Senate backs deal
Austin bureau, SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS
AUSTIN — Trying to avoid a confrontation with
the governor, the Senate voted unanimously
Monday for another transportation bill that
preserves a two-year moratorium on most private
Senate Bill 792 also satisfies Gov. Rick
Perry's concerns in another transportation bill
sitting on his desk that he plans to veto
because, he contends, it transfers too much
road-building authority from the state to local
alternative transportation bill, lawmakers
likely would try to override Perry's veto,
creating a power struggle not seen since 1979.
"There's a lot of blood that would be spilled
over a veto override," said Sen. Tommy Williams,
R-The Woodlands, author of SB 792.
The Houston-area Grand Parkway and a proposed
Interstate 69 project from Corpus Christi to
Brownsville would be exempt from the moratorium.
The new legislation, which requires approval
by the House, would create a new "market
valuation" approach for planning and building
"It's a concept to determine the value of a
project and what free roads might be built as a
result of a toll project," Williams said. "The
purpose of a market valuation is to establish a
benchmark for what the project is worth and to
then determine whether this toll project can
also support free roads in the region."
The Texas Department of Transportation and
local agencies would have to agree on the terms
and conditions for the development, construction
and operation of the toll project.
Most of the complaints about private toll
roads and the controversial Trans-Texas Corridor
project came after state lawmakers approved a
complicated transportation bill late in a
legislative session four years ago when many
members did not fully comprehend their action.
The latest bill could run into a wary House
"I don't think any of us have seen it. I
don't know what kind of reception it will get,"
said. Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, author of
the original two-year moratorium on private toll
The compromise legislation passed by the
Senate represents an agreement between senators,
the governor and state highway officials.
"Everybody says it's 'agreed upon,' but I
didn't really see any House members in that
meeting," Kolkhorst said.
Perry called the bill "a good compromise that
allows projects important to local communities
to go forward, recognizing that Texas is a
fast-growing state with real congestion concerns
that cannot be put on hold."
"With less than two weeks remaining, I
believe lawmakers are capable of sending me a
transportation bill that doesn't hinder the
state's ability to build needed roads, allows
Texas to continue to receive federal highway
dollars and ensures that transportation
decisions with a statewide impact are made at
the statewide level," Perry said after the
The new legislation keeps important
components in the transportation bill that Perry
plans to veto, such as more acceptable standards
for building free roads near private toll
projects and for buying back those roads from
private companies in the future.
The governor has threatened to summon
lawmakers back to a special session this summer
if they fail to produce a transportation bill
acceptable to him.