Texas Transportation Commission Adopts Public Protection Policies
Clear Recognition of Public & Legislature's Call for Changes
The Texas Transportation Commission (commission) took a step forward today in adopting policies that directly respond to a few of the concerns about public-private partnerships and the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC). While the Commission's actions are certainly no end point to the controversy surrounding the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), today's action does send a signal that the department's leadership recognizes that the insular culture that has taken hold there must change.
"I applaud the commission's decision to adopt these guiding principles," said Senator Hegar, "I encouraged the commission to adopt these policies because any earnest efforts to 'Keep Texas Moving' must begin with a departure from the closed door mentality TxDOT has been mired in for so long. It is of paramount importance that the commission embrace one of the policies they adopted today-the use of existing rights of way must always be the first option looked to in planning a project."
The policies adopted by the commission stipulate that no future contracts will contain "non-compete" clauses that prevent the construction, expansion, or improvement of adjacent roadways, that the use of existing rights of way will always be considered in the planning of new roadways, that all state highway facilities will continue to be wholly owned by the state, that no comprehensive development agreements will be entered into without inclusion of a "buy-back" provision, and that no existing free roadways will be converted to tolled roadways. While these policies are no panacea for Texans' concerns about state transportation issues, the commission's formal recognition that better practices must be put into place represents a significant step forward on the road to restoration of public confidence in the Texas Department of Transportation.
"I am cautiously optimistic that today's action is a sign that the commission recognizes the magnitude of the public and legislature's opposition to the obstinate TxDOT mentality that we have seen in recent years and is finally prepared to come to the table and solve the problems that have brought us to such an acrimonious state of relations," said Senator Hegar.
There is no question that as the state grows from today's population of 23 million to 40 million over the next two decades, expansion of existing roadways and the construction of new ones will be required. In planning and completing these projects, however, it is imperative that the mistakes of recent years are learned from and that improved practices which truly and directly address the needs and concerns of landowners and communities are implemented.
Today's action represents progress and does help to address some of the many unresolved issues surrounding the TTC, but it must be looked at as a starting point. The TTC advisory committees are only now beginning their review of the I-69 project, and the work of multiple legislative committees and subcommittees is not yet done. Their recommendations will be critical in our efforts to rebuild the public's trust in TxDOT and provide a foundation that will allow us to get back to solving real transportation problems-the public expects and deserves nothing less.
Senator Hegar is currently serving his first term in the Texas Senate after serving two terms in the House of Representatives. He is a 6th generation Texan, and earns a living farming rice and corn on land that has been in his family since the mid 1800s. The Hegars reside in Katy, Texas.