national news which was one of our chief goals for the rally! This IS a NATIONAL issue, not just a Texas issue and anyone who spends any length of time on our web site can read about it. This shift to privatizing our public infrastructure and the construction of NAFTA superhighways throughout the United States is now well-documented, and it’s high time Americans get informed. With the help of other national press figures, coverage of this issue will only get more frequent. The BIG money and geopolitical forces behind this shift to tolling and privatization can no longer operate under the radar screen thanks to all of your hard work, folks!

TxDOT cooked the books Enron style! Citizens call for AG investigation


TxDOT guilty of cooking the books Enron style
Citizens call for investigation of TxDOT CITIZEN PROTEST & RALLY –
“Don’t Tag Texas” TODAY!
Austin, TX, Friday, March 2, 2007 – During a Senate Hearing on Transportation Policy and Toll Roads yesterday, the State Auditor revealed that the Texas Department of Transportation miscoded invoices to read “engineering” when the money had actually been spent on Public Relations. Angry citizens are calling on the Attorney General to investigate this corrupt agency.

“If a corporate CEO had done this to their shareholders, they’d be in JAIL!” declared a shocked Terri Hall, Director of the San Antonio Toll Party and a newly formed statewide non-profit group defending and educating citizens from the current toll policy called TURF. Citizens gasped when the Auditor’s office revealed this information at yesterday’s hearing.

A record 800 witnesses heard this testimony at Senator John Carona’s hearing yesterday, and citizens may get his ear on this to launch an Attorney General investigation.

“Heads need to roll,” stated Hall. “This gives us that much more to accomplish at today’s protest march and rally” where citizens work to shape public policy.

“That ought to be refreshing, citizen-driven public policy!” said Hall.

For more details on testimony at yesterday’s hearing: here.

Senator Jane Nelson intros bill to make toll contract transparent

While this is a step in the right direction, it stops short of preventing the privatizing of our public highways which a public-private partnership expert testified costs taxpayers 50% more. Just because this bill requires tolling entities to publish financial details and to hold public meetings doesn’t mean the public has a say in it or can vote to stop it. We applaud Senator Nelson’s efforts, but we still need further reforms like abolishing non-compete agreements.

Legislation Requires Full Disclosure of Toll Projects
Texas Insider

AUSTIN — State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, today filed truth-in-tolling legislation (SB 995) that would require full public disclosure of the terms of any transportation project involving toll roads.

“The public will not tolerate an unlimited amount of tolling on our state highways, especially if they feel they are being kept in the dark about the contents of toll road contracts,” Senator Nelson said. “Anything less than total transparency in this process is unacceptable, which is why I filed this bill.”

Specifically, SB 995 states that after a toll authority has picked the winner of a toll contract, and before the contract is entered, toll authorities must publish in local newspapers the following information:

* Financial details of the toll contract, including the total amount of debt that will be assumed for to build and maintain the project;
* A description of how the debt will be repaid, including a timeline for repayment;
* Whether the toll project will continue to be tolled after the debt has been repaid;
* A description of the method used to set the toll rates.

After publication of this information, and before entering into the toll contract, the toll authority must hold public hearings on those financial details.

Senator Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, represents District 12, encompassing parts of Tarrant and Denton counties.

Washington Post: $1.60 a mile on Virginia Interstates!

Sound familiar? Just like TxDOT promised 12-15 cents a mile on Austin toll roads, and got $1.50 a mile, for the first time some of our Interstate highways lanes will be up to $1.60 a mile! That’s why they’re being dubbed “Lexus lanes” since few will be able to afford drive them, and everyone else will hopelessly be stuck in gridlock on the non-toll lanes. It’s nothing short of highway robbery! Note the same few companies on on the public fleecing: Transurban and Fluor (who gave our Governor a hefty sum prior to inking a toll road deal here for Hwy 130, as reported in the Houston Chronicle, 8/30/02).

Link to article here.

Steep Prices Projected for HOT Lanes
Non-Carpool Drivers Could Pay Up to $1.60 a Mile on I-95/395
By Eric M. Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 3, 2007

Drivers in express toll lanes planned for Interstates 95 and 395 would pay as much as a dollar a mile in some spots along the 36-mile route during peak times, the highest rate for a commute in the country, officials from the companies building the new-style highway said as they filed a detailed proposal yesterday.

But regional transportation planners estimate that the cost for a rush-hour ride on the optional lanes probably will be far steeper: as much as $1.60 a mile in crowded segments. They estimate that a 21-mile, rush-hour trip from the Pentagon to Prince William Parkway would cost as much as $22.28. A round-trip during peak hours could cost $41.46.

HOT Lanes
Motorists could pay more than $1 a mile for a congestion-free ride along I-395 and I-95 under a proposal to create high-occupancy toll lanes.

Buses and carpools of three or more people would continue to ride free, as would drivers in the highways’ regular lanes.

The project, being built by Fluor Virginia Inc. and Transurban (USA) Development Inc., is one of several that could turn the Washington area into one of the most heavily tolled regions in the country. The companies have also agreed to build high-occupancy or toll (HOT) lanes on a stretch of the Capital Beltway between Springfield and Georgetown Pike, and Virginia officials are looking to add them elsewhere.

Maryland has begun construction on express toll lanes north of Baltimore and is pursuing plans to build them on its portion of the Beltway and Interstate 270. The planned intercounty connector between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties will be a toll road.

What makes HOT lanes so alluring to transportation planners is that, for a price, they virtually guarantee a congestion-free ride because tolls would be adjusted every few minutes to manage the number of users. Planners also see HOT lanes as a way to boost transit service by providing open roads for buses. Local officials have encouraged companies to build them because there is little public money available.

The $882 million project on I-95/395 would convert the two existing carpool lanes. The companies would add a third lane and provide new ramps and bridges and increased transit service, including a dedicated bus ramp to the Pentagon. The project would also extend the lanes nine miles south of their current terminus in Dumfries. Eventually, the companies plan to extend them south to Spotsylvania County.

Virginia Transportation Secretary Pierce R. Homer said HOT lanes are needed on I-95/395. “If we do nothing, the HOV lanes, slugs, carpools and bus service in the I-95 corridor will cease to function,” Homer said. “The HOV lanes today are congested two days a week and in short order, three, four or five days a week.”

Jennifer Aument, a spokeswoman for the project, added that “drivers will always have a choice. They can choose to use the HOT lanes or choose to use the regular lanes for free.”

Nonetheless, many public officials and commuters in the I-95 corridor oppose the lanes, in part because of what they see as excessive prices.

“HOT lanes are a sham,” said Corey A. Stewart (R), chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, which voted two weeks ago to oppose the project. “You have a very congested area combined with an affluent workforce. People will pay literally anything to get out of the main lanes into the special lanes. The result is that only the very affluent will be in those lanes, and there will be a lot of them.”

Aside from the new roads, fees are expected to rise on the region’s two existing toll roads: the Dulles Greenway and Dulles Toll Road. The private owners of the 14-mile Greenway, from Dulles International Airport to Leesburg, have asked Virginia regulators for permission to raise rush-hour tolls from $3.20 to $4.80 by 2012.

Management of the Dulles Toll Road was recently transferred from the state of Virginia to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which plans to raise tolls regularly to pay for an extension of Metro’s Orange Line to Tysons Corner and Dulles Airport.

Financial projections indicate that under the authority’s agreement with the Virginia Department of Transportation, the average toll would triple by 2030, the authority said. There is no cap on future tolls, though, and the authority can raise them on its own.

Motorists could pay more than $1 a mile for a congestion-free ride along I-395 and I-95 under a proposal to create high-occupancy toll lanes.

Those tolls are small change compared with what drivers could pay on HOT lanes planned for the Beltway and I-395 and I-95.

“HOT lanes are different things,” said Robert W. Poole Jr., director of transportation studies for the Reason Foundation and an early proponent of HOT lanes. “The main, important purpose of toll pricing is to manage the traffic flow so they can deliver what they are promising to customers: a congestion-free ride.”

Poole added that the toll rates on the I-95/395 project “would definitely be the highest anyone has ever seen.”

The highway with the highest toll rate per mile is currently California’s SR-91, which has a peak rate of $9.25 for a 10-mile ride.

Yesterday, VDOT filed the Fluor-Transurban proposal with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Transportation Planning Board. The plan calls for construction to begin next year and for the lanes to open for service in 2010. It includes $390 million in additional transit services and envisions six new park-and-ride facilities with a total of 3,000 spaces.

The proposal would have to be approved by the COG planning board, made up of state and local officials from Virginia, Maryland and the District.

Ronald F. Kirby, director of transportation planning for COG and the author of the analysis of projected toll rates, said tolls for the I-95 and I-395 HOT lanes would have to be set high because of all the bottlenecks on I-95. He added that high tolls aren’t all bad because they will encourage people to carpool.

But if Washington area drivers want to be sure of getting somewhere on time, Kirby said, they had “better figure on paying better than 30 bucks.”

London Telegraph & other press coverage of “Don’t Tag Texas”

Wow! We can now say our movement has garnered international press coverage! Click on these links to see these tv stories:
Austin KVUE: here.
Austin Fox 7: here.
Waco KWTX: here.
Dallas Morning News video/photo essay: here.

Link to London Telegraph article here. Palestine-Herald article & link below.

Texans fear US sovereignty will disappear down superhighway
James Langton
London Telegraph

If it were built, the road would be one of the engineering wonders of the 21st century -a trade route a quarter of a mile wide, carving a path from Mexico through the heart of America to Canada.

In its most radical form, it would allow lorry drivers to travel hundreds of miles from the Mexican border deep into the US before reaching customs and immigration controls in Kansas.

Backers of the idea, labelled the “Nafta Superhighway”, after the North American trade pact, say it would revolutionise patterns of commerce across the continent and enhance the economic prospects of millions. But its critics say it could spell the end of US sovereignty. In arguments akin to those deployed by critics of the European Union, opponents say that opening borders will hit businesses, create a terrorist threat and allow illegal immigrants and drugs to flood in.

Opposition is strongest in Texas, where the state’s plans for a vast road project, known as the Trans-Texas Corridor, are well advanced. Once complete, the corridor could become the first leg of a Nafta Superhighway, crossing the Mexican border at the Rio Grande, near Laredo, and then pushing north to Kansas. It would include a toll road with 10 lorry and car lanes, a high-speed railway, and oil, gas and water pipelines.

With costs estimated at $183 billion (£94 billion), the 1,200 ft wide road would consume one million acres in Texas alone. Construction could take up to 50 years.

Many of those fighting the project are conservative farmers who would normally be supporters of President George W Bush but who are suspicious of his support for more free trade. At a meeting in the Texas town of Temple last week, more than 100 people gathered to hear news from Corridor Watch, a group fighting the road.

At a community hall built by Slovak immigrants nearly a century ago, many of the men wore cowboy hats, while their wives arrived with casseroles to sustain the gathering. Despite bowing heads for the Pledge of Allegiance, the meeting expressed anger at what the road would mean.

Hank Gilbert, a rancher, said: “At the Battle of the Alamo people came from all over the US to fight for our sovereignty. Now we are giving it away to the very people we fought.” Like many protesters, he believes the link will make it easier for cheap goods to flood into the US. “Farmers fear that this kind of globalisation will put them out of business,” he said.

In Texas, the superhighway would be so wide that critics say it would be too expensive to construct overpasses except in the cities, severing tight-knit rural communities.

The superhighway is being promoted by a pressure group, the North America’s Supercorridor Coalition, which includes business leaders, trade groups and government officials from Canada, Mexico and the US.

However, officials of the federal government in Washington deny that there is any transnational plan. A member of the Department of Transport told a congressional committee this month that all the government wanted to was improve existing roads.

Many conservatives disagree. They link the highway to agreements being negotiated behind closed doors between the Mexican, American and Canadian governments that they believe will transform the North American Free Trade Association into an EU-style superstate. They point to an agreement signed by Mr Bush, Vicente Fox, then president of Mexico, and Paul Martin, then Canada’s prime minister, in Waco, Texas, in March 2005.

The Security and Prosperity Partnership is intended to promote co-operation on security and boost economic opportunities. But it set alarm bells ringing on the Right because it formed working parties that fall outside the control of Congress.

Republican Ron Paul, a Texas congressman, says it is part of a drive for “an integrated North American Union” - complete with a currency, a cross-national bureaucracy and borderless travel. “It would represent another step toward the abolition of national sovereignty,” he said.

Protestors rally over threats to farmland
The Palestine Herald
March 3, 2007

— AUSTIN — With the shout, “Texas is not for sale,” thousands of people from across the state made their way up Congress Avenue to the Texas Capitol to tell lawmakers to stop the Trans Texas Corridor and the National Animal Identification System.

The rally was set up by the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, a grass roots organization dedicated to fighting the implementation of NAIS. For Texas Independence Day, the group joined forces with Texans fighting the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC) which carries the possibility of losing thousands of farm and ranch acres to eminent domain for the construction of the 1,200-foot wide corridor.

Harris County Republican Precinct Chairman Stuart Mayper, who spoke at a Senate Transportation Committee meeting on Thursday, was at Friday’s rally to reinforce his opposition to the corridor. The corridor, Mayper said, will not only confiscate a large amount of property from private individuals, but he also believes it will end up costing Texas’ taxpayers millions, maybe billions, of dollars.

“What a lot of people don’t know is that there has already been a private road constructed in Texas,” Mayper said. “The Camino-Colombia Toll Road was a private road constructed for $75 million and was opened in 2000 in Laredo.”

Laredo, Maypers noted, is the largest inland port in the United States. Forty percent of the goods that enter the United States from Mexico come through Laredo.

Even with that high concentration of traffic, Mayper said the road was not a success.

“After three years the 22-mile road was sold at auction for $12.1 million at the Webb County Courthouse,” Maypers said. “The bond failed and then the bondholders foreclosed on the $75 million road.”

In the end, taxpayers were left having to pay for the road nobody traveled, which caused Maypers to ask, “If a private road fails in a high-density traffic area then how will a larger one work going through mostly rural areas?”

Along with the problems presented to rural land owners by the TTC, NAIS, which originally was scheduled to become mandatory in 2007 but because of public backlash has become a voluntary project, would have forced ranchers to register their property or premises; assign individual identification numbers to their livestock; and eventually report all animal movements. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the information would be held in private databases and only available to government entities in the event of a disease outbreak.

While the program is currently voluntary, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance organizer Judith McGeary said the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) was given the power by the state legislature to make the program mandatory at the TAHC’s discretion.

Rallies, such as the one held at the capital on Friday, are what it takes to make legislators take action.

“Officials say (NAIS) protects us from terrorism,” McGeary said. “Does al-Qaeda really care about grandma’s chickens?”

When pressed for the real reason behind NAIS, McGeary said officials said it is needed for the country’s export markets. In the end, McGeary said it came back to money.

Currently, there are two pieces of legislation in the Texas House that would take away TAHC’s authority to make NAIS mandatory. The bills are HB 461 and 637. They are not perfect, McGeary said, but they will help.

“This is more than about food,” McGeary said. “It’s about our way of life.”

As Charlie Tomlin, an ag teacher and rancher from George West, sees it, both the proposed corridor and NAIS will have drastic effects on the state’s agriculture industry.

“None of this is set up (to help) agriculture,” Tomlin said. “With the corridor there’s only going to be stuff coming in and nothing going out.

“NAIS is also going to hurt a lot of people with livestock,” Tomlin continued. “Who’s going to regulate it, who’s going to do it (manage information databases), and what kind of security we as landowners are going to have?”

When looking at both measures, Tomlin said he can’t see anything good for Texas producers.

“Right now there is a lot of Mexican traffic going out (into the U.S.),” Tomlin explained. “Their trucks don’t have good brakes, no safety inspections, they don’t have to abide by our safety laws. That road with Mexico is a one-way street.

“They (politicians) are just trying to put a job on us. There’s a lot going on under the sheets here,” Tomlin added. State Rep. Garnett Coleman, D-Houston, said every Texas taxpayer is going to have to pay for the corridor when the bond paying for it has been defaulted.

“Then, Cintra (the company from Spain contracted to build the transportation corridor) will go back to Spain with all of our money,” Coleman said, who added the project has to be stopped. One state lawmaker said she recognized the significance of Friday, and said she is working through her position as a legislator to look to the future of the state and its people.

“(Trans Texas Corridor) is one of many things that threaten our freedom,” State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst said. “This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, this is a Texas issue…We’re going to take our roads, our state and our nation back.”

To help do that, Kolkhorst has introduced legislation that will stop the corridor. To go along with that, Coleman has filed HB 998 that will put a moratorium on any toll road in Texas that hasn’t been built.

The first corridor to be built would start in the Rio Grande valley, run parallel to Interstate 35 and Interstate 37 north to Denison. There also are three more priority corridors that, if all were built, would span approximately 4,000 miles across Texas and use about a half-million acres of land.
If built, the TTC, according to the Trans Texas Corridor Web site, would feature separate lanes for passenger vehicles and large trucks; freight railways; high-speed commuter railways; and infrastructure for utilities including broadband and telecommunications services.

For more on the Trans Texas Corridor visit www.keeptexasmoving.com or visit these other Web sites concerning the massive transportation plan at www.corridorwatch.com; www.satollparty.com; www.truthbetolled.com; or www.texastollparty.com.

Dewhurst: “I’m angry” at TxDOT, declares no telling how high toll rates will get

Link to article here.

Toll rates to increase so high, state leaders can’t even say
Texans can expect to pay more to drive on state-run toll roads — a lot more.
Houston Chronicle
February 27, 2007

But just how much more, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst can’t say because of confidentiality agreements that the Texas Department of Transportation has with private companies building the toll roads.

“I’m about as angry about what’s happening with the Texas Department of Transportation,” Dewhurst said moments after he skewered the Texas Youth Commission after reports of inmate abuse by top agency officials.
Although Dewhurst could not specifically say how much toll rates will be in the future, he described those rates as “astronomical.”

TxDOT is negotiating with private companies that allow them to build roads and charge tolls for large upfront fees.

“The Legislature has no idea what those agreements are,” Dewhurst said.

The toll road contracts run for 50 years.

Halfway into the contract, toll rates will skyrocket to unimaginable levels, warned Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Chair John Carona, R-Dallas.

And state leaders will be restricted because of “significant penalties for building other roads, competing roads,” Carona said.

At some point Texas will either have to pay billions of dollars to buy back the toll roads or “accept very high rates for very long periods of time.”

Carona proposes to link the state’s gasoline tax rate to the consumer price index for automatic adjustments to keep pace with inflation. The state’s gasoline tax, now at 20 cents per gallon, has not changed since 1991.

The state’s current gasoline tax is 3.6 cents under the national average.

Carona’s hearing SMASHING success- Citizens: call for IMMEDIATE investigation of TXDOT!

Today’s Senate hearing was a tremendous success. Senator Carona’s office told us that aside from the redistricting controversy several years back, today’s hearing had record attendance for a Senate Hearing with 800 witnesses! I’d like to thank Senator Carona for the honor of being the very first person called to testify at today’s hearing. Considering the many experts he could have called ahead of me, he chose to hear from the GRASSROOTS first and foremost!

There’s too much to tell, but we’ll do our best to do a quick summary. But let it be known…your LOUD OPPOSITION has been heard and the message got through!

You can still submit your opposition to Senator Carona and get on the record here.


Ask Senator This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (210) 826-7800 what was more important than attending this hearing on the committee on which he sits. Is there any more controversial project in his district right now than tolls on 281 and 1604…and yet he doesn’t show up to hear from them?


BOMBSHELL OF THE DAY! State Auditor gave a summary of their audit report of the Trans Texas Corridor released last Friday, and said out of 32 invoices, 21 were allocated to the wrong project and some coded “engineering” but were actually spent on public relations!!! Remember the Governor unequivocally stated NO TAXPAYER money would go to fund this corridor and yet the Auditor revealed $90 million has already been spent with potentially billions more in the hopper!

They also found projects that were financially unsustainable with tolls that would require taxpayer subsidies to build. THIS IS THE SMOKING GUN THEY TRIED TO HIDE BY KEEPING THE CONTRACT SECRET FOR 18 MONTHS and released upon threat of a lawsuit by citizens 30 days prior to the election. Read more of the Auditor’s details on the appalling MISUSE of taxpayer money and gross abuse of power by TxDOT on the TTC here.

• Carona called an expert witness on Public-Private Partnerships (PPP, or to you and I, PPP stands for “Perfect Pick Pocket”), Dennis Enright with NW Financial, who has analyzed the recent PPPs for the toll road sales to Cintra-Macquarie in Chicago and Indiana…he UNEQUIVOCALLY STATED PPPs COST THE STATE 50% MORE than if the public/govt. operated the toll road. He also stated it was ALWAYS BEST to keep toll roads in the public’s hands.

He also said this gem: “Toll roads by their very nature are monopolies.”

Enright was asked about the deal just inked with Cintra-Zachry on 121 in Dallas and he said: “I haven’t analyzed it yet because you can’t get access to them in Texas.” TELLING! Our Dept of Transportation chooses to broker back room deals and keep its contracts SECRET from the taxpayers in order to HIDE the FAVORABLE terms they’re giving these private interests! Enright also stated there was ZERO risk to the private entity on the 121 deal and said it was a perfect investment for the developer (but horrible for the public).

The private entity also has no motive reduce congestion by maximizing cars that take the toll road since they can hike the tolls and reduce the number of cars that take it and reduce their maintenance cost. They have a economic incentive for high tolls and ghost town tollways…they only need enough travelers to cover their cost and desired profit, the rest of us can go take an access road!

If they used the same toll formula Cintra-Macquarie used for the Chicago deal, it would cost $185 to travel the 121 toll road in it’s most expensive year! Once again, all TxDOT could tout was how they’d charge whatever the market will bear. They said the market would bear 28 cents a mile on 121. Compare that to 1-3 cents a mile we pay in gas taxes and you can see this is a public fleecing!

• TxDOT grillin’ - the HOT SEAT, it’s about time! In a nutshell, TxDOT’s Chief Financial Officer, James Bass, couldn’t answer the senators’ most basic questions on what the maximum toll rates would be in the most expensive year of the 50 year contract on 121 which begs the question…if their Chief Financial Officer doesn’t have a clue about the most basic details of these contracts, then what is our Dept. of Transportation busy doing? It became abundantly clear that they’re nothing more than an extension of the corporate special interests that stand to make BILLIONS on the backs of the taxpayers!

Carona had two questions of Williamson. Why not expand I-35 and why build the Trans Texas Corridor? Then, when Williamson took the HOT SEAT, after much back and forth, Carona finally got him to agree with him that expanding EXISTING I-35 is the BEST scenario vs. erecting the Trans Texas Corridor. Carona also caught he and TxDOT in a number of misleading figures about I-35’s ORIGINAL plan calling for 16 lanes in the urban areas and the true costs. They tried to say it it would cost more today to expand I-35 by two lanes than the cost of the ORIGINAL plan that called for 16 lanes. Nobody buys it!

• Michael Stevens, who Chairs the Governor’s Business Council and who hired A&M to do the study that showed we don’t need tolls to meet future transportation needs, testified that they didn’t even study the TTC or count that as one of the State’s unmet “needs” because they determined it wasn’t a need! HE STATED THE TTC WOULD NOT RELIEVE ANY CONGESTION IN URBAN AREAS so it’s NOT NEEDED! That’s right…the TTC, though the Governor and TxDOT have repeated claimed the need for it is to relieve I-35 congestion, will do ZIP, ZILCH, NADA to relieve I-35 traffic!!!!! He finished by saying EVERY analysis of public versus private toll roads showed that public toll roads were cheaper, sometimes significantly cheaper than private ones.

If our government builds the Trans Texas Corridor after that declaration, we need to call for a public flogging of our officials! Folks with testimony like we heard today, I rest my case. We’re right, this Governor and his Transportation Commission are WRONG, and we need to call for immediate investigations by our Attorney General into TxDOT cooking the books and INSIST this Legislature pass legislation to redirect TxDOT’s completely wrong-headed fiscal mismanagement of a public agency forcing the MOST EXPENSIVE options upon the taxpaying public with NO OVERSIGHT or ACCOUNTABILITY with no justification WHATSOEVER except corporate enrichment!

Find out who your representatives are here.The Attorney General needs to investigate TxDOT for cooking the books NOW, heads need to roll for this gross misuse of taxpayer money! How do we do it? Ask your representatives to ask the AG to open an investigation IMMEDIATELY!

Toll Party Written Testimony to State Senate Transportation Committee

Submitted By:
Terri Hall, Director of a grassroots group called the San Antonio Toll Party with more than 5,000 supporters, and Founder of TURF, a new non-profit group that’s uniting concerned citizens across the state.

The people of Texas have had it. We’re in the midst of a Texas-sized tax revolt because these toll contracts are the epitome of selling off Texas to the highest bidder and a total betrayal of the public’s trust. It’s abundantly clear to citizens that our Dept of Transportation is not nor will it EVER listen to Texans with regards to this new shift to tolling and the controversial financing for them called public-private partnerships. This agency has violated its fiduciary duty to the public, and has instead become a tool for private corporations to enrich themselves at the expense of the taxpaying public.

The enabling legislation’s purpose has been perverted into something even lawmakers no longer support or recognize. Considering that even one of the author’s, Senator Steve Ogden, has come out in recent days stating he was duped by the original legislation and will work to right “his past sins,” it’s evident that TxDOT’s corruption, lack of accountability, and, frankly, arrogance, must be stopped by the Legislature.

We already pay a road user-fee, it’s called the gas tax. This myth that the gas tax is somehow insufficient is a farce. In fact, it’s been so efficient in funding our highways that there is enough leftover for 6,000 earmarks at the federal level, like the bridge to nowhere in Alaska, and over $9 billion in diversions on the state level for unrelated things like tourism promotion and cemeteries, not to mention the 25% diverted to public education.

The Legislature has stolen our highway funds, and WE THE TAXPAYERS demand you give them back. If that money had not been stolen from us, we would not be discussing tolls across Texas! We don’t lack funds; our politicians lack fiscal accountability.

We have $7 billion in mobility and revenue bonds available. TxDOT’s budget has tripled just since 1990, and doubled since Rick Perry took office. WE DO NOT LACK FUNDS! Couple this with the fact that TxDOT is tolling highways that we’ve already built and paid for like 281 in San Antonio, and the deal just signed on 121 in Dallas, and it’s further proof this isn’t about lack of money, accelerating road projects, or congestion relief, it’s greed, plain and simple. One of the companies bidding on toll projects all over Texas just posted a 76% increase in profits. Profit is one thing, but obscene profits through monopolies is exploiting the public’s roadways and amounts to thievery!

This same company, Macquarie, said this in an article in the Australian as quoted in the Waxahachie Daily Light, February 28, 2007 which “described Texas as ‘the toll road El Dorado’ in a recent online article that also referenced ‘vast toll road riches up for grabs in Texas.’ A Spanish term, El Dorado means ‘the golden one’ and typically is used as the name of a fabled land of gold and riches. More recently, the term has been used metaphorically to reference any place where wealth could be rapidly acquired, according to Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia.”

Then a recent report commissioned by the Governor’s own Business Council done by TTI at A&M shows we do not need toll roads to meet our future transportation needs. It also showed TxDOT over-inflated their projected needs by $30 billion. Governor Perry also stated in a Statesman article dated August 26, 2006, that TxDOT’s supposed “funding gap” is nothing more than a wish list if money were no object.

The economic impact of tolling existing corridors has not been properly studied. Businesses along toll corridors are nearly non-existent. This will hurt economic development in these corridors not bolster it as tollers claim. Tolling an existing corridor will also limit availability of gas, goods, and services for residents who now access these businesses. TxDOT’s assumption that projected growth in these corridors will stay the same both with and without tolls, is not only inaccurate, it’s implausible, and defies logic and economic principles. People change their behavior when you put a toll on a road. It creates avoidance rather than an attraction to that highway.

Toll roads that just opened here in Austin have toll rates of up to $1.50 a mile, and with the State Auditor’s report revealing the 12% guaranteed profit for these private companies, it explains the obscene toll rates we’re already experiencing much less the continued escalation WITHOUT limit that’s sure to come over 50 years! We’re talking about $2,000-4,000 per year, likely more than that, to use our PUBLIC highways. These insidious toll contracts take away our freedom of mobility to line the pockets of private corporations.

Truth is we don’t know what’s in these contracts that are being negotiated in SECRET, and even our elected officials cannot see the terms of these contracts UNTIL AFTER IT’S SIGNED and parts of them are still NOT DISCLOSED to the public to this day as these robber barons hide behind the term “proprietary information” that our own Attorney General thinks is bunk!

We wholeheartedly object to these non-compete agreements that will hold our free lanes hostage to private companies and replace them with inferior, less efficient access roads. The non-competes PROVE TxDOT’s version of tolls won’t solve congestion; they’ll manipulate it for profit.

Toll roads cannot work unless there is horrific gridlock on the surrounding free lanes. Over the next 50 years, these foreign companies stand to make billions on our PUBLIC infrastructure. Take the deal just inked for 121 in Dallas. The government gets $5 billion from Cintra and the taxpayers pay-up astronomical toll taxes expected to be $100 billion over the next 50 years for just that one highway. Cintra will make 20 times the money they invested! This is truly highway robbery!

And the Trans Texas Corridor…the real story is, they want this corridor to benefit foreign interests, mainly China, not Texas. Recent news articles tell us the Port Authority of San Antonio has been working actively with the Communist Chinese, to open and develop NAFTA shipping ports in Mexico that will enter the U.S. through the Trans Texas Corridor (or NAFTA superhighway) for the purpose of increasing its annual handling capacity from 100,000 containers to 700,000 containers initially, with possible expansion to two million containers by 2010. That’s the congestion problem they’re seeking to solve, the source is not Texas truckers and commuters but the massive new influx of Chinese goods into the U.S. via Mexican ports, trucks, and rail.

The State Auditor’s report affirms that TxDOT has overestimated the benefits and underestimated the costs of the corridor and it shows that taxpayer money will in fact be used to build this monstrosity.

The taxpayers have a right to vote on matters of such grave public interest. We are the owners of government, not an unelected bureaucracy behaving as dictators of public policy.

This amounts to increasing our cost of transportation from pennies a day under gas tax to dollars per day under an unaccountable toll system in the hands of a foreign company for private gain WITHOUT THE PUBLIC’S CONSENT! I cannot find a SINGLE study to show that raising the cost of transportation is good for the economy.

The taxpayers not TxDOT have the final say on the public’s roads. This agency and this Governor are corrupt, they’ve overstepped their authority, they’re guilty of abusing their oath of office, they’re not listening to nor serving the public, and it’s up to you to return our public highways and our government to the PEOPLE!

We URGE you to pass Senator Carona’s bill outlawing non-compete agreements, pass Rep. Kolkhorst’s and Leibowitz’ bills to abolish the Trans Texas Corridor, to pass Rep. Pickett’s bill to abolish the Transportation Commission and replace it with an elected officer accountable to the PEOPLE, and pass a host of other much needed reforms to return the highway system to the taxpaying PUBLIC!

Toll company: Texas is full of “vast toll road riches up for grabs”

As reported in the Waxahachie Daily Light, February 28, 2007:

“The Australian, a newspaper based in Sydney, described Texas as ‘the toll road El Dorado’ in a recent online article that also referenced ‘vast toll road riches up for grabs in Texas.’ A Spanish term, El Dorado means “the golden one” and typically is used as the name of a fabled land of gold and riches. More recently, the term has been used metaphorically to reference any place where wealth could be rapidly acquired, according to Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia.”

Can’t you hear them laughing all the way to the bank? This is the sort of corporate greed and cavalier attitude that drives these toll companies. And this company is the same one who has purchased Texas and Oklahoma community newspapers in the path of the Trans Texas Corridor in order to control the media coverage of the opposition.Read the full article here.

And here’s another galling statement by someone who is supposed to guard the public interest up in Dallas:

“‘People are so desperate for transportation in the 121 area, they’d be throwing money out the window in sacks’ for a toll road, Michael Morris of the Dallas-area Regional Transportation Council said at a legislative hearing last week.” — Austin American Statesman, February 28, 2007.

They think we poor serfs are desperate enough to impoverish ourselves and pay ANY amount of money to drive on our PUBLIC highways. If this offends you, prove them wrong and turn out to Senator’s Carona’s Public Hearing March 1 in Austin at the Capitol Annex Auditorium and the “Don’t Tag Texas” Rally March 2 on the south Capitol steps. Let’s show them the true independent Texas spirit and that we’re NOT going to tolerate this! Texans own Texas highways, not foreign profiteers salivating over our wallets and counting on our desperation!Read the full article here.

Firm Advises Cintra in First Privatization of Toll Road in Texas

DALLAS (March 1, 2007) Bracewell & Giuliani LLP advised Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A., a Spanish transportation company, in its successful bid to develop State Highway 121 into a toll road through Collin and Denton counties. The award to Cintra, approved by the Texas Transportation Commission, is the first privatization of a Texas toll road.

Bracewell is acting as project counsel to Cintra with respect to the 50-year concession from the Texas Department of Transportation. Cintra will pay a $2.1 billion upfront and annual lease payments totaling $700 million.

“Cintra was awarded this project because of its proven expertise and competitive proposal,” said Thomas O. Moore, partner with Bracewell & Giuliani. “This is the largest transportation deal of 2007. This is one of only five deals in the country.”

Three firms have competed for the Comprehensive Development Agreement for State Highway 121 since last summer. The proposals were reviewed and scored based on selection criteria set forth by the Regional Transportation Council, the metropolitan planning agency for the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

This CDA is a public-private partnership that allows the provider to handle all facets of developing the toll road, including completing construction and operating and maintaining the corridor.

Cintra, a subsidiary of Grupo Ferrovial specialized in toll roads and car parks, is one of the world’s leading private-sector developers of transport infrastructure.

Bracewell & Giuliani attorneys that advised on this matter include:

Partners: Thomas O. Moore, Roger D. Aksamit, Kevin A, Ewing, George Y. Gonzalez, Jason B. Hutt, Nancy Jo Nelson, Andrew M. Taylor and Jose Luis Vittor.

Associates: Todd G. Amdor, Eamonn K. Bakewell, Patrick A. Caballero, Erik E. Petersen, Lisa A. Smith and Trevor Wommack.