The revolving door, an important tool used for looting from taxpayers, continues to turn for the special interests.
Some folks know about the bigger stories, like how Texas Gov. Perry's transportation advisor, former lobbyist Dan Shelley, was rehired by contract winner Cintra last summer. But there are many hundreds more that take place each year, under the radar, within all areas of our government, especially in the lucrative area of roads and tolls (like PBS&J, Cintra, Macquarie and URS to name a few). TxDOT is a out of control bureaucratic organization that creates traffic congestion - with an unending appetite for revenue.
The problem becomes clear, when it pays too well for public officials to support wildly unpopular road and land grabs.
San Antonio Express reports key (so called) public transportation people in Dallas and Houston moving to the private sector for the pay-off. Including North Texas Tollway Authority Director Allan Rutter resigned Wednesday after a closed-door board meeting. Harris County Judge Robert Eckels announced he will step down.
Just months ago, San Antonio Metropolitan Planning Organization Director, Toller Joanne Walsh, moved to Parsons Brinckerhoff. And, Alamo Regional Mobility Authority director Tom Griebel is now a vice president with Pape-Dawson Engineers.
And, when the individual enters from the corporate side to "represent the public" it's an issue as well.
What do we know about URS?
URS, has one of the most disturbing records of inflating traffic forecasts, which allows doomed toll roads schemes to be built. The taxpayer always foots the bill, while the profiteers profit.
URS has produced inaccurate forecasts for nearly a half-dozen toll road projects in Florida. In some cases, the roads drew only half the cars URS predicted. One of those, the Suncoast Parkway, was projected to make $70 million; in tolls in its first year of operation, and it produced only $7 million.
Forbes, in 9/3/01, offered the following scathing statement:
"It has become painfully clear to bondholders and politicians that many of the public toll-supported projects built in the past decade, the majority blessed by URS and its ilk, have become financial albatrosses."Standard and Poor's bond analysts, after reviewing forecasting case studies for years, have concluded:
"Optimism bias remains a consistent feature of toll road traffic forecasting."City of Austin Councilperson Brewster McCracken's 'Independent Toll Study’, which was hijacked by tollers, hired URS. The study was completed months ago, and has proven to be a complete waste of $300,000. In Central Texas, Sen. Watson’s Toll Task force will have the same fate, if he continues to not allow the public a seat at the table.
URS forecasted the traffic revenue for Camino Colombia at $9 million for the first year - but it only produced $500k. That is about 6% of the URS forecast!
Camino Colombia was quickly sold auction style on the steps of the Webb County Courthouse in 2004, with TxDOT in attendance. John Hancock Financial Services Inc. bought back its investment for $12 million at that auction. TxDOT then paid John Hancock a premium of $20 million, $8 million more than was needed.
Taxpayers keep paying for corrupt failures, while our "leaders" pretend to be working for the public best interest. They continue to profit - and use the revolving door to work both sides of the table - to continue the fleecing of the taxpayer.