Tax and spend Republicans under Rick Perry’s spell crow about the $5 billion deal that gives them more play money to build roads….how is this a good deal when the taxpayers will be fleeced for $100 billion in the long run for a road they’ve already built and paid for with gas taxes??? Is it any wonder the arrogance of the Governor-appointed Transportation Commission Chairman Ric Williamson when his boss talks like this? “‘It seems to me it’s working as advertised,’ Perry said. ‘It seems to me the power has devolved away from Austin to the local officials you see behind me. If the folks in Austin want to take away the power of the RTC (Regional Transportation Council), I will let them have that fight with y’all.’”
Private firm to operate Hwy. 121 toll road for 50 years
By GORDON DICKSON
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
ARLINGTON — The Spanish firm Cintra has been selected to build and manage the Texas 121 toll road in Denton and Collin counties, in a $5 billion, 50-year deal that includes payment of $2.8 billion into North Texas coffers for other highway work.
Cintra is also the majority partner in Cintra Zachry, which is planning the controversial Trans-Texas Corridor.
Cintra operates toll roads and parking areas worldwide, and often uses private investment funds to make large, up-front payments to public agencies in exchange for the right to collect tolls for many years.
Metroplex officials on Tuesday stood side-by-side with Gov. Rick Perry, who visited the North Central Texas Council of Governments’ Arlington office to announce the plan.
“I think we can boil it down to five words,” said Michael Morris, council of governments transportation director. “Austin: We have a solution.”
Under Perry’s administration, decisions about where to spend much of the state’s highway funding have been transferred to a group of 40 mostly elected leaders known as the Regional Transportation Council. Those regional leaders backed the concept of using private funds to build and manage roads, to make up for a lack of tax-supported highway funds.
“It seems to me it’s working as advertised,” Perry said. “It seems to me the power has devolved away from Austin to the local officials you see behind me. If the folks in Austin want to take away the power of the RTC, I will let them have that fight with y’all.”
If, as expected, the selection by the Texas Department of Transportation’s Dallas district office is approved by the Texas Transportation Commission on Wednesday, Cintra will collect tolls on Texas 121 from Lewisville to McKinney for 50 years. The deal is also contingent upon completion of an environmental study.
The total value of Cintra’s bid is just over $5 billion, TxDot Dallas engineer Bill Hale said.
• $2.1 billion up-front for regional leaders to spend as they see fit.
• $716 million paid in annual installments over 49 year, also for regional needs.
• $560 million to extend Texas 121 main lanes in Collin County.
• $1.7 billion to maintain and rehabilitate the road over 50 years, including any future lane additions.
Tarrant County will likely receive several hundred million dollars in benefit, which will help ensure that Interstate 35W, Loop 820, Airport Freeway and the Grapevine Funnel are improved, North Richland Hills Mayor Oscar Trevino said. However, the bulk of the funding will go toward projects closer to Texas 121, including improvements to Interstate 35E.
No additional public dollars will be used on the Texas 121 project. However, public money was already used to build the Texas 121 frontage roads in Denton and Collin counties, and main lanes in Denton County.
Spanish company wins North Texas toll road contract
Houston Chronicle/Associated Press
Feb 27, 2007
MCKINNEY, Texas — A Spanish transportation company contracted to build Gov. Rick Perry’s Trans-Texas Corridor won a critical recommendation Tuesday to turn state Highway 121 into a toll road through Collin and Denton counties.
Officials from the Texas Department of Transportation plan to recommend Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte as the developer of the toll road during a Wednesday meeting of the Texas Transportation Commission.
If the commission approves the deal, Cintra will pay $2.8 billion to the Regional Transportation Council, a North Texas group responsible for transportation planning in the region. In exchange, Cintra will operate and collect tolls on the highway for the next 50 years.
Collin County officials hailed the deal as one solution to its traffic problems.
“At a time when budgets are stretched thin to meet every transportation need in North Texas, this project can be a valuable source of income to help us pay for other projects needed in this county,” Collin County Commissioner Joe Jaynes said.
But some state lawmakers are starting to get frustrated with the state’s pursuit of privately financed toll roads and wonder about the ultimate cost.
Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security, said the Cintra deal includes provisions that bar the state from building its own roads in the area during the 50-year contract. That puts the state in a financial bind if it wants to build roads to help a growing population.
“The advantage is roads will be built sooner,” Carona said. “What you won’t hear about is toll rates will be raised unlike anything we have seen today.”
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, who pushed the 2003 bill that helped set up the toll road initiative, said he was “asleep or not smart enough” to recognize potential problems.
“We are giving away a public asset and don’t have much say about it for 50 years,” said Ogden, R-Bryan.
Cintra-Zachry, a Spanish-American consortium, plans to build the Trans-Texas Corridor, a state-owned toll road. The consortium, made up of Spain-based Cintra and San Antonio-based Zachry Construction, would get to operate the road and collect tolls.