Attorney General Greg Abbott called to say the North Tarrant Express private toll road deal could be in jeopardy, and the issues are identical to ones that are all but certain to entangle the LBJ Freeway reconstruction project in Dallas.
The issue: He says the Texas Constitution prevents any agency like TxDOT from committing funds from a future legislative session. The NTE toll road, which will be built by Spanish firm Cintra, will cost billions of dollars. TxDOT's portion is some $570 million to be paid over time, as stipulated in its contract with Cintra. That violates the constitution, Abbott said.
As I have said before, public-private-partnerships like the North Tarrant Express plan are nothing more than smaller pieces of Governor Perry's Trans-Texas Corridor being completed with federal stimulus money. That's right, taxed at the pump to pay for transportation, then your taxed to use the road, and on top of that all the revenue goes to Spain and does not stay in Texas. Much of this controversy comes from the failure of House Bill 300, which would have rubber-stamped any and all private toll roads and gutted oversight capability on deals just like the North Tarrant Express Plan.
Apparently the Texas Department of Transportation has balked at making changes to their little toll agreement, even going so far as to miss deadlines that could result in penalties and fines. The easy thing to do is simply adjust some language in the contract with Cintra to ensure that Texas drivers in North Central and Northeast Tarrant County are double-taxed, with revenue going to Spain, but TxDOT seems incapable of taking such simple action most likely because Cintra will balk at no guarantees of their money.
The Texas Department of Transportation is in desperate need of reform but the only way we will get it is if Rick Perry is no longer governor of Texas.