Skip to comments.McReynolds talks TxDOT at First Friday luncheon
Posted on 03/11/2008 1:24:51 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
Senior executives of the Texas Department of Transportation can expect some heavy grilling from state legislators when the state Legislature convenes next January, state Rep. Jim McReynolds said Friday.
Speaking to the monthly First Friday luncheon of The Chamber, Lufkin-Angelina County, McReynolds said many legislators, especially those from rural East Texas, are unhappy with TxDOT leaders over the Trans- Texas Corridor project and how it has incorporated plans for an Interstate 69 through the region.
McReynolds said he attended all four of the TxDOT hearings on the TTC held in his district, which included one in Diboll, and "never heard anyone speak for" the project. He will attempt to find out just how Tx- DOT plans to move forward in the face of such opposition.
East Texans supports the I-69 project as conceived, which is to build it over existing throughways, including U.S. 59. The TTC is projected as an entirely new toll-supported roadway, paralleling existing roads but requiring a quarter-mile or more of right of way. When McReynolds expressed his opposition to the latter plans, he drew applause.
On top of the TTC controversy, TxDOT cannot account for $1.5 billion it should have, a matter that is now being examined by auditors, he said. Finally, last fall voters approved giving the agency $5 billion in
bonding authority, and the agency has sought to issue no bonds yet. TxDOT executives can expect to be questioned on all those issues, he said.
McReynols stressed that Tx- DOT employees at the district level are some of the finest people he's known, willing to go out of their way to address the concerns of individuals. Any hard feelings that exist toward the agency leaders in Austin should not be transferred to local agency staffers, he said.
The 12-year state representative said the Legislature will begin the next term with a minimum $4.5 billion cushion and should be able to craft and budget for the next two years without a great deal of trauma.
"Going into the session, our backs will not be against the wall," he said. The current twoyear budget is $152.5 billion, larger than the GDP of France, McReynolds said, and 55 percent of that is spent on education, he noted.
As a member last session of the Appropriations and Corrections committees, McReynolds said he is serving on interim committees of both panels. In Corrections, members continue to seek ways to reduce the numbers of Texans behind bars, now 155,000, putting the state prison system at 98.9 percent capacity, he said. Lawmakers also are looking at the relationships between mental illness and criminal activity, and treatment of prison inmates for substance abuse.
Web Posted: 03/10/2008 06:02 PM CDT
From bridges to billboards, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst's interim charges to the Texas Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee are as varied as the roads that Texans travel.
During the time between sessions, the committee, of which I am a member, will be studying recommendations regarding state and local regulation of billboards. We will evaluate objective criteria for locations where billboards may be permitted or prohibited.
The panel is reviewing the status of structurally deficient bridges to ensure that the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) identifies and repairs them as soon as possible.
Other TxDOT related charges are: review the agency's expenditures on media activities and make sure that TxDOT is using all funding sources provided by the Legislature to build new roads.
There is an alphabet soup list of other transportation charges related to Comprehensive Development Agreements (CDAs), Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC).
A CDA enables privately owned companies to invest in the Texas transportation system. CDAs provide a competitive selection process for developing regional projects or much larger undertakings like the Trans-Texas Corridor.
An MPO is a transportation planning and policy-making organization comprised of local government representatives and transportation groups. Our committee will study and make recommendations for improving management and oversight of MPOs. The study will include a review of populations served, governance, roles, variation among MPOs and MPO decision-making ability in relation to TxDOT and other agencies.
The committee also has been asked to study the effectiveness of the TTC and make recommendations for its future role in providing additional roads in Texas. We will also provide recommendations to the Legislature relating to public input in the development of the TTC.
I know that for some folks toll roads are "fightin' words," as we say in Texas. And I also know that others in the district would like to have toll roads because they believe the roads would relieve traffic congestion while providing a safer and faster travel route.
The committee will study and make recommendations relating to the status of current and planned toll road projects in Texas. We will evaluate the use of public-private partnerships to build new roads and/or transit services and we will analyze the impact of lengthening the number of years a toll road authority may issue bonds.
I hope committee members will be able to make recommendations to the Legislature concerning all these issues that will help solve our state's transportation problems before we get so far behind the curve that there is no way to catch up.
Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, represents District 25.
Trans-Texas Corridor PING!
Good for him! I hope other state representatives follow his lead and step up to the plate to stop this monstrosity.
They keep making the same mistakes and expect different outcomes....
The Democrats have been given the opportunity to stampede the Rinos.