(Austin, TX - November 12, 2009) My name is Terri Hall and I’m the Founder/Director of Texas TURF, an all-volunteer, grassroots group defending the citizens’ concerns with toll road policy, and working toward affordable and transparent non-toll transportation solutions.
We applaud the Greasing the Wheel report released today by TX PIRG because it affirms what we already knew...that the road lobby is driving transportation decisions and policy not the taxpayers. In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to oust his own transportation board appointee for objecting to the Governor’s proposal to sell a CA freeway to private investors. His appointee called the deal “too risky for taxpayers.” In Idaho, the Governor had the Director of their DOT fired in a “political powerplay to help Governor Butch Otter and his big campaign donors.” Her crime? Saving the taxpayers money by steering money away from high-paid outside consultants back to the highway department who can do the work far cheaper.
Even worse, federal transportation agencies are using OUR taxpayer money to both lobby to and waive provisions in the law to handover our public highways to the private sector. Most of these changes were authorized by the Bush Administration, but the Obama Administration has allowed this controversial policy to stay in place, which is public private partnerships (PPPs, also called CDAs in Texas). PPPs are the most expensive way to fund roads.
A recent article in the Bond Buyer exposed that: “...there are a number of tolling and P3-related programs administered by the Federal Highway Administration. One is the Special Experimental Project Number 15, or SEP-15, which gives the transportation secretary the ability to waive certain rules of the current transportation law on a case-by-case basis. The program allows the FHWA ‘to experiment in four major areas of project delivery’ including project finance, and one of its goals is to promote P3s, according to the FHWA.”
Why would the feds want to promote the sale of our public roads to private corporations? To enrich the highway lobby who’s been greasing the wheel.
Perry’s behavior in Texas has been equally deplorable: stacking his commission with goons who rabidly promote the sale of TX infrastructure to his cronies, payments of up to $3.6 million to losing bidders on CDAs, withholding highway funding from local communities until they capitulate to tolling existing freeways, illegally hiring registered lobbyists with taxpayer money to lobby to relax and even remove prohibitions on tolling, the revolving door between his office and Cintra lobbyist Dan Shelley, the list goes on and on.
When our elected representatives are bought and paid for by road building interests, how can the citizens stand a chance? It's no wonder why our politicians are so tone-deaf to the public outcry against enormously expensive, unwanted toll roads and privatization schemes that will break the backs of the middle class. It's time to clean-up Texas politics, By exposing the link between the BIG MONEY and the types of road projects that get priority, the taxpayers can then hold their politicians accountable in the ONE way they can...at the ballot box.
We also think it’s time to consider TX PIRG’s recommendation of publicly-funded elections. It may be the only way to shatter the vice grip special interests’ wield over our politicians and public policy.
Transparency is the first step toward accountability. May this report and our efforts to shine the light on the today be the first step toward citizen-driven transportation policy in the great State of Texas!