Friday, June 27, 2008

TURF statement on TxDOT selecting private partner to develop TTC-69

TURF - Austin, TX, June 26, 2008

After the overwhelming public feedback preferred the “no build” option and after the Legislature made it clear it wanted time to slow down this train of privatizing our public infrastructure, TxDOT’s selection, today, of a private partner to develop TTC-69 is a total slap in the face to the people of Texas.

This proposal awarded to ZAI/ACS (Zachry American Infrastructure and ACS, based in Spain) is chalk full of egregious taxpayer exploitation. For instance, it tolls loops around Riviera, Driscoll, Corpus Christi and other cities (7 loops total) to fund non-toll improvements to Hwy 77 in yet another Robin Hood scheme. The deal gives ZAI/ACS a guaranteed 12% rate of return on their investment, and it relies heavily on public funds, like federal taxpayer backed private activity bonds (PABs) and TIFIA loans to front the vast majority of the construction costs and then gives all the profit to Zachry & ACS!

They also plan to use taxable zero coupon fixed rate bonds issued by the Corpus Christi Regional Mobility Authority and controversial Transportation Reinvestment Zone (TMZ) funds, which will essentially heist property taxes. The deal also gives ZAI/ACS cherry-picking rights (or right of first refusal) on multiple segments for the TTC-69 without being subjected to a competitive bidding process. The sham of an announcement pandering to landowners promising to use existing highways for TTC-69 wasn’t a concession at all. The private “partners” informed them the new corridor route wasn’t toll viable so they reverted back to using existing freeways (which would have been the tollway’s biggest revenue “competitor”) so as to capture more toll revenue. It was Cintra and Zachry who determined the re-route, not TxDOT being responsive to an outraged public!

“If this isn’t a wake-up call to the Legislature that it’s business as usual at TxDOT until they forcibly restrain them via state law, we don’t know what is. This removes any requirement for competitive bidding, which on its face is an absolute failure of the State's fiduciary duty to protect the taxpayers from monopolistic sweetheart deals and what's certain to be inflated costs. We must make Legislators pay at the ballot box for their malfeasance in granting the authority for such no-bid contracts and for failing to rein-in TxDOT with a GENUINE moratorium last year BEFORE this next private sweetheart deal got signed. If they don’t completely clean house at TxDOT and end this public fleecing, there won’t be enough political cover for the consequences at the ballot box. Enough is enough. End this now!” notes Terri Hall, TURF Founder.

“At today’s Transportation Commission meeting, it was a lovefest between David Zachry and the South Texas politicos pushing this nonsense. TxDOT and their buddies at Zachry/ACS found a way to follow the bare minimum of the law to sign this CDA and continue to steamroll a plan the majority of Texans don’t want. It was also evident the Transportation Commission is desperate to come up with their own alternative reforms since they’re facing an angry public demanding TxDOT be scrapped, a discontented Legislature, and scathing Sunset Commission recommendations,” observed Hank Gilbert, TURF Board member and acting President of the Piney Woods Subregional Planning Commission who attended and testified at today's meeting.

For more detailed analysis of how TxDOT can legally award a Comprehensive Development Agreement (CDA) outside the moratorium (SB 792), go to TURF’s web site here.

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