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Transportation Commissioner wants to strip local toll agency of project

Transportation Commissioner wants to strip local toll agency of project after promising “TxDOT should be out of the toll business”
Grassroots cry foul over Houghton flip-flop

In yesterday’s Star-Telegram article, Texas Transportation Commissioner Ted Houghton reversed his position on the department’s involvement in toll roads. The article states Houghton “wants the North Texas Tollway Authority to withdraw as the lead partner in the Southwest Parkway project and let the state seek a private developer to build the toll road from Fort Worth to Cleburne.”

When Houghton was up for confirmation in the Texas Senate, he stunned the Chair of the Nominations Committee, Senator Mike Jackson, when the Commissioner said in the hearing on May 13, 2009, “I think TxDOT should be out of the toll business. That’s not our business. It’s the NTTA’s business, it’s the CTRMA’s business, it’s the El Paso RMA’s business.”

Jackson said he was surprised by Houghton’s comment and asked him “and is that a dramatic change in your position over the last few years?”

Houghton acknowledged that it was.

Jackson then asked him what changed his mind and Houghton replied, “We have RMAs that are created. We have people like NTTA and HCTRA that have a history behind them and know how to do it. That has changed my mind, that local RMAs should be the, and local toll road authorities…should be those agencies that build those projects…and again if we (the department) have the resources….enable these authorities to build those projects to give ’em that credit lift, or to participate….There’s a menu to be able to participate, but not to run these toll, no, these toll projects.”

Apparently, Houghton lied to the Nominations Committee to win confirmation and now that lawmakers have left Austin, it’s back to business as usual at TxDOT. The Perry-appointed Transportation Commission is again interfering with local decision-making and attempting to sell our Texas highways to private developers in its classic “it’s our way or no highway” form.

This development comes after more than 80% of Texas voters in Tuesday’s election voted to keep Texans’ land from being taken through eminent domain and given to private developers for profit. However, Proposition 11 doesn’t protect Texans’ private property from being taken in the name of public use for a state highway then sold to foreign entities for private gain.

“Houghton and TxDOT in their arrogance, fail to grasp (or care) that they are under Sunset review once again, and taxpayers and legislators alike are none too happy with them on ANY front. Houghton’s attempt to strip the NTTA of the Southwest Parkway project so the department can sell it off to the highest bidder on Wall Street is another example of why TxDOT has been in perpetual hot water.

“Houghton recently identified himself as the most arrogant commissioner of the most arrogant state agency in the state of Texas. Perhaps a new addition to his list is in order. Let’s add: the most untruthful commissioner,” suggests Terri Hall, Founder/Director of Texas TURF.

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