Sunday, August 30, 2009

Donations requested for lawsuit against tolling 290 E

Vince May has begun the process of filing a lawsuit against the tolling of 290 East. Below is the most recent status. Please mail donations to support his suit to Jim Lutz at the address below; make checks payable to Vince May.

Here's Vince's update:

"Many of you know that a legal process was begun in April to stop the TxDOT/CTRMA 290E toll project. FHWA was asked to do an administrative review of everything that has happened and decide if the 290E Environmental Assessment (EA) should be redone.Andrew Hawkins (SOS attorney) and several others initiated this Complaint. FHWA has not responded and the Complaint will soon expire. That would let CTRMA sell bonds and commence construction.

"People who live in the corridor are determined to stop the toll project.Our only avenue at this point is to file suit in federal court. We will ask a judge to set aside the 290E EA. We prefer a parkway with 3 lanes be built instead of the current 2 lanes. This can be done with the federal stimulus money. Our plan would make it easy to retrofit bridges at major intersections (like Springdale Rd) when they are needed in 5 or 10 years. This can be done with gas taxes. (Congress will soon vote to raise the federal gas tax by 50%.)

"We attempted to find a pro-bono lawyer to take the case. None could take on an expensive case. Therefore, we will file pro se. I do expect that a lawyer may intervene on our side after the case is filed but first we must file the complaint in federal court. It will then likely take ~60 days before any court proceedings begin.

"We need $400 to file and would like to have $200 to spend on contingency. We need help to raise this sum. I am asking as many people who can to contribute $10 by September 14th. We would much rather have 60 people donate $10 each rather than one person bear the whole cost. If you can send more than $10, that would be great.

"Donations can be sent to:
Jim Lutz
14812 FM 973N
Manor, Tx. 78653

"If Andrew's process stops the 290E project, Jim will return any unspent donations as best he can. If your phone number is on your check he will call you and confirm that the check is torn up. Otherwise any cash received will be donated to one of the 3 food banks that serve poor people in Manor.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Burka analyzes WSJ "Perry Puff Piece"

Texas Monthly's Paul Burka comments on the WSJ interview with Perry that was the subject of our previous post.

Burka's is a lengthy post, and there are sure to be many interesting comments eventually. It was just posted at 8:25 p.m. Regarding the quote under discussion in our previous post, Burka says:

"Hmmm. In 1976 Perry was a Democrat. Maybe he was motivated by Reagan, but Reagan wasn’t really Reagan yet. This seems pretty self-serving to me."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Perry lies about being at '76 Republican convention, if WSJ quote is accurate

Thanks to Martha Estes for pointing out the info from the Hutchison campaign.

" . . .in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Rick Perry talked about the 1976 Republican convention and Ronald Reagan. Perry said that people at the convention "were looking around and saying 'we nominated the wrong dude.'" The problem is that Rick Perry was a Democrat in 1976, he voted for Jimmy Carter that year, and he remained a Democrat until 1989. Not only would he not have voted for Reagan in 1976 had he been the nominee, but Rick Perry remained a Democrat throughout the Reagan years."

If it's not lying from Perry about "looking around" at the Republican convention and "we" nominating the wrong dude, it is at least a huge misrepresentation. Paraphrasing the old commercial, "It's not nice to fool with the Wall Street Journal."

Can he get away with this? Does it make enough people mad enough to deprive Perry of enough votes to get re-elected? We'll see.

Monday, August 24, 2009

High-speed rail--bad idea for the U.S.

Interesting explanation from Real Clear Politics--the reasons that high-speed rail is not a good idea for this country.

The comments on public funds and subsidized tickets for a very few commuters and travelers also apply to Austin's venture into light rail.

A few quotes:

"The Obama administration's enthusiasm for high-speed rail is a dispiriting example of government's inability to learn from past mistakes. Since 1971, the federal government has poured almost $35 billion of subsidies into Amtrak with few public benefits. At most, we've gotten negligible reductions -- invisible and statistically insignificant -- in congestion, oil use or greenhouse gases. What's mainly being provided is subsidized transportation for a small sliver of the population."

"Given this, you'd think even the dullest politician wouldn't expand rail subsidies, especially considering the almost $11 trillion of projected federal budget deficits between now and 2019. But no, the administration has made high-speed rail a top priority. It's already proposed spending $13 billion ($8 billion in the "stimulus" package and $1 billion annually for five years) as a down payment on high-speed rail in 10 "corridors," including Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and Houston to New Orleans."

"President Obama's network may never be built. Its doubtful private investors will advance the money and once government officials acknowledge the full costs, they'll retreat. In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) cited a range of construction costs, from $22 million a mile to $132 million a mile. Harvard economist Edward Glaeser figures $50 million a mile might be a plausible average."

"What works in Europe and Asia won't in the United States. Even abroad, passenger trains are subsidized. But the subsidies are more justifiable because geography and energy policies differ.
Densities are much higher . . ."

"Distances also matter. America is big; trips are longer. Beyond 400 to 500 miles, fast trains can't compete with planes."

"Governments at all levels are already overburdened. Compounding the burdens with new wasteful subsidies would squeeze spending for more vital needs -- schools, police and (ironically) mass transit."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hutchison denounces the Corridor in her kick-off speech

The Trans-Texas Corridor was denounced by Kay Bailey Hutchison in her campaign kick-off speech today.

She criticized TxDOT, calling it:

“'the most arrogant, unaccountable state agency in the history of Texas,' saying she wants to expand it to represent more regions of the state. A proposal to do just that died in the Legislature this year."

She said that she would kill the Corridor:

“Then there’s the Trans-Texas Corridor. The biggest land grab in the history of Texas. And the governor wanted to turn it over to a foreign company to build toll roads. Well, they can call it the Trans-Texas Corridor. Or they can call it something different. But here’s what I will call it when I take the oath of office: dead, buried, history.”

Saturday, August 15, 2009

News from annual Texas Transportation Summit

TURF's Terri Hall is covering the Texas Transportation Summit on her San Antonio Express-news blog. See her coverage here:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hutchison makes Trans-Texas Corridor an issue in gubernatorial race

Thanks to Martha Estes for alerting us to the Trans-Texas Corridor popping up in the Perry-Hutchison race. As explained in the Dallas Morning News transportation blog

KBH has started a Corridor clock running on one of her websites.

"Hutchison's campaign team is betting that it [the TTC] will be an issue. They've been sending out messages in the past couple days highlighting what they say is Perry's stubborn support for his Trans Texas Corridor idea.

"Apparently, the Governor hasn't sufficiently disavowed the program. . . .
Still, the Legislature left town this year without extending the state's authority to make private contracts for toll roads. Without the ability to partner with private companies to build and operate toll roads, the TTC -- whatever it is called -- is as worthless as last year's bets on the Derby. Right?

"Where Hutchison's team is on firmer footing is in questioning whether Perry has ever truly disavowed the TTC. He never has. He bowed to the political reality that it wouldn't fly, but he has never apologized or retreated from his position that it was a good idea.

"What he has done . . . is say that he and TxDOT made mistakes in the way they presented the idea, essentially scaring the holy business out of farmers and ranchers who saw on the early corridor maps huge expanses of lands subject to eminent domain.

"[I]t is exactly those folks -- the landowners, and not so much the toll road opponents -- that team Hutchison is attempting to reach with its latest barrage of thrusts at Perry and the Trans Texas Corridor.

"Will transportation play a big role in your vote for governor next year? If so, are you sufficiently mad about tolls to hold Perry accountable?

"[H]ere is the gist of the Hutchison attack on Perry, from campaign spokesman Jeff Sadosky:
'Texans deserve a straight yes or no from Rick Perry on whether he still supports his controversial Trans-Texas Corridor plan to confiscate nearly 600,000 acres of land. His refusal to say is just another attempt by Rick Perry to cover-up his record of doing what's right for himself but wrong for Texas.'"

Sunday, August 9, 2009

"The 290 E project is falling apart"

Ben Wear's recent coverage of the shrinking plan to toll 290 E

has brought out varying ideas of what is really going on and what will happen on 290 E.

Vince May, Elgin-area resident, who has been fighting the 290 E toll plan for years, has sent out this message:

"The 290E project is falling apart.

"1) Notice that they have reneged on the promise of 3-lane frontage roads. This will mean only 1 lane going straight through at intersections. That is less than we have now, and violates state law.Why do I say this? Drive to Walmart on 183S. The frontage roads are 3 lanes. As you approach Cameron Rd the frontage road widens to 6 lanes. But only 2 lanes go straight through the light. No matter what time of day, there is always a queue in those lanes. You have to wait through 3 or more signal cycles during rush hour. TxDOT did this to force people to get on the proposed toll lanes and stay on the toll lanes. I have the map for the part of 183S that is still proposed for tolling. It has 2 lane frontage roads but the frontage roads narrow down to 1 lane at some intersections. I have to assume that they plan the same thing for 290E.

"2) Look at the $91 million that they plan to spend "buying right of way for the remaining several miles" while they have bridges missing on the first mile. This money will be spent on Kirk Watson's property and Green Line infrastructure, none of which is 290E ROW. I wonder if any of our other illustrious leaders are partners with Kirk?

"I don't think any of this will actually happen. But this is what they intended all along. Promise you a nice road for 15 cents per mile, then build an abomination and charge 50 cents per mile."