Texas transportation overhaul approved

| 6/24/2011

Gov. Rick Perry signed into law a major transportation bill to require changes at the state Department of Transportation, authorize private toll roads, and transfer permitting for oversize and overweight vehicles.

The TxDOT reauthorization bill calls for regular reviews of the agency. Also included in the 116-page bill is a requirement for the department to submit a financial audit prepared by an independent auditor. In addition, employees could be fired who are found to have lobbied the Legislature.

Changes have been sought for the past few years in retaliation for the board paying little attention to public concerns about the Trans-Texas Corridor, which was the controversial pet project of Gov. Perry. At one time the corridor plan called for private contractors to build and operate billions of dollars of toll roads in the state.

Rep. Jodi Laubenberg, R-Rockwall, said she is encouraged about the transparency created by the bill.

“Any tools we can give citizens to help hold government entities accountable is good policy,” Laubenberg said in a recent statement.

The transportation bill – SB1420 – also gives TxDOT, and local tolling authorities, power to sign public-private partnerships for as many as 10 toll roads.

The so-called comprehensive development agreements include work on a 28-mile segment of Interstate 35 East between Interstate 635 and U.S. 380; a nine-mile portion of state Highway 183 between state Highway 161 and I-35 E; five segments of the North Tarrant Expressway project; and the Grand Parkway, state Highway 99, in Houston.

In addition, permitting for oversize and overweight vehicles is being shifted from TxDOT to a new Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. The transfer includes all personnel and other functions associated with regulating oversize and overweight vehicles.

TxDOT will continue to be responsible for determining routes for affected loads.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Texas, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.