Former TxDOT Commissioner throws TxDOT a toll curve

Nichols throws former peers a toll curve
by Ben Wear, Austin American-Statesman, 3/12/07

Robert Nichols couldn't have been more shocking if he'd shown up on the floor of the Texas Senate in a silk muumuu and pink boa.

Now that I have your attention . . .

You might not be familiar with Nichols, given that the Republican from the East Texas burg of Jacksonville is serving his first term in the Senate. But people in transportation certainly know Nichols from his eight years on the Texas Transportation Commission, when there wasn't a more dogged defender of building toll roads.

In December 2004, Nichols shared a dais with commission Chairman Ric Williamson and Gov. Rick Perry, all of them fairly bursting with triumph as they announced that Cintra-Zachry, in return for 50 years of toll revenue, had promised to build 300 miles of Trans-Texas Corridor tollway paralleling Interstate 35. AND pay the state $1.2 billion.

This was what toll roads could bring, they said. Philosophically, it seemed you couldn't fit a Kleenex between Williamson and Nichols.

In June 2005, Nichols, 62, quit the commission to run for Senate. When he won, the assumption was that Nichols would be the Transportation Department's legislative champion.

The first hint something was afoot came March 1, when Nichols hit Williamson with tough questions about private toll roads at a committee hearing. Then last week's stunner: Nichols, with 24 Senate co-sponsors, was filing SB 1267 to put a two-year moratorium on private toll road contracts.

Say whaaa?
(Read the rest of the article HERE)

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