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#1 2005-01-25 20:02:43

Anne
Moderator
Registered: 2004-09-08
Posts: 3,833

Is the Toll Road Authority taking control of the Grand Parkway?

Spring residents have lost a battle in the fight over the Grand Parkway:

Despite pleas from a group of Spring residents who oppose the road, Commissioners Court gave the Harris County Toll Road Authority permission today to spend $5.6 million to plot out a 52-mile section of the Grand Parkway in north Houston.

The county has yet to commit to building the section of the Grand Parkway, a 182-mile super loop around Houston that has been planned for decades. The Texas Department of Transportation will make final decisions on expansion of the Grand Parkway, and the county would need TxDot's approval before it could build the section.

The Spring residents say one proposed route for the toll road would divide subdivisions in their town, cut across a high school baseball field and provide no relief to congestion on local roads.

"The more I know, the less I like," said Connie O'Donnell, a member of United to Save Our Spring. "I think it is and always has been a developer's dream of a highway."

Commissioner Jerry Eversole, whose Precinct 4 includes Spring and most of the other areas where the section would be built, said the road is needed to provide solutions to the area's current and future traffic needs.

"It still goes back to I think it's the right thing to do. It has nothing to do with selling homes or building shopping centers," Eversole said. "The solution will be to build the road, to take the consequences and, if it means my defeat, then it means my defeat."

I am suspicious of Eversole's assertion that the Grand Parkway has nothing to do with new developments.  (I should also disclose, again, that I live in the area that would be impacted by this segment of the Grand Parkway, and I am opposed to the project.  Also, this topic is being discussed more in our forum.) It would appear that this project has quite a lot to do with selling homes and building shopping centers.  Otherwise, why would State Sen. Jon Lindsay, a big proponent of the parkway, have held a private meeting with developers to discuss Grand Parkway plans? 

Recently there was a rumor that a toll road might be built through the Heights area.  The outrage that immediately followed had Harris County Judge Robert Eckels running for media outlets to declare his opposition to that idea.  It is interesting to note that Judge Eckels is in full support of the Grand Parkway project.  Spring residents and business owners are not getting the same consideration from Judge Eckels that Heights residents received.

It's clear that if the Harris County Toll Road Authority takes control of the project, no more public input will have to be considered and no more environmental impact reports will be done.  The HCTRA does not have to meet the same requirements as TxDOT. 

UPDATE: The Chronicle has a new story posted with more details, including some information about State Sen. Jon Lindsay that demonstrates not just his support of the project, but his working to get the project expedited:

County officials rejected state Sen. Jon Lindsay's offer to work for the county as a consultant who would try to persuade north Harris County developers to donate land for the project.

Lindsay, a Republican who represents much of the area where the segment would be built, has long supported the Grand Parkway.

He said he met last year with 14 developers who own land between Texas 249 and I-45. About 10 of the developers agreed to donate land to the county for the toll road, Lindsay said.

With that land, the toll road could have been built without traversing as many Spring residential areas as called for under TxDOT plans, he said.

Lindsay said he met with Eversole and other officials in the fall and tried to sell them on hiring him as a consultant.

He would have asked the county to pay him about $5,000 or $6,000 a month for his services, Lindsay said.

"I told them I was not going to do it gratis. It was too much work," he said.

County officials balked at the proposal, saying it could appear to be improper for the county to hire a state senator to lobby developers who were his business acquaintances or friends and who would benefit from the highway's construction, Lindsay said. "I did not understand where the conflict of interest was, just because I was a senator," he said.

Phew! He's something.









Link to post: http://www.bloghouston.net/item/623

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#2 2005-01-25 20:17:15

ttyler5
Member
Registered: 2005-01-13
Posts: 457

Re: Is the Toll Road Authority taking control of the Grand Parkway?

If memory serves me correctly, the plan for the Grand Parkway was laid out many years ago and the developers who built houses in its proposed right of way should have known about this.

Is my memory correct, and if so, would this involve "full disclosure" laws in any potential legal actions?

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#3 2005-01-25 20:26:33

ttyler5
Member
Registered: 2005-01-13
Posts: 457

Re: Is the Toll Road Authority taking control of the Grand Parkway?

Yes, here it is, and more, at:
http://www.texasfreeway.com/Houston/new … kway.shtml

"Grand Parkway Background
Originally proposed in about 1965, the Grand Parkway was officially part of Houston's master freeway plan in the 1960's and 1970's. In 1976, the Grand Parkway was deleted from official plans...

However, the 1978 freeway planning map still shows the southeast section of the Grand Parkway between SH35 near Alvin and TX146 as a "proposed noncommitted facility."

In the 1980's, the Grand Parkway was brought back to life..... [i]t re-appears on a freeway planning map dated January 1, 1985. Houston's real estate community was instrumental in reviving the Grand Parkway. The Grand Parkway Association was formed, mostly by real estate interests. The Association was intended to be privately financed, with the task of performing all preliminary work required before construction... "  and etc etc

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#4 2005-01-26 09:37:49

connie
Member
Registered: 2005-01-25
Posts: 145

Re: Is the Toll Road Authority taking control of the Grand Parkway?

County officials rejected state Sen. Jon Lindsay's offer to work for the county as a consultant who would try to persuade north Harris County developers to donate land for the project.

Lindsay, a Republican who represents much of the area where the segment would be built, has long supported the Grand Parkway.

He said he met last year with 14 developers who own land between Texas 249 and I-45. About 10 of the developers agreed to donate land to the county for the toll road, Lindsay said.

With that land, the toll road could have been built without traversing as many Spring residential areas as called for under TxDOT plans, he said.

Lindsay said he met with Eversole and other officials in the fall and tried to sell them on hiring him as a consultant.

He would have asked the county to pay him about $5,000 or $6,000 a month for his services, Lindsay said.

"I told them I was not going to do it gratis. It was too much work," he said.

County officials balked at the proposal, saying it could appear to be improper for the county to hire a state senator to lobby developers who were his business acquaintances or friends and who would benefit from the highway's construction, Lindsay said. "I did not understand where the conflict of interest was, just because I was a senator," he said.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------!
This is a BIG part of the problem, Lindsay doesn't even understand why it might appear to be a conflict of interest or improper for a STATE SENATOR to be lobbying developers. Just like he doesn't see any improprieties in him being the President of the North Houston Association, a quasi-governmental agency that holds private meetings to work "under the wire". MY GOODNESS, JON LINDSAY, ARE YOU JUST COMPLETELY SENILE??? WHAT HAPPENED TO REPRESENTING THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE, NOT JUST THE PEOPLE WHO LINED YOUR POCKETS!

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#5 2005-01-26 09:49:52

rorschach
Member
From: Spring, Texas
Registered: 2005-01-05
Posts: 3,926
Website

Re: Is the Toll Road Authority taking control of the Grand Parkway?

The simple fact of the matter is that the state legislature is rife with conflicts of interest simply because of the way legislators are compensated. they make something like 15k a year and only when the legislature is in session. Unless they are independently wealthy, they have to take jobs to feed themselves. That means they are ripe for conflicts of interest. Until the compensation issue is adressed in a meaningful way, we will always have that problem.


http://redinktexas.blogspot.com/
"If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.”
Samuel Adams

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#6 2005-01-26 09:57:37

Anne
Moderator
Registered: 2004-09-08
Posts: 3,833

Re: Is the Toll Road Authority taking control of the Grand Parkway?

connie wrote:

This is a BIG part of the problem, Lindsay doesn't even understand why it might appear to be a conflict of interest or improper for a STATE SENATOR to be lobbying developers. Just like he doesn't see any improprieties in him being the President of the North Houston Association, a quasi-governmental agency that holds private meetings to work "under the wire". MY GOODNESS, JON LINDSAY, ARE YOU JUST COMPLETELY SENILE??? WHAT HAPPENED TO REPRESENTING THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE, NOT JUST THE PEOPLE WHO LINED YOUR POCKETS!

I first became aware of Jon Lindsay's, uh, "prowess" as a state senator when Dan Patrick interviewed him last spring.  It was VERY enlightening -- Lindsay was against any kind of property tax cap and saw no problem with rates being increased at 10% a year.  Dan also pointed out that Lindsay owns a bunch of land up here off Kuykendahl and he claims an ag exempt on it, so his taxes are very low on that land.  His ag exempt is for the trees growing on the land!  I'm not kidding!  I wonder if any of that land will be used for future development opportunites, when the GP is built.

It clearly shows who Jon Lindsay responds to, and it's NOT the citizens who have elected him.

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#7 2005-01-26 11:50:01

mattbramanti
Member
From: Houston, Texas
Registered: 2005-01-04
Posts: 507
Website

Re: Is the Toll Road Authority taking control of the Grand Parkway?

rorschach wrote:

The simple fact of the matter is that the state legislature is rife with conflicts of interest simply because of the way legislators are compensated. they make something like 15k a year and only when the legislature is in session. Unless they are independently wealthy, they have to take jobs to feed themselves. That means they are ripe for conflicts of interest. Until the compensation issue is adressed in a meaningful way, we will always have that problem.

Interesting point, but we've seen plenty of conflicts of interest and even flat-out corruption among city officials who make decent salaries.

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#8 2005-01-26 12:02:10

Kevin
Administrator
From: Tanglewilde
Registered: 2004-09-08
Posts: 6,929

Re: Is the Toll Road Authority taking control of the Grand Parkway?

Matt wrote:

Interesting point, but we've seen plenty of conflicts of interest and even flat-out corruption among city officials who make decent salaries.

And we shouldn't forget that our state leaders have gotten around the minimal salaries to some degree via per diem "expense accounts."

In designing the system, our fine Texas founders seemed more worried about the dangers of a permanent, "professional" legislature than some conflicts of interest.

I tend to share their notion that a permanent, professional legislature IS more injurious (long term) to liberty. However, given the nature of the system, we do have to ensure there are adequate sunshine requirements.

And, of course, we do depend on our media to help make sure our pols behave (whether they have an R or D beside their name). Sometimes, they don't seem as diligent as they might be. smile

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#9 2005-01-26 12:58:23

rorschach
Member
From: Spring, Texas
Registered: 2005-01-05
Posts: 3,926
Website

Re: Is the Toll Road Authority taking control of the Grand Parkway?

Matt wrote:

Interesting point, but we've seen plenty of conflicts of interest and even flat-out corruption among city officials who make decent salaries.

I never said paying them more was a panacea, but it does remove one of the (many) temptations.

As Kipling said, power corrupts. you'll ALWAYS have some level of corrruption as long as one person has power over another, but do we want to make it so easy for those who would buy influence to do so cheaply?


http://redinktexas.blogspot.com/
"If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.”
Samuel Adams

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#10 2005-02-23 15:05:40

connie
Member
Registered: 2005-01-25
Posts: 145

Re: Is the Toll Road Authority taking control of the Grand Parkway?

Toll-road critics are invited to serve on advisory committee


Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Gordon Dickson


HOUSTON - A state-sanctioned watchdog group will keep an eye on the construction of toll roads across Texas, and state leaders promise that those who are most critical of the idea will have a voice.


The Texas Transportation Commission voted unanimously Thursday to create an advisory committee for the Trans-Texas Corridor. The committee's first duty will be to oversee the design and construction of a toll road running roughly parallel to Interstate 35 from North Texas to San Antonio.


Commission members said they are inviting toll road opponents to join the advisory committee, which will answer directly to Mike Behrens, director of the Texas Department of Transportation.


The number of committee members and frequency of meetings will be decided by March. Members could be appointed as early as April, said Richard Monroe, the commission's legal counsel.


Critics are encouraged to submit ideas for how the committee should work, commission Chairman Ric Williamson of Weatherford said.


"We will be taking suggestions from government officials ... and anyone else who wants to take part," he said.


The Trans-Texas Corridor is the state's plan to build up to 4,000 miles of high-speed toll roads, rail lines and utility lines during the next half-century.


The first leg would bypass I-35, starting in Denison, running around east Dallas and continuing roughly parallel to I-35 near Waco, Austin and San Antonio. Madrid, Spain-based Cintra and San Antonio-based Zachry Construction have been selected to build and manage the $6 billion project.


Many critics worry that the toll road would hurt cities along I-35 that have built their economies around highway traffic, especially the constant flow of commercial trucks. Others want to make sure that farms are not divided and that toll road operators treat drivers fairly.


Serving on the advisory panel is critics' best chance to influence the toll road's route, Williamson said.


Transportation Department bylaws allow up to 24 members on a committee, but the corridor committee may be smaller, said Phillip Russell, director of the Texas Turnpike Authority Division. Committee members may include technical experts and representatives of city and county governments, neighborhoods, businesses, property owners and environmental groups.


The panel should have a balance of voices, including consumers and industry representatives, Russell said.


Where the committee will meet and how often are undecided.


The committee will attempt to reach local consensus on toll roads and high-speed rail projects, Russell said.


IN THE KNOW


Be involved


• Residents interested in volunteering for the Trans-Texas Corridor advisory committee, or just keeping tabs on the project, may call the Texas Department of Transportation's main number in Austin, (512) 463-8585.


• Residents who want to comment on the advisory committee's governing rules should submit written comments to: Texas Turnpike Authority Division, 125 E. 11th St., Austin, TX 78701-2483. The deadline is March 14.

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#11 2005-03-08 11:00:26

connie
Member
Registered: 2005-01-25
Posts: 145

Re: Is the Toll Road Authority taking control of the Grand Parkway?

This is a new bill just filed by State Rep. Debbie Riddle. You can follow the actions taken by going to www.capitol.state.tx.us and searching either by the bill's author, Riddle, or by HB847. This could lead to a massive shake-up within the many RMA's already operating within the state. Please pray for the safety of Debbie Riddle. She may have unknowingly just stirred up a huge hornet's nest within the inner sanctity of TxDOT.   

79R3243 JRJ-D

By:  Riddle                                                       H.B. No. 847



A BILL TO BE ENTITLED

AN ACT

relating to the board of directors of a regional mobility
authority.       
    BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:                       
    SECTION 1.  Section 370.251, Transportation Code, is amended
by amending Subsections (a), (b), (d), (e), and (f) and adding
Subsections (a-1) and (b-1) to read as follows:
    (a)  The governing body of an authority is a board of
directors consisting of:
        (1)  subject to Subsection (a-1), [representatives of
each county in which a transportation project of the authority is
located or is proposed to be located.  The commissioners court of
each county that initially forms the authority shall appoint at
least] two directors elected from each county that initially forms
the authority; and
        (2)  one director elected from each [to the board. 
Additional directors may be appointed to the board at the time of
initial formation by agreement of the counties creating the
authority to ensure fair representation of political subdivisions
in the counties of the authority that will be affected by a
transportation project of the authority, provided that the number
of directors must be an odd number.  The commissioners court of a]
county that is subsequently added to the authority [shall appoint
one director to the board.  The governor shall appoint one director
to the board who shall serve as the presiding officer of the board
and shall appoint an additional director to the board if an
appointment is necessary to maintain an odd number of directors on
the board].
    (a-1)  Before the election of initial directors, the
commissioners courts of the creating counties by agreement may
determine that additional representation is needed for certain
creating counties to ensure:
        (1)  fair representation of a political subdivision
that will be affected by an authority transportation project; and
        (2)  an odd number of directors on the board.                         
    (b)  Unless the commissioners courts of the counties of the
authority unanimously agree otherwise, [the commissioners court
of] each county of an authority that contains an operating
transportation project of the authority shall elect [appoint] one
additional director.
    (b-1)  Before the election of a director under Subsection
(a)(2) or (b), the board by agreement shall determine the number of
directors to be elected from each county as necessary to ensure an
odd number of directors on the board.
    (d)  One director elected [appointed] to the initial board of
an authority by [the commissioners court of] a county shall be
designated by the commissioners court of the county to serve a term
of two years and one director designated to serve a term of four
years.  If one or more directors are subsequently elected
[appointed] to the board, the board [directors other than the
subsequent appointees] shall determine the length of the
subsequently elected directors' [appointees'] terms, to comply with
Subsection (c).
    (e)  If a vacancy occurs on the board, the board shall order a
special election to fill the vacancy [the appointing authority
shall promptly appoint a successor to serve] for the remainder of
the unexpired [portion of the] term.
    (f)  The board shall elect from among the directors one
director as presiding officer.  The presiding officer may select
another director to preside in the absence of the presiding
officer. [All appointments to the board shall be made without
regard to race, color, disability, sex, religion, age, or national
origin.]
    SECTION 2.  (a)  This Act does not affect the term of a
director serving on a regional mobility authority board on the
effective date of this Act.  Directors elected to fill vacancies
occurring on or after the effective date of this Act must be elected
in accordance with Section 370.251, Transportation Code, as amended
by this Act.
    (b)  This Act does not prohibit a person who is a director
serving on a regional mobility authority board before the effective
date of this Act from being elected as a director under the new
composition of the board of a regional mobility authority if the
person has the qualifications required for the position under
Section 370.251, Transportation Code, as amended by this Act.
    SECTION 3.  This Act takes effect September 1, 2005.

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