July 15, 2008

East Texans voice opinions about TxDOT at Sunset Commission hearing

By Donna McCollum
KTRE-TV (Channel 9)
Copyright 2008

NACOGDOCHES, TX - The Sunset Commission staff report begins with a very telling statement. Under issues/recommendations it states, " Until trust in the Texas Department of Transportation is restored, the state cannot move forward to effectively meet its growing transportation needs.

Some of that mistrust comes from entities that continue to join the Piney Woods Sub Regional Planning Commission. Number one on its list is to abolish the appointed Transportation Commission and replace it with mostly elected commissioners. Member Merry Anne Bright said, " We feel like that's a political encumbrance when you have an appointed board as opposed to an elected board. "

Second, is the request that all TxDOT ad campaigns receive final approval from the legislature and transportation committees. Accountability is the concern. Bright said, " We would like an investigation into the mismanagement of taxpayer's money. "

The third request is a mandate forcing TxDOT to coordinate with local towns and cities the proposed pathways of their future projects. President of the Piney Woods Sub-Regional Planning Commission, Hank Gilbert of Whitehouse was scheduled to testify in Austin today. Additional Piney Wood members were in Bell County meeting with other sub regional commissions along the I-35 corridor.

Not all East Texans can go to Austin to voice their opinion before the Sunset Commission in person so many of them wrote letters. Their letters can be found on the Sunset Commission web site. www.sunset.state.tx.us/ Some are handwritten by individual property owners. Others represent multiple entities.

Despite the criticisms, most Texans recognize the agency's benefits. Senator Robert Nichols from Jacksonville said, " That agency is wonderful. I strongly support it. What we have a problem with are some of the actions that have occurred. "

The positive aspects are there, but the Sunset Commission is still recommending a four year legislative conservatorship to return control over transportation policy to the legislature.

More Reaction To Today's Sunset Commission Hearing

The following statement can be attributed to Bill Noble, executive director of Texans for Safe Reliable Transportation:

"Today Texas lawmakers showed they are absolutely committed to improving the trust and transparency of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). TxDOT and the legislature demonstrated their commitment to building quality statewide infrastructure that will help grow the economy of Texas. In the days and weeks ahead, a lot of hard work will take place to put past mistakes behind them and promote transportation initiatives that will make Texas the best place to live, work and play."

© 2008, KTRE-TV: www.ktre.com

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