Transportation officials adopt toll policy
May 29, 2008
KELLEY SHANNON, Associated Press
AUSTIN — Transportation Commission
Chair Deirdre Delisi, whose political
ties to Gov. Rick Perry drew criticism
when he appointed her, led her first
meeting Thursday and expressed a desire
to build public trust in the
The commissioners adopted an order
governing toll projects and the
Trans-Texas Corridor and set out to
improve citizen and legislative access
to Texas Department of Transportation's
"There's a lot more that we can do
... so that there is the public trust,"
The commission unanimously agreed
that all Texas highways will be owned by
the state, not private developers; that
the state may buy back the interest of a
private road developer; that only
expansions to existing highways will be
tolled and existing free lanes won't be
reduced; and that "non-compete clauses"
will be banned, meaning no state
contract will limit improvements to
nearby existing roads.
The order also calls for an attempt
to minimize disturbing private property
and to consider using existing rights of
way for roads.
The clarifying statement came in
response to public criticism during the
early planning stages of the Trans Texas
Corridor, Perry's ambitious long-term
plan to contract with private companies
to build toll roads throughout the
Perry rolled out the plan in 2002.
Initial phases of the Trans Texas
Corridor are a toll highway that would
run roughly parallel to part of
Interstate 35, and Interstate 69, a new
road that would be constructed from
northeast Texas to the Rio Grande
"The action of the Commission today
helps get transportation policy moving
in a positive direction," said state
Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, an Irving
Republican and vice president of the
Texas Conservative Coalition, which
supported the new commission order.
Sen. John Carona, a Dallas Republican
and chairman of the Senate
Transportation and Homeland Security
Committee, said the transportation
department is a troubled agency. He has
been outspoken in saying there were
others more qualified than Delisi to
lead the commission and that her
appointment was a purely political move
by Perry, a fellow Republican.
That said, Carona added that he is
optimistic Delisi will strive to get the
agency and commission on track. They
have suffered from poor communication
and "public policy that is tone deaf to
the citizens of the state," he said.
Delisi displayed a take-charge
approach in Thursday's meeting when she
named her other four commissioners to
two subcommittees to work with agency
staffers on transparency in
transportation financial documents and
on market valuation transparency for
"Just get moving. Get it done,"
Perry appointed Delisi, his former
gubernatorial chief of staff and former
campaign manager, along with Fort Worth
area tollway official William Meadows,
to the commission last month.
As commission chair, Delisi takes
over a job formerly held by another
close Perry ally, the late Ric
Williamsson, who died Dec. 30.
In other business, the commissioners
heard Thursday from regional
transportation authorities about pending
The commission approved a $19.8
million financing request from the Alamo
Regional Mobility Authority to pay for
right-of-way and engineering costs for a
proposed toll project along the U.S.
Highway 281 corridor north of Loop 1604