Friday, September 22, 2006

US 'toll-road market' "at the tipping point."

Beware road rage toll in US, says MIG

September 22, 2006

David Nason, New York correspondent
The Australian
Copyright 2006

MACQUARIE Infrastructure Group chief executive Stephen Allen has warned that Wall Street's investment banks are ready to exploit US xenophobia as they compete with foreign operators for lucrative US toll-road opportunities.

Speaking at a Merrill Lynch-sponsored Australian investment conference in New York, Mr Allen said xenophobia was "alive and well in the US today".

"It is a real issue and it's one we need to deal with," he said.

"The market here is going to get more competitive. All the major investment banks are all starting infrastructure funds. In the marketing, they'll be promoting the US side of the business."

He suggested it would be infrastructure funds set up by the "less salubrious" investment banks which would try to incite resentment against foreign operators. But he did not name any banks.
Mr Allen's remarks came during a discussion of MIG's recent experience in Indiana, where the company, in conjunction with Spanish toll-road operator Centra, has taken a 75-year lease on a highway across the state's north. The Centra-Macquarie consortium will collect all the toll revenues in return for an upfront payment of $US3.8 billion ($5.1 billion). Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels intends to use the money to fund transport infrastructure in other parts of the state.

But the deal has sparked an outcry over debt-free public assets being leased to foreigners. That concern has now spread to other parts of the US and has become a live issue in several state elections.

Mr Allen said the US had the potential to be a "massive market" for MIG.

"We think the US is going to be the biggest market in the world for what we do. There's a great need to improve the road network here. Big money was spent in the 1950s and 60s, but the gas tax is no longer covering the funding requirements and nobody wants to raise the gas tax. Bringing in private money is a very attractive proposition for providing more infrastructure."
But partly due to the emotive climate, Mr Allen said, MIG would spend the next 12 months consolidating its holdings in four of five main toll roads in the US.

However, after his presentation, Mr Allen said MIG would be interested in the New Jersey Turnpike, one of the world's busiest toll roads, if Governor John Corzine put it on the market.
MIG has sold a 50 per cent stake in its US holdings to Macquarie Infrastructure Partners (MIP), a US investment vehicle established under Delaware law and managed by a Macquarie subsidiary. The move was designed to allow MIG to seek future US toll-road opportunities with a US partner and so counter the notion of a foreign takeover by MIP. It would also create a platform for "going ahead in the US".

States with legislation allowing public-private partnerships include Texas, Oregon, Indiana, California, Utah, Colorado, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

There are currently $US25 billion worth of projects in play and another $US20-$US25 billion in new road projects under consideration.

Mr Allen named Texas as one of the most prospective states because its population was forecast to grow from 25 million to 50 million by 2030.

He said the US toll-road market was "at the tipping point" following Indiana and MIG's Skyway deal with Mayor Richard Daley in Chicago.

"Two people (Daniels and Daley) have done it now, but you just don't know how many more it will take before it becomes widespread," Mr Allen said

© 2006 The Australian:


Thursday, September 21, 2006

“I think the majority of Texas landowners opposed this corridor. It was done in a deceitful, tricky way.”

Trans Texas Corridor route would remove thousands of farm acres from production

Sep 21, 2006

By Ron Smith
Southwest Farm Press
Copyright 2006

Pat Hensen spent a good part of his 35-year career with the Soil Conservation Service (now Natural Resource Conservation Service) helping Texas Blacklands farmers improve their land.

And he’s invested considerable time, effort and money the last 20 years doing the same on his own or leased acreage.

And it may all end up under yards of concrete and asphalt if the Trans Texas Corridor passes muster and follows the latest proposed route.

“My farm would be in the middle of it,” Hensen says from his Bell County living room where he and wife Loretta participate in a grassroots campaign to stop what they believe is no more than a land grab and an unconscionable destruction of some of the best farm land in the Southwest.

“Regardless of where it goes, it will take out about 150 acres per mile through the heart of the Blacklands,” Hensen says.

Ultimately, the corridor would link with the NAFTA highway and stretch from Canada into the heart of Mexico and take a chunk of farmland out of the Midwest. When completed, the Trans Texas Corridor would include more than 4,000 miles of intersecting highways across the state.

“They plan to take the best land we have to build a road and once it’s paved it’s gone forever,” Hensen says. “The corridor will take acreage equal to one county out of Texas.”

He says a lot of Texans are not aware of the corridor and certainly not cognizant of the lost acreage and disruption it will create.

The road, which supporters tout as a multi-use corridor with a passenger highway, a roadway for trucking, a rail line and utility lines, takes a 1200-foot swath out of the rural areas it crosses. The roadway may claim another 200-foot right-of-way.

“It does not have to be that wide,” Hensen says.

He’s convinced that the road cuts through farmland instead of following Interstate 35 because of business and environmentalist interest.

“We’re giving up all this good farm land to protect some kind of sparrow,” he says. “No one seems interested in protecting farmers.”

The corridor is supposed to be a toll road but opponents question if tolls will pay the freight and point out that the contractor has already lobbied the Texas legislature for funds. Construction could begin within the next few years with a completion target of 2017. “They could break ground next year (near Laredo),” Loretta says.

“It would include six train tracks,” Hensen says. “I didn’t know that taxpayers were responsible for paying for rail and utility lines.” That chore usually goes to private enterprise, he says.

“We’re developing a grassroots opposition,” Loretta says. A Web site,, offers updates on opposition efforts.

“It’s been so secretive it’s scary,” Hensen says. He’s also concerned about the waterlines that will run alongside the roadway and railroad tracks. He fears large cities will pull water out of rural areas into municipalities, leaving farmers without adequate water for crop irrigation or livestock production.

They say plans have moved quickly to get the corridor on a fast track. “First we heard was in 2002,” Hensen says. “The people of Texas should be concerned about the loss of 100,000 acres of prime Blackland farm acreage. It’s wrong to take that much farmland out of production without adequate compensation. They could take less valuable acreage.”

The Hensens say the corridor still needs federal approval.

The Texas Farm Bureau opposes the corridor. Bureau President Kenneth Dierschke and members of the organization’s state board of directors have voiced their opposition at public forums. Their concern includes a fear that the proposed corridor will eventually swallow up many thousands of acres of Texas’ best farmland.

Dierschke says the corridor jeopardizes the region’s continued farming heritage. The Texas Farm Bureau also expresses concern over access to and from the different communities in the area and foreign country dealings in the crafting of the superhighway contracts.

A company from Spain, Cintra, has been awarded a contract to build the corridor.

“The Texas Farm Bureau is on record as being opposed to the Trans Texas Corridor,” Dierschke says. “Our voting delegates at our annual meetings have expressed their continued opposition to its construction.”

The Texas chapter of the National Farmers’ Union also opposes the corridor.

“We passed a resolution at our convention opposing it,” says Texas NFU President Wes Sims.

He has seen “a lot of anger” from Texas landowners who believe the corridor is a big land grab. He says the farm group has several concerns with the corridor.

The method of acquiring land tops the list. “They’re using eminent domain to take property,” he says, “with no consideration of the effects on the livelihood of property owners. It’s mostly agricultural acreage, away from cities, but farms will not be the only businesses affected.

“What happens to those small towns along the corridor route?” Sims says access along the corridor will be limited to major highways, leaving a lot of rural communities and the businesses they count on for their economic bases without access from the highways that funneled business into them for decades.

He said the corridor’s limited access also will affect farmers’ ability to get to stores, services, churches and schools. In some cases, the roadway will prevent reasonable access from one side of a farm to another. Potential to disrupt water availability also concerns land owners.

Sims says a lot of Texans are angry at the way the corridor came about. Texas voters approved an amendment to the state constitution allowing the legislature to alleviate traffic congestion along Interstate 35.

“But there were no details about how they would do it,” Sims says. “I voted against it and encouraged my members to do the same. Voters thought they were voting to improve traffic problems on I-35.

“I think the majority of Texas landowners opposed this corridor. It was done in a deceitful, tricky way.”

Sims says Texans still have options. “It’s not too late to stop it,” he says. “The legislature can do it.”

He says the citizens of Texas need to exert enough pressure on the legislature to force them to rescind the action.


© 2006 Southwest Farm Press:


The biggest single exercise of forcible eminent domain in the history of the state, and possibly the biggest in the history of the nation."

Candidate For Attorney General Rips Corridor And Concentration


By David Bowser
Livestock Weekly
Copyright 2006

PAMPA, Texas — David Van Os, Democratic candidate for Texas Attorney General, is well along in his campaign tour to visit each of the state’s 254 counties, but his major issue, the Trans-Texas Corridor, does not resonate especially well with West Texas.

The Trans-Texas Corridor, a toll road running through East Texas and Central Texas, is a superhighway that will eat up about 600,000 acres, much of it taken over through the government's power of eminent domain. It will be run by a corporation in Spain, which can lease land along the right-of-way to private interests for truck stops, shops and restaurants.

While concerns over the toll road and its land acquisition policies are far from West Texas, Van Os said it's a matter of private property rights and could set a precedent for future use of the state's power of eminent domain.

"Even if you're not in the path right now," Van Os warned, "it is the first leg of a planned spider web of these giant toll roads that will go out all over the state."

Van Os, a San Antonio lawyer, said the Trans-Texas Corridor is the biggest single exercise of forcible eminent domain in the history of the state, and possibly the biggest in the history of the nation.

"I believe that if it goes through as it's planned, it will be a green light so huge that no hare-brained scheme that involves forcible eminent domain will ever be considered out of bounds," he said.

Van Os said that under state law, the Texas Department of Transportation, once it has filed suit against a landowner during the eminent domain process, can take possession of the land even before the landowner can reply to the lawsuit.

Van Os said that raises alarm bells in his mind concerning due process of law.

"That is just atrocious," Van Os said. "This thing is being done for greed, for the greed of a bunch of hogs swarming to the trough who want this thing to be built so they can make billions of dollars off of it. It is being rammed down people's throats in an eruption of governmental arrogance."

He said dozens of county commissioners’ courts through the middle of the state have adopted resolutions in opposition to the Trans-Texas Corridor.

"This is giving away Texas land," Van Os said, "to foreign corporations."

Van Os said a provision in the state Constitution prohibits the appropriation of public monies for private profit.

"It's barely been winked at for the last 20 years while the concept of public-private partnership has been growing so much in governmental policymaking," Van Os charged. "It's not really being enforced today. That's why I think the Trans-Texas Corridor is wrong."

While his campaign crowds have been small in this part of the country (only three people turned out to hear him in Pampa, including a newspaper reporter), a message that seems to attract more attention concerns near monopolies in the insurance and meatpacking industries.

Texas, he said, was the second political jurisdiction in the history of the world to enact an antitrust law.

"That was a full decade before the U.S. Congress enacted the federal anti-trust act, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1896," Van Os said.

The state's first anti-trust law in the 1880s was drafted by then attorney general and later the first native-born Governor of Texas, James Stephen Hogg.

"Jim Hogg, as attorney general, wrote the anti-trust law and sent it to the Legislature and asked them to pass it so he could protect the people from the railroad barons," Van Os said.

After it was passed, Hogg took the railroads to court and won the first anti-trust lawsuit against a railroad.

"When Jim Hogg, on behalf of the people of Texas, whipped the railroad barons, that set a standard for the whole rest of the country in dealing with the railroad monopolies," Van Os said. "Here in Texas, we do that kind of thing. We stand up for the opportunity of the individual and the independent business owner for a fair chance."

The Texas Constitution, Article 1, Section 26, said monopolies are contrary to free government and shall never be allowed, he said.

"They didn't put an asterisk there that said except in the case of big insurance companies," Van Os added.

The health insurance industry is now in the hands of about five big parent corporations, he said.

"Here in Texas, we're paying the highest premiums for homeowners insurance of anybody in the country," Van Os said.

The top four major meatpacking companies now account for the slaughter of about 85 percent of the cattle in the nation.

"It is a fact of history, a fact of economics, it's a fact of life that when too much economic power gets concentrated into too few hands it inevitably results in the exercise of monopoly power and monopoly control," Van Os said. "The independent business owner who is trying to make a living and contribute to the economy gets squeezed out."

The attorney general of Texas has the tools of office to fight back against runaway corporate monopolies on behalf of independent ranchers, he said.

"We've got strong anti-trust laws on our books," Van Os said. "We've got strong consumer laws. We've got anti-price gouging laws. Those laws don't need to be reinvented. They're on our books."

He said they need to be enforced.

“The attorney general of our state is uniquely charged with the responsibility and given the tools of office to level the playing fields for all the people to enforce the rule of law impartially.”

© 2006 Livestock Weekly:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Strayhorn: "Do we really need a massive, foreign-owned toll road system in Texas? No."


Strayhorn: On the roads; Trans-Texas Corridor to benefit special interests, not the public

September 21, 2006

Carole Keeton Strayhorn, Texas Comptroller
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2006

Do we really need a massive, foreign-owned toll road system in Texas? No.

Gov. Rick Perry and his special interest crowd at the Capitol are not listening to the people of Texas.

At 55 hearings across the state, thousands of hard-working Texans said, "No," to Perry's still secret deal with a foreign company to build toll roads across Texas.

The governor and his transportation officials insist on going forward with his Trans-Texas Corridor, the largest land grab in Texas history — seizing half a million acres of private property. Texas property belongs to Texans, not foreign companies.

I am adamantly opposed to the governor's Trans-Texas Catastrophe. His secret agreement will allow a foreign company to own the for-profit toll road "concessions" for more than 50 years.

I have outlined a transportation plan that puts Texans first, not special interests. In a Strayhorn administration, we will once again have a transportation system that is the envy of the nation, with freeways not tollways.

My long-term solutions expand freeways using existing rights of way under two completed Texas Department of Transportation studies, increase efficiency and use of our existing rail lines and ports, expand telecommuting, and appoint an inspector general at TxDOT and a transportation ombudsman to listen to Texans. This protects Texas farm and ranch land, improves coastal evacuations, increases capacity of existing freeways and railways, and encourages family and environment friendly telecommuting.

Visit my Web site,, to learn more.

The Perry administration says we have insufficient funds for transportation and have to toll existing roads such as U.S. 290 in Austin and Houston, U.S. 281 in San Antonio, and Texas 121 in Dallas/Fort Worth. I oppose this double taxation.

The truth is that TxDOT's budget has increased an incredible 117 percent under this administration. The transportation budget increased $8.2 billion to a total of $15.2 billion. By comparison, our state budget has increased $44 billion dollars, 45 percent in the same time. We have plenty of money; we need the courage to spend it wisely. In 25 years, just maintaining the current transportation funding would provide $190 billion for roads.

We have $4 billion in Texas Mobility Bonds approved on my motion in 2005, an additional $3 billion in revenue bonds approved in 2003, increased federal funds and increased tax collections at the state level. Texans have paid more in inspection fees and license tags in the past six years. Make no mistake, a fee or a toll collected by the government is a tax.

I stand with Texans from the Rio Grande Valley to the Red River who oppose the governor's attempt to seize land and build tolls across Texas. I listened to the people of Texas, and the people of Texas are overwhelmingly opposed to this $184 billion boondoggle.

TxDOT is telling Texans they cannot stop this boondoggle — even if they elect a new governor. That is dead wrong. I will blast this corridor off the bureaucratic books, replacing it with my common-sense plan to address our transportation needs.

Texans deserve the truth. Much of the work to get Texans from here to there has already been done — by TxDOT itself. In fact, I provided three reports to TxDOT to stop the Trans-Texas Corridor:

•TxDOT's own 1999 state analysis, approved by TxDOT and then-Chairman David Laney, calling for the expansion of Interstate 35 using existing rights of way.

•The 2001 TxDOT Ports to Plains study that will relieve existing I-35 congestion by improving transportation from South Texas through West Texas using existing roads.

•My 1999 efficiency report that recommended increasing telecommuting to 10 percent. Family friendly telecommuting is up to 15 percent in my agency.

Tolling roads that were planned as freeways, and converting freeways to tollways is double taxation, and it is wrong.

I am adamantly opposed to tollways when we are awash in transportation funds, to double taxation and to seizing more than half a million acres of hard-working Texans' property and turning them over to a foreign company. Texans are opposed to it, and the governor knows it. That is why he is postponing collecting tolls on existing roads to just after the election. The people of Texas will not be fooled.

In this election, there are two sides and one choice — the Austin political establishment and its land-grabbing, secret, foreign-owned tolls versus the people and their desire for freeways. I stand with the people. I will shake Austin up.

Strayhorn is an independent gubernatorial candidate.

© 2006 Austin American-Statesman: www.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Private toll toad deal contains 'absolution clause.'

Daniels: Chocola ( State Rep.) not involved in Toll Road lease

I think it’s really unfair’ to make road pact issue in 2nd District race, governor says.

Sep 20, 2006

South Bend Tribune
Copyright 2006

SOUTH BEND — Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who stopped here Tuesday, exempted U.S. Rep. Chris Chocola, R-2nd, from any responsibility for the leasing of the Indiana Toll Road, saying the congressman played no role in the decision.

Daniels, who was responding to a reporter’s question, acknowledged his awareness that the Toll Road decision has popped up in polls as an issue in the congressional campaign between Chocola and Democratic challenger Joe Donnelly.

“I think it’s really unfair,” Daniels said of the situation, adding that “they can blame it on me” if people think $4 billion of new roads and jobs without a penny of tax dollars or passenger car toll increase is a bad idea.

“Chris Chocola had nothing to do with it.”

The governor, who was in town to address the opening session of the Association of Indiana Counties at the Century Center, also took a playful poke at State Rep. B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, in response to Bauer’s earlier comment about the Toll Road lease revenue being “tainted” money.“For once in his life, Pat Bauer was right about something,” Daniels told the AIC crowd. “T’ain’t a penny of tax increase in there anywhere. T’ain’t a penny of passenger toll increase in there. T’ain’t money we’d ever have gotten any other way.”

At a news conference following his address, Daniels said he was just responding to Bauer’s comments, “I hope in good humor.”

Bauer, who once accused Daniels of “impersonating a Hoosier” during the last election, said Daniels “was trying to resume his role in the election when he played being a southern Indiana boy.”

The South Bend Democrat, who has been a staunch foe of the Toll Road lease, said the administration knows “there’s a real problem” in the lease agreement and noted that the legislation included an absolution clause.

“Absolution is what you get when you confess your sins,” Bauer said. “Therefore, they did something wrong, and the only penance will be paid by the people of Indiana when they pay constantly increasing tolls and see that money go overseas.” Bauer also disputed Daniels’ claim that the Toll Road was a financial loser.

“It never lost money,” said the legislator, citing the road’s $18.4 million in net income in fiscal year 2004 and $11.7 million in fiscal year 2005. “It wasn’t meant to be a cash cow.”

Staff writer James Wensits: (574) 235-6353

"Expanding the Use of Eminent Domain by the Federal Government."

How Proud Jefferson Must Be of 43

September 20, 2006

Dan Byfield
River Cities' Reader
Copyright 2006

Like an opportunistic politician, President George W. Bush in June celebrated the one-year anniversary of the now-infamous Supreme Court eminent-domain case known as Kelo v. New London by issuing an executive order called "Protecting the Property Rights of the American People."

Protecting the property rights of whom? The fact that no one in the property-rights movement had any idea it was coming or, for that matter, requested it, should be cause for suspicion. After reading it, suspicion is confirmed.

Although in speeches before the nation, President Bush espouses private property as one of the necessary tenets for democracy in the Middle East and around the world, his actions here at home are quite different. He continues to advocate for and allow its destruction in America.

Knowing his conservative property-owner base was wavering, Bush's political handlers seized an opportunity to make them feel good by issuing a nonsense executive order supposed to manipulate the masses into believing he disavows Kelo and supports private property.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Like so many states now addressing the Supreme Court decision through legislation, Bush appears to be condemning eminent domain, but in reality, he's condoning its use by incorporating many of the current abuses and then expanding the governmental fiat.

Section 3 of the executive order sets out specific exclusions or purposes under which private property can be taken by the federal government. They include "Public ownership or exclusive use of the property by the public, such as for a public ... roadway, park, forest, governmental office building, or military reservation; (b) projects designated for public, common carrier, public transportation, or public utility use, including those for which a fee is assessed; (c) conveying the property to a nongovernmental entity; (d) preventing or mitigating a harmful use of land that constitutes a threat to public health, safety, or the environment."

To translate, the executive order specifically states that eminent domain can be used for: building toll roads such as the NAFTA Superhighway, a project in which a foreign corporation will construct a multi-lane highway through the middle of our nation and collect toll fees for 50 years, with the Texas portion called the Trans Texas Corridor set to start construction in 2007; expanding wilderness areas disguised as parks and forests; establishing environmental buffer zones used to expand boundaries around forts and take more private land; mitigating or paying extortion to the government for developing your own land because they say it harms endangered species; and conveying all the above to the Nature Conservancies of the world for "environmental" purposes.

It doesn't sound like President Bush intends to protect American citizens' property; rather, he's building an empire by expanding the federal government's power and landmass.

The Fifth Amendment to our Constitution lists none of the above purposes for taking private property. In fact, the executive order encourages the expansion of powers of the government while diminishing the rights of the individual. Our Constitution was specifically created to protect the rights of the individual by limiting the powers of the government.

This executive order uses cleverly twisted words to make it appear as though it is protecting the private property of all Americans. But, in reality, it is supporting every conceivable rationale for condemnation that can be used by the government to take private property from the individual and hold it in trust for every American - hence, "Protecting the Property Rights of the American People."

The executive order should have been called "Expanding the Use of Eminent Domain by the Federal Government." It is a slick political maneuver to make the masses think the government is here to help us, while all along this executive order is meant to provide cover to those federal agencies, bureaucrats, and nongovernmental organizations all going about their business of taking more private land out of private hands.

One mother recently called asking for help. She is faced with losing her home through condemnation to an expanding park. The day she called, she had just spoken to her son, who had completed his first day on patrol in Iraq wearing a bulletproof vest. His question to her was whether he would have a home to return to when he completes his duty fighting for his country.

Maybe history will repeat itself. The Bush property-rights doctrine expressed in this executive order, which condones seizing our property for nearly any purpose, might prove to be the last straw that ignites a second revolution against a tyrannical and all-powerful government similar to what happened 230 years ago against King George III.

It will take courageous people who recognize truth from rhetoric and are willing to challenge this expansion of power - power taken from every person in America.

How proud Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Washington, and our other Founding Fathers must be of our 43rd president.

Dan Byfield is president of the American Land Foundation, a not-for-profit organization based in Texas that helps landowners protect their private-property rights.

© 2006 River Cities' Reader:


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"Where does the corridor go, and what can we do to stop it?”

Anti-Trans-Texas Corridor group plans meeting at State Theater

September 19, 2006

The Gainesville Daily Register
Copyright 2006

Almost immediately after the issue hit the press, public opinion was stirred by a proposal to build a multi-lane highway through southeastern Cooke County. Resistance grew steadily.

Letters to the editor are still coming in to the paper on a regular basis regarding the Trans-Texas Corridor — some for but most against the massive tollway.

The issue has put Cooke County in the spotlight, as thousands of residents gathered in opposition to the proposal to build part of a proposed network of large “super highway” toll roads, spanning from various points across Texas. The main route expected to pass through Cooke County is TTC-35, which would run from Laredo to the Red River if built.

Other routes from El Paso to the Cooke-Montague county line and from Texarkana to just east of Gainesville are in the plans. In addition to the preferred routes for the toll roads is a large “potential connection zone” study area encompassing Gainesville and Lindsay, which organizers of the meeting referred to as the “amber circle” on TxDOT maps.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) recently concluded its “tier 1” research after conducting meetings throughout Texas, and is planning to begin a more intensive study soon as the next phase of the plan.

But it’s not too late to do something about it, and the town hall-style meetings are not over in Cooke County, according to a press release from CorridorWatch.

Next Tuesday (Sept. 26) an “informational meeting” is scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the State Theater, 200 E. California St. in Gainesville.

According to Amy Klein, an organizer of several of the recent town hall meetings via the group Save Our County, the State Theater meeting is expected to take a more political tone.

“Controversy surrounding the $184 billion dollar transportation project has made it a major issue in the upcoming November election,” the press release said. “The recent series of TxDOT public hearings on the corridor left many residents with more questions than answers.

“Save Our County, a local citizens group, in conjunction with Independent Texans, has organized a follow-up meeting featuring speakers who will answer the questions TxDOT couldn’t or wouldn’t answer.”

Scheduled speakers include David Stall, co-founder of, followed by a question and answer period.

Following Stall’s presentation, Linda Curtis, founder of Independent Texans, is expected to propose changes to the political system, such as initiative and referendum.

The Independent Texans organization endorsed Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn as its candidate for governor. The group noted Gov. Rick Perry’s advocacy of TTC-35. It did not name Democratic candidate Chris Bell nor independent Richard Friedman.

Linda Stall, co-founder of and David Stall’s wife, an opponent of the corridor now working for the Strayhorn campaign, said there are some questions yet to be asked.

“The two questions we are asked most often are: where does the corridor go, and what can we do to stop it?” Stall said. “These follow-up meetings give us a chance to educate people about the corridor, and then talk about political solutions to stop it.”

On the Net:

Corridor Watch:

Trans-Texas Corridor:

Independent Texans:

Reporter Andy Hogue may be

contacted at andyhoguegdr[at]

© 2006 The Gainesville Daily Register:


"It's my land. It's my private property, and I have a right to know what's in that contract if it's going to affect me."

Landowners Filing Open Records Request To TxDOT

Sep 19, 2006 News (Austin)
Copyright 2006

Some Central Texas landowners are taking aim at yet another major transportation project. They're trying to pry information about the project, which has been kept secret for more than a year.

The Trans Texas Corridor could run parallel to I-35, east of the soon-to-be complete State Highway 130.

Last year, TxDOT and the private company hired to build the TTC filed a court challenge to keep certain portions of their contract from being released to the public.

What the landowners in Williamson County want to do is create a groundswell in the Austin region and elsewhere to get everything out in the open.

"It is beautiful and we love it, and we don't want to see it paved over," landowner Dan Byfield said.

These days, Byfield is doing his best to save his pastoral land in Williamson County from what would be the Trans Texas Corridor.

"If they're going to run over, I'd sure like to know," Byfield said.

The immense TTC would combine highway and rail from the Mexican border to north Texas. There's no specific route yet, but there's a wide swath of preferred corridor which includes areas near Austin's airport and other parts of Central Texas.

Byfield's land is in that path. He said he believes unreleased parts of the project's contract may reveal things that will affect many.

"I think they know where this route is going to go. They know where this highway is going to go, and they don't want landowners knowing that because that would get everybody up in arms," Byfield said.

A large number of other homeowners are now joining him in filing open records requests to send to TxDOT to get information the agency's been fighting to keep close to the vest.

TxDOT says it can't release certain portions because there were issues dealing with ongoing selection and bid processes. Almost a year later, they say they're close to finishing issues, but not yet.

While TxDOT says it's trying to protect sensitive information, residents like Byfield say the concept of open government should, but is not working here.

"It's my land. It's my private property, and I have a right to know what's in that contract if it's going to affect me," Byfield said.

As for last year's court challenge to keep portions of the TTC contract from being released, we're told a hearing on that could happen next month in Travis County.

© 2006 WorldNow and KXAN:


Monday, September 18, 2006

'Tollus ad nauseam."

Heavy tollway news traffic ahead.

September 18, 2006

Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2006

So now we know, officially. The toll road era in Austin Etc. will begin Nov. 1.

Well, kind of. The three roads and half-a-roads — a MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1) extension and parts of the new Texas 45 North and Texas 130, about 26 miles worth — will actually open at no charge. Drivers won't have to pay tolls for a few weeks, longer if they have an electronic toll tag.

Given all that, the Austin American-Statesman (well, mostly me, actually) will be hitting you with a ton of toll road stuff over the next six weeks or so in the run-up to the opening of the three tollways. Stories about other cities' experience with toll roads, about how you can get a toll tag and what it might cost you if you don't, about how the state plans to sell the concept to you, about what the toll charges will be, and what effect these new roads might have on commuting patterns.

And much more. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Of course, it's not like the Statesman has been asleep at the switch up to now. There have been more than 250 stories in the paper about toll roads over the past three-plus years, more than one per week. Ergo, tollus ad nauseam.

Not that you would know that from some of the e-mails I get.

Periodically, people — people who really ought to get out more — will see construction on one of the toll roads, seemingly for the first time, even though the earthmovers have been moving earth since early 2003, and alert me to this breaking news. When am I going to begin writing something about it, they'll demand.

Or people will breathlessly tip me about something I wrote about six months ago.

But that's OK. I don't read every word in the Statesman every day, either. People get busy, and they miss stuff. Or, possibly, they see "toll roads" in the headline or first sentence and decide to move on.

But maybe over the next few weeks, you ought to resist that urge. Because this really is a big change for the area, and there are many more miles of toll roads on the way. Another 15 miles of Texas 130, connecting it north to Interstate 35, should open before Christmas, and then still another 30 miles of three roads will come on line by the end of 2007. And policymakers are fighting over five more possible toll roads.

We're literally going from a totally free highway network to a full-fledged toll road system in the space of 14 months, an instant transition no other American city has ever seen.

It's going to give you some financial choices and daily options you didn't have before. It will speed your trips in many places and perhaps slow you down in others because of ripple effects further down the commuting chain. Construction snarls that you've grown used to will disappear.

And you may find yourself, unless you read up on the subject, blundering onto a toll road without a toll tag and getting a bill in the mail.

The last time we had a transportation change this big, when the new airport opened in 1999, travelers still showed up at the old, empty airport with their luggage for months. You don't want that to be you this time around.

Getting There appears Mondays. For questions, tips or story ideas, contact Getting There at 445-3698 or

© 2006 Austin American-Statesman: www.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

"Governor wastes our dollars defending secrecy."

Editorial: Secrecy on TTC

September 17, 2006

Waco Tribune-Herald
Copyright 2006

This is a fascinating concept.

The people of Texas have entered into an agreement with a foreign company to build a super highway financed by tolls. And get this: The people are told they can’t know what’s in that agreement.

The case for closed records is being made by the Texas Department of Transportation and Gov. Rick Perry in a suit that could be called Texas vs. Texas. So, taxpayers, what side are you on?

We trust that you are on the side of open government, and that our governor and his agencies are, too. But they aren’t acting that way.

The transportation agency has been named in a suit by Attorney General Greg Abbott for its refusal to disclose contractual matters on the Trans-Texas Corridor.

The function of building and managing the TTC has been awarded to a Spanish company, Cintra-Zachary.

The firm says that contract information is proprietary since it’s a private business. Unless Perry or the agency concedes that Abbott is right and they’re wrong, this will go to trial Oct. 10. That will be Texas dollars and attorneys defending secrecy and Texas dollars and attorneys pleading the case for openness.

The Houston Chronicle has filed an open records request under state public information laws. Cintra-Zachry asked a court to block release of its plans. Abbott has ruled they are public records.

This case shows a key pitfall of contracting government services out to private business. Because various concerns could be construed as proprietary, contractors often refuse to release information about what they are doing with tax dollars.

It’s outrageous that the people of Texas can be excluded from knowing exactly what they are purchasing with their tax dollars. This “just trust us” mode is what spawns scandals and the misallocation of funds.

It would seem beyond dispute that the terms of an agreement to build the biggest highway project in Texas history would be a public matter.

Gov. Perry may think he invented a new widget with his agreement with Cintra-Zachary to build the TTC, but it’s got to have the same old raw materials, and those include public disclosure.

Please, Governor, don’t waste another penny of our tax dollars defending secrecy that, if not outright illegal, runs directly counter to the essential principle of open government.

© 2006 The Associated Press: