Texas Gov. Rick Perry continually states that the
Trans-Texas Corridor will be a cost-effective project for Texans with the
private sector paying the bulk of the bills. But last week, the Texas State
Auditor's Office pulled no punches in shooting down that claim and others made
by the Texas Department of Transportation.
In an audit released Friday, Feb. 23, State Auditor John
Keel said the taxpayer burden could be nearly $14 billion.
Keel and his team want Perry, lawmakers and TXDOT to be
accountable for every dime and be honest about how much of the bill taxpayers
could be footing.
The leg of the multi-modal toll system of commuter lanes,
truck-only toll lanes, railways and utility lines known as the TTC-35 only
makes up 14 percent of the proposed 4,000-mile network, yet it takes up 57
percent of the early cost estimates.
During promotional efforts for the corridor, TXDOT officials
have claimed the network would cost about $184 billion. The state auditor
pointed out that the proposed 600-mile TTC-35 alone - which makes up less than
one-seventh of the entire TTC project - would cost $105 billion.
The proposed TTC-35 would run from the Mexican border at
Laredo, TX, north and east to the Oklahoma border, parallel to and possibly
including parts of Interstate 35.
Auditors said the project runs the risk of costing billions
in taxpayer dollars for the proposed railway lines - up to $14 billion - and
other development costs for the corridor.
"There is a lack of reliable information regarding projected
toll road construction costs, operating expenses, revenue, and developer
income," auditors stated, adding that it's "not possible to accurately estimate
profits due to many unforeseen variables."
The audit called for more public information, oversight
mechanisms and demanded third-party estimates for toll revenue and operator
State transportation officials were mostly agreeable to the
findings, but did refute a finding about taxpayer dollars potentially being
used to subsidize a 12 percent anticipated profit margin for the builder and
"TXDOT will never be required to make payments so that
Cintra-Zachry gets a 12-percent return," transportation officials wrote in
their response, adding that TXDOT is not responsible for compensating the developer
if profit expectations are not met.
The 73-page document is available for review in its
entirety, including the TXDOT response, on the State Auditor's Office Web
site.Visit http://www.sao.state.tx.us/Reports/report.cfm/report/07-015 to read the auditor's summary of the findings and for a link to the actual
- By David Tanner,