Several bills tackle Trans-Texas Corridor plans
January 30, 2007
A Texas state
lawmaker has introduced legislation to sideline
the planned Trans-Texas Corridor project.
Several other efforts filed in the Legislature
also would rein in Gov. Rick Perry’s $184
billion pet project.
One bill offered by
Rep. John Liebowitz, D-San Antonio, would
prohibit the Texas Department of Transportation
from buying land or issuing contracts for the
corridor project. The corridor plan calls for
private contractors to build and operate
billions of dollars’ worth of toll roads in the
The tab for driving
along the corridor would run nearly 50 cents a
mile for large trucks and about 15 cents for
Liebowitz told local
radio station WOLA the bill – HB857 – is
necessary because the corridor would “destroy
rural Texas as we know it.”
As planned, each
route of the 4,000 mile network of
transportation corridors would include separate
lanes for passenger vehicles and large trucks,
freight railways, high-speed commuter railways
as well as utility zones.
If the entire series
of proposed corridors were built, Liebowitz said
they would displace nearly a million acres of
land – most of it farm land.
A separate bill
offered by Liebowitz is intended to keep state
highways toll free.
The bill – HB719 –
would forbid TxDOT from turning state highways
into toll routes. It also would prohibit
allowing those roadways to be leased or sold to
alone in his pursuit to curb efforts to
privatize portions of the state’s roadways.
Sen. John Carona,
R-Dallas, has crafted several bills that are
intended to minimize the attractiveness for
groups to pursue deals with the state to build
roads in return for keeping revenues.
One bill would bar
the state from entering into non-compete
agreements for toll roads. The measure – SB149 –
would prohibit language in bond sales documents
that prevent TxDOT from building highways that
would serve as an alternative route for truckers
and others who don’t want to pay tolls to reach
With the state
Transportation Department calling for the
70-year cap removed on public-private contracts,
another bill offered by Carona would reduce the
length of contracts, the Austin
American-Statesman reported. The bill –
SB275 – would limit the duration of contracts to
Another measure –
SB256 – would prohibit TxDOT from accepting
upfront payments from private groups to build
toll roads. The effort is in response to the
Spanish-Australian consortium Cintra-Zachry
offering $1.2 billion to build part of the
corridor, the American-Statesman
In hopes of creating
alternatives to privatizing roadways, two other
bills written by Carona would help the state
generate more revenue for transportation.
The first bill –
SB165 – would allow the tax collected at the
fuel pump to increase automatically. If
approved, the state’s 20-cent-per-gallon tax on
diesel and gas, as well as the federal rate of
18 cents per gallon would be tied to the rate of
inflation. The change would allow the taxes in
the state to increase on an annual basis.
The second bill –
SB126 – is intended to make sure all
transportation-related revenue is allotted to
the Texas Mobility Fund. The fund is used by
TxDOT to build, mostly, state-run toll routes.
Since 1986 the
department has seen $9 billion rerouted for
other uses, KTVT-TV in Dallas/Fort Worth
A separate bill
would give local governments an opportunity to
generate additional dollars for roads.
The measure – SB257
– would allow an extra penny to be added to
local sales taxes for transportation projects.
“We can’t expect
toll roads to be the solution for all our
transportation needs. While they are part of the
mix, the state needs to explore other funding
options,” Carona said in a written statement.
“This bill not only does that, but most
importantly, it gives local communities a voice
in how they want to fund their transportation
One other effort
offered by Carona would implement another
barrier to privatization of the state’s
The bill – SB245 –
would require that any regional tollway
authority or regional mobility authority be
given first crack at contracts to build any new
toll project within their jurisdictions.
The bulk of the
bills are awaiting assignment to committee.
SB149 has been forwarded to the Senate
Transportation and Homeland Security Committee.
– By Keith Goble,
state legislative editor