Texas state senator blasts privatization proposals

| 3/9/2007

A Texas lawmaker says awarding contracts to private toll-road builders is not worth the long-term costs to taxpayers.

In a statement released Thursday, March 8, to Land Line Magazine, Texas state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, says disdain for private toll roads is growing among her constituents.

"There is a growing discomfort among citizens about the rush to toll so many roads in our region and about turning over highway construction to a foreign company," Nelson stated.

Nelson chose to speak up following an announcement in late February by the Texas Department of Transportation that private investor Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte of Spain was first in line to get a building contract for state Highway 121.

The contract for the 26-mile state Highway 121 from Lewisville to McKinney carries a $5 billion price tag, including a $2.1-billion concession fee the winning bidder would pay the state to get the contract.

"Acting in haste now is not worth the long-term costs to taxpayers," Nelson said.

Texas lawmakers Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, and Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, filed bills earlier this week to place a two-year moratorium on privatized toll roads.

Nelson supports the legislative effort because the toll contracts often contain non-compete clauses that jeopardize taxpayer assets.

"Non-compete clauses prevent the state from building roads that would compete with toll roads, buyback provisions require us to repay the up-front money and the operators have unlimited authority to raise toll rates," Nelson said.

- By David Tanner, staff writer