July 8, 2008

Talk is Cheap, the Devil’s in the Details, and the Details are in the Contracts.........and we don’t see them until after they are signed.

Linda Stall
News & Views from CorridorWatch.org
Copyright 2008

For those of you who live in the proposed TTC-69 footprint and may have breathed a sigh of relief last week when you heard TxDOT was pulling back to the proposed I-69 footprint, recommending that only existing right of way be used, I draw your attention to the article below. If you aren’t interested in reading a very long article about Virginia toll roads (although you should because it is exactly what will happen in Texas if the private partners have their way) then I draw your attention to one particular paragraph:

"Finally, the contract insists that if any homes happen to lie in the way of the construction of the new lanes, Transurban will pay no more than the current market value to purchase the land in question. If the owner refuses to move, VDOT will condemn the property and confiscate it for the use of the private, for-profit company through eminent domain. The Beltway project, however, was designed to be built within existing VDOT right-of-way to ensure the exercise of this power would not be needed." (emphasis added)

Why is that language necessary? Why does VDOT's concessionaire need the ability to take land through eminent domain? Because when their plans change, that's exactly what they will do and the assurances of VDOT that the project was designed to fit in the existing right of way will go right out the window.

The very assurances that we are hearing from our own TxDOT: "existing right of way". But the real decisions lie in the terms of the contract. And right now, who looks over the TxDOT contracts before they are executed? Anyone outside of the agency and their commission? Will the assurances of our supposedly cash-starved transportation department be abandoned when the contract negotiations heat up? Will the "design" no longer fit inside the existing right of way when the private partner begins looking for enhancements to its revenue stream? (You remember revenue enhancements, the ancillary facilities that HB3588 allows, for which additional land may be taken.)

As we have for several years, CorridorWatch will continue to advocate that the Legislature put some protections in place so that no single agency executes this type of agreement without peer agency review and legislative oversight.

The whole story (illegal political donations, and new semantics games) is below- Read it and weep, kids, that's the future in Texas, unless the 2009 Lege stands up.

Read the article HERE: www.thenewspaper.com/news/24/2458.asp

© 2008, News & Views from CorridorWatch.org: www.corridorwatch.blogspot.com

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