On the TTC: 5Posted: January 12, 2007
Here are a few highlights from a recent article by Peter Gorman in the Fort Worth Weekly, available online here.
“The plan, made public only after 175 Freedom of Information Act requests were filed by citizen groups and news media, describes a 1,200-foot-wide corridor to be leased to private companies who will design, build, and maintain their specific sections, setting and collecting all tolls for contract periods ranging from 50 to 75 years. Sections of existing roads that coincide with the corridor — all of I-35 from San Antonio to Laredo, for example — will become part of the toll road. Additionally, motels, gas stations, and stores built within the corridor will be part of the private company’s holdings — and part of their profit package.
But the deal is even sweeter than that. The initial contract signed by the Spanish firm Cintra; their partner on the project, Zachry Construction Corp.; and TxDOT for a 316-mile section of road to be built from San Antonio to Dallas, includes what’s known as a no-compete clause. In this case, it means TxDOT has agreed not to improve any roadways that run parallel to the TTC for the duration of the Cintra lease, unless those improvements had already been approved prior to the signing of the contract.
Perry has still refused to disclose some parts of the contract, on grounds that they contain proprietary information for the Cintra-Zachry partnership. But the sections that have been made public show that Cintra will not be obligated to build more than four car and truck lanes “until and unless it is demonstrated that there is a demand for high-speed rail, commuter rail, freight, and utilities.”
And who gets to decide what tolls to charge on these new roads? Cintra. In the contract, TxDOT agreed that toll prices will be set “at what the market will bear.” A TxDOT news release suggested they would be in the 12- to 24-cent range per mile for autos. Opponents think they’ll more likely be twice that. In other words, the San Antonio-to-Dallas trip could cost a motorist anywhere from $32 to $118 in tolls, plus gas.”