Two TxDOT commission nominees got road hard and put away wet Wednesday after the Senate Nominations Committee grilled them with questions from tolls to secrecy to CDAs to big-ticket contracts.
A portion of the Statesman article:
The exchange in the nominations hearing marked the latest signal that many lawmakers are not happy with the transportation mega-agency, amid a continuing series of skirmishes between Senate transportation committee Chairman John Carona, R-Dallas, and Transportation Commission Chairman Ric Williamson.Sen. Eltife says indexing the gas tax, the current form of taxation, is the most conservative way to pay for roads, instead of a whole new additional toll tax where companies will raise tolls for maximum profits.
During the nominations hearing, Ned Holmes of Houston and Fred Underwood of Lubbock at times looked like deer caught in headlights, as senators grilled them about their views on controversies that have been swirling for months around the agency's management and operations.
In the end, assured by the two men that they support more openness and will get answers to lingering questions about tolls and financing, the committee voted unanimously to approve their appointments. Both need to be confirmed by the full Senate.
"I think we've created a monster" in the Texas Department of Transportation, state Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, citing the agency's rush to approve toll roads and private financing packages that stirred continuing controversy.
"I think we're headed in a totally wrong direction," Eltife said. "I'm not so sure we haven't already signed away the farm."
Strangely, Sen. Kirk Watson, seemed concerned about accountability only, as he asked the two commission nominees questions of tolls. According to Watson, a toll monster is OK, if they appear to be upfront.
On the same day, one of the largest toll road operators in the world, Macquarie Infrastructure Group (MIG), reported gigantic profits of 76%, as it eyes to toll more Texas roads we've already paid for.
Senator John Corona has filed SB 149, which puts an end to non-compete agreements, which would put the brakes on efforts to toll Texas. An important transportation hearing is scheduled at the Texas Capital on March 1, at 8:30am. All citizens are encouraged to attend.
Video to come.