Thursday, August 7, 2008

TxDOT gets caught in DECEPTION on 281 toll project

TxDOT gets caught in DECEPTION on 281 toll project

In what amounts to a total victory for the grassroots, TxDOT has to ask the court for a 60 day delay in the 281 lawsuit so they can beg the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) NOT to yank their environmental clearance for the 281 toll project. Through the discovery process of our lawsuit, the Judge required TxDOT to hand over the complete administrative record for 281, including all the stuff from when the improvements were funded with gas taxes that would keep 281 a FREEway. It's been discovered that TxDOT withheld key documents not only from the public and our attorneys, but also the feds!

There are a heap of emails that show TxDOT tried to "fix" the environmental work for 281 to pre-determine a "Finding of No Significant Impact" (or FONSI) BEFORE the study even began. They rigged it! That is a DIRECT VIOLATION OF FEDERAL LAW! TxDOT then hired a company, HNTB, to do the so-called "independent" environmental study even though HNTB has a MAJOR conflict of interest, in that, the tolling authority (ARMA) also hired HNTB to do the preliminary engineering for all their toll projects! So HNTB had a vested interest in a "Finding of No Significant Impact" (or FONSI).

Then, it's also been discovered that TxDOT purposely withheld a key study from a geologist they hired that stated the potential harmful effects of the toll road on the Edwards Aquifer. Such a study didn't conclude what TxDOT wanted it to in order to get clearance from the feds, so they intentionally hid the report and failed to submit it to the FHWA who uses that crucial information in their decision on whether or not to give federal approval for the project.
TxDOT, thanks to our lawsuit, now has to submit these documents to the feds who will completely re-consider their previous approval of the 281 toll road. It's likely the feds will yank their environmental clearance for the toll road in light of this deception by TxDOT. If they don't, the court is likely to do it for them. So TxDOT is in total damage control mode and released a statement about their motion for a 60 stay in our lawsuit that tries to minimize what the documents reveal and, of course, blames us for the delay instead of their own incompetence and deception. As usual, they seem to think they can wiggle out of their corruption without consequences simply by supplementing the record. They were FORCED to come clean through a lawsuit brought by concerned citizens, not by them being forthcoming.

Read more on T.U.R.F.

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