Thursday, August 7, 2008

\ACS of Spain wins 50 year right to develop TTC-69, without competitive bidding!

By Terri Hall - TURF - Aug. 6, 2008TxDOT has repeatedly misled the public about the Trans Texas Corridor projects and has denied they’re part of any effort to economically merge (through trade and commerce) the U.S. with Canada and Mexico through key transportation corridors. Yet the release by ACS below clearly states the opposite. TxDOT also tried to misrepresent the breadth of the TTC-69 development contract awarded to ACS/Zachry in June leading even lawmakers to believe it only included upgrading Hwy 77 to interstate 69.

Yet as TURF warned (and the media has failed to report), the devil is in the details and the request for proposals by TxDOT clearly stated this contract was for the long-term development of the TTC. TxDOT also denies this grants ACS/Zachry the right of first refusal (preferential contracts without competitive bidding) for TTC-69 segments, but again, this statement by ACS tells its investors otherwise.

Read more about the egregious contract and taxpayer rip-off on the first segment of TTC-69 in the Rio Grande Valley here.

ACS to participate in the development of a great transportation infrastructure corridor in Texas
By ACS - June 27, 2008Iridium and the North American Zachry have been chosen by the State of Texas as strategic partners for 50 years to design, plan and develop a great infrastructure corridor of 1,000 kilometres in length.

The estimate project investments, involving the construction of road and railway infrastructures, exceed 30,000 million dollars, 5,000 million during the first seven years.

The I-69/TTC (Trans Texas Corridor) will connect the Mexican border with the Gulf of Mexico coastline, Houston and major industrial and logistics centres in Texas with the north of the country.

This is the second concessions project awarded to ACS in North America in seven days, after last week being awarded the A-30 highway in Canada.

Madrid, June 26, 2008. ACS Infrastructures Development, the North American branch of Iridium, the concession development company of ACS, and the Texan concessionaire Zachry American Infrastructure have become the successful bidders for the design, planning and development, as strategic partners of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), of the I-69/TTC infrastructure corridor for the next 50 years.

The I-69/TTC will be a great road and railway infrastructure corridor that will cross the State of Texas from north to south. Specifically, it will start in the Rio Grande valley to Houston offering new exits towards the centre of the Union from large industrial and logistics centres in the south of the State, including a branch towards the Gulf of Mexico and the port of Corpus Christie. The estimate investment for the entire project is around 30,000 million dollars, of which 5,000 million shall be invested during the first 7 years.

With the award of this project, ACS and Zachry, the largest construction group in the State of Texas, have become strategic partners of the Texas Department of Transportation and shall propose the development of specific projects and activities for which they will have a preferential negotiation option without public tender. In fact, the consortium is already considering the renewal of a first route whose concession will be negotiated with the Texas Department of Transportation, the US 77, which shall include the construction of a series of highways under concession regime connecting to it and which shall require an investment of 2,500 million dollars.

The I-69/TTC development project includes, in its initial design, the construction of a 1,000 kilometre network of highways and roads as well as railway lines. Based on this, ACS and Zachry will draft a Master Plan with the Texas Department of Transportation to establish the priority activities as well as the form and deadlines for their execution.

The winning consortium for the project, led by Iridium and Zachry, and which has UBS as its financial advisor and SDG as infrastructure planning consultant, also enjoys the involvement of Dragados, the parent company of the ACS construction area, and SICE, company belonging to its Industrial Services area and which has extended experience in the installation of traffic control systems, as well as other engineering and construction companies in the State of Texas.

The I-69/TTC is one of the high priority transportation infrastructure corridors identified by the State of Texas, the first of which has already been set in motion. In total, it entails an infrastructure network of around 3,000 kilometres and investments of 150,000 million euros to improve State communications with Mexico, centre and north of the country and Canada. Eight States of the Union, including Texas, which is the developer, are involved in the project.

Second concession in North America in one week

The awarding of the I-69/TTC represents the consolidation of the presence of the ACS Group in United States, where it already has considerable presence in civil works, and is the second concession won by Iridium in North America in seven days. Last week the ACS concessions developer was awarded by the State of Quebec, together with Acciona, the project to finance, build and operate for 35 years the A-30 highway in Canada, a project with an investment of 1,000 million euros, which shall require the execution of important civil works to connect the south of Montreal with the North American border. The A-30 is also the first concession awarded to Iridium in Canada.

This way, ACS continues its expansion process in North America, a market it has defined as strategic. Through Dragados, the parent company of its construction area, is already present in United States in its civil works activities since 2005, when it became the successful bidder for the first expansion of the New York Subway; a large engineering project connecting the Grand Central Station in Manhattan to Queens under the Hudson River, representing 400 million dollars. Later Dragados assumed new projects in the north east of the country to improve roads, dams and subways, and recently was awarded the construction of a dam in Puerto Rico and the first contract for the expansion of Miami airport. In December 2007, it acquired 100% of Schiavione; a company specialized in construction in the north east of the country.

Iridium, the ACS concessions company, has been for the last ten years the greatest private transportation infrastructure investor in the world, with promoted investments exceeding 22,000 million euros. The infrastructure and public equipment company participates in the management of more than 40 companies of these characteristics, encompassing the entire concessional business value chain.

Read more at TURF
Read ACS statement

TTC-69 lobby group, Alliance for I-69, takes their show on the road

By Terri Hall - TURF - Aug. 9, 2008
Alliance for I-69 is the biggest pro-TTC-69 lobby group in the state. Their chief lobbyist, Gary Bushell, is also the same lobbyist TxDOT illegally hired with taxpayer money to lobby elected officials in the path of the TTC-69. Bushell is also a notable campaign contributor to MANY politicians, Bexar County Rep. Frank Corte among them. Today, Alliance for I-69 teamed up with Zachry, who along with Spanish company ACS won the development rights to TTC-69 in June, hit Victoria with their dog and pony show, and they’ve been in Austin hitting up lawmakers, too. Their logo on the material they left with lawmakers even has a Canadian, Mexican, and U.S flag morphed together, yet TxDOT denies the Trans Texas Corridor is about NAFTA, international trade, the movement of freight/goods, or the economic integration of the three countries.

I-69 partners make presentation
Victoria Advocate - August 05, 2008

The Alliance for I-69 Texas and U.S.-owned company Zachry American Infrastruture have partnered up and are traveling across the state giving presentations on I-69. On Tuesday, they stopped in Victoria.

During the short initial meeting, city leaders met with Gary Bushnell of the advocacy group and Gary Kuhn, senior project manager for Zachry, the firm awarded the contract for the superhighway.

The Interstate 69 corridor project is a proposed multi-use, statewide network of transportation routes in Texas that will incorporate existing and new highways, railways, utility right-of-ways and toll roads. Zachry was awarded the contract for the project in June by the Texas Transportation Commission.

The presentation focused on ways Victoria could use I-69 to their economic advantage and about the potential the corridor has in terms of new transportation technology.

According to Kuhn, Zachry is working on a master plan that takes into account local projects Texas communities want to do and how the company can help improve local economic development. Kuhn also discussed Zachry’s proposal for a freight shuttle that would go alongside the existing route of U.S. 77 in Victoria. According to Kuhn, the freight shuttle combines the best characteristics of the rail and truck transportation, but is more efficient, cheaper and causes less pollution. He added that it would run on electromagnetic pulses that create motion and a freight shuttle system across Texas could be up and running by as early as 2015.

“We’ve been working with the Alliance to visit all the communities involved in the I-69 Interstate. There is a lot of collaboration that needs to take place among these communities,” Kuhn said. “It’s a kind of one for all and all for one deal.”

The meeting included Mayor Will Armstrong, Dale Fowler of the Victoria Economic Development Corp. and Lee Swearingen of the Victoria County Navigation District.

Read more in TURF and in the Victoria Advocate

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.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Fort Worth Residents Rally Support for Moratorium on Barnett Shale

While John McCain is trying to sell his energy policy of “Drill here. Drill now. Drill. Drill. Drill…” those affected by the devastation of the Domestic Drilling Agenda are calling for a moratorium.

Fort Worth woke up just in time to discover the free money promised to them by Chesapeake Energy landmen comes with a high price. Chesapeake Energy wants to run high pressure—100 psi minimum—gas pipelines through Fort Worth Neighborhoods. The highly corrosive, raw, wet gas can eat through a new pipeline in 3 or 4 years and is unodorized, invisible and extremely explosive.

Chesapeake, a private company, is using eminent domain to take yards and sometimes the entire home for their profit. Eminent domain should be used only for public gain with no private stakeholders.

If you are in the Barnett Shale area, you should try to attend this rally and learn from the mistakes made by Fort Worth residents.

The Fort Worth Coalition for a Reformed Drilling Ordinance (CREDO) is made up of individuals and groups who are concerned that gas production in Fort Worth is proceeding without adequate consideration of long-term impacts

CREDO believes the City is obligated to assure the safety and well being of its citizens above all other considerations

CREDO calls for a City-imposed moratorium on gas well permitting until:
  • Plans are in place to accomodate the total impact of urban gas production over the life of the activity

  • Post-depletion planning is in place to protect future residents

  • Planning for gas production is integrated with the city's Comprehensive Plan and other appropriate plans

  • Regulations are in place to assure safe operation of the total gas production activity

Click Here for Details about the Call for a Moratorium

Pipelines are dangerous:

In 1937, the New London School Explosion killed 300 – 400 children and teachers.

A Palo Pinto County gas well explosion in 2005 left a crater the size of a football field. The flash was seen 100 miles away.

An explosion in Forest Hill caused 500 homes to be evacuated in 2006.

Other unresolved issues of concern?
  • Infrastructure and quality of life impacts of drilling and fracking operations over the life of a well

  • Pipeline routing and the questionable use of Eminent Domain

  • Public safety, from drilling through production and long term degradation of the gas production infrastructure

  • Water use, waste transport and disposal

  • Effects of gas production on property values, insurance rates, future development, etc.

  • Economic parity for those who signed leases early without organized efforts

  • Air quality including release of hazardous compounds

  • Impacts on public parks and loss of other important green space

Bring a burger and spend your lunch hour with us!

Heed this warning Hanesville Shale and Marcellus Shale residents. Learn from the mistakes of Fort Worth.

This is also on Texas Kaos and Burnt Orange Report.

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