Saturday, August 27, 2005

TTC: The road not needed.

Road not needed

August 27, 2005

Editor, the Advocate:
The Victoria Advocate
Copyright 2005

I am writing this because I should, but I don't think it will help in the least little bit.

I do not think our Legislature has any right to make a decision such as the Trans-Texas Corridor and then impose upon the people to put themselves against their neighbors as to where the proposed road will go.

I have heard so many stories about this monster that I do not know what to believe. Therefore, I will believe no one. I only hope and pray that the wise people leading this state will wake up before it's too late. After all, I think they have their head in the wrong place.

Our Legislature and Highway Department expect us hell-raisers to die off, and then they will have a free hand at warping our kids' and grandkids' minds, and they will be the ones who will pay for this monster. We should educate our kids.


The Victoria Advocate:


MPO Chairman Perez and TxDOT Representatives try to squelch independent review of state toll road plans in San Antonio

Toll foes score small win with planning board


Patrick Driscoll
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2005

Motorists outraged over proposed toll-road plans in San Antonio have gotten their foot in the door and are turning up the volume.

San Antonio Texas Toll Party, led by Terri Hall of Spring Branch, persuaded the Metropolitan Planning Organization earlier this week to at least consider an independent review of state toll road plans here.

The planning board, which gave the green light to those plans last summer because of funding shortfalls, has called a special meeting for 3 p.m. Wednesday at VIA Metro Center, 1021 San Pedro Ave.

But board members — a collection of representatives from the city, county, state and VIA Metropolitan Transit — disagreed on whether the issue should even be on an agenda.

City Councilman Richard Perez, who took over as MPO chairman last month, said he doesn't see the purpose of doing a review.

"What is it going to tell us?" he said. "I don't understand what the goal is there."

Longtime board member Tommy Adkisson, a county commissioner, last week failed to get Perez to put the issue on last Monday's agenda — perhaps because of miscommunications, Adkisson surmised.

Then at the Monday meeting, Perez and two Texas Department of Transportation representatives on the board tried to block attempts to call the special meeting, but they were outvoted.

Adkisson was left shaking his head and wondering why some board members would want to squelch discussion on whether to conduct a review.

"I was very disappointed, naturally," he said. "The guy (Perez) that I still have great regard for is voting in a fashion that I can't explain."

With about 60 miles of toll roads on the table over the next 25 years and construction starting on the first lanes next year, the stakes are too high to be hasty, Adkisson said.

"The community is entitled to a moment of thoughtfulness before we dive headlong into two feet of water from a 50-foot perch," he said. "I'm not afraid of bold decisions here, but I want to avoid a reckless plunging into toll roads that may be something far different than what we believe to be the case."

Adkisson predicted that the MPO board will agree to do an independent review.

Perez said he's not sure what the board will do but his vote on Wednesday shouldn't come as a surprise.

"I voted to not even have the meeting, so that gives you an idea where I'm going," he said.

Meanwhile, Hall is lining up the troops for the meeting and passing out phone numbers and e-mails of the 17 voting board members.
San Antonio Express-News:


Friday, August 26, 2005

TxDOT picks defense consortium to provide transponders and "TxTag" software for Texas vehicles

State awards toll equipment contract

Details on the Raytheon consortium's proposal to be 'integrator' for future turnpikes are not released

By Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2005

The Texas Transportation Commission on Thursday picked a consortium led by Raytheon Co. to provide electronic toll equipment for all state-run toll roads for the next five years.

The company, whose partners in the effort include toll road builder Zachry Construction Corp. of San Antonio, also will maintain those toll systems for eight years after each goes into operation.

Raytheon will provide metal toll gantries, transponders to read toll tags on vehicles' windshields, cameras to shoot pictures of cars that don't pay tolls, other hardware and the software to make all of this work.

Raytheon will work with the state, other toll road agencies such as the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority and the North Texas Tollway Authority, as well as their so-called tollway integrators, to enable any particular agency's toll tags to be read statewide.

The intention is for all electronic toll tags in the state ultimately to go by a single name, TxTag, and to work anywhere in Texas.

The amount of the Raytheon contract was not available Thursday, nor were many other details. The unanimous vote authorized Department of Transportation staff to negotiate and sign a "comprehensive development agreement" with the Raytheon group.

Department of Transportation spokeswoman Gaby Garcia said the agency will not release any of the proposal until that agreement is signed in a month or so.

Raytheon turned out to be the commission's only option. Two other companies were on a short list of candidates, but Florida Traffic Control Devices dropped out of the running, and Jacobs Engineering submitted what Garcia said the agency considered an incomplete proposal.

The company's "pricing proposal was below TxDOT estimates for the open road toll collection system," according to a minute order passed by the commission.; 445-3698

Austin American-Statesman:


Macquarie seeking more U.S. Toll Roads

MIG scours globe for more roads

August 26, 2005

By Scott Rochfort
Sydney Morning Herald, Australia
Copyright 2005

Macquarie Infrastructure Group shows no sign of losing its hunger for overseas expansion.

Just days after lodging a submission to acquire the French Government's €7.3 billion-plus ($11.8 billion) stake in two toll-road operators, MIG is still scouring for investments spanning from New York, New Jersey, Washington State, Oregon, the UK, and the Netherlands to Sydney.

MIG reported a full-year net profit of $913.7 million, compared to the previous year's $251.5 million loss, but this was still below market forecasts.

Net profit was skewed by the $2.9 billion in sales MIG made during the year, which included the $1.7 billion earned from the initial public offering of toll-road group Cintra.

Two weeks after teaming up with French contractor Eiffage, MIG chief executive Stephen Allen declined to provide details of his company's bid to purchase the French Government's 70.2 per cent stake in APRR [Autoroutes Paris-Rhin-Rhône] and its 75.7 per cent stake in SANEF [Société des Autoroutes du Nord et de l'Est de la France].

However, Mr Allen said: "If the price is not right we will not proceed."

APRR has a concession of 2260km of roads around Paris and in the Rhin and Rhone valleys. SANEF operates 1743km of toll roads in north-east France.

Bidding for the toll roads could place MIG in a better position to snap up a further 1200km of toll roads the French Government wants built in the next decade.

MIG did not bid for the Government's 50.3 per cent stake in Autoroutes du Sud de la France. French contractor and road builder Vinci, which holds 23 per cent, hopes to acquire the Government's €5.5 billion stake in ASF.

But with other European governments - such as the Netherlands - considering the privatisation of their highway networks, Mr Allen said: "There are lots of prospects in the pipeline in Europe."

And despite MIG in the bidding for the SH-121 toll road in Texas, Mr Allen said his company was keen to evaluate the possible privatisation of roads in the other states.

Referring to the possible privatisation of roads in New York and New Jersey, Mr Allen said MIG was keen on investing in "some heavily used infrastructure that needs upgrading".

However, MIG declined to specify if it had an interest in buying the 190km New Jersey Turnpike or the state's 270km Garden State Parkway. There is speculation the New Jersey Government hopes to sell the roads for about $US20 billion ($26 billion).

MIG also reported a 13.9 per cent lift in gross profits and a 10.9 per cent lift in revenues from perhaps its most controversial toll-road concession, Toronto's 407.

After 18 months of discord with the Canadian Province's newly elected Liberal Government, Mr Allen said: We'd still like to negotiate a solution with them."

Sydney Morning Herald:


Raytheon selected for toll collection system of Trans-Texas Corridor

Firm chosen to develop Trans-Texas pay system

Aug. 26, 2005

By Gordon Dickson, Staff Writer
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2005

A company was selected Thursday to develop a system so that motorists can pay their way on Trans-Texas Corridor toll roads without stopping at a booth.

Meeting in Austin, the Texas Transportation Commission selected Co. as the prime contractor for the system. The first leg of Trans-Texas is a planned toll road that would be an alternative to Interstate 35 from Dallas-Fort Worth to San Antonio. Construction is expected to be under way by 2007 and be completed by 2015.

Eventually, toll roads, rail lines and utilities would crisscross the state, according to Gov. Rick Perry's vision of Trans-Texas. The type of toll collection system is still on the drawing board. But in general, state officials envision a system that gives motorists choices to pay their tolls. Motorists who have TollTags, which are commonly used on Dallas-area toll roads, might still be able to use their windshield-mounted transponders on Trans-Texas.

Drivers without TollTags or similar devices might be mailed a bill after their vehicle is identified by its license plate. Raytheon has built electronic toll collection systems around the world, including the all-electronic 407-ETR highway in Toronto.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram:


New details emerge about the future of U.S. 290 East and Central Texas' second wave of toll roads.

Mobility authority handed second toll project

But toll road designation, financing for the U.S. 290 East expansion still up in the air.

August 26, 2005

By Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2005

Central Texas' homegrown toll road agency Thursday was officially given a second turnpike project to build: the expansion of U.S. 290 East from Ed Bluestein Boulevard to the future junction with Texas 130.

The unanimous decision by the Texas Transportation Commission was not a surprise, given that U.S. 290 East is one of five additional toll roads that the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority is scheduled to operate. The agency is already building its first turnpike, U.S. 183-A in Cedar Park and Leander, which is scheduled to open in 2007.

But the move was notable for its timing, coming as the transportation commission and the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority have been tussling over who will build similar expansions in Bexar County. And with Thursday's action, new details emerged about the future of U.S. 290 East and Central Texas' second wave of toll roads.

•The U.S. 290 East project, as envisioned, would run 5.6 miles, would extend unobstructed expressway travel from Interstate 35 to Texas 130 and would be complete in 2009. The road would have six toll lanes and four or more free frontage road lanes, which would be interrupted by traffic lights. U.S. 290 in this stretch currently has four lanes and five traffic lights.

•Mobility authority officials would like to build the expanded road another three miles or so east to get it past Manor. But Thursday's action did not confer that authority, and the road east of Texas 130 has not yet been designated a toll road by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board.

"I would like to make the (construction) disturbance just once between here and Manor," said Mike Heiligenstein, executive director of the mobility authority.

•The U.S. 290 East toll road would be all electronic, that is, with no toll booths for cash customers. Drivers without electronic toll tags would have to use the frontage roads.

•Because the road would remain technically on the state road system (U.S. 183-A is not), the Texas Department of Transportation, rather than the mobility authority, would maintain the frontage roads. That would address the concerns of some toll road critics, including Austin City Council Member Brewster McCracken, who say that the state is using toll roads to transfer to local taxpayers the cost of maintaining urban highways.

•Acquisition of right-of-way for widening U.S. 290 East, Heiligenstein said, will commence soon. The money for buying the extra land, much of it already developed along the road, will come from the state Transportation Department, not the mobility authority.

"It will be quite expensive," Heiligenstein told the commission Thursday.

Despite Thursday's action, several roadblocks remain for the project.

McCracken, first of all, is close to rounding up from various local governments (including the mobility authority) the $350,000 needed for a comprehensive study of the area's second wave of toll roads. Four Central Texas toll roads, including U.S. 183-A, are already under construction and have caused little controversy. But the second wave, all but one of them expansions of existing roads, kicked off a vigorous local debate after the CAMPO board decided last year to make them toll roads.

In theory, at least, the results of that study could cause local leaders on the CAMPO board to remove the toll road designation for U.S. 290 East or any of the other four roads in the plan.

At this point, the financing for the project is mostly smoke.

The mobility authority is in final negotiations with URS Corp. to do a detailed traffic and revenue study for the Phase 2 toll road plan at a cost of at least $1.5 million.

Based on that study, the authority will find out how much of the $355 million cost for U.S. 290 East it might be able to borrow on the bond market.

Given the handy presence of the free frontage roads, which lowers the percentage of drivers willing to pay tolls, Heiligenstein said it is likely that the agency could borrow only 40 percent to 50 percent. The rest probably will come from the state Transportation Department.

The chance remains that the mobility authority could farm out the job to a private roadbuilder, much as the state has done with the Trans-Texas Corridor toll road alternative to I-35 and is contemplating doing with two San Antonio roads.

Doing so, however, would assure that at least a small percentage of the tolls paid on such a road would leave Central Texas in the form of profit for the private concessionaire.

Heiligenstein said the agency will have that element in mind should any private companies approach it about U.S. 290 East.

"We have marketed toll roads to the community as a long-term opportunity to sustain our local transportation system," Heiligenstein said. "In that respect, we feel we need to keep the money at home. Depending on the final financial arrangement (with a concessionaire), it would have to be a good deal for the community."; 445-3698

Austin American-Statesman:


Thursday, August 25, 2005

"Yearly individual toll bill could be $780 to $1,170."

Frisco Council adopts 121 toll resolution


Mike Raye
McKinney Courier-Gazzette
Copyright 2006

The Frisco City Council, believing it was the only fix to a broken system, adopted a resolution calling for local control over the destiny of State Highway 121 as a toll road on Tuesday night.

Collin County commissioners in attendance said they would stand firm with Frisco, Allen, Plano and McKinney in negotiations with the Texas Department of Transportation and rescind its approval of tolls if the state failed to follow the resolution to the letter.

"We urge you to pass this tonight and allow us to get on with negotiations with TxDOT," said Collin County Judge Ron Harris. "We will stand with the four cities if (this resolution) is not adhered to."

Frisco - the originator of the resolution calling for a local consortium of city and county governments to administer SH 121 and its tolls, and maintain local control of revenue generated by the highway - was the last of the group of five to adopt the resolution. It was not without trepidation, however. The measure passed, 4-2, with Council Members Maher Maso and Bob Allen dissenting, the measure passed.

"TxDOT has pushed hard on this because they see 121 as an asset, based on our demographics," Maso said. With the state in control, even possibly farming out the project to private construction firms he said, there was uncertainty over how much it would cost the average commuter to drive from the Dallas North Tollway on the Frisco/Plano border to U.S. 75 in McKinney. The rate per mile could be between 8 and 15 cents per mile, translating into a yearly individual toll bill between $780 and $1,170.

"In an ideal world this council would not be supporting tolls," said Council Member Tony Felker. "This is an imperfect world and systems are broken. The state came to us and said we need to find another way to raise the money. We have to get (this road) built."

County Commissioner Jack Hatchell - a former chair of the Regional Transportation Council, a 40-member board made up of representatives of local governments of 16 North Central Texas counties - said, ultimately, the RTC has the authority to approve or deny toll roads in the region. Once the resolution was approved by all five entities, it would be submitted to the state for approval, after which the RTC would make the tollway designation.

"The RTC has to designate it as a toll road in its regional transportation mobility plan for it to be tolled," he explained. "If (the RTC) can't get agreement from TxDOT, it should not designate 121 as a toll road."

Mayor Mike Simpson said area traffic was a problem that will only get worse, and improving 121 was the only way to ease commuter headaches. It was a problem that required immediate attention, he said.

"I hear complaints every single day about transportation," Simpson said. "If we don't toll; if we continue to wait, the people who are complaining now will really be upset in five years. I would rather be crucified now for making a decision than be criticized years from now for having done nothing."

City Manager George Purefoy, the author of the resolution, which came back to Frisco with only minor revisions, said the council's vote pleased him.

"This puts us in the best negotiating position with TxDOT," he said.

©Star Community Newspapers 2005


"I do this all the time in litigation. I can tell you our opinion on what's fair compensation and the government's is always a lot different."

Attorney Fleshes Out Eminent Domain Case For OK Cattlemen


By David Bowser
Livestock Weekly
Copyright 2007

OKLAHOMA CITY — New condos in Connecticut have Oklahoma ranchers worried.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court said government can exercise its right of eminent domain even to the point of taking private property from one person and giving it to another for private development.

The case, Kelo v. New London, involved the city of New London, Conn., which wanted to condemn houses in a middle class neighborhood so a developer could build upscale condominiums and shopping malls and increase the tax base of the city.

Jeff Todd, an Oklahoma City lawyer and member of the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association, says the case is more complex than that, however.

"When you hear about Kelo and you hear about how terrible it is to live in the United States of America because the government is coming and taking your land and giving it to others, that's not necessarily true," Todd says. "In Oklahoma, government is much more limited on what they can do."

Still, the case worries property owners, particularly farmers and ranchers.

"The number one concern is 'I don't want to do anything that will cause me to lose my farm,'" Todd says. "You can really touch a nerve if the government says that they have the right to take your farm without you having anything to do with it."

The Kelo v. New London case has to do with eminent domain.

"Eminent domain is a process where the government has the right to take land for public use as long as it pays you just compensation," Todd says. "It happens all the time."

Any landowner recognizes that if the government is going to put in a new road or widen the highway, the landowner's property may be at risk.

"We're going to pay you fair compensation for it, and we're going to take it now," Todd says. "I do this all the time in litigation. I can tell you our opinion on what's fair compensation and the government's is always a lot different."

He says he's never seen a case where the two sides can start out by agreeing on what the property is worth.

"It doesn't happen," Todd says.

The Supreme Court’s Kelo decision was controversial, Todd says, because for one of the first times, the United States Supreme Court discussed the government's power to take land for a public purpose and the public purpose wasn't to build a road. It wasn't to build a bridge. It was for economic development.

Economic development in this case meant that the city, through a trust, was going to buy the land and then quickly make some of it into parks, but even more of it was going to be turned over to a developer to be made into a mall, a nice marina and high-income housing.

One of the complainants who brought the lawsuit to stop the city from taking the land was a woman who was born in 1918 in the house where she lives today, Todd says.

"This house had been in her family for 100 years," he adds.

She didn't want to move. She really didn't want to move if the city was going to take her house and give it to developers.

"The United States Supreme Court, in a five-to-four decision, decided that economic development was enough of a public purpose to allow the city to take all this land, about 90 acres," Todd says. "As you might imagine, landowners throughout the country were up in arms."

Todd says the issue has crossed political lines.

"We have conservative groups concerned," Todd says. "We have liberal groups concerned."

Todd notes that even the Court’s majority said the decision is no blank check for such actions.

"On the other hand," he says, "I think most of us will also agree that downtown development or revitalization of a city is not that bad of a deal."

One of the justices who voted with the majority, Todd says, specifically said a test and a legal standard would have to be met before the government can take private property. A city or other government entity will have to present a good reason to exercise eminent domain in such a manner or the taking will not stand.

That means a city cannot take property arbitrarily and give it to someone else.

"This property that's owned by Person A and given to Person B," Todd says, "you can't to that."

The court said such a transfer must be based on a legitimate, well thought-out concern for economic development and a plan for how this is going to create a better community.

There has to be some protection for the public, Todd says, and some benefit for the public to do it.

"That's not very much solace to those of us who own land," Todd admits, "and are concerned about out property rights, but Kelo is out there, and we're going to have to live with it."

The answer may lie with the states.

"One thing that Kelo did say," Todd continues, "was that states can limit the right of eminent domain."

Kelo specifically says state legislatures can limit the state's authority to apply eminent domain.

"In other words, the state constitution can limit the state's authority to do it," Todd says. "There is still federal condemnation."

The federal government can use eminent domain for highways and public works programs to benefit society.

"It's unlikely that the federal government would take land for economic development," Todd adds. "That's done at the local level."

About eight states already have taken steps to limit the right of eminent domain, he notes.

"Oklahoma is not one of them," Todd says pointedly.

To some extent, he adds, Oklahoma has already been through this situation.

"There was a recent Oklahoma Supreme Court case that came out in 2004," Todd says, "that was very similar. It involved Mid-West City. Mid-West City was attempting to take some property and redevelop property around Tinker Air Force Base."

The city was trying to take the property under a general power of eminent domain.

They bought a lot of property, but a few landowners held out and said no, Todd continues.

The opponents claimed the city had determined unfairly that their property was blighted. The courts in the past have allowed cities to take properties that are blighted.

"These are slum areas, areas that are impoverished, areas that are really an eyesore," Todd says.

The law allows cities to take that property and redevelop it.

"They are called redevelopment acts," Todd says. "Oklahoma has three of them, but they're very specific in what is blighted and what kind of compensation has to be paid, whether you have to pay for business losses and things like that.

“In Mid-West City, the court held that there is no general power of cities for eminent domain," Todd says. "In other words, you can't just say, 'I want this land for economic development, and I'm going to take it.' That's something you can rely on."

In a practical sense, Todd says, farmers and ranchers shouldn't worry too much about losing land under such conditions because they are generally on the edge of town, outside the slums.

"Being on the outskirts of town, you're less likely to have blighted property," Todd points out.

The problem in some instances, however, is that a specific piece of property doesn't necessarily have to be blighted.

"You might have a nice little store in the middle of blighted property, but if it's determined that the area, the neighborhood, is blighted, they can still come and take your property so there's uniform development.

“That really rubs a lot of people the wrong way, but generally, that's not the case. A lot of these statutes are aimed at downtown redevelopment, urban renewal and things like that."

Todd doesn't look for wholesale eminent domain condemnations in Oklahoma or anywhere else anytime soon, but he says the Kelo case is something to be concerned about.

"The sky is not falling in Oklahoma," Todd explains. "However, I think that the Kelo decision should have the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association's attention. I think it's important to monitor this."

Draft legislation is being discussed among state representatives in Oklahoma.

"I think there are three draft bills that will narrow the scope of eminent domain in Oklahoma," Todd says. "It would probably be important and significant to monitor that. This prospective legislation is very important."

The Kelo decision, Todd says, was decided on the precedents set by past decisions. The Supreme Court heard two similar cases previously.

"I think it's been about 20 years since the United States Supreme Court has even looked at this issue," Todd says.

At least one of the previous cases is more alarming than the Kelo case, he adds.

The first, which seemed to cause little stir, concerned city blight in New York.

"About 64 percent of an area was uninhabited," Todd explains. "It was full of crime. It was just a slum. The United State Supreme Court said that was appropriate."

In that case, the Court ruled that eminent domain could be used for redevelopment purposes.

"The other case was, I think, more alarming," Todd continues.

In Hawaii in the 1970s, 70 families owned about 80 percent of the land on a certain island. That created a housing shortage.

"They had rent houses they wouldn't sell," Todd explains. "Why sell them? You can't buy a house; you have to rent one. Prices were very high."

In that case, the Court upheld in a nine to zero decision a ruling that Hawaii could force those landowners to sell their property to the tenants.

"To me, that would be really alarming," Todd says.

He questions whether that same logic could be applied to counties — whether government could force landowners who have a lot of property in a given county to sell part of it.

"I think Hawaii is a very unique case," Todd says, "but that's alarming."

There is concern at present, however, over a proposed highway from Oklahoma City to Laredo, Texas.

Known in “Baja Oklahoma” as the Trans-Texas Highway, the project has both Spanish and Mexican companies interested in developing it. It would be a toll road with land at intersections to be developed for malls and truck stops.

"I love condemnation cases against the turnpike authority," Todd says. "I represent landowners, and I look in the jury's eyes and say, 'The turnpike authority says it's worth this much, and we say it's worth this much, and when was the last time you paid a toll?'

“Next to car dealers and lawyers, turnpikes are the least favorite things jurors like."

The Oklahoma City to Laredo highway is still a ways away, but there is opposition to at least parts of it in both states.

"Under the United States Constitution, the federal government has the right to take private property for public use as long as they pay just compensation, and a highway is the most clear example of public use," Todd says. "That's just part of life."

© 2005 Livestock Weekly:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens defends his majority opinion

High Court Refuses To Review Ruling On Eminent Domain Case


Livestock Weekly
Copyright 2005

WASHINGTON —(AP)— The U.S. Supreme Court, given a chance to revisit a heavily criticized ruling, refused Monday to reconsider its decision giving local governments more power to seize people's homes for economic development.

So contentious was the court's narrow 5-4 ruling in the eminent domain case earlier this year that some critics launched a campaign to seize Justice David Souter's farmhouse in New Hampshire to build a luxury hotel. Others singled out Justice Stephen Breyer's vacation home in the same state for use as a park.

Both Souter and Breyer voted on the prevailing side. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whose decision to retire created the opening that Washington lawyer John Roberts now seeks to fill, wrote in her angry dissent of June that "the specter of condemnation hangs over all property."

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the majority opinion and defended it last week in a speech in Las Vegas. The ruling was legally correct, he said, because the high court has "always allowed local policy-makers wide latitude in determining how best to achieve legitimate public goals."

But Stevens said he had concerns about the results.

"My own view is that the allocation of economic resources that result from the free play of market forces is more likely to produce acceptable results in the long run than the best-intentioned plans of public officials," Stevens told the Clark County Bar Association.

Legal experts had said they did not expect the court's ruling, involving an economic development project in New London, Conn., to prompt a rush to claim homes.

Stevens said that "the public outcry that greeted (the ruling, Kelo v. City of New London) is some evidence that the political process is up to the task of addressing such policy concerns."

In Texas and several other states, that outcry quickly led to legislative limits on eminent domain powers.

Texas Senate Bill 7 went to Gov. Rick Perry’s office for his signature late last week. The bill specifically prohibits the use of eminent domain by any “governmental or private entity” to take private property for the benefit of another private party. It also applies the prohibition to any “public use that is merely a pretext to confer a private benefit,” as well as to most “economic development” projects.

© 2005 Livestock Weekly:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


TxDOT to negotiate comprehensive development agreement with Raytheon for open road tolling in Texas

Raytheon Selected to Provide Open-Road Tolling Systems in Texas

Aug. 25, 2005

AUSTIN, Texas, Germany
Copyright 2005

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Texas Transportation Commission today approved Raytheon Company as the prime contractor to develop, build and maintain open-road toll collection systems in Texas. Once implemented, Texas' open road tolling system will include the most advanced technology in the world and will facilitate convenient and safe travel for millions of drivers throughout the state.

Now that the selection process has been completed, Raytheon's Network Centric Systems and TxDOT will begin discussions aimed at executing a Comprehensive Development Agreement. This agreement will provide all the specific terms and conditions under which Raytheon would provide the open road toll collection systems for designated project segments over five years. Raytheon will also be responsible for maintaining these toll collection systems for a period up to eight years after each goes into operation.

Raytheon is the most experienced supplier of state-of-the-art open road, free-flow electronic tolling systems in the world. Its systems are in operation on three continents, including the world's first all-electronic, open road toll highway in Toronto, Canada. Raytheon's systems provide video tolling, transponder tolling and vehicle classification for all vehicles and allow all vehicles to use the toll road.

Raytheon's major subcontractors are Arcadis and Zachry. Arcadis is a leading, global, engineering service provider with $1 billion in annual revenue. The company has a strong presence in Texas and will provide civil engineering services for the project. Zachry is a privately-owned construction and industrial maintenance service company based in San Antonio, Texas. It has public- and private-sector projects for roadway infrastructure and system installations throughout the U.S.

Raytheon Network Centric Systems business, headquartered in McKinney, Texas, provides world-class highway management systems and technology along with air traffic management systems that control more than 60 percent of the world's skies. Raytheon businesses in Texas generate annual revenues in excess of $6 billion and employ over 8,000 people.

Raytheon Company, with 2004 sales of $20.2 billion, is an industry leader in defense and government electronics, space, information technology, technical services, and business and special mission aircraft. With headquarters in Waltham, Mass., Raytheon employs 80,000 people worldwide.

Contact Jeff Nelligan 703-284-4209

Quelle: AG /


"A path as wide as seven football fields."

Transportation officials discuss how corridor land would be acquired

August 25, 2005

By Matt Joyce
Waco Tribune-Herald
Copyright 2005

AUSTIN – It's the Trans-Texas Corridor's size that sets it apart. While the state has amassed thousands of miles of land for roadways since the early 1900s, never has it sought to clear a path as wide as 7 football fields.

Texas Department of Transportation officials laid out the framework for how the department will appraise and acquire land for the proposed tollway project at a Wednesday meeting of the Trans-Texas Corridor Citizen's Advisory Committee.

“We are talking about a significant amount of land and how it's going to impact landowners,” said John Zimmerman, head of the department's acquisition section.

But the department's methods for obtaining land for the 1,200-foot-wide corridor will be no different than other road projects, Zimmerman said.

Wednesday's meeting was the fourth gathering of the 22-member advisory committee, which the transportation department formed this spring after complaints that it was moving forward on the tollway project without enough public input.

The department is working through an environmental study of potential routes for a section of the corridor – a network that could include roads, railways and utility infrastructure – running roughly parallel to Interstate 35 from San Antonio to Dallas.

Transportation officials said Wednesday that they hope to have a 50-mile-wide study area for the corridor narrowed to 10 miles by December. Further refinement of the route would take until at least 2009, they said.

Zimmerman said the department must complete its environmental study and settle upon a corridor route before it begins surveying land for acquisition.

Recent rumors that department crews have already begun surveying land for the corridor are untrue, said Phillip Russell, director of the department's turnpike division. The department's investigation of reports into surveying for the corridor have showed that they originated from crews working on local projects, he said.

“We're not doing any surveying and probably won't for quite a while,” he said.

Once the corridor alignment is set and the land is surveyed, appraisers are required to meet with landowners to discuss the property, including improvements like drainage structures, before settling on a value, he said.

“We want to see the landowner get what that property's worth in the market,” Zimmerman said. “It's a balancing effort. The public should pay what's required, but they shouldn't pay an excessive amount.”

Bell County Commissioner Tim Brown, chairman of the advisory committee, asked how a farmer will be compensated if the corridor splits his property to the point that accessing the other side is an inconvenience, such as a farmer having to move equipment 25 miles to work his crops.

Zimmerman said recent legislation requires special consideration in the appraisal process if a landowner's property is devalued in that way, but that the department also has provisions that could allow landowners to move equipment or livestock under the corridor.

If the state and a landowner cannot reach agreement on a property's value, the department then asks the state Attorney General's Office to begin the condemnation process, which starts with a hearing before a special commission of three citizens. If either the state or landowner objects to a property's value as decided by the commission, then the dispute heads to a jury trial.

Waco Tribune-Herald


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

TxDOT gets "an earful, with very little of the commentary being positive."

Residents speak out on SH 130

August 24, 2005

By Bryan Kirk
The Seguin Gazette-Enterprise
Copyright 2005

SEGUIN — Posters sat horizontally on easels inside the Seguin-Guadalupe County Coliseum on Tuesday night, detailing the proposed schematic of the State Highway 130 project and giving some angry ranchers and property owners the chance to confront the state.

“This gives us a real good idea on whose land you’re going to take,” said Dr. Charles Branch to state officials before the start of the meeting.

Officials with the Texas Department of Transportation got an earful, with very little of the commentary being positive.

It was just the latest round of meetings and public hearings on the 91-mile tollway project that has been under construction in Georgetown and Round Rock since October 2003. Designed to relieve congestion on Interstate 35, the highway is projected to eventually extend from I-35 north of Georgetown to I-10 just east of Seguin. Only the northern legs of the project are now under construction.

Some of the residents were concerned that SH 130 could usher in the the larger Trans-Texas Corridor project, which is still in the early planning stages.

“It could be part of the TTC-35 project, but right now, it is still SH 130,” said Greg Malatek, Seguin area engineer for TxDOT. “They are still two separate entities.”

Citizens were treated to a presentation from Lone Star Infrastructure that included a brief history of the project and a technical presentation on SH 130’s environmental impact and information on the right-of-way acquisition process from TxDOT.

Local rancher Dennis Huber, who has been a fixture at the TxDOT public hearings, was among those concerned about how the tollway — most specifically the preservation corridor recently added to the plan TxDOT has said will be used for rail — would affect his way of life.

“You say you are going to try and help people relocate, but what about cattle relocation?” Huber asked. “Where are they going to put the cattle?”

A show of hands filled the room at Huber’s request of those against the preservation corridor.

“That ought to tell you something right there,” Huber said.

Meanwhile, R.J. Henry, who is also a rancher, was concerned about the environmental impact the tollway could have on 100-year-old Live Oak trees on his property, as well as a tank on his property used to feed livestock and wildlife.

He was advised by Environmental Task Manager Ashley McLain and Right-of-Way Administrator Don Toner that they would try address his problem.

Robert Daigh, TxDOT’s district engineer for the Austin district said the state understands the delicate nature of right-of-way acquisition and how it ultimately affects people.

“We take it very seriously,” Daigh said. “We understand the pain that it causes. What we endeavor to do is work through the process as quickly as we can and provide the best information that we can, to make the best decisions we can for the public good.”

TxDOT officials will host another public hearing on SH 130 this winter.

The Seguin Gazette:


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

"State officials sometimes forget who their bosses really are — the taxpayers."

Editorial: Agency forgets public it serves


San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2005

State officials sometimes forget who their bosses really are — the taxpayers.

That is the only explanation for the arrogance that afflicts some government workers, including those charged with a mammoth road project that could change the face of Texas.

Texas Department of Transportation officials boycotted a transportation summit in Irving recently, saying a statewide coalition that grew out of the event is closed-minded about a proposed toll road that would parallel Interstate 35.

Ironically, by refusing to listen to the views of the coalition, TEX-21, the state officials exhibited the very trait they condemn in the group — narrow-mindedness.

While TEX-21 takes no positions on specific projects, it employs the lobbying firm of Dean International, which has helped cities voice concerns about the project.

That assistance that led Ric Williamson, chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, to instruct staff to see him before attending any events with which the firm was associated, according to a report in the Express-News.

"It's unfortunate that one individual would act so childish, to boycott a summit that is so important to this simply because of personal reasons," Rep. Linda Harper Brown, R-Irving, told the newspaper.

She was right. This is the kind of disregard for the public that insulates agencies from the people whom their policies affect. As a result, TxDOT officials are doing more to damage their credibility — and their case for the toll proposal — than TEX-21 could ever hope to.

San Antonio Express-News:


Monday, August 22, 2005

Ferrovial continues to expand international acquisitions

Ferrovial Agrees to Buy Swissport for EU336 Million

Aug. 22, 2005

Joao Lima and Paul Tobin, Madrid
Copyright 2005

Aug. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Grupo Ferrovial SA, Spain's biggest builder, agreed to purchase baggage handler Swissport International AG from Candover Investments Plc for 336 million euros ($409 million) to expand in transport services.

Swissport, based in Zurich, is the world's second-biggest baggage handler, operating at more than 170 airports. Madrid- based Ferrovial, which has spent more than 4 billion euros on purchases since 1997, will also assume 310 million euros of debt.

Spanish builders have used proceeds from a housing boom and state spending on roads and railways to expand into services that offer wider profit margins and faster growth than construction. Ferrovial got 40 percent of first-half revenue from abroad, where investments include airports in the U.K. and Australia and toll roads in Canada and U.S.

``This operation is another step in our company's internationalization strategy,'' Ferrovial Chief Executive Officer Joaquin Ayuso said in the e-mailed statement. ``With Swissport we will be maintaining our focus on businesses with a recurring and stable earnings performance.''
Shares of Ferrovial gained as much as 25 cents, or 0.4 percent, to 62.50 euros and were trading at 62.45 euros as of 9:14 a.m. in Madrid. The stock has climbed 59 percent this year, giving Ferrovial a market value of 8.76 billion euros and ranking it No. 1 amongst Spanish builders and No. 3 in Europe.

`Reasonable Price'

``The purchase makes a lot of sense,'' said Jordi Padilla at Atlas Capital in Madrid, which manages $185 million. ``The price seems reasonable.''

For Candover, based in London, the sale of Swissport will generate a return of 2.6 times the original cost, director Charlie Green said in an interview. The buyout firm bought the business for 393 euros in February 2002 from the former Swissair Group.

The disposal, together with the sale of a stake in casino and bingo-hall operator Gala Group Holdings Plc, announced last week, will result in an increase of 77 pence a share in the net asset value of Candover, the firm said.

Swissport, which operates in 40 countries, had revenue of 836 million euros last year, 25 percent more than when Candover bought the business, Green said. About 90 percent of sales come from Europe and North America, with Swiss International Air Lines Ltd., the successor to Swissair, the company's biggest customer.

Ferrovial is already involved in managing of airports in Bristol, England, and Sydney, Australia, and runs toll roads in Toronto, Chicago and Ireland. The company last month bought U.S.-based Webber Group for $220 million to help undertake work on a 1,300 kilometer (806-mile) Texas highway project.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Joao Lima in Madrid at
Paul Tobin in Madrid at

©2005 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved :


"I'm upset that they're building this road in the first place."

Trans-Texas Corridor to miss Montgomery County


Howard Roden
The Courier
Copyright 2005

MAGNOLIA - Residents and officials from Montgomery County can breathe a collective sigh of relief because the recently released route for the proposed Interstate 69/Trans-Texas Corridor shows it most likely would miss the county entirely.

Texas Department of Transportation officials unveiled their choices for the recommended "reasonable" I-69/TTC links through Southeast Texas during a public meeting Aug. 8 at the West Montgomery Community Development Center. And with the exception of a relatively small area at the extreme northwestern tip of the county, the proposed federal superhighway would follow a path through Waller, Grimes and Walker counties before turning east toward U.S. 59 and deep East Texas.

Initial study areas of the I-69/TTC corridor, which extends from Mexico to Northeast Texas, included a number of preliminary routes. Virtually the whole western half of Montgomery County was part of that original survey. But TxDOT Project Manager Jack Heiss, of Austin, said Montgomery County's current and projected population density made any route physically and financially prohibitive when it came time for TxDOT to narrow its choices.

"When we started looking at routes, this (Montgomery County) was an area we first considered," he said. "But by the time we really got around to looking at the 2004 aerial photography - especially the possibility of routes across the southern section of the county - development had totally shut it off for consideration."

Heiss said the Sam Houston National Forest and Lake Livingston required that the I-69/TTC route be moved farther north.

The news was just as good for east county. Originally, the corridor was to follow the existing route of U.S. 59. That included the portion of highway that runs through Porter, New Caney and Splendora. However, TxDOT has shifted a proposed eastern segment of the corridor into Liberty County.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Craig Doyal, who attended the meeting, acknowledged his satisfaction that TxDOT officials have elected to avoid Montgomery County. While he would prefer that the agency direct more of its energy toward local issues, Doyal said the close proximity of the 1,200-foot-wide corridor to west Montgomery County could attract commercial economic growth to the area.

In addition to highway lanes, the quarter-mile right of way is supposed to accommodate freight railway lines, high-speed commuter railways and infrastructure for utilities.

"The possible access to the I-69/TTC corridor could turn out to be a big boon for us," Doyal said. "It would provide job opportunities where people wouldn't have to commute to Houston. And it's imperative we balance the residential with the commercial to take the tax burden off the homeowners."

Although Doyal is not convinced of the potential volume of traffic traveling through the area from the southwest to the northeast, he thinks the new corridor could one day provide greater mobility for residents in southwest Montgomery County.

Mike Kurkowski and Kathy Story are neighbors who live approximately eight miles south of Magnolia. Although both are relieved the reasonable routes for I-69/TTC remain to the west of their homes, they voiced their concern that the superhighway would bring increased growth.

"I'm upset that they're building this road in the first place," Kurkowski said. "We moved out to the county to get away from development."

Story said she was worried what impact the corridor would have on the property values of homes in its path. Heiss said it could be at least 2009, maybe 2010, before TxDOT receives the environmental go-ahead to begin buying land. It might take 20-25 years before actual construction would begin, he said.

"Those people won't be able to sell their land if everyone knows it will be a freeway five to 10 years from now," Story said. "I'm upset for those people. I think it's just wrong about what will happen."

Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador can empathize with the landowners in extreme northwest Montgomery County should TxDOT decide to place the corridor in that area. Rapid development is unlikely, but families whose ownership can be traced back for generations own most of the land.

"They would upset some old family ranchers." Meador said. "It won't bother me a bit if TxDOT misses that area entirely."

Mark and Katrina McDonald live about four miles east of Magnolia on FM 1488. And while their property stops at the Waller County line, the young couple said they're not resting easy.

"Study areas can move around over the years," Katrina McDonald said.
Howard Roden can be reached at

©Houston Community Newspapers Online 2005:


Institute for Justice on eminent domain bill: "I would have expected more from Texas."

Land-seizure bill riddled with loopholes, some say

August 22, 2005

By Jay Root, Austin Bureau
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2005

AUSTIN -- Gov. Rick Perry is touting new restrictions on the government's ability to seize land, but some critics say the bill has too many loopholes and doesn't offer enough protections to property owners.

"I would have expected more from Texas," said Dana Berliner, senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, a non-profit public-interest law firm specializing in government condemnation cases. "I would have expected a bill out of Texas that was not riddled with exceptions."

At issue is Senate Bill 7, sent to Perry's desk this week, which is designed to rein in the government's "eminent domain" condemnation powers in the wake of a controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision. The June ruling, paving the way for homes in Connecticut to be razed so developers can build condos, offices and a hotel, clarified that governmental entities can condemn property for economic development purposes.

That sparked a wave of citizen protests and prompted Legislatures in more than 30 states to draft bills aimed at restricting eminent domain powers when used to benefit private interests and economic development.

Texas lawmakers, meeting in special session, passed a bill this week limiting eminent domain, and it's now waiting the governor's signature. Perry applauded the legislation, saying it would ensure "government cannot seize private property simply to generate more tax revenue."

"This bill provides common-sense protection for every private property owner, and I will continue to work with members of the legislature to add further protections in the state constitution," Perry said.

The bill provides a host of exemptions. It has a provision designed to allow Arlington to continue condemning land to make way for the new Dallas Cowboys stadium, for example.

It also does not restrict the Tarrant Regional Water District from using its eminent-domain powers to condemn property along the Trinity River and pave the way for eventual completion of the Trinity River Vision project.

Critics complain that the flood control improvements are designed primarily to create economic development on Fort Worth's north end, displacing long-established businesses and benefitting private developers.

"The people that are doing the Trinity River project are pretty much hell bent on doing it regardless of the impact on small business people," said state Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth. Burnam said "ambiguities" in the legislation will have to be worked out in court.

Jim Oliver, general manager of the Tarrant water district, said officials want to negotiate to buy the needed property.

"Condemnation is a very last step," he said. "We intend to negotiate and buy the property that we need. We're about a year away from doing any land purchases. Condemnation is not even on our radar."

The $425 million project is being sold as a flood-control project that will also spark economic development. Oliver said the drainage improvements, including a 1 1/2 mile bypass that will create valuable riverfront property, will have "tremendous economic develop spinoffs." For example, local leaders are touting a proposal that would include apartment complexes, office buildings, restaurants and a 33-acre town lake.

But Oliver said the main purpose of the infrastructure improvements is flood control. And even if Perry signs the newly passed legislation into law as expected, the district can acquire the land it needs, he said.

"We never intended to use eminent domain for economic development to begin with," he said.

However, in May, at the behest of the Tarrant water district, Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, passed a bill that specifically expanded the water district's power allowing it to condemn property for economic development purposes and to use its authority to "promote state or local economic development and stimulate business and commercial activity."

Perry announced he had signed the legislation, House Bill 2639, into law on June 18 -- five days before the watershed Kelo vs. City of New London Supreme Court decision, a ruling that the governor and other state leaders roundly criticized.

Perry spokesman Robert Black said the governor considered the matter a "local issue supported by the local community" when he signed it.

"He certainly had no problem with the bill," Black said.

Geren said the office of U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, asked that he include language expanding the condemnation powers of the water district to cover economic development. He said Granger's office told him it was needed to ensure that federal funding for the project went through.

Granger spokesman Pat Svacina said this week Granger's office never made such a request.

But Geren also said that if Perry signs the new law, it would prohibit the water district from using its powers to condemn property specifically for economic development. Either way, Oliver, the water district manager, said he did not need the language in the Geren bill to go forward with the project.

More broadly, critics say there are enough exemptions in the proposed new restrictions to raise serious questions about its effectiveness. One exemption, for example, allows condemnation to be used for economic development if it's a "secondary purpose resulting from municipal community development or municipal urban renewal activities to eliminate an existing affirmative harm on society from slum or blighted areas."

Berliner, of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice, which represented the plaintiffs in the Kelo decision, called that a large loophole.

"There is a decent possibility that the community development exemptions will let in all the economic development condemnation they were saying they were trying to keep out," Berliner said.

State Rep. Frank Corte, R-San Antonio, fought for much tougher restrictions during debate on the eminent-domain legislation, including a condemnation moratorium that specifically included the Tarrant water district. He lost that fight but said he'll continue to push for protections to be included in the state constitution.

"I just don't think it was strong enough," he said. "This is about the best we can get at this time. It does allow us to continue to study this issue."

Jay Root, (512) 476-4294

Fort Worth Star-Telegram:


Sunday, August 21, 2005

TxDOT: "The Trans-Texas Corridor will be owned by the People of Texas."

State will own planned corridor

August 21, 2005

Editor, the Advocate:
The Victoria Advocate
Copyright 2005

I'd like to correct a few errors in the comments Mary Jahn made in an Aug. 16 story in your newspaper on the Trans-Texas Corridor.

The Trans-Texas Corridor will be owned by the people of Texas, not Cintra-Zachry.

That corporation's role will be planning and building it, but the corridor always will be part of the state highway system, not a private road.

And tax dollars will not subsidize Cintra-Zachry. If the corporation borrows money from the federal government, it will be repaid with interest.

Neither will the corporation have any control over what happens to property adjacent to the corridor or who may own businesses along the corridor.

As we have said before, TxDOT encourages public discussion of all transportation issues, but we think it's important to stick to the facts.

MIKE COX, communications manager
Texas Department of Transportation

The Victoria Advocate:


California toll tax ( Route 91) : 77.5 cents per mile

OPINION: Getting there

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2005

Getting around Texas was once pretty simple. Not anymore.

Not with more than 22 million people in the state -- double the number in 1970 -- and most of the population clustered in several teeming metropolitan areas.

Not with the average North Central Texas motorist stuck in traffic for 60 hours a year as a result of gridlock created by 6 million humans living in a 16-county region that is gaining 150,000 people a year.

In simpler times, as Texas' population grew gradually, the state routinely added new highways and farm-to-market roads.

Motorists were far more likely to encounter a wayward armadillo than gridlock, a term unknown to Texans during the glory days of the American automobile and state highway expansion in the mid-20th century.

But to those attending the Aug. 9-12 Texas Transportation Summit at the Omni Mandalay Hotel in Irving, it was obvious that getting around isn't so simple anymore.

For increasingly crowded North Central Texas, it seems clear that our transportation system in coming years will include more toll roads, commuter rail and light rail lines, and express buses.

There also could be high-speed intercity trains sprinting between Texas' major metropolitan areas at 200 or more miles per hour -- either "bullet trains" such as those in France and Japan or magnetic levitation ("maglev") trains such as one in China that can top 265 mph.

Already, many Fort Worth-Dallas motorists regularly decide between taking a clogged "free" road or opting for a faster toll road that could lighten their wallets a buck or two.

They also might, on parts of a few freeways, have a choice of using a less congested high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane if they have a passenger.

In the future, they'll have a more complex array of options, as noted by transportation experts at the summit.

More "managed lanes" are clearly in the works, both on major Metroplex highways and in other highly urbanized areas of the state. These are designated lanes where the traffic is "managed" in specific ways -- for example, by creating express toll lanes in which a motorist can pay to avoid bogged regular traffic lanes.

A managed lane also can be one dedicated exclusively to a certain type of traffic, such as express buses hauling commuters or 18-wheeler freight trucks segregated from passenger vehicles on interstate highways.

You also can expect to see "congestion pricing" in the future -- higher tolls for driving on busy roads during peak traffic hours. But you might enjoy a lower toll, or no toll at all, if you travel in a car with one or two additional people.

At one summit session, an official with the Orange County Transportation Authority in car-choked Southern California shocked some listeners by explaining that a motorist on state Route 91, a road serving Orange and Riverside counties, could pay a toll up to $7.75 for only 10 miles of driving during peak traffic hours.

That's 77.5 cents per mile! Yikes!

But we might see such tolls in the Fort Worth-Dallas area someday if we don't improve our road system, expand use of mass transit and develop our communities intelligently to encourage less vehicular traffic.

Traffic on Route 91 has been increased by skyrocketing home prices in California, said Orange authority official Paul Taylor.

"One thing that's going on in Orange County is that people can't afford to live there anymore," he said. "In Orange County, the median home price is about $600,000 . . . in Riverside County, to the east, the median home price is about $400,000, which is relatively affordable."

More people are commuting from homes in Riverside County to jobs in Orange County via Route 91.

At another session, featuring heads of Metroplex public transit agencies, it was obvious that Fort Worth and Tarrant County are far behind Dallas and surrounding cities when it comes to providing bus and rail transit that will help reduce future traffic congestion and air pollution resulting from continued population growth.

The Fort Worth Transportation Authority, or "the T," has an annual operating budget of $44.8 million -- one-seventh the size of the $306.5 million operating budget for Dallas Area Rapid Transit.

Moreover, the T's capital budget of $45.4 million is about one-sixth of DART's $272.4 million capital budget.

The T, funded predominantly by Fort Worth through a half-cent sales tax, logs an average of about 21,500 passenger trips each weekday on buses and the Trinity Railway Express commuter rail.

DART, funded with a penny sales tax from Dallas and 12 other cities, registers nearly 200,000 passenger trips daily.

Officials in the western half of the Metroplex need to redouble their efforts to work together -- as well as with leaders in the eastern half of the region -- to establish the stronger public transit services and road systems that will be crucial to coping with future congestion.

Individuals can contribute by making decisions that will help thwart gridlock and air pollution -- driving more fuel-efficient cars, using public transit and living closer to their jobs.

If all drivers do their part, we're much more likely to avoid those $7.75 tolls that some California residents are paying to travel a mere 10 miles.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram:


TxDOT could still condemn property for ancillary facilities with the approval of local county commisioners court.

Property rights bill could protect landowners in corridor's path

By Matt Joyce, staff writer

Waco Tribune-Herald
Copyright 2005

The state Legislature's passage of a property rights bill last week could result in specific protections for landowners who find themselves in the path of the Trans-Texas Corridor and other state tollway projects, observers said.

The Legislature gave final approval on Tuesday to the bill, which restricts governments from using the power of eminent domain to acquire property for the benefit a private party or to create economic development.

The bill also includes an amendment that prohibits the Texas Department of Transportation from using eminent domain to acquire land for “ancillary facilities,” such as gas stations and convenience stores, on state tollway projects, including the Trans-Texas Corridor.

“I believe it's another positive move and a victory for those that are concerned about the scope and size of the (toll road) projects we're going to see coming our way,” said state Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, who authored the amendment.

A bill passed in the regular session earlier this year already stopped corridor developers from condemning land contiguous to the corridor for support facilities, but it did not apply to other toll road projects, she said.

A second amendment to last week's bill, added by Rep. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, tempers Kolkhorst's measure by giving the transportation department the authority to condemn property for ancillary facilities if it is approved by the local county commissioners court.

Gov. Rick Perry added the eminent domain issue to the Legislature's second special session in response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the issue. In the ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that a city was justified in seizing property from homeowners and transferring the land to developers if it would result in higher tax revenues for the government.

A similar property rights bill failed in the first special session over differences between state House and Senate versions.

This week, Perry praised the Legislature for “passing a bill that ensures government cannot seize private property simply to generate more tax revenue.” He also said he would work with the Legislature on a possible state constitutional amendment to add protections.

Perry spokesman Robert Black said the Governor is looking “favorably” at signing the bill. Perry does not have the ability to single out certain sections of the bill for veto, as he would if it were an appropriations bill, Black said.

David Stall, co-founder of the group Corridor Watch, which opposes the state's corridor plans, said the bill is a victory for landowners regardless of the elements related to transportation projects.

“The bill, while it doesn't go as far as we'd like it to go, it goes as far as we can expect the Legislature to take it with all the special interests out there that are protecting their turf as well,” Stall said.

Perry proposed the Trans-Texas Corridor – a network of roads, railway and utility infrastructure criss-crossing the state – in 2002 to accommodate growing trade and traffic on the state's interstate system.

The Texas Transportation Commission is now in negotiations with private developers Cintra-Zachry for the company to build the corridor at its own expense in exchange for a 50-year lease to operate the corridor as a tollway.

Jason Nelson, a spokesman for state Rep. Mike Krusee, the Round Rock Republican who authored the 2003 bill authorizing the Trans-Texas Corridor, said the state's position in negotiations with Cintra-Zachry would not be harmed by the eminent domain restrictions.

Nelson said the state transportation department is interested in building highways, not the stores and accommodations that develop beside them.

“If Cintra wanted to go in and operate some kind of facility, they could go into negotiations with the landowners, but that would be the same process for anybody that wanted to build a facility,” Nelson said.

Texas Department of Transportation spokesperson Gaby Garcia said the eminent domain bill adds to private property rights that were already adopted during the regular session and signed into law by Perry.

Among other measures, that bill disallowed corridor developers from building restaurants or hotels within the corridor's right-of-way and required that gas stations and convenience stores be built in the corridor medians.


Waco Tribune-Herald: