Repeal of private toll companies' eminent domain authority imminent

Link to article here.

NOTE: TURF prefers Rep. Yvonne Davis’ (HB 1004) bill and Sen. Bob Hall’s  (SB 444) bill to remove the eminent domain authority from these private toll corporations. Their bills are stronger than Burkett’s and no loopholes.

Texas Lawmaker Proposes Ban On Toll Road Land Confiscation
Texas state representative proposes to deny privately owned toll roads their authority to seize land through eminent domain.
February , 2015

Opponents of toll roads in Texas no longer want to see the public gets the worst end of the bargain in "public-private partnerships. That is why state Representative Cindy Burkett (R-Sunnyvale) introduced legislation for the current session to strip private entities of the power of taking land from citizens for the use of toll road builders.

Burkett's proposal, House Bill 565, would prohibit the Texas Turnpike Corporation from taking land through eminent domain as if it were a governmental entity. A law adopted in 1991 gave the corporation this exclusive authority.

The issue came to light last year when the state quietly included construction of the Blacklands Tollway-Northeast Gateway corridor in its long-term transportation plan. This tolling project would have cut through Burkett's district, and her constituents turned out in large numbers at public meetings to express their disapproval, citing the corporation's ability to take homes away serving as a top concern.

"Texas Turnpike Corp. is a proactive, private entity seeking to provide private sector support to regional goals in partnership with government agencies," a corporation presentation on the Blacklands project explained. "The Texas Legislature reaffirmed necessity of eminent domain in certain cases for public use. The law gives Texas Turnpike Corp. the ability to negotiate and ultimately pay a fair market price for property that is for public use. We pledge to work with every property owner who may be impacted by the project through the right-of-way acquisition process."

Many of the cities that would have been affected by the project, including Caddo Mills, Fate, Josephine, Lavon, Murphy, Nevada, Princeton, Rockwall, Rowlett, Sasche and Wyle, adopted resolutions documenting their opposition. As a result, the state pulled the plug on the proposal.

"While they still keep the corridor open for further study, this is a major short-term victory," the anti-tolling group Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom said in a statement. "We need to stay vigilant to ensure they don't sneak the tollway into the plan at a later date, and we need to keep pressing the remaining cities to pass resolutions against it so that no toll road comes through our communities in the future."

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