Saturday, June 23, 2007

Review of members governments ethics codes and practices

By Faith Chatham - June 23, 2007
DFW Regional Concerned Citizens (DFW-RCC) announced earlier this week that we will begin a survey of member government's (in this 16-county region) ethics codes and practices. This week we have noted that a substantial number of the visitors to our website are entering, exiting or visiting links related to Chapter 176 and/or Ethics.

In preparation for this study, our team has posted links in the side bar of this site to the Texas Ethics Commission's forms CIS and CIQ which Texas Local Government Code 176 mandates are to be filled out and updated regularly by elected officials, officers and advisors or vendors seeking to do business with that governmental entity. See Texas Ethics Commission Promoting Public Confidence in Government.

We have also posted the Texas Attorney General's opinion of the application of Local Government Code Chapter 176.

Most governments are cognizant of financial disclosure for incumbents. Most are aware of the language in Local Government Code Chapter 171 (10% rule for voting or debating an issue).

Local Government Code Chapter 176 is an area where many governments in this region seem to fall short on compliance. I've personally examined a number of city and county websites this week looking for posting of filled in CIS and CIQ Forms. Several have links where vendors can get the forms to fill out yet fail to comply with the law which stipulates that the FILLED IN DISCLOSURE FORMS are to be posted on the website in a timely manner to inform the public about the relationships between decision makers and those seeking to benefit by doing business with "the people.

I have been encouraged this week as I've read several Codes of Ethics on some municipal websites. It is apparent that some cities truly consider ethics important. Many have Ethics Codes which incorporate sound ethical practices which go much farther than the "barebones standards" required by Texas Law. It is our recommendation that governmental leaders examine their Codes of Ethics. If they have not been updated in the past two years, they probably need revisons in the language which defines disclosure by officials to language prompting compliance with Chapter 176. Please see the sidebar for the text of that language. Prior 2005, some ethics codes state that governmental officials who serve as officers or members of boards of directors or organizations/business entities.. but who who not receive 10% of their income... do not have to disclose." More recent legislation now requires that elected officials serving paid or unpaid as officers or on boards of directors must disclose relationships with parties seeking to do business with the governmental entity...

For voting and debating an issue,(CHAPTER 171) at this time Texas State Law has a very narrow financial rule. However, when it comes to participating in decision making on awarding contracts and spending taxpayers funds, the law (CHAPTER 176) is more broad. The Texas Legislature decided that the citizens have the right to be informed about relationships between elected officials and governmental staff/ or advisors on bids/contracts and those seeking to bid or receive financial benefit from doing business with a city, county, or political subdivsion, board or authority.

In addition to appling the familiar 10% rule, Chapter 176 stipulates that elected officials and officers who recieve 10% of their income OR serve on boards must disclose relationships with prospective bidders/vendors within 7 days of discovering that someone they learn are considering bidding or proposing to do business with the city/county/or political subdivision. The Attorney General's opinion is very clear. It states that there is no financial threshold in this rule. Also, the elected official need not receive pay for serving on the Board. Compliance with Chapter 176 requires elected officials who serve on boards of directors (even of non-profit bodies) with other members who seek to do business with the city they should disclose that relationship on a FORM CIS as soon as the governmental official learns that their colleague on the board is seeking to bid on the project. If an elected official serves on the Board of Directors of an entity which benefits from funding by persons seeking to do business with the city, county, political subdivision, to be in compliance with Chapter 176, the governmental official should update their FORM CIS and disclose their affiliation to their who serves on "X, Y, Z Board" with them or financially supports "X, Y, Z organization" which the elected officals serves as a board member.

Chapter 176 is a tool the Texas Legislature enacted so that CITIZENS can understand what relationship elected officals have with people who get (or seek to acquire) contracts which are paid from tax revenue. Compliance with Chapter 176 is more difficult than complying with Chapter 171. However, if you have too much to report and it becomes too burdensome, that is probably a good indication that you are too conflicted to give fair and impartial consideration to the issues that you are charged to consider for the citizens.

These laws are not intended to prevent elected officials from belonging to non-profit organizations. However, they may help discourage elected officials from becoming STAKEHOLDERS (members of Boards of Directors and/or officers) with individuals/entitities who earn income from the taxpayers.

When things get too complex, they probably should be simplified.
If you are an elected official, and you are having to spend a great amount of time updating CIS forms listing friends, relatives, business associates, board members on "X, Y, Z non-profit or coroporate board of directors" with whom you serve who you've discovered are bidding on a contract with the city, county or regional government where you particpate in setting public policy, voting on or advising those who vote on awarding contracts YOU NEED TO SIMPLIFY.

Here are some choices:
1. Don't run for elected office unless you will place giving fair and impartial consideration to the issues you are charged to consider for the people as your highest priority.
2. Defer serving on some non-profit boards or directors and/or corporate boards of directors (or accepting an office in an organization with a mission statement to lobby for one of several policy positions considered by your governments) until after you leave office.
3. Spend a lot of time examining your relationships while keeping on top of the vendors/bidders with the government you serve looking for alliances so that you can file updates regularly (within the stipulated 7 day timeframe prescribed by law) when people / entities that associated/affilated with you financially or through the organizations you serve on boards begin to seek to do business with the city, county or political subdivision where you are an elected or appointed official.

This week I found one city with an excellent disclosure policy. I found the link to the blank CIQ forms for Vendors. I found a link where elected officials and officers /staff filled-in CIS disclosure forms were posted. Unfortunately there was only one form posted -- that of the CITY MANAGER. They has a list of officials posted for vendors. Every person named on that list should have an up-to-date CIS form posted on the website or the city is out of compliance with Chapter 176.

Another City lists its vendors with a link to the forms. However, this is a city which ranks within the top 10% in population in the USA. They only list 14 vendors. Off of the top of my head I can name at least 30 entities which I know have contracted with that city this year and there are probably many times that actually bidding and/or contracting with the city.

To comply with Chapter 176 a government must provide a list of officers/staff/ elected officials (and those who advise on contracts) to prospective vendors. These vendors are to list any relationship they have with those officers. In an ideal world there would be a 1:1 relationship between affiliations/relationships disclosed on elected officials CIS forms and relationships to elected officials disclosed by prospective bidders/vendors on CIQ forms.

Common sense dictates that if you have to provide a list of your decision makers to a vendor, then you should have a disclosure form posted on your website for every person on the list thatyou give to the vendor!

The language in Chapter 176 instructing vendors (or persons seeking to contract with a government) about disclosing their relatonships to elected officials clarifies what relationships needs to be disclosed by elected officials. We highly recommend that elected officials read ALL OF CHAPTER 176. Don't stop when you get passed the section on elected officials disclosing information. Read on! Think! As you read the instructions given in the law to vendors/bidders and what relationships they are by law required to disclose -- think of it from the prospective bidder's perspective. Is there anyone you know of contracting with your city/county/political subdivision or who you know is planning to bid on a project who might put your name down as someone who serves with them on a board, or is on a board of an organization of which they are a contributor.

It's a very small world. If you are doing it right "feller's and gals", your disclosure form should have a number of relationships disclosed. One does not get to be a community leader without establishing relationships. Chapter 176 doesn't say that you're going to receive any money from a relationship with people doing business with the city. This law is about INFLUENCE as much as it is about DOLLARS.

Usually the formulation of policy "hinges" as much on INFLUENCE as it does on PROFIT. This is why DFW REGIONAL CONCERNED CITIZENS places a very high priority on seeing that local governments come into full compliance with CHAPTER 176 of the Texas Local Government Code.

In my discussions with other Councils of Governments from other regions, the Executive Director of the Deep East Texas Council of Government said: "Being a small fraternity is not a good enough excuse for not putting as much distance as possible between those who are involved in the contracts and those who those who make the decisions on awarding them!"

The intent of the legislature when enacting the law establishing Chapter 176 is clear. The purpose is so that the people can be informed about the relatioships. Some governmental administrators think that the purpose of the disclosure forms is for the state auditors office. Some financial disclosure records are examined by the State Auditor. However, to be in compliance with Chapter 176, a governmental entity which maintains a website is supposed to post the CIS and CIQ forms on the website to inform the people. The law stipulates that vendors and officials are to fill them out and update them within 7 days of learning of an entities intention to bid or seek to do business ... It is reasonable to assume that the record administrator should post the forms very soon after they are turned into the record administrator.

The people have a right to understand relationships. We have a right to address issues while they are in progress. Having the disclosure forms posted in a timely manner in an easy to find place on the website, enables citizens to question and monitor the process before the dollars have already gone out of the government's coffers!

We have observed a number of governmental entities adopting stricter guidelines than those mandated by Chapter 171 or Chapter 176.

The Attorney's General's 2006 Texas Ethics Conflict of Interest Laws Made Easy states:
18. May a home rule city provide further conflict of interest limitations on its city officials and employees?
A home rule city (a city with a population of 5,000 or more that has adopted a city charter) may provide further and more restrictive conflict of interest limitations on its officials and employees.
Such restrictions may be contained in a city ordinance, city policy or within the city charter. For example, some cities have ethics ordinances or city charter provisions that prevent their city officials from discussing or voting on items if the official has any financial interest in the item

Under 19 in the same publication:
Chapter 176 of the Local Government Code, adopted in 2005 through House Bill 914, requires members of the governing body and executive officers of local government entities to file a conflicts disclosure statement relating to a person that the entity has contracted with or is considering contracting with if the local officer or her family members have certain business relationships with that person. It also requires a person who contracts or seeks to contract with for the sale or purchase of property, goods, or services to file a statement disclosing the person’s affiliations and business relationships with each member of the governing body and executive officer of the entity. The disclosure statement forms are prepared by the Texas Ethics Commission, available at,
and these must be filed by the entity’s records administrator and posted on the internet. This statute is broad in scope, and local officials are urged to study a pending opinion request with the Attorney General’s Office designated RQ-451-GA
and the resulting opinion that will help interpret this statute.

These rules impact citizens serving on governmental boards and commissions:
2. Do conflict of interest laws apply to persons appointed to local boards and commissions (e.g., planning and zoning commission members)?
Chapter 171 conflict of interest laws apply to persons appointed to local boards and commissions if the board or commission exercises powers that are more than advisory in nature. For example, members of a city’s planning and zoning commission would be subject to chapter 171 conflict of interest provisions. Accordingly, the ability of such officials to discuss or vote on an item would be limited by these laws if the official has what is considered a conflict of interest on the issue.

REFERENCE: HB 914 79th Legislature passed 2005
HB 1491 80th Legislature effective May 25, 2007
Attorney General Opinion No. GA-0446
Office of the Attorney General: 2006 Texas Conflict of Interest Laws Made Easy

Friday, June 22, 2007

NTTA to Add Two Seats to Board of Directors

By Sam A. Lopez - NTTA - June 22, 2007
Plano, TX – The Board of Directors of the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) will add two seats to their Board of Directors later this year. Senate Bill (SB) 964, passed by the State Legislature during their recent legislative session and signed into law by Governor Rick Perry on June 16, requires that there be two Board members from each of the NTTA’s founding counties: Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant. In addition, there will continue to be one Board member, appointed by the Governor, from a county adjacent to the member counties.

Authored by Senator Florence Shapiro of Plano, SB 964 also allows for a seat to be awarded to new counties with an NTTA roadway project. A second seat for these new counties will be authorized when roadways achieve a minimum length of 10-miles and have been in operation for three years.

“The passage of Senator Shapiro’s Senate Bill 964 is a crucial step in creating equal representation among NTTA’s four member counties and in the decision-making process on projects that benefit our entire region,” said William W. “Bill” Meadows, NTTA Board Member representing Tarrant County and Chair of NTTA’s Legislative Committee.

SB 964 includes two amendments, authored by Rep. Yvonne Davis of Dallas, that would delegate Board seats to different geographic regions within the counties making the appointment, and to the extent possible, require appointments to reflect the diversity of the population of member counties.
NTTA Board Chairman Paul N. Wageman added, “The NTTA is committed to serving our entire region and SB 964 helps us do this. In addition, the legislation permits the NTTA to plan for future relationships with other counties that will need assistance with their mobility needs.”

SB 964 becomes effective September 1, 2007.

Currently, the NTTA is governed by a seven-member Board. Each of the four counties within the service area of the NTTA appoints one member. Two members are appointed on a rotating basis by those counties in which an operating NTTA toll road is located. The Governor appoints the seventh member from a county adjacent to the NTTA's four-county service area. Board members serve staggered, two-year terms, and no member may be an elected official. From their membership, the directors elect a chairman and vice chairman.

About NTTA

The North Texas Tollway Authority, a political subdivision of the State of Texas, is authorized to acquire, construct, maintain, repair and operate turnpike projects in the North Texas region. The seven-member governing board is comprised of Chairman Paul N. Wageman, Vice Chairman Jack Miller, Directors Gary Base, David Denison, William W. Meadows, Bob Shepard and Alan Sims.

The NTTA serves Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant Counties and is responsible for the Dallas North Tollway System, consisting of the Dallas North Tollway, President George Bush Turnpike, Addison Airport Toll Tunnel, Lewisville Lake Toll Bridge and the Mountain Creek Lake Bridge. The North Texas Tollway Authority is able to raise capital for construction projects through the issuance of turnpike revenue bonds. NTTA toll projects are not a part of the State highway system and receive no direct tax funding. Tolls are collected to repay debt and to operate and maintain the roadways.

Visit the NTTA Web site or call 214-461-2000 for additional information about the North Texas Tollway Authority or call 972-818-NTTA (6882) for Customer Service.

NTTA Takes $5 Billion Tollway From Cintra - NCTCOG regret at not mentioning that Price Waterhouse Cooper worked for Cintra on TTC Bid

"Eastland said that he regretted that he had not mentioned that Price Waterhouse Cooper had worked for Cintra on the Trans-Texas Corridor."
by Richard Williamson - The Bond Buyer - June 19, 2007 Copyright 2007

DALLAS — In a dramatic reversal, the North Texas Regional Transportation Council yesterday handed a $5 billion toll project to the North Texas Tollway Authority less than four months after it originally selected private development team Cintra/ JPMorgan.

The vote must be seconded by the Texas Transportation Commission, which had already approved Cintra’s bid in February — before the competition with the NTTA.

Despite the NTTA’s late-entry to the bidding, top officials said the authority could quickly catch up to Cintra’s plans for completion of the road by 2010.

“We’ve already commenced work to ensure on-time delivery,” said NTTA executive director Jerry Hiebert. “We’re certain NTTA will be on time for the financial close.”

The battle between the NTTA and Cintra was set up in March, just days after the 23-mile tollway in Denton and Collin counties north of Dallas was awarded to Cintra. Cintra emerged as the favored bidder after three years of developing its proposal.

By contrast, the NTTA developed its 800-page proposal in less than a month after state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, persuaded the RTC and Texas Department of Transportation to reopen the bidding to the toll authority, a division of the state.

While the NTTA proposal appeared to trump Cintra’s bid by about $100 million, analysis by TxDOT and the auditing firm of Price Waterhouse Coopers showed that Cintra’s proposal netted out as the better value due to a variety of factors.

In its presentation to the RTC board Thursday, NTTA board chairman Paul Wageman and Hiebert sweetened their original offer of $2.5 billion in an up-front payment and $833 million over the life of the project. At the board’s request, the NTTA would make the entire $3.3 billion payment for the project up-front, they said.

The authority, which operates 64 miles of toll roads in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, has complained of unfair treatment of its proposal and of conflicts of interest involving Price Waterhouse Coopers. After PWC issued its report favoring Cintra, it was revealed that the firm was working as auditor for Cintra, the Spanish developer whose full name is Cintra, Concessiones Infraestructuras de Transporte.
PWC and Cintra claimed that there was no conflict because the PWC auditors in Spain were a separate team from those who conducted the analysis for the RTC.
But Wageman disagreed, pointing to the fact that PWC also worked with Cintra and its partner Zachary Construction of San Antonio on development of the Trans-Texas Corridor, a proposed network of tollways in Central Texas whose final cost could reach $150 billion.

“How can Price Waterhouse Coopers possibly be unbiased and fair in evaluating its partner’s proposal against a competitor’s?” Wageman asked.

The NTTA originally passed up the SH 121 project when the 23-mile toll project was under discussion for financing in 2004, according to TxDOT. Cintra was one of the private developers that responded to financing proposals.

The NTTA has acknowledged comments from the three rating agencies that its credit rating will likely fall as it more than doubles its debt to build SH 121. But officials say they can stay within an A-range.

“We’re going to see a decrease in our credit rating,” Hiebert said. “But the inverse of that would be to just take our money and sit on it.”

Under a protocol agreement with TxDOT and Cintra last year, the NTTA was designated the toll collector and operator for the SH 121 project while Cintra was in charge of construction and financing.

Asked at Thursday’s RTC meeting why the authority earlier had ceded the project to Cintra, Wageman pointed to legislation favoring comprehensive development agreements with private developers in order to preserve bonding authority for government entities. That position was reversed last week with Gov. Rick Perry’s signing of SB 792, which gives toll authorities first shot at projects in their regions.
“We thought the better part of valor was to step back and accept a process that SB 792 has now extinguished,” Wageman said. “This has been an imperfect process.”

Mike Eastland, executive director of the RTC, said at yesterday’s meeting that PWC was the only viable contender to accomplish the analysis of the bidders in a short period time.
Eastland said that he regretted that he had not mentioned that PWC had worked for Cintra on the Trans-Texas Corridor. “We made a mistake,” he said. “We admit the mistake, but I do not think it is material.

© 2007 The Bond Buyer:

NTTA gets OK for 121 toll project

State board must still approve deal
By MICHAEL A. LINDENBERGER and JAKE BATSELL - The Dallas Morning News - Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The North Texas Tollway Authority won the strong support Monday of local officials charged with deciding who will build the lucrative but controversial State Highway 121 project.

The Regional Transportation Council voted 27-10 to recommend that the state reverse course and award the contract to the tollway authority – and not to the Spanish construction firm Cintra.

The decision marks a reversal from last winter when the Texas Department of Transportation had tentatively awarded the contract to Cintra, which had beat two other private bidders with a promise to pay the state government nearly $3 billion for the right to collect tolls on the 26-mile road for the next 50 years.

"It's probably been the toughest decision that I've had to make in the 10 years I have been on this committee," Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said just before casting his vote for NTTA.

Mr. Whitley said the authority's bid promised even more up-front money to the state than Cintra.

"If we go with Cintra, we do leave money on the table," he said. "We leave money on the table up front, we leave it on the table in the payments over the 50 years. ... So, sure it is a risk, but this the crown jewel of toll projects in the state, and maybe even in the country."

The Texas Transportation Commission is expected to render a final decision on the project at its June 28 meeting in Austin.

Over the last two weeks, Cintra had tried again and again to underscore the risks it said were inherent in the NTTA bid. The authority offered more money up front, Cintra said, but it did so at a risk of increased toll rates in the future if traffic volume forecasts are not met.

Many of those casting the 10 votes in favor of Cintra seized on those arguments, and on analyses by the Texas Department of Transportation and global accounting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers that reached similar conclusions.

"We cannot gamble on this," Denton County Commissioner Cynthia White said. "We have to go with what is a for-sure deal. Cintra comes out ahead against NTTA, and that is the cold hard facts. Theirs is the only proposal that guarantees a [financial] return to the region at the end of the contract."

NTTA chairman Paul Wageman had countered earlier in the day, however, that council members should go with the bid by the entity they know best, and with the project that paid the biggest amount of money up front.

"In the end, I think it was that our proposal was a superior financial deal, and because of our track record in this region,"
a smiling Mr. Wageman said after the vote.

Jose Lopez, the president of Cintra's North American operations, said the bidding process was fair. But he said his company's proposal was clearly better.

"We will just have to wait and see what the TxDOT commissioners have to say, since they are the ones that have the final say," Mr. Lopez said. "We respect the decision by the RTC, but we still are certain that our proposal was better, way better, for the region."
The Texas Transportation Commission's five members, all appointed by Gov. Rick Perry, are not bound by Monday's vote.

That worries state Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, who attended Monday's vote.

Ms. Shapiro noted that the two Transportation Department's representatives on the Regional Transportation Council voted in favor of Cintra's bid. Last week, TxDOT's chief financial officer said his department would recommend Cintra for the contract – if commission members asked for an opinion.

"That's probably pretty indicative of what they're going to do on the 28th," Ms. Shapiro said. "I am very concerned about it and intend to be there to listen and to watch and to see how it's handled.
"The commitment that ... [Texas Transportation Commission members] made – and I heard it with my own ears – was that whatever the region decided was what they would move forward with. This was overwhelming, 27-10, and I think that is a very strong message to take to TxDOT."

Bill Hale, one of two TxDOT employees on the council, said he expects Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Ric Williamson to give great weight to Monday's vote.

"That's what he has said in the past they intend to do," said Mr. Hale, the top engineer on TxDOT's Dallas-area staff.

Mr. Hale, who voted in favor of awarding the contract to Cintra, said he will now support NTTA's involvement in the project.

Ms. Shapiro's concern reflects the mood of many state lawmakers.

The transportation commission gave Cintra preliminary approval for the Highway 121 contract in February. Immediately, lawmakers reacted angrily to the prospect of signing a lease with a foreign company to operate toll roads that will span generations. And they quickly pressured the RTC to invite the NTTA to submit a bid, paving the way for a rival to Cintra.

"It is exactly what I had hoped would happen," Ms. Shapiro said. "We gave them the opportunity today, but they had to perform and they had to produce. And they did."
Fort Worth City Council member Wendy Davis said that if the contract ends up with NTTA, North Texas may lose out on private investment in the future.

"What we are going to do today is not just going to impact our decision on Highway 121, but I can assure you that it will impact our ability to attract private businesses in the future," she said. "If I was Cintra, I would learn a valuable lesson. And that lesson is that no matter how many steps are put in place to make sure the process is fair, the deck is going to be dealt in such a way that favors" a public entity such as NTTA.

Still, Richardson City Council member John Murphy, who voted for NTTA, encouraged his colleagues to feel good about the vote, no matter which side they favored.

"This is about the future and the future has changed for us," Mr. Murphy said. "Not long ago we were at a point where we were saying, 'Oh my gosh, where are we going to get the money to build roads?' Now, we're saying instead, 'Show us the money.' "

“The question is whether we want the money to stay in North Texas..."

Feelings Mixed on NTTA Pick
by Richard Williamson -The Bond Buyer - 6/20/07
Copyright 2007

DALLAS — In awarding the $5 billion State Highway 121 toll road project to the North Texas Tollway Authority, many local government representatives on the North Texas Regional Transportation Council cited the importance of keeping toll revenue in the region.

But others fear that stripping the project from the private development team of Cintra/JPMorgan four months after it was awarded will keep badly needed capital out of the region.

“I believe we have enormous risk to the region if we go with the NTTA bid,” said Wendy Davis, a Fort Worth City Council member who serves on the RTC. “I don’t think it is going to keep money in the region. And I think it is the least — not the most — responsible decision we can make.”

Citing a list of Dallas-Fort Worth-area toll projects on the NTTA’s agenda, she said: “If we want to be able to finance all those projects, we’ve got to keep the private sector at the table.”

Davis ended up on the losing side of a 27-to-10 vote Monday as the RTC reversed its February decision to award SH 121 to Cintra/JPMorgan, the winner among three private development finalists. On Monday, the RTC chose the NTTA despite analysis from the Texas Department of Transportation and Price Waterhouse Coopers showing Cintra’s proposal had a higher net value to the region.

The RTC’s decision must be ratified by the Texas Transportation Commission on June 28, but NTTA chairman Paul Wageman noted that the TTC had vowed to support the RTC’s decision. The RTC, a coalition representing regional governments, works under the TTC to manage transportation projects in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“We look forward to the swift approval by the Texas Transportation Commission at their next scheduled meeting later this month,” Wageman said.

Jose Lopez, Cintra’s Austin-based U.S. director, later issued a written statement.

“As independent analyses have shown, the joint venture of Cintra and institutional investors advised by JPMorgan Asset Management is the superior proposal for SH 121,” Lopez said. “The RTC’s own independent financial advisers found that our proposal offered the best value to the region.”

In voting for the NTTA, some council members cited SB 792, recently signed by Gov. Rick Perry. It gives toll authorities first rights to toll projects. That translates to a virtual monopoly for government toll authorities, one council member said.

Many of those voting for the NTTA looked askance at Cintra’s projected profit of $763 million over 50 years.

“The question is whether we want the money to stay in North Texas, or go to New Jersey or Delaware or wherever it might go into the international market,” said Dallas City Council member Bill Blaydes.

Some RTC members, such as Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, switched positions in favor of NTTA. “I think this is the toughest decision I’ve had to make in the 10 years I’ve been on the board,” Whitley said. “This is supposed to be the crown jewel in the region and maybe the state. So woe be to us if this project fails.”

When completed in 2010, State Highway 121 will be a 23-mile tollway in Denton and Collin counties north of Dallas.

While Cintra claimed that awarding the project to the NTTA would reduce the authority’s bonding capacity by $1.5 billion, the authority claimed that winning SH 121 — more than doubling its bond debt — would actually increase its bonding capacity by $4 billion or more.

Price Waterhouse Coopers analyst Arthur Baines landed somewhere in the middle, saying NTTA debt capacity would drop by about $1 billion immediately. It would gradually recover over the initial 23 years of the 50-year financing. For the remaining 27 years, the project would have a positive impact on the NTTA’s debt capacity, Baines indicated.

The authority plans to issue commercial paper and take that out with bonds within 60 days. The proposal calls for up-front payment of $2.5 billion and $833 million over 50 years to the RTC. The NTTA has already recognized that its A-plus credit rating will fall. But officials expect it to remain in the “A category.” All three credit rating agencies have examined the proposal and announced plans to reevaluate the ratings once the project is finally awarded. Indeed, Standard & Poor’s yesterday placed its A-plus rating for the NTTA’s roughly $1.4 billion of revenue bonds issued for the Dallas North Tollway System on CreditWatch with negative implications.

© 2007 The Bond Buyer

Collin County Public Hearing on Update to Mobility Plan in McKinney June 26th

By Peagus News WireWhen: Tuesday, June 26, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Where: Collin County Government Center - Annex B, 314 South Chestnut Street, McKinney

Categories: Transportation
Collin County will hold a public meeting on Tuesday, June 26, 2007, to hear public comments on development of the Collin County Mobility Plan 2007 Update. The meeting will he held from 7-8 p.m. at the Central Jury Room in Annex "B" of the Collin County Courthouse, 314 S. Chestnut St., in McKinney.

Collin County is updating the Mobility Plan, which identifies transportation needs of area citizens and guides major transportation investments. Originally developed in 1998, the Mobility Plan identifies a network of existing and proposed roadways, transit, and hike-and-bike trails and is intended to serve the projected population and employment growth and travel demand throughout the county. The year-long plan update will address changes in development conditions and transportation needs that have occurred since the plan was last updated five years ago.

The public meeting will include an overview of the proposed update to the county's current plan, an explanation of the steps taken to update that plan, and an opportunity for residents to review and comment on the current draft of the plan. Citizens are invited to comment on the needed transportation improvements including roadways, transit, and pedestrian and bicycle facilities. Comments will be recorded and incorporated into the study.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

NTTA announces South End of Tollway Closure for Construction

Expect Delays, Seek Alternate Routes this weekend
NTTA - June 21, 2007
This Friday night, June 22, at 11:59 p.m., the south end of the Tollway will be closed northbound from IH-35E to Mockingbird and southbound from Northwest Highway to the southern end of the Tollway until Monday, June 25, at 5:00 a.m. The Cedar Springs Road Bridge, in both directions, will also be closed during this time. On Monday morning, following the closure, the Tollway and the Cedar Springs Road Bridge will both be open to two-way traffic.

NTTA construction crews will be demolishing the old Cedar Springs Road Bridge, placing drainage lines under the Tollway to prevent flooding during heavy storms, hanging bridge beams for the bridge over Oak Lawn Avenue and performing pavement repairs on the IH-35E ramp northbound to the Tollway. Over the weekend, crews will be performing several different projects to reduce the necessity for additional closures and customer inconvenience.

On the Tollway, southbound motorists will have to exit at Northwest Highway or sooner.
The southbound entrance ramps at Lovers Ln., Mockingbird Ln. and Lemmon Ave. will be closed.

Southbound entrance ramps from Walnut Hill, Royal Lane and Forest Lane will also be closed due to the short distance before motorists will be forced to exit. Northbound Tollway entrances at Harry Hines Blvd., IH-35E and Wycliff Ave. will be closed and northbound traffic will not be able to enter the Tollway until Mockingbird Lane. Signage will be placed on the Tollway in several places to notify motorists of the closure.

During these closures, motorists should expect delays, plan ahead and seek alternate routes. IH-35E and Central Expressway (US 75) serve as viable alternatives to the Tollway during this time.

Residents in the area may hear loud noises during the demolition and construction processes.

This project is part of a $50 million renovation to the 40-year-old South end of the Tollway. It is one of several projects and major construction efforts being undertaken by the NTTA to improve mobility in north Texas. Other major projects include: the Tollway Extension Phase 3 from State Highway 121 to U.S. 380 in Collin County, the Lewisville Lake Toll Bridge in Denton County, the eastern extension of the President George Bush Turnpike, the Southwest Parkway in Tarrant County and the Trinity Parkway near downtown Dallas.

All efforts are subject to weather conditions.

About NTTA

The North Texas Tollway Authority, a political subdivision of the State of Texas, is authorized to acquire, construct, maintain, repair and operate turnpike projects in the North Texas region. The seven-member governing board is comprised of Chairman Paul N. Wageman, Vice Chairman Jack Miller, Directors Gary Base, David Denison, William W. Meadows, Bob Shepard and Alan Sims.The NTTA serves Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant Counties and is responsible for the Dallas North Tollway System, consisting of the Dallas North Tollway, President George Bush Turnpike, Addison Airport Toll Tunnel, Lewisville Lake Toll Bridge and the Mountain Creek Lake Bridge. The North Texas Tollway Authority is able to raise capital for construction projects through the issuance of turnpike revenue bonds. NTTA toll projects are not a part of the State highway system and receive no direct tax funding. Tolls are collected to repay debt and to operate and maintain the roadways.

Visit the NTTA Web site or call 214-461-2000 for additional information about the North Texas Tollway Authority. For Customer Service, please call 972-818-NTTA (6882).

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

State not sold on NTTA's bid for 121 toll road

Commissioners raise doubts about toll plan OK'd by regional panel
By MICHAEL A. LINDENBERGER - The Dallas Morning News - Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Two of five Texas Transportation Commission members said Tuesday that they can't guarantee they will ratify Monday's decision by local leaders to recommend the North Texas Tollway Authority for the State Highway 121 toll project.

Commissioners Ted Houghton of El Paso and Hope Andrade of San Antonio said awarding the contract to NTTA could leave the state vulnerable.

Mr. Houghton said NTTA's proposal is subject to more unknowns than the bid from its rival Cintra, the Spanish construction firm.

"Cintra's offer was a firm bid, an iron-clad contract that we could have closed on yesterday and they would have handed us a check," he said. "NTTA's is not a firm bid; it's merely a proposal. And so now we will have to negotiate."
Commission members get the final say on who will build the coveted 26-mile toll road in Collin and Denton counties. But the Regional Transportation Council sent them a strong message Monday with its 27-10 vote in favor of giving the lucrative contract to the NTTA.

The commission's June 28 agenda will include an action item on the Highway 121 bid, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. But what that item will say – and whether it's a final decision or simply an agreement to negotiate with NTTA – is not clear.

Still, commissioners are eager to work with the RTC in North Texas, Ms. Andrade said. But she said she first must be convinced that the NTTA proposal is the best deal for Texas and doesn't expose the state to a lawsuit from Cintra.

"I want to first make sure that we don't place any risks on the state," Ms. Andrade said. "If there was any negative impact on the state, we would have to bring the region together to tell them we need to figure out how to do this."

Commissioners Ned Holmes of Houston and Fred Underwood of Lubbock could not be reached for comment Tuesday, and Chairman Ric Williamson of Weatherford declined to say what weight he will give the RTC's decision.

"Now that we have an action item before us, it's inappropriate for me to comment as it might be interpreted as how I intend to vote," he said.

Cintra's effect

Commission members and Transportation Department spokesman Randall Dillard said the regional vote will be given great weight in Austin. They argued that NTTA's win was a victory, not a setback, for Gov. Rick Perry's campaign to attract private companies willing to invest in building Texas roads.

"The world changed, and history was made," Mr. Dillard said. "And the RTC decision proves that competition has played, and can play, a vital role in the building of Texas roads."

Mr. Houghton was more explicit. The fact that NTTA was willing to propose paying billions of dollars upfront for the road is a direct result of Cintra's involvement in the bidding process, he said.

"Competition has worked," said Mr. Houghton, who has previously criticized the NTTA. "We've won. And all you have to do is look at history. Tell me, how else would we have been able to pull in $2.8 billion, or whatever the final amount will be, without bringing in the free market?"

NTTA proponent

Mr. Houghton and his fellow commissioners were appointed by Mr. Perry, a Republican. But the governor's eagerness to award Cintra the Highway 121 project met opposition from within his own party.

State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, opposed awarding the contract to Cintra and helped smooth the way for NTTA's bid. Mr. Carona now says he agrees that Cintra's bid resulted in a better proposal from the NTTA.

"The governor and the ... [transportation commissioners] did the right thing by introducing the free market into the process," Mr. Carona said.

But he said Mr. Williamson promised him that the regional vote would be decisive on the Highway 121 project.

"The commissioners are honorable men and women," Mr. Carona said. "And the chairman of the commission told me, in no uncertain terms, during the last session that the wishes of the RTC will be honored. I believe he is a man of his word.
"Certainly, if the Transportation Commission chose to ignore the overwhelming wishes of RTC, then that would not bode well for future relations between the Legislature and the Texas Transportation Commission.


Alternative funding to be considered for Ports-to-Plains Corridor

Private investment, partnerships to be studied
TxDOT - October 16, 2006

AUSTIN ─ With funding scarce for the long-sought Ports-to-Plains corridor, state transportation officials are looking at opportunities for private investment and partnerships to pay for moving freight and utilities along this trade corridor.

The Texas Department of Transportation will consider Ports-to-Plains funding alternatives in a study that should be completed early next year.

The research will look at how local governments and regional entities can partner with the private sector to finance needed infrastructure. The potential for utility transmission along the corridor will be assessed, as will the role of rail, and the multifaceted trade relationship among the nation’s Plains States.

Ports-to-Plains is a proposed divided highway corridor stretching from Laredo through West Texas to Denver, Colorado. Designated as a High Priority Corridor by Congress in 1998, Ports-to-Plains corridor is intended to expand economic opportunity and serve international trade from Mexico to Canada.

Despite the congressional designation, adequate federal funding has not been provided to cover the cost of the project.

Using Ports-to-Plains as a case study, TxDOT will research the best potential applications of the Trans-Texas Corridor concept for routes that may not attract tolling as a primary revenue source.
“The utilities industries have found a home in West Texas, and we want to study what potential opportunities are available for attracting private sector investment for utility transmission to other parts of the state,” said Mike Behrens, TxDOT executive director. “In turn, that investment can help pay for road improvements needed to make Ports-to-Plains a reality.”

Innovative transportation funding options are being implemented around Texas to help close an $86 billion funding gap between what the state can pay for and what needs to be done to meet mobility needs by 2030.

“Using all financial options is one of our strategies to meet our five goals,” said Behrens, “which are to reduce congestion, enhance safety, expand economic opportunity, improve air quality and increase the value of our transportation assets.”

“Ports to Plains is very excited to work with TxDOT to find new solutions to meet Texas growing transportation needs. The old way of doing business is not able to meet the transportation demands that keep our economy moving,” said Michael Reeves, president of the Ports-to-Plains Corridor Coalition. “TxDOT should be commended for seeking out creative solutions to the transportation funding crisis we are facing throughout the country. TxDOT has also realized that what works in metropolitan areas may not work in rural parts of the state.

“This effort should expedite the completion of the Ports to Plains Corridor, which will create new jobs and economic opportunity for West Texas,” said Reeves. “Ports to Plains will be a catalyst for economic development and job creation for West Texas.”

Other TxDOT strategies to close the funding gap are to empower local leaders to solve local transportation problems, increase competition to drive down costs and demand consumer-driven decisions.

The Trans-Texas Corridor is one of the proposals to meet the state’s transportation needs over the next 50 years and more.

TxDOT approved for $1.8 billion in private activity bonds

TxDOT - October 18, 2006

AUSTIN – Texas transportation officials received approval for $1.86 billion in tax-exempt private activity bonds (PABs) to improve mobility in the Dallas area by accelerating development of State Highway 121.

The PABs, allocated by the U.S. Department of Transportation, will be available for private investors who partner with TxDOT to build transportation systems quickly to reduce congestion – one of the department’s five goals along with enhancing safety, expanding economic activity, improving air quality and increasing the value of transportation assets.

Toll revenue will be used to retire the bonds, not state funds.

Private activity bonds allow investors to issue tax-exempt bonds for projects that improve public infrastructure. Until last year, PABs could not be used for highways.

In 2005, Governor Rick Perry asked Congress to make road projects eligible to use PABs.

Texas Congressman Sam Johnson was successful in opening the program to road and rail projects in 2005’s Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), the legislation that guides how federal transportation dollars are spent.
“This is a very cost-effective way to build roads. As we evaluate all spending priorities, we should turn to private sector resources, expertise and efficiencies in constructing highways. Private Activity Bonds are a step in the right direction,”
said Congressman Johnson, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

TxDOT was allowed to apply for the funding on behalf of prospective private investors under the proviso that the private companies become the ultimate borrowers and arrange to repay the PABs with toll revenues.“One of our key goals is to reduce congestion and to do that we have made the strategic decision to use all available financial tools,” said Ric Williamson, chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission. “We’re laying the funding foundation to permit the private sector to invest in our mobility projects to accomplish that goal.”

Texas is the first state to apply for the private activity bonds since they became eligible to fund highway projects.

TxDOT Responds to State Auditor's Office Report on Transportation Funding Gap

TxDOT - April 30, 2007

Below is a statement from Michael Behrens, executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation, regarding a report released today from the State Auditor’s Office, “The Department of Transportation’s Reported Funding Gap and Tax Gap Information.”

“Today’s report is further documentation of a multi-billion dollar funding gap between the transportation system our state deserves and the one we can afford with current resources. No matter what number you choose, Texas has a big problem: more people, in more cars, driving more miles on an already congested highway system.

“The State Auditor’s Office has provided some good suggestions for refining the methodology to draw a clearer picture of the state’s mobility needs and we are incorporating their recommendations into our future assessments.

“While the funding gap is further refined, we are not sitting around. We can all agree on one thing: the funding gap, no matter what anyone thinks it might be, is growing. Using all the financial options available, we are working with our local partners around the state to tackle the congestion problem that threatens traffic safety, air quality, economic vitality and the quality of life for millions of people.”

For more information, read Mr. Behrens' official response [pdf, 3 pages, 167kb].


TxDOT, for the first time in its history, identified the funding gap between the state’s transportation needs and available funding. The purpose is to provide a general assessment of the statewide needs for additional mobility funding.

The numbers do not include maintenance costs. That would more than double the amount.

The effort to identify the funding gap began in 2004 and was a coordinated effort with transportation planners from around the state.

The state’s eight metropolitan planning organizations identified nearly $68 billion in unfunded needs in their rapidly growing areas. Urban and rural needs were identified by TxDOT at $18 billion, for a total statewide funding gap of $86 billion, which was reported in TxDOT’s 2006 strategic plan.

There are many variables involved in projecting 25 years in the future. Looking at past efforts by other organizations, national groups, and assessments made by other states, the Texas estimate compares appropriately to other studies.

TxDOT is working with transportation planners from across Texas on a reassessment that will show the latest funding needs for metropolitan, urban and rural areas and will soon release new figures.

State Works to Accelerate Transportation Projects

TxDOT - June 14, 2007

AUSTIN - Moving quickly to implement recent transportation legislation, state transportation officials today initiated a new process to work with local officials – including local toll road authorities – to accelerate projects to reduce congestion and improve safety.

“The Legislature has given us clear direction to solve transportation problems by working with local officials,” said Ric Williamson, chair of the Texas Transportation Commission. “That is exactly what we are doing.”

At a special meeting in Austin, the commission authorized the Texas Department of Transportation to work with local toll entities such as regional tollway authorities, regional mobility authorities and counties to begin moving forward on 87 projects that are currently years away from being fully funded. (View Commission Minute Order and list of projects.)

“These are projects that local officials have said are needed to reduce congestion but are waiting in line for funding. We want to help our local partners build the projects as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Williamson said. (View map of candidate toll projects.)

To accelerate improvements, the projects are being proposed by TxDOT for development, construction and operation as toll projects.

New legislation signed this week by Governor Perry, Senate Bill 792, gives local toll entities the first option to develop, construct and operate toll projects in their jurisdiction.

Before initiating a toll project on the state highway system, SB 792 requires the local toll authority and TxDOT to agree on terms and conditions for the project, including the initial toll rate and the methodology for changing the rate. The law also requires a market valuation of the project be developed to determine what the project is worth.

“It’s important to understand that in the absence of substantial new revenue, we will soon have no choice other than to shift tax resources from congestion relief to maintenance of the system, especially in major metropolitan areas and along the state’s busiest corridors,” said Williamson. “Evaluating the tolling potential of these projects will help us better understand the choices we all face.”

Construction scheduled on FM 4

TxDOT - May 24, 2007

JOHNSON COUNTY–– Construction begins next week to resurface and re-stripe Farm-to-Market Road 4 from Farm-to-Market Road 2331 to Nolan River Road. The eight-mile project will replace the current pavement surface with an asphalt pavement overlay with the addition of shoulders.

The Texas Department of Transportation awarded the project to Lindsey Contractors, Inc. of Waco for $6.2 million. It is estimated for completion by spring 2008.

It will be a moving operation that will require crews to close various lanes weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. until the project’s completion. Work areas will be limited to approximately one mile to minimize inconvenience to the traveling public.
TxDOT Transportation Planning Meeting for Elderly and Persons with Disabilities June 7, 2007

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is inviting the public to a meeting to discuss transportation services for the elderly and persons with disabilities in our nine county area on June 26, at 1:30 p.m. in the TxDOT Regional Training Center. The training center is located at 2501 Southwest Loop 820, Fort Worth, TX 76115.

The meeting will serve as an opportunity to discuss current and future plans for the 2008 fiscal year, which begins September 1 and ends August 2008. Transportation services for the elderly and persons with disabilities within TxDOT’s Fort Worth District are offered in these counties: Erath, Hood, Jack, Johnson, Palo Pinto, Parker, Somervell, Tarrant and Wise.

I-35W Pavement Overlay Starts June 10th

TxDOT - June 8, 2007

WHERE: Interstate 35W from Pharr Street to the Denton County line

WHEN: 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., Sunday through Thursday

WHAT: An asphalt pavement overlay will be placed on Interstate 35W. This night work will be a moving operation that will require crews to close various lanes. Weather permitting, it is estimated for completion by this winter.

“Our intent is to limit work areas to less than one mile and to work at night to minimize the inconvenience to the traveling public,” said TxDOT North Tarrant County Area Engineer Ralph Browne.

SH 199 construction begins this week

TxDOT - June 13, 2007

TARRANT COUNTY – Work begins this week on the reconstruction of State Highway 199 from Farm-to-Market Road 1886 to Denver Trail. The $31.7 million project will include the reconstruction of the frontage roads, new signals, traffic cameras and dynamic message signs.

The 4.25-mile project is estimated for completion by winter 2009. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) awarded the project to Texas Sterling Construction of Houston. The improvements are expected to improve safety and better manage traffic flow. The project will also establish a clear footprint for the future highway main lanes when traffic warrants and funds become available.

“SH 199 is an important arterial roadway for northwest Tarrant County,” said North Tarrant County Area Engineer Ralph Browne. “By rebuilding the frontage roads and preparing for continued growth, TxDOT is addressing the current needs while planning ahead for future increases in traffic.”

Project daily lane closures are accessible at:, KEYWORD: Road Conditions

I-20 Reconstruction begins in Palo Pinto County

TxDOT - June 13, 2007

WHERE: Interstate 20 from Barton Creek Bridge to County Road 193

WHEN: June 2007 to estimated completion fall 2008

WHAT: Work begins this month to reconstruct 4.5 miles of I-20. One lane will be closed in each direction for the duration of the project. This project is a continued effort to improve and maintain I-20 and builds upon recently completed work from Eastland County to Barton Creek and currently ongoing from U.S. 281 to Farm to Market Road 113. Drivers should expect delays during peak travel times.

TxDOT to replace FM 455 bridges for $2.5 million

TxDOT - June 2, 2006

Work to replace two bridges on FM 455 at Little Elm Creek began today in Collin County. Located west of Celina, the bridge replacement project costs more than $2.5 million. "The two bridges at this location are functionally obsolete and are being replaced with new bridges that meet current standards," said Kelly Selman, P.E., the area engineer of the Collin County Area Office.

Approximately 154 working days will be committed to this project. Commercial Contractors Equipment, Inc., of Lincoln, Neb., serves as the contractor of this job.

Work on FM 455 is scheduled to complete in January 2007.

TxDOT Presents Conceptual Toll Plan for SH 121 through Collin County

TxDOT - July 18, 2006

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is presenting an opportunity for public input on the Conceptual Toll Plan for SH 121 from the Dallas North Tollway (DNT) to US 75 at a public meeting on Tuesday, July 25, at the Plano Centre, located at 2000 E. Spring Creek Parkway in Plano. This public meeting will be held in an open house format from 4 to 8 p.m. with no formal presentation.

During the meeting, TxDOT officials will be available to discuss the proposed tolling of SH 121 within the 13-mile corridor that passes through the cities of Plano, Frisco, Allen and McKinney and the town of Fairview. The SH 121 main lanes through the corridor are in various stages of construction.

There are no proposed changes to the locations or sizes of the previously designed ramps and main lanes. The proposed tolling would not require additional right of way, displacements or relocations. The re-evaluation of the previously approved environmental documents will research and identify potential changes to the natural, social and economic environment that could occur as a result of tolling SH 121.

Informational handouts will be available at various stations at the meeting as well as a display of a video simulation of the new toll road. The Conceptual Toll Plan schematic, project timeline, location map and a toll gantry map for the project will be on display at the meeting.

Schematics are available for viewing and copying at the Dallas District Office, located at 4777 E. Hwy. 80 in Mesquite, and at the Dallas County Transportation and Planning Division, Dallas County Public Works Administration Building, 411 Elm St., 4th Floor, in Dallas. The schematic drawings can also be viewed online.

The Denton County section of the SH 121 corridor opened as a toll road in Lewisville and Coppell on July 6 and 7. Tolls are being waived as a trial offer to the public until Sept. 1. For more information, visit our SH 121 Toll Road Web site.

FHWA grants environmental clearance for projects in the Dallas area

TxDOT - May 8, 2006

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently announced its finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for several projects in the Dallas area. Based on federal regulations, a FONSI is granted when a potential project will not have any significant impact on the human environment.

Receiving approval from the FHWA allows the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to proceed with projects on I-35E in Denton County, SH 121 and US 75 in Collin County and FM 982 in Collin County.

Located between FM 2181 and US 380, I-35E will widen from four mainlanes and a two-lane frontage road to eight mainlanes and three-lane frontage roads in each direction. The 11-mile project allows for a future reversible managed HOV lane in the median. The cost of the project is more than $357 million.

Located in McKinney, Allen and Fairview, the SH 121 project includes reconstructing an interchange at SH 121 and US 75. The location of the proposed interchange is SH 121 from Hardin Boulevard to SH 5 and US 75 from Ridgeview Road and Eldorado Parkway. The cost of the proposed project is approximately $102 million.

Proposed construction for FM 982 is located between US 380 and FM 546. The 5.4-mile project includes adding shoulders to the existing two-lane highway. The cost of the project is an estimated $15 million.

FHWA grants environmental clearance for projects in the Dallas area

TxDOT - May 8, 2006

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently announced its finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for several projects in the Dallas area. Based on federal regulations, a FONSI is granted when a potential project will not have any significant impact on the human environment.

Receiving approval from the FHWA allows the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to proceed with projects on I-35E in Denton County, SH 121 and US 75 in Collin County and FM 982 in Collin County.

Located between FM 2181 and US 380, I-35E will widen from four mainlanes and a two-lane frontage road to eight mainlanes and three-lane frontage roads in each direction. The 11-mile project allows for a future reversible managed HOV lane in the median. The cost of the project is more than $357 million.

Located in McKinney, Allen and Fairview, the SH 121 project includes reconstructing an interchange at SH 121 and US 75. The location of the proposed interchange is SH 121 from Hardin Boulevard to SH 5 and US 75 from Ridgeview Road and Eldorado Parkway. The cost of the proposed project is approximately $102 million.

Proposed construction for FM 982 is located between US 380 and FM 546. The 5.4-mile project includes adding shoulders to the existing two-lane highway. The cost of the project is an estimated $15 million.

SH 121 Opens to Motorists in Denton County

Tolled road first of its kind in Texas
Tx DOT - July 3, 2006
The wait is over for Dallas-Fort Worth motorists traveling through Denton County on SH 121. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) will officially open the SH 121 Corridor as a toll road on Thursday, July 6, and Friday, July 7, in Lewisville and Coppell. Tolls will be waived as a trial offer to the public until Sept. 1, 2006.

SH 121 is the first toll road in Texas to open under Governor Rick Perry’s HB 3588 legislation, which authorizes the financing of roadways with toll revenue.

“We are very excited to open this project,” said Claud Elsom, P.E., area engineer of the Denton County Area Office. “Our traveling public has been anxious to use this road, and we are glad to have opened the roadway ahead of schedule.”

Sections that will open to motorists include SH 121 from north of Denton Creek to east of I-35E and SH 121 from west of Hebron Pkwy (FM 544) to east of FM 2281 (Old Denton Road). The six-mile toll road was built for more than $117 million. Contractors who worked on the projects include Balfour Beatty Construction, Inc., and Mario Sincola and Sons, Excavation.
During the trial run of the opening, crews will continue to finish miscellaneous work on SH 121. Minor work will include pavement markings, placing additional signage and installing toll equipment on the roadway. Promotional billboards also will be placed adjacent to the new toll road.

Motorists traveling on SH 121 after the trial period will be charged electronically on their respective TxTag® stickers, the North Texas Tollway Authority’s TollTag or the Harris County Toll Road Authority’s EZ TAG. Drivers without an electronic toll tag can still use SH 121, however the toll rate is a little more and there is a $1 statement fee.

TxTag® stickers can be purchased online or by calling 1-888-GoTxTag (888) 468-9824.

Striping work on SH 121 will need to be done in order to open the roadway Elsom said. However, if there is inclement weather, he said striping work will not take place. In this event, the opening of SH 121 will be rescheduled.

SH 114 Improvements Cleared Environmentally

TxDOT - June 7, 2007

Planned improvements to State Highway 114 (SH 114) from 0.22 miles west of County Line Road to 0.45 miles west of FM 156, in the city of Fort Worth, has received environmental clearance from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

The clearance allows the state to advance the project into final engineering and to begin property acquisition negotiations which would offer motorists a vital transportation improvement to a congested roadway in Denton County.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) obtained a “Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI) from the FHWA on May 24, 2007.

The approved FONSI was based on an Environmental Assessment submitted by TxDOT that was independently evaluated by the FHWA and determined to “adequately and accurately discuss the environmental issues and impacts of the proposed project.’’

“This is a major milestone in the development of this roadway,’’ said William L. Hale, TxDOT’s Dallas District Engineer. “We now look forward to finalizing negotiations with our local partners to make this project a reality.”

SH 114 is proposed to be widened from a two-lane, undivided rural road to a four-lane, divided facility that follows the existing alignment.

Additional improvements would include the construction of two bridges and nine drainage culverts for an overall estimated cost of more than $30 million.

The project is 4.56 miles long and is tentatively scheduled for construction in 2009.

I-30 in Grand Pairie to Close for Bridge work at NW 19th Street

TxDOT - June 12, 2007

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) will close eastbound and westbound Interstate 30 (I-30) at NW 19th Street in Grand Prairie to allow for the setting of precast concrete panels on the bridge beams.

I-30 at NW 19th Street will close from 8 p.m. Saturday, June 16, to 6 a.m. Sunday, June 17. Precast concrete panels will be set on the southbound frontage road of State Highway 161 (SH 161) underpass during this time. Traffic will be reduced to one lane and directed onto the overpass ramps at NW 19th Street to allow motorists to bypass the construction.

“This work is important because it provides for the placement of concrete pavement on the bridge and will ultimately lead to opening the bridge to traffic,” said Tony Payberah, assistant area engineer for the Southwest Dallas Area Office.
Message boards announcing the roadway closure have been placed in both directions along I-30 to notify the public of the scheduled closures. Law enforcement will also be present to help with traffic control.

This construction work is part of phase one of a $28 million project to construct a five-level interchange at I-30 and SH 161, which has a tentative completion date of March 2008. The contractor for this project is Texas Sterling Construction, L.P, of Grand Prairie.

The work will take place weather permitting.

TxDOT Public Hearing for Lake Ridge Parkway July 10

TxDOT - June 12, 2007

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) will conduct a public hearing on the proposed widening and extension of Lake Ridge Pkwy. from south of Great Southwest Pkwy./High Hawk Blvd. to Interstate 20 (I-20) on Tuesday, July 10, at West Elementary School, located at 2911 Kingswood Blvd. in Grand Prairie. The hearing will begin with an open house at 6 p.m. followed by a presentation at 7 p.m. A public comment session will be held after the presentation.

During the event, TxDOT representatives will discuss the widening of Lake Ridge Pkwy. in Dallas and Tarrant Counties for a distance of approximately 2 miles, to enhance the regional transportation system by improving mobility and the connectivity with roadways in the southern Dallas-Fort Worth Region.

Proposed enhancements to the project would widen Lake Ridge Pkwy’s existing four-lane, divided urban roadway to a six-lane, divided curb and gutter roadway with left-turn lanes at selected intersections. Also, it is being proposed to extend Lake Ridge Pkwy. from north of Polo Road to the south frontage road of I-20, adding approximately 25.1 acres of additional right-of-way.

The environmental document, maps, drawings and other project information will be on display at the hearing. This and other information are available for viewing and copying at the TxDOT Southwest Dallas County Area Office, located at 1424 High Meadows Way in Cedar Hill, and at the TxDOT Dallas District Office, located at 4777 East Highway 80 in Mesquite.

Information concerning the Relocation and Assistance Program, as well as, services and benefits available to displacees can be obtained from either of the TxDOT offices.

Feds Approve Three Projects in Denton and Collin Counties

FMTxDOT - June 12, 2007

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently announced its finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for roadway projects on FM 407, FM 2934 and FM 2478 (Custer Road) in Denton and Collin Counties.

Based on federal regulations, a FONSI is granted when a potential project will not have any significant impact on the human or natural environment.

Receiving approval from the FHWA allows the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to proceed with projects on FM 407 in Denton County from west of Briarhill Boulevard to the intersection of FM 407 and FM 1830; FM 2934 in Denton County from FM 423 to the Dallas Parkway; and FM 2478 in Collin County from Stonebridge Drive to US 380.

Plans for FM 407 include converting the existing two-lane, undivided, rural roadway into a four-lane, divided, urban roadway with curb and gutter. Left-turn lanes would be placed at various intersections along the project. The six-mile project is an estimated $36.7 million and could begin later this summer.

Work on FM 2934 will consist of widening the existing roadway to a six-lane urban thoroughfare with curb and gutter, and an enclosed storm drain system. Turn lanes would also be added at selected intersections. The 2.7 mile project is more than $18 million. Construction is also tentatively scheduled for later this summer.

Finally, the Custer Road project will include reconstructing the existing roadway as a four-lane curb and gutter, divided roadway. Other proposed work includes raising the median for future expansion to a six-lane divided facility. The 3.4 mile project costs an estimated $18.8 million. The start date for this project is subject to available funding

The Texas Transportation Commisson will rule on accepting or rejecting the RTC's choice of NTTA for SH121

Citizens and delegations wishing to address the Texas Transporation Commission regarding selection of NTTA for SH121 will have to request a waiver of the 90 requirement to be put on the agenda. They may not waive the time frame. There is a comment session at the end of the meeting and persons present can register to speak a the hearing. However, they will proabably have already ruled on accepting or rejecting the RTC selecion of NTTA for SH121.


Public Access to the Texas Transportation Commission

Local citizens and interest groups can form delegations and make presentations before the commission at their monthly meetings. Individual citizens also have the opportunity to express their concerns about any item posted on the agenda, or any issue that falls under the commission’s jurisdiction. To learn more about delegations or how to be added to the commission’s meeting agenda, please visit the Texas Administrative Code Web site and click on §1.4.
If you are unable to attend commission meetings, you may write a letter to the commission at 125 East 11th Street, Austin, Texas 78701-2483

(d) Delegations.

(1) Petition. A delegation consisting of the representatives of one or more local governments or of an organization of two or more persons may petition the department to appear before the commission to seek commission action on a maximum of three specific transportation projects, or on the general transportation needs for a specific geographical area.

(2) Content of petition. A petition filed under this subsection must be in writing, directed to the department's district office of the district in which the project is located, and must be received by the chief executive officer in charge of the district (district engineer) no less than 90 days prior to the date of the requested appearance. The petition must include:

(A) the name and address of the petitioner;

(B) a statement that the petitioner desires to appear on the petitioner's own behalf or as the representative of a named organization or local government;

(C) a clear and concise statement of the subject of the proposed presentation;

(D) a brief summary of the action sought;

(E) a brief description of known or potential adverse impacts on the environment;

(F) the name and address of each opponent, if any, to the proposed action or relief sought; and

(G) a statement of the applicable metropolitan planning organization's position and endorsement, if any, of the project or projects.

(3) Highway projects. A delegation requesting action on a highway project must submit with the petition a letter containing:

(A) project limits;

(B) an estimate of the cost of the project;

(C) a description of the existing facility (if any);

(D) a description of the requested improvement;

(E) proposed local government participation (city, county) for:

(i) right-of-way;

(ii) utility adjustments;

(iii) environmental mitigation;

(iv) construction; and

(v) other project components; and

(F) any proposed participation in the project by other public or private entities.

(4) District review. The district will review the petition and advise the delegation if any additional information is necessary. The district will submit to the executive director the petition followed by a report containing background information, the district's analysis, and district recommendations.

(5) Opposition. The department will notify any opponents identified in a petition filed under this subsection or who may be otherwise known to the department. An opponent will be afforded an opportunity to appear before the commission as provided in paragraph (6)(A) of this subsection
(6) Presentation.

(A) Except as provided in subsection (h)(6) of this section, a delegation will be allowed to speak for a maximum of 20 minutes on a maximum of three projects prioritized by the delegation or on the general transportation needs for a specific geographical area, and opponents will be allowed to follow the presentation of the delegation with a presentation not to exceed a total of 20 minutes.

(B) Other than elected public officials, no more than three persons may speak for a delegation.

(e) Open comment period.

(1) At the conclusion of the posted agenda of each regular business meeting the commission will allow an open comment period, not to exceed one hour, to receive public comment on any other matter that is under the jurisdiction of the commission.

(2) A person desiring to appear under this subsection must complete a registration form, as provided by the department, prior to the beginning of the open comment period.

(3) Except as provided in subsection (h)(6) of this section, each person will be allowed to speak for a maximum of three minutes for each presentation in the order in which he or she registered.

(f) Disability accommodation. Persons with disabilities who have special communication or accommodation needs and who plan to attend a meeting may contact the office of the secretary to the commission in Austin. Requests should be made at least two days before a meeting. The department will make every reasonable effort to accommodate these needs.

(g) Notice. For each commission meeting an agenda will be filed with the Texas Register in accordance with the requirements of the Open Meetings Act, Government Code, Chapter 551.

(h) Conduct and decorum. The commission will receive public input as authorized by this section, subject to the following guidelines.

(1) Questioning of those making presentations will be reserved to commissioners and the department's administrative staff.

(2) Organizations, associations, or groups are encouraged to present their commonly held views, and same or similar comments, through a representative member where possible.

(3) Presentations shall remain pertinent to the issue being discussed.

(4) A person who disrupts a meeting must leave the meeting room if ordered to do so by the chair.

(5) Time allotted to one speaker may not be reassigned to another speaker.

(6) The time allotted for presentations or comments under this section may be increased or further limited by the chair, or, in the chair's absence, the acting chair, as may be appropriate to assure opportunity for the maximum number of persons to appear.

(i) Waiver. Subject to the approval of the chair, a requirement of this section may be waived in the public interest if necessary for the performance of the responsibilities of the commission or the department.

Full text of Commission Policy

Meetings are usually held at the DeWitt C. Greer building in Austin, located at 125 East 11th Street. To make it easier for citizens throughout Texas to participate in the transportation planning process, the commission schedules 3-4 meetings a year at locations around the state.

The Texas Transportation Commission Website states:
Q.How can I make a presentation to the Commission?

A step-by-step process must be followed before a delegation appears before the commission. The following steps require at least three months of preparation:

A delegation or group interested in appearing before the commission should contact their local TxDOT district office. The district can provide information regarding petition content and a copy of Title 43, TAC, §1.4(d) to the delegation.
No less than 90 days prior to the requested appearance date, the delegation submits a petition to the district engineer in the district where the request(s) is located.
Within 7 days after receipt of the petition, the district reviews the petition using the petition requirements checklist and advises the delegation if further information is needed or if the subject of the request does not fall under commission jurisdiction.
No less than 80 days prior to the requested appearance date, the district mails or faxes the petition to the executive director. Note: The district must include the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of any opponents which are not included in the petition, but are known to the district.
After receipt of the petition, the deputy executive director’s office notifies opponents of the delegation and asks if they want to appear before the commission.
No less than 70 days prior to the requested appearance date, the deputy executive director’s office considers the delegation for scheduling and notifies the delegation and opposition, if any, of the scheduling decision by letter.
No less than 35 days prior to the requested appearance date, the district prepares and submits a delegation report packet to deputy executive director.
No less than 10 days prior to the scheduled appearance date, the deputy executive director’s office prepares an executive summary using the delegation report and other pertinent information and submits this executive summary to the district for approval.
No less than 7 days prior to the scheduled appearance date, the deputy executive director’s office distributes copies of the executive summary, in its final form, to the commission, the governor, and appropriate TxDOT administration. (The district delegation report is made available upon request).
On the scheduled appearance date, the scheduled delegation and opponents appear before the Texas Transportation Commission.
Approximately 60 to 90 days after the delegation appearance, the deputy executive director’s office responds by letter to the delegation’s request(s).


By Faith Chatham
DFW REGIONAL CONCERNED CITIZENS believes that ethics and transparency in government is vital for public confidence.

We especially applaud governments who have clearly defined ethics rules and endeavor to achieve full complaince by officials, staff and advisors of their organization and full disclosure by vendors and those seeking to do business with their governmental entity.

We are noticing an uneven application of some key Texas Local Governments ethics rules between governments and political subdivisions in this 16 country region. For several months we have been engaging informally in discussions with various city, county and regional officials about public disclosure and ethics.

We hope that all governmental entities will come into full compliance with Texas Local Government Code 176.

Some governments wrote their ethics rules prior to the 78th and 80th Legislative Session of the Texas Legislature when Chapter 176 was established and amended. We recommend that all governments and political subdivision review the exisiting wording in their ethics codes and bring them into conformity with Chapter 176 of the Local Government Code. In the Side Bar of this site, we have links to the Texas Ethics Boards discussion of Chapter 176 and the disclosure forms, the two house bills which enacted the rules, and the Attorney General's opinion on the application of Chapter 176. We hope these resources will help governments assess these rules and evaluate whether they are in compliance with the regulations.

Chapter 176 applies a broader definition of conflict of interest than the 10% financial interest rule in Chapter 171. Chapter 176 requires decision makers and potential vendors to disclose relationship. Elected officals and their advisors who serve on boards, even if unpaid, must disclose relationships with potential bidders or vendors. The disclosure forms are to be submitted within 7 days of the discovery of a potential bid or intention to pursue business with the government or political subdivision.... These disclosure forms are to be made available to the public. If the governmental entity maintains a website, they are to be posted on the website for the public to examine. The law establishing Chapter 176 clearly states that the intent of the law is to inform the public of the relationships between governmental decision makers and those who contract with or seek to do business with the governmental entity.

We have begun an informal survey of the ethics rules posted on governmental websites in the 16 county NCTCOG region. We are discovering that some bodies approach ethics with a "broad stroke" while others clearly define and spell out the rules. There appears to be a wide gap between those who attempt to educate and enforce ethics rules, especially compliance with Chapter 176, and those who seem to pay less attention to complying with these laws.

We will begin an informal assessment of the ethics rules as posted on governmental websites. We will assess them for content and clarity of the ethics codes in their published policy and for evidence of compliance with Chapter 176 on their websites.
We will publish the degree of compliance and clarity of the published codes on our website. When notified of changes, we will gladly go back and reassess those entities and and publish updates to our assessment.

We do not claim to be experts in ethics or lawyers. We are a citizens group and will view the codes and compliance as citizens. Our goal is to be able to show appreciation to those governments which are leaders in applying high ethical standards to the people's business, and to enable other governments to know that there are examples of excellence in our region. Hopefully, those with identified deficiencies will find other nearby neighbors who they can use as models to inspire and assist them in achieving greater transparency and compliance.

In addition to examining website for ethics, we will also look for ways the government makes it easier for citizens to participate in the process and to be informed in a timely manner of important issues.

A cliff hanger in DFW -- suspense, intrigue, deceit and a final vote for the hometown guys on SH121

By Faith Chatham - Wed Jun 20, 2007

The NCTCOG SH 121 workshop on Thursday and the RTC meeting Monday were long and tense. The Monday meeting to vote on awarding the Contract on SH121 ran over two hours longer than orginally scheduled. Until the last 15 or 20 minutes of the meeting, I felt that the vote would probably go to Cintra. During both days, I never heard aggressive or hostile questioning of Cintra, but many members of the RTC questioned (and/or preached) to NTTA so aggressively that it seemed hostile.

Read blow by blow analysis of the the vote to let SH 121.

Monday, June 18, 2007

TxDOT say they wrote critique of NTTA bid for SH121, KPMG-GS just reviewing it

TollROADSnews - May 11, 2007
James Bass, chief financial officer of Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) says we erred in attributing a two-page critique of the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) to KPMG/Goldman Sachs. He says it was written by TxDOT Dallas staff. TxDOT asked both KPMG and Goldman Sachs to review it and comment.

But he says this became moot once NTTA released their executive summary of their proposal.

Here is the email, we received:

For the avoidance of any doubt, neither KPMG nor Goldman Sachs authored the two page paper that is referenced by your article posted at The paper in question was authored by TxDOT Dallas District staff.

Last Friday TxDOT requested that both KPMG and Goldman Sachs review the paper and provide their commentary, but as the NTTA released the Executive Summary for their proposal on SH 121 on Monday the review of the paper in question became moot and is no longer required.

James M. Bass
Chief Financial Officer
Texas Department of Transportation (end email text)

We had it on what seemed very good authority it was written by KPMG and GS.

The paper does not have any identifying letterhead or signature
See Brett Shipp report, (WFAA NEWS, Monday, May 14, 2007) -- TxDOT Dallas District official (and RTC member) Robert Brown wrote the memo published as an analysis falsely attributed as being prepared by investment banker Goldman Sachs. The question was raised about excluding TxDOT from voting due to their being "tainted" with authoring a controversial memo which was published falsely attributed as an analysis by investment firm Goldman Sach. GS denied the memo and investigative reporter Brett Shipps discovered that the memo origniated in the Dallas District of TxDOT. NTTA presented numerous reports from bonding companies refuting the assertions in the memo that NTTA would be bankrupted if they won the SH121 bid.

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.

Read more

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Citizen's observations of Thursday June 14 RTC meeting and presentations by NTTA and CINTRA

Lauri Wiss of Dallas submitted these comments to the NCTCOG RTC by e-mail following her attendence at the May 14th RTC "Workshop on SH121"

I attended the June 14 RTC Public Meeting.
I heard no mention of either the NTAA nor Cintra bid presentation regading repaying the taxpayers of the DFW region for money already expended for the SH 121 right of way.

I also heard no mention if the NTCOG or RTC will need to repay those funds to other entities.
I was shocked ethics and conflict of interests were not addressed in a knowledgeable way. · It seemed amazing that legal opinion is needed less than 4 days before a major decision is made for the region.

· Being a member of the NASCO or NTAA Board to me means a member should recluse themselves in the vote.

· I do not believe a vote should be taken prior to all 40 members filling out the necessary ethic and conflict of interest forms and putting them on the internet.

· The City Councils and the public have the right to know what Boards and Commissions a member holds office in or serves on the Board of Directors, what businesses they and their family own, as well as stocks relating to contracts let out for bid.

I was also amazed at the deceit in the numbers in the Cintra slide presentation.

· The answers to the questions asked and answered by both Cintra and Price Waterhouse should have been reflected in the slide presentation.

· Phony numbers are not something to rely on.
· If the numbers presented at this late date cannot be counted on, why should any future numbers be trusted?

· In the Cintra presentation, interoperability (a pass through) was presented as income.

· Federal taxes were presented in the slideshow as income, and the mysterious 20-30 billion dollar "future development" is not a tangible return, especially when Mr. Munos DID NOT AGREE to commit to future projects.
The PriceWaterHouseCooper speaker when asked about it by a Board member said "it is a wash" between the two bidders.
· Most importantly, the multiplier rate stated ($ 1:3) was not backed up with facts.
· This is especially true as most multiplier effects depend on the money remaining in the local economy .
· With the money simply collected then sent to other US states and overseas, the multiplier effect lessens because loan funds are not as available.

· The number of jobs provided was not broken out on whether the jobs would be spread over the lifetime of the contract or in the immediate future.

The NTAA presentation was short on substance. There was nothing that was said that seemed firm enough to make a decision on. I recognize that they did not have a lot of time to prepare, but their statement "that we will not seek federal funds today" reminded me of the Dart pledge

· I am concerned about the raising of tolls on other roadways and possible lessening of maintenance to build SH 121.

· I am concerned on whether the NTAA is using the highest construction standards, not the lowest.

· I liked the NTAA bid better because local accountability will be possible, there will be federal laws followed, and the books will be audited every three months.

I have the following questions:

· Will the NTAA bid lower the rate of toll increases or
will the the same .145 to 58 be in place?

· Why would a business move to Dallas or Tarrant County if businesses and employees will have to devote a significant portion of transportation dollars to toll costs?
Is there a commitment in the contract that a certain percentage of the money remain in the banks locally for loans?

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See ARCHIVE on side bar

Content is being archived weekly. Many pertinent articles regarding Transportation in the DFW Region are in the archives.

A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have. - Thomas Jefferson

The Opnions On this Site are Diverse

DFW Regional Concerned Citizens attempts to examine issues from all directions. When a story says "By Faith Chatham" it contains my viewpoint. When it is by others, but posted by Faith Chatham, it is from someone else's viewpoint. When I discover contents which is on topic for this site, I frequently link to other sites. Usually those sites contain content which differs from my viewpoint (and frequently that of other members of DFW-RCC).