Monday, June 18, 2007

NTTA gets OK for 121 toll project

By MICHAEL A. LINDENBERGER and JAKE BATSELL - The Dallas Morning News - Monday, June 18, 2007

Local elected officials have endorsed the North Texas Tollway Authority to build the controversial State Highway 121 toll project.

The 27-10 vote Monday by the Regional Transportation Council sets the stage for a showdown in Austin at the Texas Transportation Commission, which is expected to make a final decision June 28. While the commission has previously said it will place great emphasis on the council’s vote, it is not bound to do so, TxDOT spokesman Randall Dillard said.

The recommendation that NTTA win the contract runs counter to the strong preference for the rival bidder, the private Spanish construction firm Cintra, previously expressed by the Texas Department of Transportation, Gov. Rick Perry’s administration, and the executive staff of the Regional Transportation Council alike. Cintra’s involvement was billed by TxDOT and others as a way to expand the total amount of money available for the building North Texas roads in the future.

Council members appear to have been convinced that endorsing a local entity, with a long history of building and operating toll roads in North Texas, was preferable to awarding the contract to a private company based in Spain that builds toll roads across the world, but which has limited experienced in Texas.

“What it really boils down to is whether the dollars that are made here stay here in Texas, or if they are going to fly off [as corporate profits] to Delaware, or wherever they go,” said Dallas City Council member Bill Blaydes.

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