Regional council prefers Texas public agency to build toll road

| Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Opponents of privatization have won a noteworthy victory in Texas.

The Regional Transportation Council in the Dallas area voted 27-10 in favor of awarding a highway project to a public agency – the North Texas Tollway Authority – instead of a private, foreign company. The project involves the construction of a section of the Texas Route 121 toll road.

The council’s vote came on Monday, June 18, and if upheld by the state Transportation Commission, it will shut out the private company Cintra Concessiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte S.A. of Spain.

The Texas 121 toll road is part of a system being designed and built to handle growing traffic congestion in Denton and Collin counties.

The Texas Transportation Commission could vote as soon as June 28 on whether to uphold the regional council’s recommendation to stick with public operation instead of allowing the road to go to a private business.

The transportation commission is not bound to uphold the regional council’s recommendation.

Gov. Rick Perry’s administration and transportation commissioner Ric Williamson have already tendered contracts to private-sector investors for toll projects. The commission has contracted with Cintra for $1.3 billion worth of work on Perry’s proposed Trans-Texas Corridor.

The public North Texas Tollway Authority, created in 1997, uses bond revenues to finance, build and operate turnpikes in North Texas, according to its Web site, ntta.org.

Cintra is best known for building or investing in toll roads around the globe. The Spanish company makes up half of the foreign consortium that leased the Indiana Toll Road in 2006.

– By David Tanner, staff writer

david_tanner@landlinemag.com

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