More reasons to subject these unelected toll authorities to sunset review. They're just as broken as TxDOT.
After no action follows noise study, state rep calls for review of NTTA
by DAVID SCHECHTER
August 1, 2014
ROWLETT -- A Texas state representative is being critical of the North Texas Tollway Authority for refusing to fix excessive noise problems along the Bush Turnpike in Rowlett to the point that she's asking if the NTTA is still needed at all.
Rep. Cindy Burkett said she will recommend the NTTA go through the Sunset Commission in Austin, which has the power to determine if an agency’s functions are still needed to serve the public.
“I’m going to look at putting them under Sunset review,” Burkett told News 8.
The story starts with Bill Wright, a resident of the Harborside development in Rowlett, who has a simple philosophy when it comes to the North Texas Tollway Authority. “In my world, if you broke it, you fix it,” Wright said.
What did the NTTA break? In the view of 616 Rowlett homeowners who’ve banded together, a promise to limit noise generated by the 2010 extension of the President George Bush Turnpike.
“We’re not asking for silence. We’re asking for something that doesn’t hurt your ears and keep your children up at night,” Wright said.
Instead of accepting the noise, the Rowlett homeowners chose to fight it. They made such a fuss that the NTTA actually spent $300,000 on a study. The neighbors hoped, if the study confirmed the noise, the NTTA would find a fix. Well, the study found places in the neighborhoods where the noise levels spiked and even suggested fixes, one of them costing as much as $33 million. Faced with that information, the NTTA did nothing.
Texas Rep. Burkett said she helped convince the NTTA to undertake its $300,000 study. “Well, I hope [the mission of the study] was to see if there were some noise issues. Part of it was me prodding, saying my constituents are saying there’s an issue, and let’s see if they do, too,” she said.
That’s not how the NTTA sees it.
The authority declined to be interviewed on camera, but released this statement: "In essence, the question the independent study asked was: 'Did NTTA follow all federal and state guidelines in designing and constructing sound walls?' The answer was 'Yes.' " And so that’s where we are today; one study with two conflicting conclusions. One says the NTTA built enough sound walls when it constructed the road. The other says there’s still an unacceptable spike in noise, for which the NTTA will not accept responsibility. "
Wright believes the NTTA won’t fix his $33 million complaint because that would set an expensive precedent.
“They didn’t want to do anything, because if they did it for us, they have to do it for others,” Wright said.
Representative Burkett sees a broken system, hence the recommendation for a Sunset Commission review. “My focus is, is the process adequate? Is there enough flexibility?" she said. "Maybe in the Sunset review, we’ll decide, 'Okay, maybe a thought is to take a percentage of monies raised, tolls raised, putting them in a special fund to address this type of issue.'”