POSTED: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - 9:10pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - 9:14pm
The legislature is working to find a way to pay for Texas highways.
But now some are saying the Texas Department of Transportation is trying to make an end run around the Legislature…and make their own rules.
Building roads is expensive, and Texas is racking up debt trying to pay for them.
So, while the legislature tries to find the money for new highways, the folks at TxDot have come up with a plan of their own.
Critics say it’s high-handed.
One state Senator says, it’s outrageous.
“This just raises a red flag. Maybe we’re back where we started,” SAYS Sen. Kevin Eltife. “It’s very disappointing.”
The issue is an internal rule change TXDot is requesting.
It would essentially allow them to do what the Legislature refused to let them do this past session.
And that is to enter into unlimited numbers of so-called public-private partnerships, where a private company builds a toll road, and collects the revenue.
“These public/private partnerships is where they sell of our roads to these, mostly foreign, private companies,” says Terri Hall, President of the grassroots group Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, or TURF. “And the first foreign-owned toll road in Texas that opened is not even getting half the traffic that was projected.”
But the most outrageous part is, if the toll revenue doesn’t meet its target, the state guarantees the difference. That would come from the Highway Fund, which is already strapped.
“It basically puts all Texas taxpayers on the hook to pay back these private toll operators,” Hall declared.
“The House didn’t pass them, the Senate didn’t pass them. So Txdot decides they’re going to do an end run around the House rule and get what they want anyway. It’s wrong,” says Eltife.
In addition, there would be no competitive bidding on the projects.
Senators Kevin Eltife, Robert Nichols, John Carona, and Representative Lois Kolkorst have asked the Texas Transportation Commission to reject the rule-change request.
We contacted TxDot for a comment and received this email…
“Thanks for reaching out. In regards to the pass through, there's nothing more to add than what's already been reported.”
“It’s wrong. It’s wrong for the taxpayer all the way around,” Eltife concluded.